Summit Area YMCA Stars Shine Bright at Staff Recognition Awards Ceremony

NOVEMBER 2018 – Surrounded by colleagues, friends and family, Summit Area YMCA (SAY) staff from the Berkeley Heights YMCA, Summit YMCA, The Learning Circle YMCA as well as Association Services stood proudly at The Columbian Club in Summit as they received their awards in categories Rookie of the Year, Above and Beyond, Relationship Champion and Commitment to Mission. The Annual Staff Recognition Ceremony celebrates the astounding efforts and contributions of SAY staff nominated by their peers in the various aforementioned categories. Award winners are distinguished by their talents in representing the Y’s core values of respect, responsibility, honesty and caring, as well as other characteristics that further the mission and cause of the Y in strengthening community. At the closing of the awards ceremony, staff then enjoy a congratulatory catered lunch with their colleagues and guests.


Nomination categories include:

Rookie of the Year
Part-time or full-time employee in their first two years with the SAY who has outstanding performanc; creativity in their work with a strong attention to detail; develops strong and positive relationships with staff members and YMCA members; gets involved in programs at their branch and in the Association; recognizes and fulfills the SAY’s mission; has an “I’ll do it, I’m on it” attitude; and takes on a new challenge or a new task fearlessly.

Commitment to Mission:
Part-time or full-time employee who has demonstrated commitment to advancing the mission and inclusion at the SAY and in the community for Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Through Youth Development, the staff person supports and empowers children and teens through positive behaviors, cultivates values and skills, and enables them to make responsible choices. Through Healthy Living, they promote healthy living and well-being of members and staff, while showing a cooperative team spirit. They take pride in their work and contributes positively to the workplace environment. Lastly, the Commitment to Mission award looks to a staff persion who upholds the Social Responsibility pillar of the Y, which gives back and supports members, staff and the community by demonstrating and promoting inclusive behaviors with exceptional service to the YMCA and community.

Relationship Champion:
Part-time or full-time employee who develops outstanding member, volunteer and staff relationships and enhances their experiences at the Y. Goes the extra mile in advancing these relationships, retaining members, developing children, supporting their peers, and consistently advancing the mission and inclusivity of the Summit Area YMCA.

Above and Beyond:
Part-time or full-time employee who does exceptional work for the Summit Area YMCA and who contributes above and beyond in the performance of their job duties. Enhances contributions to their department, their colleagues and the Y’s environment by stepping up, leading others, and generating a positive outcome.



Read Below about Our Honored Staff Members:


Rookie of the Year: Ed Neri
Ed is always willing to help out. He participates in most of the special events; such as Diwali, Street Fairs and more. He is willing to cover any shift at the front desk. Ed contributes new ideas and suggestions for improvements to his Supervisor. He took charge in creating a reference binder at the front desk. Ed has a positive attitude and is willing to take on new challenges. He is in charge of monitoring the AED equipment at the Member Service Desk and is also fluent in Spanish. Ed has been a great addition to our team at the BH YMCA.

Commitment to Mission: Terri Apuzzo
Terri works very closely with mission based programs here at the BH Y. She is involved with our Enhance Fitness, LIVESTRONG® and Healthy Living programs as well as personal training. Terri teaches our Ninja warrior program at the Y as well. She likes to challenge these students to try their hardest and she gives them the support they need during the class. She has worked with our Special Needs students and had them participate in one of her pound classes. Terri always takes the time to interact with our members and make them feel welcome.

Relationship Champion: Ginger Wilson
Ginger has brought fresh ideas to the table on how to engage our members and staff. She has created several fitness challenges, talked to members about classes and gets their feedback, she is the editor of the BH YMCA staff newsletter and focuses on retention and presents those ideas to the Management team. She works closely with her supervisor, Lisa and keeps the members engaged and connected at the Y.

Relationship Champion: Mark White
Mark is always smiling, positive, engaging and respectful to all he meets. He has an excellent rapport with young and old alike. Works exceptionally well with special need individuals.

Above & Beyond: Michael Harrington
Mike has been pulled into many different directions this year! Besides all the work he does at the Berkeley Heights YMCA, he has helped at the Berkeley Heights Community Pool, painted the kitchen at The Learning Circle YMCA, and painted and moved furniture at 99 Morris Ave for Association Services. Mike is always willing to help out where ever needed.

Above & Beyond: Marie Wright 
Marie is willing to take on new projects, and completes them accurately and in a timely manner. She never says no, to anything and is willing to learn new things. She is kind and helpful to staff, and parents. She runs a tight ship in regards to parents coming in, making sure they are adhering to our security policies and methods. Our front desk is always in order, and she is approachable and kind to all. In addition, she escorts children to and from enrichment classes, so she interacts with the children and always makes sure they are safe.


Rookie of the Year Winner: Stephanie Hand
Since her start date, Stephanie has shown herself to be reliable, helpful, efficient and knowledgeable. Sitting front and center can be daunting-but not for Stephanie. She demonstrates the grace and maturity to make the rest of us feel safe in the way she will handle her duties.Stephanie is the ultimate team player, even though she is just in her second year at TLC. She has made herself indispensable.

Commitment to Mission: Marcia Khashayar
For someone relatively new to the YMCA, Marcia demonstrates that she is completely dedicated to fulfilling the YMCA mission at TLC. Her dealings with our families are kind and caring while she still manages to be efficient in explaining the needs of the program and their responsibility. She treats our families with dignity and goes beyond what is even required to help them. We love her for this. Marcia is also the type of employee who helps other staff members with their needs. She is always a keen thinker and has good ideas on many topics. Her commitment to the Y mission is acted out every day.

Relationship Champion: Darlene Hodges
Darlene has developed outstanding member and staff relationships, and has enhanced their experiences at the YMCA. She is very personable and will greet everyone around her. Darlene has gone the extra mile in advancing these relationships, developing children, supporting peers, and advancing inclusivity. She makes everyone who enters the kitchen AND TLC feel like they belong. Darlene was hired as a part time kitchen staff member, but quickly became viewed as a leader by displaying a commitment to her work. Quietly and without fanfare, she pursued her school bus driver’s license, which we know is no small feat. Once it was time to go for her license, she informed her supervisor. Darlene now works full time at TLC, and we are very lucky to have her as part of our team!

Above and Beyond Winner: Bridget Pietrantuono
Bridget has shown a willingness to step in and help her co-workers and her department when it is needed, she did it with a nice smile and friendly way to approach others.



Rookie of the Year: Bulbul Bottacherya
The Summit Branch Recognition Award for Rookie of the Year goes to Bulbul Bot Ta Cherya. BB started in the Wellness Department in October 2017. She immediately asked what more can I do. We worked together to see what additional duties would suit her skills. It was apparent that BB’s strong attention to detail, her desire to take on new challenges and her inspiring I can do it/ I am on it attitude was a great fit for the department. BB exemplifies commitment, discipline and a solid work ethic. Join me in Congratulating her.

Relationship Champion: Carolina Lora Diaz
We have many wonderful staff that go the extra mile in advancing relationships. But some stand apart from the crowd like Carolina. Carolina has great natural abilities to build relationships wither as the Kid Zone Supervisor or as a Wellness Navigator. Carolina’s warm and radiant smile draws you in immediately. I have experienced seeing this happen when we did our very first Bilingual Hot Yoga class during Welcome Week. We had many new members attend who were able to comfortably take a Yoga Class where instruction was given in Spanish and English. Carolina was amazing and received a standing ovation from the members. Join me in Congratulating Carolina Lora Diaz Relationship Champion.

Relationship Champion: Suzi Klein
If you have ever taken a Water Fitness or Aqua Arthritis Class at the Summit Branch you most likely had Suzi as your instructor. Within her tenure at the Y, she has helped in creating 2 new classes and redesigned most of the other aquatics classes. Suzi has a large and loyal group of members who participate in her classes. She is kind hearted and empathetic when dealing with members.
If a member is absent form class for a bit Suzi will reach out to them to ensure that they are ok. She will organize and send out get well/sympathy card when needed. Suzi supports her peers and members and ensures that all members fell welcome and included in all of her Aquatics Classes.

Commitment to Mission Award: Jaquetta Perry
Jaquetta has advanced our mission through her love of fitness. Her Zumba classes are always friendly, welcoming and inclusive.
Jaquetta always finds ways to bring her passion for fitness to the Summit Community by participating in events like National Night Out or throwing an impromptu birthday party during class for a member who turned 80 this year. We love Jaqutta’s warm and caring spirit. Join me in Congratulating Jaquetta Perry.

Commitment to Mission Award: Stewart Douglas
Stewart is a cycling instructor, indoor rowing coach and personal trainer at the Summit Branch. Two years ago, a trainer was needed to help with a high school diverse abilities group and Stewart stepped up to help. He has developed strong relationships with the boys through demonstrating safe and effective exercises and always with a bit of fun thrown in. He meets with them weekly and both the boys and Stewart look forward to their sessions together. Stewart has been a member of the Y for 16 years and enjoy building relationships with members and staff.

Above and Beyond: Mike Burke
If you are working at 5:30am or swimming at the Summit Branch, you might know Mike Burke. Three to five days a week he is the opening lifeguard. Mike is at the Y at 5am opening up the pool, testing the water, ensuring everything is good and ready to go. He never misses a day without letting his Supervisor know and he is never late. Everyone who knows and understands what it’s like to NOT to have an opening guard at 5:30am in the morning will understand and appreciate Mike. He knows his members, the lane they tend to swim in and their level of ability. Mike is also an exceptional lifeguard. He is continuously investigating the pool, checking on his members and lane activities. Mike is the guard who alerts his Supervisors if the chemicals are incorrect in the pool, if the vacuum is not working properly, and if the water is looking cloudy. When Mike is on break, he is walking around with gloves on tidying up and scrubbing the bleachers because there is a spill. Mike is a role model to his colleagues and always continues to demonstrate the mission of the YMCA. He has been a member of the Y for 3 years. In addition to working at the Y Mike is a Professor at William Patterson, Seton Hall, and Montclair State University.

Above and Beyond: Sharon Friedel-Fersel
Sharon is always energetic, great with members and prospective members. She is a staple at the does and does whatever it takes to get the job done. She cares so much about members and participants that she will call to check on them if she hasn’t seen them in a while. Sharon is always going the extra distance to attain new members. She volunteers and takes classes- a great Y citizen. Sharon has been a member of the Y for close to 3 years. She enjoys spending time with her family especially her 8 month old grandson.

Rookie of the Year: Marquis Relf
An example of his dedication to the SAY is engaging with all youth that comes through our doors. Though Marquis is new to the Y, he did not hesitate to introduce himself and build relationships with all of the youth he encounters on a daily basis. He engages with them on a variety of levels from having conversations about sports and music to coaching youth during open gym. Additionally, Marquis enjoys using his skill set in sports and cooking/nutrition to educate the youth in programming. He facilitates the new Teen Chef Program where he creates lessons that teach youth basic kitchen skills, etiquette and recipes. Marquis also facilitates structured sports during open gym time to help teach basic skills in a variety of sports like basketball and football.

Marquis is a great positive personality to have as a staff member for the youth. He comes to work every day on time, and has an attitude that exemplifies being a team player. He is a great communicator in letting his Supervisor know of any issues, concerns or positive feedback that he feels need to be shared. The level of work ethic and attitude that Marquis displays is one of someone that has been with an organization for many years even though this is his first year with the SAY and because of this, he is so deserving of the Rookie of the Year Award. His favorite thing to do is spend time with his Son’s and watching sports.


Rookie of the Year: Haley Behm
We are pleased to recognize Haley from Association Services as one of our Rookies of the Year for 2018. An example of her dedication to the SAY is seen through her ability to question norms and seek solutions to issues that have been around the Y for a long time. Haley is creative and her work shows her impeccable attention to detail when she delivers polished results. Her fresh set of eyes provides innovation and improved developments in all things digital marketing and more. Haley regularly attends a variety of programs and classes to better understand the Y from a personal perspective while development meaningful relationships with staff and members alike. Haley’s improvements with the SAY website, digital signage and improved YMCA mobile app enhances all Y member experiences to another level, and it is because her unwavering ability to question and mobilize the SAY that makes an asset in the department.

Rookie of the Year: Debbie Farley
We are also pleased to recognize Debbie Farley from Association Services for a Rookie of the Year award in 2018. Debbie is wonderful to work with and is very professional, produces great work and is always a pleasure to speak with. She has been very helpful this year with marketing tasks. Nominator stated that Debbie will go the extra yard to gather information to produce amazing fliers, blogs and web posts. Deb is a valued employee and takes pride in her work. I am glade to recognize her for the great job she is doing at the Y.

Above and Beyond: Stephy Olickal
Stephy does exceptional work for the Y and goes above and beyond in the quality and quantity of her work. For example, working with Paul and the 22 trustees is not an easy task. Stephy willingly helps out in all duties large and small and is good-natured to boot! She helped with the move clean-up and helps in the office matters and transitions. Stephy is efficient and a pleasure to work within Association Services.


To learn more about employment at the Summit Area YMCA, please visit


About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve more than 10,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, New Providence, Millburn, Springfield, Short Hills, Summit, Gillette, and Stirling. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need.