Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore recognized eight Monmouth and Ocean County women for their contributions to local communities at its annual Phenomenal Women Under 40 awards ceremony and fundraising event Sept. 22 in Farmingdale.
The celebration, along with proceeds from a summer-long 50/50 raffle, raised $40,000 to fuel leadership experiences for Girl Scouts in the Jersey Shore region and to fund membership fees for girls who want to become Girl Scouts but whose families are facing financial hardship.
“We are proud to honor and celebrate phenomenal women who go above and beyond to make our communities better places through their work and volunteer service,” said Eileen Higgins, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, which serves nearly 9,000 girls in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
The 2021 Phenom recipients were selected from a public nomination process and are “making a positive difference every day as health care professionals, educators, business owners and nonprofit leaders,” said Teri O’Connor, chairperson of Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore’s board of directors.
“The Phenom honorees are tremendous role models for our Girl Scouts, aspiring to be leaders who make our world a better place,” O’Connor added.
Presented with the 2021 Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore Phenom Award were:
- Alaina Bontales, Holmdel, clinical director of Patient Care for Inpatient Oncology at Monmouth Medical Center, and volunteer at the Holmdel Greek Orthodox Church, where she created a religious bookstore to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award.
- Kristina Henderson, Pine Beach, CEO and co-owner of Henderson Promos based in Red Bank, recent Mrs. New Jersey American and advisor to the Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation and an ambassador of the Tigger House Foundation.
- Danielle M. Jones, Eatontown, confidential associate for the Office of Governmental Affairs and Community Relations at Brookdale Community College and councilwoman for the borough of Eatontown. She also works with the College Caucus of the New Jersey Young Democrats.
- Eboné Lawrence-Smith, Neptune, a teacher in the Long Branch Public School District where she has served as PTA secretary, assistant Girl Scout troop leader, and after-school tutor. She is a member of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Atlantic Highlands, where she is active on many committees.
- Chelsea Masterson, Toms River, owner of Chelsea’s Messy Kitchen in Ocean County, and digital managing editor at Townsquare Media South Jersey, on-field emcee for Jersey Shore BlueClaws, and host of the podcast, “Her Product Lab.” She is a recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award and an active Girl Scout volunteer and advocate.
- Megan O’Keefe, Bayville, executive director of Caregiver Volunteers of Central New Jersey. She serves on the Ocean County Transportation Advisory Committee for Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities and on the Board of Directors of the Toms River Chamber of Commerce.
- Shannon Oreficé, Eatontown, director of programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Coastal and Northern New Jersey and advocate for social justice. She facilitates her organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee.
- Melissa Schwaner, Manahawkin, a licensed clinical social worker, and owner of Swan Therapy Group LLC in Toms River working with children and adults. She also has worked with children of active-duty parents as a military family life counselor.
Approximately 130 supporters attended the outdoor event, which included a flag ceremony led by a Girl Scout color guard and a program featuring videos of each Phenom Award recipient. Girl Scout Recruitment Manager and lifelong member of Girl Scouts Arianna Lynch was the emcee.
Serving as event chairpersons were past Phenom recipients: Jamie Bertram, Lakewood BlueClaws; Kate Dowd, New Jersey Resources; and Stephanie Toal, OceanFirst Foundation.
Guests enjoyed dinner and dessert from the Ohana Grill Food Truck and beverages on tap from the Roving Bar, a three-wheeled vintage Piaggio Ape. They took home Girl Scout-inspired cupcakes from Chelsea’s Messy Kitchen, created by award recipient Masterson, and boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.
A highlight of the evening was drawing the winning $10 ticket for the 50/50 raffle, which generated $20,840 over a three-month period. The lucky winner received $10,420, half of the net proceeds.
Higgins expressed gratitude to lead event sponsor Monmouth Medical Center/RWJBarnabas Health and all the sponsors and guests.
“Our council is truly grateful for the many Phenom event sponsors and supporters whose generosity will ensure that more girls can benefit from Girl Scouts’ unique leadership program that builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who will make the world a better place,” Higgins said.
For more information about leadership and program opportunities offered by the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore in Monmouth and Ocean counties, email email@example.com or call (800) 785-2090.