One lesson the pandemic has taught is that heroes can be found everywhere. They are the first responders, workers at grocery stores, the teachers who have worked throughout the year to adapt to a new environment.
Recognizing such heroes, the Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club created a new community hero award.
“This particular program, the community hero award, is an outgrowth of the annual community service awards,” explained club President Glenn Page. “What we’re doing now is looking for people who really go above and beyond the call of duty to support the community during the COVID crisis.”
The Rotary Club and Mayor Michael Mignogna presented the first Community Hero Award on May 6 to Mark Mignone, supervisor of buildings and grounds at the Voorhees Public Schools. Mignone was nominated by Helen Haley, district business administrator, who earned an award herself in January. In talking with members of the Rotary who were describing the new hero award, she was reminded of Mark Mignone.
In the summer of 2020, the Voorhees district put together a Road Back plan that detailed how schools would reopen. Part of the plan was to install new UVC lights that would disinfect the classrooms at night.
“The goal was to have these installed before school started,” Haley explained.
“We originally ordered everything back in June, but we kept getting delays for the physical units that were going in the ceiling,” Mignone added. “So they provided us with these portable units that didn’t show up until Labor Day.”
That was three days before the first day of school, so Mignone volunteered on his day off to drive two hours north and pick up as many portable UVC lights as he could bring back before the rest arrived. When the other units did arrive, three out of the four were broken.
Rather than continuing with his usual 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, Mignone took it upon himself to work alone from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. to disinfect classrooms across two elementary schools. Every night, he would work with five or six units, setting a timer and (doing something else in the building.) Then he would go to the next room and the next until all of them were done.
“To me, it was nothing out of the ordinary,” Mignone acknowledged. “There’s plenty of stories of guys in our department who have gone above and beyond. We just wanted to make sure that we followed through on our promise of treating every room every night.”
He did that for about two weeks before the ceiling UVC lights came in.
Clark Mathes, director of buildings and grounds and Mignone’s supervisor, described his employee as “an outstanding young man.”
“[He] helps the department; couldn’t run the department as efficiently without him,” Mathes reflected. “This alone shows what kind of character he has, and work ethic. But that’s just part of Mark’s character. He does that on a regular basis: He steps up when he’s needed.”
Mignone has worked in the Voorhees school district since 2005 and has served a lot of different roles in the maintenance department. He was promoted to supervisor of buildings and grounds two years ago.
Though he currently resides in Shamong, Mignone grew up in the Voorhees community. He was a volunteer firefighter and coached football as well as serving the district.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the staff that we have,” he shared. “June 1, we made it voluntary to come back for all our staff, and everybody came back. July 1 would have been mandatory, but June 1, everybody came back. So, I share this award with them.
“Our staff has gone above and beyond.”
The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club would like to give the community hero award on a quarterly basis. To nominate someone, contact Glenn Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.