The 3rd annual event hosted by the Committee to Elect Eldridge Hawkins and The Orange Essex Political Action Committee was attended by hundreds of individuals from throughout the state of New Jersey including New Jersey State Democratic Chairman John S. Wisniewski, Former Governor Richard J. Codey, Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin and Mayor Robert L. Bowser. Also in attendance was Host of "Extra", AJ Calloway. Special Guest, Olympian of the Century, Carl Lewis, longtime friend of the Hawkins family, made an appearance and addressed the audience.
The Theme for the evening was "Celebrate our Victories". Mayor Hawkins thanked his guests for coming together for the evening in celebration of the victories won in the movement to transform the City of Orange and in celebration of those who challenge politics as usual. Upon completing his remarks, the Mayor honored those chosen as "Pillars of the Community" for their service to the City of Orange Township with a plaque and a resolution by the NJ State Assembly presented by Assemblywoman Mila Jasey.
Receiving Pillar of Community Awards were Congressman Donald Payne, New Jersey's first African American Congressman and a 22-year member of Congress in the category of Government, Dr. James M. Lee, Director of the Division of Orthopedics at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and longtime practitioner of orthopedics in Orange in the category of Health, Stephen Kirk, owner of Kirk's Auto Center located in Orange since 1984 (Business), Dennis Motley, owner/operator of Orange's popular J&A Sports Bar & Lounge (Community Service), 21-year member of the ministry, Rev. Vernander L. Hughes, Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church (Religion). Former Councilwoman Maria Vandermeer, a lifelong resident of Orange and owner of Algarve BBQ Restaurant, was the recipient of the Benjamin F. Jones Award for being a catalyst for positive change.
All recipients gave remarks including Dennis Motley who caused the audience to breakout in laughter when he stated, "I never thought that I would receive anything other than a tax bill from the City of Orange" and proceeded to thank Mayor Hawkins. Congressman Payne praised the Mayor for the positive changes made in Orange and his efforts in bringing federal attention and funding to the City. Previous "Pillars of the Community" present were, Chuck Lubetkin, Peter Velez and Dr. John Brennan.
The black tie optional dinner dance held on Friday October 22nd at the Mayfair Farms in West Orange was coordinated by Shirley Hendricks and Maxine Johnson, Lena Smalls and Sallie Wright in addition to Linda Cofer. Music was provided by the Infernos, joined by Singer/Actress/Writer, Hillary Hawkins, the Mayor's sister.