Four Montclairians make the list for NJ-11 Heroes of 2022
Four Montclair residents have been named NJ-11 Heroes by U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill. Residents in New Jersey’s 11th District were encouraged to nominate people who they felt had made a difference in their communities over the past year.
“Once again, I am blown away again by the members of the NJ-11 community,” Sherrill said in a press release. “Each and every one of our 2022 Heroes have left our towns better than they found them as first responders, volunteers, teachers, health care workers, and good citizens.
“I want to thank everyone who nominated a person in their life. I am as inspired as they are by the selfless and important actions taken by our heroes. It is programs like this one that exemplify why I am proud to represent New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District.”
Janet Duni, Gabrielle Rossi, Oren Segal and Aminah Toler are the four Montclarians on the list of heroes.
The director of care coordination at Vanguard Medical Group, Janet Duni, was nominated by her co-worker, Katherine L. Fowler. Duni was a pivotal person in Montclair who worked to prioritize the mental health needs of the community at the end of the pandemic, her co-worker said. Duni provided education to the staff at Vanguard Medical Group on how to better serve those who needed their mental health catered to.
Thanks to Duni, the behavioral health network at Vanguard Medical Center now includes hospital-based systems, community organizations and online provider options.
“She is a fierce patient advocate that works tirelessly to bring comprehensive care to our many communities throughout NJ-11,” Fowler said. “We are very lucky to have this hero on our team and in our community.”
Duni also served as an adjunct professor at Montclair State University for five years.
Another honoree, Rossi, is executive director of Girls in Gear, a nonprofit organization that teaches young girls skills through learning how to bike ride.
Rossi also founded The Dream Project, a cycling and service organization for college students who commit to cross-county fundraising bike rides each year. She also serves on the board of Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that hones in on girls' emotional and social skills through running. She is also a part of Bike&Walk Montclair.
Rossi was nominated by her fiance, Jacob Nieman.
“She's served more than 600 girls who have participated in Girls in Gear programming,” he said. “Through her tireless work she's built a community of girls and volunteers of all gender identities dedicated to helping girls understand the power that lives inside them, and creating a noncompetitive space for girls to build and support their confidence at a time when girls are continuously questioned for who they are, why they are, and what they stand for.”
Oren Segal, the vice president of ADL, was nominated by his friend Scott Cherkin. Segal works to combat extremism against minority communities in the real world and online. He has worked for the organization for more than 20 years after leaving The New York Times and the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco. Oren was recognized by the FBI in 2006 for his work in serving the public interest. He was also named to the Forward’s list of 50 most influential American Jews in 2019.
“Amazing local hero fighting hate not just for Jewish people but all minorities,” Cherkin said of his friend.
Toler is known as “Ms.Montclair” around town, according to her friends Kimberly Latortue and Megan and Daniel Roberts, who nominated her. Toler is a founding member of Montclair Mutual Aid, a group that is responsible for such programs as Adopt a Family and free food distributions. Toler is also a part of Friends of the Howe House, the group that was instrumental in saving the house owned by freed slave James Howe.
“Aminah is Montclair’s connector,” her nominators said. “She is involved with various community efforts that bring people together.” Toler is also a part-time administrative assistant and bookkeeper for Montclair Local.