PHOTO BY JANET REDYKEMary Ellen Vichiconti, who mans the Salvation Army Christmas donation pot out front of the Vernon Acme, proudly displays her 2017 Hometown Hero Award.
By Janet Redyke
VERNON — When Mary Ellen Vichiconti of Vernon received a call from an aide from U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer's office telling her she will receive a Hometown Hero award, she thought it was a wrong number. Turns out the call was spot on and Vichiconti was due to receive the award on Dec. 18, much to her surprise and delight. Vichiconti and 18 other recipients were presented the Hometown Hero Award at a ceremony held at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck hosted by Gottheimer. At the ceremony, Gottheimer commented, “That’s what Jersey values are all about; getting the backs of others," Gottheimer said. "It’s what makes New Jersey such a special place to live. On behalf of the Fifth District, I couldn’t be more proud to honor these Hometown Heroes today.” All 19 award winners have offered community service, volunteer work or took heroic action in some way. According to Gottheimer, these heroes went above and beyond the call of duty. “They simply refused to shy away from a challenge or a moment to help those in need," he said. "They offered solutions to daunting problems.” Vichiconti has worked to promote positive change in Vernon, including the restructuring of the township government. She also labors to encourage tourism and works diligently on the Vernon Recreation and Beautification Committee. Other impressive award recipients were 8-year-old Sterling Blake of Hackettstown who saved his choking 22-month- old brother by performing the Heimlich maneuver. Mary Ann Uzzi of Paramus who has worked as a mental health advocate and Joyce Mortorano of Wyckoff who serves as a Youth Children’s Services volunteer. Vichiconti is proud and honored to be awarded the Hometown Hero Award saying, “It’s her best Christmas gift this year.” She thanks her nominators graciously as they remain a mystery to her.