More than a dozen local residents and community leaders were honored at the 2016 Times Review Media Group People of the Year reception at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead last Thursday.
The annual awards, which have been handed out every year since 1987, are given to leaders in public and community service, education, business and sports. This year’s News-Review Person of the Year award was given to Tijuana Fulford, a Riverhead native and the founder of the Butterfly Effect Project. The organization provides life skills for young girls and serves as a community service organization performing local charitable endeavors.
“I never thought I would be standing here,” Ms. Fulford said in accepting her award. “I just would like to tell everyone that if anybody can make a change, if anybody has a goal, has a vision, just go for it.”
The Times Review staff prepared a documentary-style video on each of the 14 recipients, who then gave speeches thanking family and supporters.
“It’s really a great event that we’ve come to look forward to every year,” said Times Review publisher Andrew Olsen. “The recipients are all very deserving of the honors and their stories are inspirational.”
Other News-Review recipients included Businesspeople of the Year PeraBell Food Bar East; Educator of the Year Melissa Haupt of Riley Avenue Elementary School; Community Leaders of the Year Dwayne Eleazer and Larry Williams of the Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament; Public Servant of the Year Thomas Lateulere of the Wading River Fire Department; and Sports People of the Year Paul Koretzki and Bob Szymanski, coaches of the Shoreham-Wading River cross-country and track teams. Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks were named Northforker’s People of the Year for their contributions to the local music scene.
The ceremony was sponsored by Acadia Center in Riverhead with food prepared by Christopher Michael Catering and music from Make Some Noise Productions. Mattituck Greenport Laundry, Mattituck Florist and Sav-on Printing also served as partners for the event.
Here is a complete list of the winners for 2016:
Person of the Year: Tijuana Fulford
Public Servant of the Year: Tom Lateulere
Educator of the Year: Melissa Haupt
Businesspeople of the Year: PeraBell Food Bar East
Community Leaders of the Year: Dwayne Eleazer and Larry Williams
Sportspeople of the Year: Paul Koretzki and Bob Szymanski
northforker Person of the Year: Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks