Big Brothers Big Sisters honors 9 of their top mentors at awards ceremony

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The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties honored nine of their top mentors at their first formal awards ceremony yesterday, including two Advocates of the Year and the Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties hosted their first formal awards ceremony last night.

At the event, they named John Lynch and Michael Partnow Big Advocates of the Year, while Jesse Koblentz and Jennifer Donnelly were named the Big Brother and Sister of the Year.

Lynch, who works for the Jersey City Department of Public Works, said one of his fondest memories of the program was when his little, Nicholas, became mayor for the day in August 2015.

A letter from Nicholas’ mother explained how important that day was to her son.

“Before you, Nick would call himself a failure. He hated that he was labeled ‘a bad child’ but nothing I could say could change his mind that he wasn’t,” Lynch read while accepting his award.

“You, on the other hand, did: you introduced him to a world I never would have been able to, meeting such influential people such as judges, the mayor and it’s helped him in so many ways,” he added.

Jesse Koblentz, who became a big brother five years ago, was complimentary of the organization before explaining that his little has joined the army.

“It’s a blessing: he’s my family for life, he’s not just my little brother for the past five years, he’s gonna be with me for the rest of my life.”

” … The best award I got is the note I got from him about a month ago from him, asking me to pin his cord on for the Turning Blue ceremony in the Army. Nothing touched me deeper than that, that was the best letter I ever received. I love Carlos with all my heart.”

Michele Williers, the Big Brother Big Sister chief operating officer who came on board in the organization’s infancy nine years ago, said it was very encouraging to see the organization take it to the next level.

The other four honorees recognized for their time and efforts at the vent included Wade Woodson, Sue Keenan, Paul Koprowski and Patrick Villanova, an editor for The Jersey Journal.

Five additional nominees that were not in attendance are Omar Bareentto, Melba Fidalgo, Chris Boland and Carmen Villafurenta-Miller.

After the ceremony concluded, Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO/President Carlos Lejnieks said the organization is always seeking more mentors.

“There is a fierce urgency for us to find more mentors. It truly takes a village to raise a child and here we have an opportunity to do so, one child at a time.”