IRVINGTON, NJ — On Nov. 4, the Irvington Chamber of Commerce held its 2021 Police and Fire, Civic and Community Awards Dinner, honoring members of the police and fire departments, at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover. In addition to honoring individual police officers and firefighters, the affair saw Council President Renee C. Burgess receive the 2021 Civic Award and Irvington Senior Citizens Community Center manager Gloria D. Chison receive the 2021 Community Service Award.
“Thursday night was amazing. Everyone that was honored, you could tell they were genuinely happy,” Burgess told the Irvington Herald the day after the event. “The words that were said for each and every officer and fireman were beautiful.”
Burgess said she was deeply honored to be recognized for the work she does around town for a variety of events and initiatives. She said she thought being recognized “was very kind of (the nominators) because, when I do things, I don’t look for recognition, because it comes from the heart. So when they acknowledged me in this manner, it was nice and was unexpected.”
Chosen as this year’s Civic Award recipient, Burgess felt she was selected due to her large capacity to help others.
“Since I started this lifestyle as being a public figure over 23 years ago, it has genuinely been a passion of mine to help others,” Burgess said. “I had some very humble beginnings, and I’ve walked different paths of life that made me very appreciative for the little things and made me recognize others that probably have gone through what I’ve gone through and I want to help them. When you help people, you don’t look to get things back. I like helping people behind the scenes more so than a public setting. But as long as I’m helping, it doesn’t matter which setting. It’s just been my goal to spread love in any way I can.
“Like I said on Thursday, because of what I’ve experienced in life and what God has brought me through, I ask him to help me help someone by providing the tools that I need so I can make someone’s life easier or make them smile.”
Chison has also devoted much time to helping others but was still surprised when she was given the Community Service Award.
“The event was awesome, elegant and was very well put together. With the work that I do within the community for the seniors, I was nominated by Irvington Chamber of Commerce member Michael Roesch, who I didn’t meet until Thursday night,” Chison said in a Nov. 7 interview, detailing all the work being done for seniors in Irvington, especially while the senior center is closed for renovation. “We’re still doing our grab-and-go program; we’ve done a little over 12,000 meals. I’m always out and about and always with my seniors. With all of that, he nominated me, and I was shocked (when) Roscoe Coleman, who is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce, called me and told me I had been nominated by the committee.
“I couldn’t believe it because it’s an honor in itself when someone doesn’t know you but they nominate you. That means they’re watching you or they see what you’ve done. So that was a really proud moment for me.”
That her son Lamont E. Blount Jr. presented the award to her at the ceremony only added to Chison’s pride that evening.
“I’ve been doing this for seven years,” Chison said. “The mayor appointed me to this position in 2015, where he recognized my passion for people. If you love what you do, it’s not considered work. I’m absolutely humbled. This award is special because it’s from Irvington Chamber of Commerce. They could’ve chosen anyone, but they chose me. That’s incredibly humbling and something to be proud of.”
Irvington Police Director Tracy Bowers presented the 2021 Police Valor Award to Detective Sgt. Ira Hooper, Detective Sgt. David Reyes and Detective Al-Jerome Burnett-Crawford. Irvington Fire Chief Antonio Gary presented the 2021 Fire Valor Award to firefighters Andrew Zwirko and Eugene Lennon-Wynn.
Photos Courtesy of Quaasim Austin-Turner