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Friends of Children Recognized for Time, Effort

NEWARK, NJ, November 14, 2001 -- Six New Jersey residents have been recognized for making a difference in children's lives as part of NJ TRANSIT's Hispanic Heritage Month observance.

The six "Amigos de Ninos" -- Friends of Children -- have been honored for their efforts with individual children, children's groups or organizations. They include an NJ TRANSIT employee, three police officers, a firefighter and a church group coordinator.

"Hispanic Heritage Month provides NJ TRANSIT with a way to recognize and honor the Hispanic community's most outstanding citizens," said NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman and State Transportation Commissioner James Weinstein. "This year, it is most appropriate that the honorees are friends of Hispanic children -- people who truly care about their well-being and future."

"These people make a significant difference in their communities," said NJ TRANSIT Board Member Flora M. Castillo, who hosted a luncheon for the honorees with NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Jeffrey A. Warsh. "Their hard work and dedication gives these children positive role models and unique opportunities they might otherwise never experience."

"In light of recent events, what these New Jerseyans have done --and continue to do -- is extraordinary," said Warsh. "In periods of uncertainty, children need to feel secure. In times of difficulty, they need someone whom they can trust. These extraordinary volunteers show children that someone cares about them and their future."

The six honorees are:


  • Jose E. Alicea Jr. of Newark -- On May 16, 2001, this Newark Police detective saved the life of a drowning child while he was off-duty. Jose also regularly instructs the city’s children in the DARE anti-drug program and participates in other school-related activities in his role as a community relations officer.
  • Bernadette Baselici of Neptune -- In addition to her work and family responsibilities, NJ TRANSIT’s Director of Operations, Coordination and Policy mentors Newark teenager Madelyn Calvo as part of the 10,000 Mentors/Big Brother/Big Sister program. Bernadette helps Madelyn experience new educational, cultural and recreational opportunities and provides guidance as the young woman plans her future. Under Bernadette's tutelage, Madelyn has been inducted into the National Honor Society.
  • Lenny Calvo of Union City -- Since 1997, this firefighter from the North Hudson Regional Department has organized annual Christmas parties for the Midtown Children’s Fund. Thanks to his efforts, more than 1,500 toys have been distributed to needy children in Bergen County. Following the September 11 attacks, Lenny organized a "boot drive" for the families of the emergency workers who perished in the World Trade Center. The effort has raised almost $500,000. He is also a member of the Union City Board of Education, the Hudson County chapter of the American Red Cross and several other organizations.
  • Francisco Cruz Jr. of Keansburg -- This Perth Amboy police officer organized an anti-gang and anti-violence program in the mid-1990s after several gangs attempted to recruit in Perth Amboy. His efforts have stifled the gangs and helped reduce gang-related crimes. Francisco continues to educate children in grades 3-12 about the dangers of gang life.
  • Genaro Ortiz Jr. of Newark -- A Newark police officer since 1989, Genaro's work with children began in 1991, when he dressed as Batman for a Halloween school safety program. Since then, he has participated in many speaking programs, warning children about the dangers of drugs and weapons and teaching them how to handle emergency situations. He spent five years with Newark Police Department’s Truancy Task Force before becoming a detective. Genaro also participates in charity and community events.
  • Ellen Parker of Somerville -- Ellen runs a comprehensive children's program at the Suydam Street Reformed Church in New Brunswick that includes music, arts and crafts, education and drama. The program teaches core moral values such as responsibility and respect to children between the ages of 3 and 11. She also teaches theater classes and participated in the Million Mom March in 1999.

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing bus, rail and light rail services for 380,600 daily commuters on 240 bus routes, two light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 163 rail stations, 26 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.