Mayor and council members join Montclair awardees recognized at Partners for Health Foundation 10-Year Anniversary Community Impact Awards Event. From left, Chris Petermann, chair, board of trustees, Partners for Health Foundation; Mike Bruno, Human Needs Food Pantry; Pam Scott, executive director, Partners for Health Foundation; Rich McMahon, councilman-at-large; Ann Lippel, Senior Citizens Advisory Council; William Hurlock, First Ward Councilman; Latifah Jannah, Sister to Sister, who accepted on behalf of Adele Katz; Mayor Robert Jackson; Robin Schlager, Second Ward Councilwoman; Anne Mernin, Toni’s Kitchen; Carolyn Lack, Aging in Montclair; Katie York, Lifelong Montclair; Robert J. Russo, Councilman-at-Large; Buddy Evans, YMCA of Montclair; not pictured: Wally Weikert, Family Service League.
Photo Credit: Neil Grabowsky / Partners for Health Foundation

By Wilma Hurwitz
for Montclair Local

Five Montclair not-for-profits garnered Partners for Health Foundation awards and grants for the work they do in combating hunger and homelessness, youth resiliency, healthy aging and mental health.

In total, 10 Community Impact Awards were presented on Nov. 29 at a 10th anniversary celebration for Partners for Health Foundation in Montclair. The recipients were chosen out of 65 individuals and groups, and received financial grants totaling $100,000. Partners in Health would not reveal the amount given to each nonprofit.

“Each of the awardees has an amazing story to tell about what inspired them, what they have been able to accomplish, and what they aspire to achieve. We are honored to partner with them to accomplish even more,” said Pam Scott, Partners for Health Foundation’s executive director. The following Montclair individuals and establishments received this year’s Projects For Health Community Impact Awards:

  • Wally Weikert, Family Service League – mental health
  • Carolyn Lack, Aging in Montclair; Ann Lippel, Montclair Senior Citizens Advisory Committee; and Katie York, Lifelong Montclair – Aging in Place  
  • YMCA of Montclair – Chronic Disease Prevention (Healthy Eating and Active Living)  
  • Human Needs Food Pantry, Montclair; and Anne Mernin, Toni’s Kitchen, Montclair – Hunger Prevention  
  • Adele Katz, Sister to Sister, Montclair – youth resiliency

“Their collective stories portray dedicated advocates, volunteers, caregivers, unsung heroes and leaders, along with the tens of thousands of lives they touch,” said Scott.

MENTAL HEALTH

Wally Weikert has devoted 43 years to mental health at Montclair’s Family Service League, with the past 20 years as its clinical director. Weikert and Family Service League’s therapists help clients deal with issues such as anxiety and depression; marital and parent/child conflicts; drug and alcohol abuse; domestic violence and sexual assault.

“At Family Service League, we provide an environment where the voices of the marginalized and traumatized can be heard. I’m proud of the work we do to make the world a safer place where individuals, couples and families can truly thrive,” Weikert explained.

AGING IN PLACE

Katie York Ph.D. (Lifelong Montclair), Ann Lippel (Montclair Senior Citizens Advisory Committee) and Carolyn Lack (Aging in Montclair) have given quality of life to Montclair seniors.

Lifelong Montclair supports seniors in all aspects of their lives in order to grow communities, while Montclair’s Senior Citizens Advisory Committee (SCAC) works to provide more senior services and Aging in Montclair offers support in order for Montclair seniors to age in place.

Under Ann Lippel’s direction, SCAC has launched the Life Transitions for Seniors program that provides free case managers to counsel seniors on financial, health care and housing matters. The group also helped to implement Seniors in Taxis, an initiative that provides door-to-door transportation for hundreds of residents.

Carolyn Lack realized the township needed more services dedicated to older people’s needs. “My vision isn’t just about aging in place; it’s about thriving in place. Through Aging in Montclair, we advocate for seniors’ needs including transportation, social activities, housing, education, information and more,” Lack said.

HEALTHY LIVING FOR ALL

Over its 127-year history, the YMCA of Montclair remains an anchor in the Montclair community.

“Thanks to Partners for Health, our YMCA has been able to run some vital programs such as chronic disease prevention and improved mental health programs to help young adults on drug and alcohol abuse. It’s so empowering to know that we’re making a major impact,” said Y director Buddy Evans.

COMBATING HUNGER

Montclair’s Human Needs Food Pantry serves 4000 people in 443 households in Montclair and surrounding communities, while Toni’s Kitchen in St. Luke’s Church is another key Montclair resource for hunger prevention.

Through a partnership with Mountainside Hospital, Montclair Human Needs Food Pantry clients can take advantage of bi-monthly screenings for diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Along with serving hot meals daily, Toni’s Kitchen Director Anne Mernin brings in experts on health and nutrition education, mental health counseling, tutoring, fitness training and other services to enhance clients’ lives.

“Our goal is simple — to ease the burden for our neighbors living below the poverty level.” said Food Pantry Executive Director Mike Bruno.

GIRL POWER

Recognizing the need for adolescent girls to acquire skills, confidence and judgment to navigate the world, Adele Katz launched Sister to Sister of Montclair Mentoring Group in 1998.  Sister to Sister pairs up young women with mentors. Katz has developed collaborations to support academics, community service and substance abuse prevention. Sister to Sister’s success spurred development of a Brother to Brother program run by men for young men.

“So many residents and organizations are remarkable game changers in the greater Montclair community. Partners for Health’s strategy of leveraging its resources into other deserving organizations is not only altruistic; it’s brilliant,” Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said.

Other grant recipients include: Mary Rossettini, Clifton Homeless Task Force; Mario Szuchman, MD, Zufall Health, West Orange;  Dr. Nicole McGrath, KinderSmile Foundation, Bloomfield; Dr. Tom McCarrick, Connections at Home, Verona; and Jennifer Papa, City Green, Clifton.

Since 2008, Partners for Health Foundation has made 324 grants to 110 organizations, totaling more than $12 million.

Beyond their role as a funder, Projects for Health brings like-minded and nontraditional partners together to achieve their social improvement objectives.