Women of Action feted in Jersey City

18 honorees come from a variety of communities and backgrounds

NEVERTHELESS, THEY PERSISTED – The Women of Action ceremony helps recognize women who make a difference in the community.
NEVERTHELESS, THEY PERSISTED – The Women of Action ceremony helps recognize women who make a difference in the community.

Born and raised in Jersey City, Michele Jefferey doesn’t call attention to herself. Active behind the scenes for decades, she has left her mark on people’s lives, especially children coming through the county school system.
“I’ve worked for the Hudson County Schools of Technology for 30 years,” she said. “I have been active with the Samuel R. Shelton Post 2294, establishing ‘Doing our Best for the Vets’ for which our school HCST/Explore 2000 received a proclamation.”
“I am proud to say I was born and raised in Jersey City as well as my grandmother, mother and children Alton and Kyle, it makes the honor even more special.” – Michele Jefferey
She has also worked with the Spectrum Health Care board of directors and was a Brantwood Camp liaison, enabling many students to experience a camping experience in New Hampshire for three weeks.
For these and many other reasons, she was one of 18 people singled out for honors as a Jersey City 2017 Woman of Action.
“It was an honor to be recognized by Councilman (Frank) Grajewski as a Woman of Action,” she said. “I am proud to say I was born and raised in Jersey City as well as my grandmother, mother and children Alton and Kyle. It makes the honor even more special.”

Part of a national celebration of women

The ceremony took place in the City Hall Council Chambers in March as part of a Women’s History Month series of events. The annual awards ceremony pays tribute to “day-to-day accomplishments and selfless acts made by women who are active in their community.”
Women’s History month started in 1981 as a national women’s week, and was expanded under proclamations by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Jersey City has been honoring women for almost a decade. Overseen this year by Council member Joyce Watterman, the event featured two women selected by each of the nine council members.
Watterman said this event meant a great deal to her.
“It means I am my sister’s keeper. Different skin, hair, nose, lips, eyes, shape, and height.
So I celebrate my sister’s accomplishment and I extend love, laughter and life to be herself,” she said.
Although continued under Mayor Steven Fulop, the tradition of honoring Women of Action was started under Mayor Jerramiah Healy, seeking to focus on those people who might not otherwise receive attention.

The other honorees include people in and out of government

Jersey City Municipal Court Judge Kalimah H. Ahmad, a former council member at large in 2011, also serves as legal advisor to the Hudson County Correctional Facility.
Jacqueline Evetta McLeod, who has been nicked named ‘Team Mom” because she opened the first concession stand for St. Anthony’s girls’ basketball team, is co-founder of Twin Sisters Foundation, a nonprofit organization that donates money to high school seniors to help them continue their education.
Robinson Holloway, who owns Village West Gallery in Jersey City, serves as chair on the Jersey City Arts Council and the New York branch of the Association of Women Art Dealers. She is also a founding board member for Positive Impact Development Inc., a nonprofit real estate development company.
Rachel Sieg has served as the executive director of the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District (HDSID) for about seven years. She started part time as an event coordinator, but it soon evolved into a full time position. During that time, she has coordinated more than 100 ribbon-cutting ceremonies. She has been instrumental in lobbying the city for the Newark Avenue pedestrian plaza, and has helped developed key events such as the Grove Street Farmers Market, Groove on Grove and the Annual All About Downtown Street Fair.
Jessica Glenza is a founding member of Heights United for Clean Streets, a group that has promoted civic pride and improved quality of life in a part of the city that is now seeing significant growth in business and residential development.
Maricar Taino is president of the NJ Junior Chamber International Philippine American, on the board of the Jesus the Messiah International Ministries, and is on the event committee for the Philippine American Friendship Committee.
Takeria “Queen Bee” Clark is the founder of H.O.N.E.Y. (Helping Others Now Empowering Yourself), a grassroots organization that empowers the youth of the community. She helped establish The HONEY Bees, a championship jump-roping team.
Takeisha Stewart is the founder and managing director of Our Youth Today Inc. and one of the founders of Forever Girls Inc. She also served as the transportation coordinator in Hudson County for the Women’s March on Washington DC earlier this year.
Ann Blaustein, a longtime community activist and union organizer, was an early supporter of civil rights, attending marches to Washington, D.C., in the 1950s. She has served as president of the Talmud Torah Women’s Auxiliary and assisted immigrants to escape persecution.
Debra A. Goidel began volunteering at soup kitchens and shelters when she and her husband moved to Jersey City. She helped St. John’s Lutheran Church establish a food bank and has been active in helping the poor.
Mary Mikhail Bishara is an active volunteer for the nonprofit organization Coptic Community Services. She helped create tutoring services for young students and provide high school students with the opportunity to volunteer as tutors.
Mayuri Patel has numerous awards for her involvement with the Indian community and senior citizens. She is active in organizations such as SMVS of Jersey City, Bhamin Samaj of USA, Govinda Sankar Center of Jersey City, and Bhadran Samaj of USA.
Caridad Carrasco, owner of a local deli and beauty salon, is a member of the Hispanic American Commerce Association. She volunteers with the senior citizen community in Jersey City.
Francisca Cruz, manager of a local phone store in Jersey City Heights, has been an active volunteer with Latin Night in the Heights and the Pershing Field baseball leagues. She is known for giving free drinks and snacks to kids at park events, and helping those in need during holidays.
Named teacher of the year at School No. 8 in 2003, Maritza Rodriguez-Dortrait, has since become the principal at the Dr. Maya Angelou School 20.
Daisy Frazier, a traveling evangelist at the Church of God and Christ Temple in Jersey City, helps people inside and outside her neighborhood.
Sara Naipaul is a member on the parent council at Middle School 38 and Lincoln High School, and also serves as the council secretary at Christ Our Savior, Lutheran Church in Jersey City.
Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.