It’s fitting to describe JoAnn Williams-Swiney, director of the New Community Family Resource Success Center, as an unsung hero.
Her desk, typically flooded with papers, is tucked away in a corner, which affords some privacy when she meets with one of the thousands of clients who walk into the Resource Center each year.
Her office at the Resource Center on Bergen Street is on the frontlines of serving walk-in clients seeking assistance with eye exams, utility or rental assistance, healthcare enrollment, tax preparation and more.
“JoAnn’s passion for serving inner city residents ultimately led to the creation of the Family Resource Success Center,” Monsignor William J. Linder, founder of New Community, said.
An employee of NCC since 1996, Williams-Swiney was nominated by Monsignor for the Russ Berrie Making A Difference Award and attended a luncheon on May 6 where nominees and guests were invited to celebrate the occasion together. The event took place at Ramapo College of New Jersey, which administers the award.
Established in 1997, the Russ Berrie Making A Difference Award “celebrates New Jersey’s unsung heroes” and those who dedicate their lives to helping others in need, the foundation’s website said. An advisory board comprised of business and civic leaders from around New Jersey selected eight winners, who this year included Vincent Mann, chief of the Turtle Clan of the Ramapough-Lunaape Tribe, for his commitment to protecting his nation from superfund site pollution, and Jane and Joseph Clementi for their advocacy work with the LGBT community after the death of their son, Tyler.
“We hope that the winners of the award would inspire others to do the same,” said Angelica Berrie, wife of the late Russ Berrie and president of his namesake foundation.
“I am honored to be nominated among these folks,” Williams-Swiney said.
Williams-Swiney “skillfully transitions between direct client services and supervising her all-volunteer staff, which includes welfare recipients participating in required work activities,” Monsignor wrote in her nomination application. “In working with JoAnn, I have found that she has a valuable pulse on the community we serve because she deals with clients each day and thus understands their needs. She treats clients with compassion and empathy while maintaining a professional demeanor, even despite facing challenging situations,” he added.