Kerry O’Brien and Erika Crocco were honored by the Township of West Milford Council on April 20 for their volunteerism.
O’Brien was presented with the 2021 Mary B. Haase Lifetime Volunteer award. Crocco was recognized with the 2021 Volunteer of the Year award.
As a member of the West Milford Historic Preservation Commission, as well as the West Milford Heritage Committee, Friends of Long Pond Ironworks, North Jersey Highlands Historical Society, past member of the Economic Development Commission and founder of the Friends of Wallisch Homestead, O’Brien has devoted his time and personal resources to develop and support local preservation and tourism initiatives.
Mayor Michele Dale said O’Brien has been willing to research historical events and gather information to assist in requests from the public, taking extra effort to insure as much historical accuracy as possible. She said he has volunteered to be a representative for the township’s historical community at various forums and has served as a link between West Milford and other esteemed organizations in the State to keep the municipality abreast of ongoing history and tourism related endeavors. Dale said his dedication and willingness to give a large portion of his lifetime to volunteer efforts for the benefit of the local community, as well as the community at large, is an admirable quality and one that deserves recognition with the Mary B. Haase Lifetime Achievement award for 2021.
O’Brien has resided in the Lakeside Community for over 20 years. During that time, he has devoted many hours to preserving and promoting local historic landmarks, as well as local and regional history. He has attended numerous certification programs, training seminars and webinars to acquire information on regional and historic tourism enterprises and practices, which he has shared with various local organizations.
O’Brien has administered grants amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars that were available from county, sate and federal programs for projects and programs at various sites. These grants helped to fund restoration projects and provide programs or special events at the Long Pond Ironworks Historic District, the Hewitt Church, the West Milford Museum, and Wallisch Homestead. O’Brien has also volunteered his time and resources at the local animal shelter, volunteered several years at a Shaker community, and has been involved in organizing and assisting at many local community events.
A lifelong volunteer since she was 13, Erika, after she and her husband purchased a house in West Milford, she continued volunteering and organized school Tricky Tray events, the Cinderella Project to get high school girls prom gowns and talent shows. She also helped with theater projects and organized fundraisers for the township’s softball committee.
Erika was on the Community Playground Committee to rebuild the playground at Bearfort Center with her daughter Gabriella. The mother and daughter joined the Autumn Lights Festival committee and served as the local entertainment and media consultants for many years. Over the past few years Crocco has assisted with the Parks and Recreation July 4 celebration.
Erika began performing at age 6. Her first role as Dorothy in a production of The Wizard of Oz clinched her love of theater. She was introduced to the West Milford Players when her daughter was just a year old. Erika began performing with the group and then moved on to being a member of the Board of Directors, first as a delegate at large, then secretary, vice-president and finally president. She continues to serve as President of the West Milford Players as well as The Mysterical Players murder mystery group.
After the Hillcrest building was no longer available for their theatrical presentations, Crocco made sure that theater remained in the area by joining forces with the West Milford Presbyterian Church. Most recently she and the players also joined forces with the Long Pond Iron Works organization to assist them with Civil War reenactments.
Erika has worked with the Township of West Milford Pride program as well as Stage 2 where other groups join for music and movement nights. She helps keep area theater alive and contributes a good amount of her time helping children and young adults find their love and talent in the theater. All the shows she has directed were benefits for local and national organizations.
Mayor Dale said Crocco continues to give back as much as she can to her township and township organizations. She said Erika would like everyone to remember that a smile goes a long way even if one cannot volunteer and that a smile and an act of kindness can make a difference in a life.