Black and White Gala honors NAACP game changers

Gloucester County heroes and leaders earn awards

Catherine “Cat” Paige performs “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Stand” at the Gloucester County NAACP’s annual Black and White Gala and Game Changer Award Ceremony on Oct. 24.

The Gloucester County NAACP held its annual Black and White Gala and Game Changer Award Ceremony on Oct. 24 at Auletto Caterers in Deptford.

As 300 guests rolled into the ceremony, New Jersey’s first lady Tammy Murphy made opening remarks, encouraging everyone to vote in the Nov. 2 election.

“We’d really appreciate it if you make sure to get out there and everyone gets out there [to vote],” Murphy said, then followed with a joke: “Of course I’d love to say to vote for my husband, but I’m not gonna say that. Oh I said it! Sorry.”

The 2021 game changers include recipients of the president’s award, the power couples of the year and the named community game changers. Those who received the president’s award included Gloucester County Interim Prosecutor Christine Hoffman, CEO of First Harvest Federal Credit Union Ernest Huggard and Gloucester County Commissioner Jim Jefferson.

Jefferson noted how his father and grandfather have been inspirations to him, sharing the story of how before his father was born, strangers introduced his grandfather, a runaway orphan from Camden, to the “gospel message” that changed his life’s direction for the better.

“It’s because of people I’ll never be able to thank; it’s because of people I’ll never know that changed the trajectory of my whole family,” Jefferson said.

The power couples of the year include Commissioner Robert “Balicki” Goodale and immigration attorney Yolanda Garcia-Balicki, assistant superintendent for West Deptford Public Schools Dr. Shawnequa Carvalho and superintendent of Paulsboro schools Dr. Roy Dawson.

When Carvalho and Dawson accepted their awards, they brought their children up on the stage with them.

“We are not just a power couple, we are a power family,” Dawson noted.

Other awards throughout the night included Subara of America, for corporate excellence;  president of Habitat for Humanity Ronda Abbruzzee, for community service; and Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and Southern New Jersey’s Stephanie Fisher, who offered  special greetings during the ceremony.

Fisher promoted the mission of Planned Parenthood to provide health-care and educational resources to those in need. Worldwide, the company serves 5.8 million women, she added.

Other presentations throughout the night included an invocation and blessing from Pastor Wayne Howard, performances from Catherine Paige and a special presentation from branch officers.

Special thanks went to Mo Photography; Perfectly Stated Cupcakes, for floral-inspired cupcake centerpieces at each table; and DJ Caution for providing music as the night wrapped up with dancing.