County recognizes local Portuguese Americans with awards

Photo Courtesy of Essex County
From left are Essex County Deputy Director of Human Resources Jacqueline Jones, honoree Diolinda B. Soares, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., honoree John Goncalves and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura.

NEWARK, NJ — During the 2018 Essex County Portuguese Heritage Celebration on Tuesday, July 10, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. presented Star of Essex Awards to Diolinda B. Soares, assistant finance director with the Ironbound Soccer Club and health benefits clerk with the Essex County Office of Human Resources, and John Goncalves, an undersheriff with the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. The honorees were recognized for their many positive contributions to New Jersey — especially in Essex County.

“Essex County has been shaped and developed by the various cultures and ethnicities of the people who have lived and worked here. Celebrating the heritage of our neighbors will help us understand and embrace our diversity,” DiVincenzo said at the event. “Diolinda B. Soares and John Goncalves have made many contributions to our civic, educational and cultural worlds here in Essex County.”

Soares immigrated with her family to the United States from Anadia, Portugal, in January 1970 when she was 7 years old. Soares lived in Newark until the age of 16 when her parents bought their first home in Elizabeth. She married her husband, John, in 1985 and they moved to Livingston in 1992. She worked in the banking industry for more than 20 years and at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ before joining Essex County four years ago.

Diolinda and her family became involved with the Ironbound Soccer Club in 1994 when they registered their son as a member and she became assistant finance director in 2000. Working with other volunteers, the club grew and formed travel teams for a variety of age groups. In 2004, the Northern Counties Soccer Association named ISC as Club of the Year. Diolinda also has assumed the responsibility of supervising the developmental and recreational program. Previously, she volunteered for Our Lady of Fatima Church Pre-Cana Committee.

“I want to thank Joe DiVincenzo for continuing to recognize the diversity of Essex County and for all that you have done,” Soares said upon receiving the award. “I also want to thank the people who have propelled me to succeed — my parents and my family.”

As an undersheriff, Goncalves is responsible for court security and transportation operations. He joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1993, and has provided security for the courtrooms and Hall of Records Complex, executed arrest warrants, and represented the Sheriff’s Office on several interagency task forces, including serving as the chief investigator on the Newark Police Department’s Financial Crimes Task Force. In addition, he has worked on many high-profile criminal cases with the U.S. Secret Service and has coordinated the federal agency’s Dignitary Protection Unit, which provided security for Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and other dignitaries who have visited the region.

Due to his hard work, professionalism and dedication to duty, he has earned many departmental accolades, including the prestigious Medal of Merit and Life Saving Award. He became interested in public service after becoming a volunteer EMT for the North Ward First Aid Squad when he was 14 years old.

“I want to thank Joe D. and Sheriff Armando Fontoura. I really appreciate the recognition,” Goncalves said at the event.