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Eleven Burlington County women will be recognized for their leadership and service to their communities during this year’s 2021 Outstanding Women of Burlington County Awards Reception.
For more than two decades the Burlington County Women’s Advisory Council has honored county women for their contributions to elevating women and making our community better. This year’s group will be honored on October 18 during a reception at the Riverton Country Club and will once again provide an opportunity for community members to learn more about the often unknown or unpublicized accomplishments of women leaders.
The reception will start at 5:30 PM.
“For far too long the contributions of women were relegated or ignored so it’s incredibly gratifying to help lead a county that is home to so many outstanding women and to continue this tradition of celebrating their achievements and community service,” said Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson, who serves as a liaison to the Women’s Advisory Council. “Each of these women comes from a different walk of life, but they each have had a great and lasting impact on our county.”
This year’s honorees are:
The award recipients were selected by a panel of Advisory Council members from several areas of exceptional service. This year marked the first time the Council recognized women leaders in the categories of first responder and frontline workers.
“The Council wanted to recognize the outstanding service performed by women leaders during the pandemic, and the selections were spot on,” said Hopson. “All the award recipients have gone above and beyond for our communities and they continue to do so.”
In addition to recognizing the contributions of outstanding women leaders, the Council is also awarding scholarships to three female high school graduates who have demonstrated leadership and advocacy for equity, excellence in scholastics and interest in women’s issues and an interest in pursuing a career in a Science Technology Engineering and Math field.
The scholarship winners are:
“As women leaders, we have a responsibility to serve as mentors and role models for the next generation and I’m incredibly proud of the work the Council performs to inspire and support our young achievers,” said Commissioner Linda Hynes, who is also a liaison to the Council. “These three young women are shining examples. They have excelled in academics, activism and leadership and will help carry on our legacy of outstanding women.”
Tickets for the awards reception are $75 and are now available and can be purchased online at https://outstandingwomenburlco2021.eventbrite.com
The Council is also making several different sponsorships available for the event. If you can’t attend but would still like to participate or congratulate the winners, you can place a message in the reception slideshow. Those interested in sponsorships should visit https://www.co.burlington.nj.us/DocumentCenter/View/14053/Ad-Solicitation-2021-final?bidId=
Fozia Janjua, Volunteerism
Fozia Janjua, a Mount Laurel resident, is an avid community organizer and a recently elected official from South Jersey. Fozia moved to New Jersey in 2003 from San Francisco, where her love for volunteerism began as an active leader in several city-run programs that helped equip high-risk inner-city kids with study skills and other tools. Fozia and her friends founded Community South Jersey and Philadelphia (Community SJP).
Community SJP's mission is to unite communities through service by harnessing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. The nonprofit distributes meals and care packages to different shelters, community centers, and mosques in Camden. They also coordinate other service projects like donating no-sew blankets to hospitals, school supply drives, and makeovers for women in domestic violence shelters.
CommUNITY SJP has provided the following to the community: service events that provide over 500 meals, 250 care packages and hygiene kits, and no-sew blankets for local homeless shelters and the `Cakes for Kids' program serving over 400 kids.
Fozia is passionate about building strong communities through mentorship and service. Fozia has worked with hundreds of kids in various programs, all while raising her four boys. Fozia holds a Bachelors in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. She recently became a Councilwoman for Mt. Laurel Township in January 2021.
Helen Barsocchi, Mentorship
Helen Barsocchi is a Medford resident, a Board member of the United Girls’ Softball Association (UGSA), Assistant Coach for the 18U Renegades Softball team and active supporter of the Medford Youth Athletic Association (MYAA).
She is currently an Office Manager for Bevco but has dedicated countless hours volunteering and coaching her oldest daughter in softball. Helen began coaching girls of all ages for MYAA in 2005. In 2009, she began coaching in the travel program for Medford. Helen’s love for softball started at an early age and continued throughout high school. After high school, she attended St. Peter's College with an athletic scholarship. Eventually, she was inducted into both her high school and college's Halls of Fame for her athletic achievements.
Helen has translated her love of the game into something remarkable for the girls she coaches. She mentors and encourages them to see themselves as talented young women. She motivates them and inspires them to reach the next level of the game. Her dedicated preparation for practice plans and drills transforms their style of play. She provides them an outlet from the everyday struggles of life. Helen has been dedicated to mentoring young girls on and off the field.
Ofc. Sally Landrum, Law/ Law Enforcement
In August of 2019, the Willingboro Police Department recognized a need to expand community engagement efforts, and created the position of Community Engagement Officer to address this need. Ofc. Sally Landrum was selected to be the Community Engagement Officer. In taking on this assignment, Ofc. Landrum had to work without any precedents to guide her, and she essentially helped define what the position was each day she came to work.
Ofc. Landrum used her position to quickly earn the respect of local religious leaders and community organizations and created new ways for the police department have positive engagement with populations that are particularly vulnerable to crime such as children, senior citizens, and the homeless.
Some of the many programs she has developed include: “Story with a Cop program” which officers meet monthly at the Willingboro Library to read books to young children. She organized a toiletry drive for the homeless in the community. Ofc. Landrum worked with the police department's chaplains to set up collection boxes at local churches. She used the items collected to create care packages with various toiletry necessities and included a list of local resources such as locations of area food banks, shelters and mental health services.
She also created a Partnership with the Willingboro Library to initiate a Food Drive. Over 1,000 food items were given to local families in need. She also created a breast cancer awareness month event in which officers donned pink ribbon pins on their uniforms and put pink ribbon magnets on patrol cars. Additionally, she encouraged officers to donate to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
She also assisted Willingboro senior citizens teaching them to avoid being victims of telephone and mail frauds.
Ofc. Landrum is the Willingboro Police Department's best resource for building trust and legitimacy through positive non-enforcement interactions in Burlington County’s diverse community. She has become an integral part of the community and she has been inundated with requests from community groups and churches for her attendance at their events. Ofc. Landrum is the epitome of 21st century policing.
Holly Funkhouser-Cucuzzella, Healthcare
Holly Funkhouser-Cucuzzella, DrPH, is the Health Officer for the Burlington County Health Department, which serves the 40 municipalities in Burlington County. She has worked for the Health Department for approximately 19 years. In this role, she guides all of the public health programs including communicable disease investigations, food inspections, air and water pollution programs, the WIC program and the Animal Shelter. Holly is also responsible for the management of all Public Health Emergencies in the county (such as Hurricane Sandy, H1N1, and the COVID-19 pandemic).
Holly's leadership as Health Officer has always been outstanding, but during the current pandemic it has been particularly exceptional. Her public health knowledge and the relationships she has developed with agencies within Burlington County and at the State level are invaluable. As Health Officer, Holly's primary focus during the pandemic has been on preventing infection and protecting the lives of almost half a million Burlington County residents.
In March 2020 COVID-19 cases were being diagnosed in the US. Holly quickly mobilized the Health Department to develop and implement a COVID testing process. Holly started a COVID testing process at the Emergency Services Training Center. Burlington County was one of the first counties in NJ to begin testing its residents for COVID-19. As vaccinations became available, Holly began efforts to secure the vaccine, and the Health Department started providing vaccinations to Burlington County residents even before the MEGA site was operational. She was also instrumental in securing the State mega site for in Burlington County. Holly also ensured that homebound residents were able to receive the vaccine.
Some of the essential partnerships that Holly forged were: with BCIT for nursing student assistance, with lab companies for COVID testing, with Meals on Wheels to provide vaccinations to home bound county residents, and Human Services to provide vaccinations to other vulnerable populations, such as people without homes, families in domestic violence shelters and elderly in underserved communities.
Holly is an excellent mentor to all of her staff. She is a leader and protector of the health of Burlington County residents.
Phyllis Worrell, Frontline Worker
Phyllis serves as the Healthcare Coordinator for the County’s Office of Emergency Management. In that role, Phyllis maintains and coordinates the activities of the Community Emergency Response Team or CERT. Members train to respond and assist in disasters and other incidents or events where the Burlington County Health Department or Emergency Management Office need additional personnel to assist with a variety of activities, including sheltering, traffic control and searches. Phyllis is a trailblazer in the field of Emergency Management, a field traditionally dominated by men.
Phyllis attends every CERT training session and every CERT event. She also works closely with Burlington County’s long-term care communities to make sure they are prepared for any disaster. She directed operations at the Burlington County Vaccine Mega-Site, where more than 390,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered to residents from across the region in partnership with the County, the State of New Jersey and New Jersey National Guard.
This is not her paid job. She does all that as a volunteer. Phyllis is a professional Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC) for Virtua, the largest health-care system in southern New Jersey. She has over thirty-five (35) years of experience in emergency response as a Paramedic, Fire Fighter. Haz-Mat Technician and Critical Incident Stress Counselor.
As a part of the New Jersey Task Force-1 Urban Search and Rescue Team, Phyllis was deployed as a Medical Specialist to several emergency events, including the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and the collapse of the Tropicana Parking Garage on October 30. 2003.
Phyllis participates on many regional and state public health and emergency management committees. She also has been appointed to the Federal Emergency Service Sector Information Sharing Working Group for Homeland Security. Phyllis currently serves as Deputy EMC in Tabernacle Township, head the Steering Committee for Burlington County Medical Reserve Corp (MRC): Chairperson for Burlington County Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters; Chairperson for Burlington County Long- Term Facility Planning Teams; Co- Chairperson for the County Public-Private Partnership and Team Manager for the Burlington County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). She also previously served as Co-Chair for South Jersey Healthcare Collation. Phyllis has been an emergency service instructor teaching First- Aid, CERT,EMT, Fire, Haz-Mat, CBRNE, ICS and Terrorism courses since 1985.
Phyllis always goes above and beyond. She is a special breed of hero: a career health care professional who also devotes countless hours to volunteering.
Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, Government
Assemblywoman Carol A. Murphy is a State Assemblywoman currently serving her second term representing the Seventh Legislative District. First elected in 2017, Assemblywoman Murphy is the first woman in over twenty years to represent the Seventh Legislative District.
Assemblywoman Carol Murphy is a staunch advocate for women's rights and equality. She has demonstrated her commitment to the advancement of women through her work as a member of the NJ State Legislature, membership on the Board of Directors of the Alice Paul Institute and involvement with numerous other organizations. As a member of the NJ State Legislature, she is currently sponsoring four bills which advance the socioeconomic status of women:
1. A-4503 asks the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve replacing NJ statutes of Richard Stockton and Philip Kearney in the National Statutory Hall Collection with the statutes of Harriett Tubman and Alice Paul;
2. A4454 requests school districts to include instruction on diversity and inclusion as part of implementation of New Jersey Student Learning Standards (including women’s history);
3. A-1625 support of bills that support women’s career development, including that which encourages young women and minorities to pursue STEM; and
4. A-1408 requires the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to establish a apprenticeship mentoring program for women, minorities and persons with disabilities.
Assemblywoman Murphy is committed to giving back to her community and making a difference in the lives of others, particularly women who are facing life challenges. She volunteers for the Women's Opportunity Center's Displaced Homemaker's Program, where she has organized a Thanksgiving Food Drive, Christmas gift donations, a diaper drive, and most recently, an Easter basket drive to benefit those in need.
Assemblywoman Murphy is a full-time resident of South Jersey. Currently, she and her husband Michael live Mount Laurel.
Shannon Gibson, Community Service
Shannon Gibson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Director of several programs at Oaks Integrated Care. Shannon has been employed at Oaks for 20 years. She oversees the Foster Flex Program, Respite Programs, Mentor Program, School Based Youth Services, and Teenage Parenting Program, plus she has been leading the way for youth in care to have support and assistance related to attending and succeeding in their school day and has done so throughout the entire time of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Shannon is constantly looking for ways to support and assist youth and families of Burlington County. She has facilitated numerous clothing and necessities drives, coat drives, diaper drives, and food drives for those in need. Shannon also works closely with the development department at Oaks Integrated Care, often assisting in having needs met within the community. Shannon has a long history of making contacts and alliances with various community agencies and professionals, many of whom focus on the needs of women in the community. She obtains resources, and provides these resources to those in need consistently. She does everything in quiet manner, never taking credit for all of her hard work and dedication as well as endless hours of volunteering.
Shannon is an advocate for women and focuses on unmet needs of all she comes into contact with. As a woman, social worker, parent, wife, colleague, friend, and supervisor, Shannon is always putting others first and providing stable, consistent, dedicated and inspiring leadership. Shannon has dedicated her life to serving the community and those in need.
Kathleen Horton, Corporate Leadership
Kathleen Horton is the Chief Financial Officer for the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) and a resident of Cinnaminson. She joined the leadership team at FBSJ in April 2019 and is dedicated to helping the staff, community partners, and most especially, clients at the food bank.
She transformed the financial structure at the food bank by introducing policies, systems and structure to strengthen the organization. One of her major accomplishments to date was her foresight to update the organization’s technology. Because of her insight, FBSJ was positioned to handle the unprecedented demand to adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions while continuing to deliver food to families in need. Because of her planning, the food bank was able to keep staff during the pandemic, at a time when demand for services in the community rose by almost 200%.
Kathleen is a mentor to staff, including other members of the leadership team and women employees in the organization. She encourages her team to develop themselves and opens communication between departments by fostering relationships between everyone.
She is also a mentor outside of the workplace, encouraging her staff to find work/life balance, something she believes in strongly herself. Kathleen is a Disney fanatic and loves exploring locales such as Ireland on her bike. She can be spotted any time around Burlington County in her bright blue Jeep that she loves to drive on the beach in places like the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She loves the beach, and spends a great deal of time with her husband, Mark, two daughters and son down the shore, as well as at their long-time home in Cinnaminson, NJ which she also shares with her beloved two dogs, Hoover and Minnie.
Saima Bhutta, Diversity/Inclusion
Saima Bhutta, a Moorestown resident, is a health care provider, community activist, volunteer, and political leader. Saima is passionate about the fight against social justice issues, racial injustice and all inequalities. She participated in several Black Lives Matter marches and also participate in events organized by Burlington county NAACP. In the past 25 years, her volunteerism includes soup kitchens, overseeing public school clubs, teaching at Sunday school, distributing PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic and building bridges of understanding and peace between several faith groups in the South Jersey area.
From 2005 to 2006 she provided health care services through Project H.O.P.E and the Catholic Charities of Camden County to the homeless in Camden county. In 2006, she was the recipient of the 2006 Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Medal in recognition for her services to the HEPSA sites in Camden NJ.
Saima was the founding member of the Pakistan American Society of South Jersey in 2001. After 9/11 her goal was to build bridges and promote diversity and understanding of Pakistani culture through social activities sharing them with the community at large in the south jersey area and to bring the communities together. In 2015, with the help of other Muslim leaders in the South Jersey region, Saima founded the Muslim Federation of South Jersey, which seeks to build connections with local, state, and federal government officials so that the interests and views of the South Jersey’s diverse Muslim community are represented in mainstream political environments. This organization does outreach work and distribute Food, care packages and backpacks to inner city schools and vulnerable communities She currently serves on their board of trustees of both organizations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she coordinated with businesses and community members who were hit the hardest, offering support by organizing and distributing thousands of meals out of those sites and to communities identified as food insecure.
Additionally, Saima volunteered in the 2020 Census Complete Count Committee in Burlington County, educating community members about the Census, and dedicating her time to aiding as many people as possible complete it. She is an active member of Sisterhood of Salam Shalom and the Jewish Christian Muslim Dialogue of Southern Jersey. Currently Saima is on the Task Force to form a Diversity and Inclusion committee for Moorestown Township. She also serves on the Sustainable Moorestown committee and has been involved in establishing COVID testing sites in town and volunteering there as a health care provider. She has arranged health fairs and works with organizations to identify vulnerable populations to provide them with resources.
Amanda Cassel, Education
Amanda Cassel is the Assistant Principal and Supervisor of Instruction in the Lenape Regional High School District and a resident of Southampton. Throughout her career as a Special Education teacher and now Senior Supervisor of Special Education, Amanda has been at the forefront of advocacy and opportunity for all students in the Lenape Regional High School District.
The role of Senior Supervisor puts Mrs. Cassel at the head of the table of all Special Education meetings at the school and district level. Amanda welcomes all individuals the opportunity to voice thoughts and questions. Amanda has served as a mentor to new members of the administrative ranks.
Amanda’s greatest accomplishment is her peer leadership within the Lenape District. Recognizing the significantly male-dominant ratio in the district’s administrative positions, Amanda created a group for women from Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca, and Shawnee to come together to share and recognize their professional and personal growth as school leaders. Amanda’s ability to foster and promote female leadership is what makes her stand out among all leaders in the school district.
At Lenape High School, Mrs. Cassel serves as the lone female administrator. Mrs. Cassel uses this position to serve as a leader for all students. This year, she established the Wellness Center. This is an area in the building that she runs for students to visit throughout the school day to focus on their mental health.
Amanda recently organized a Social Emotional Learning Day for her entire building. School leaders throughout the district have since approached Amanda for suggestions on how they could carry out a similar day in their buildings to promote student well-being. Though these events stand out as individual activities, they are hallmarks of Amanda’s personality and leadership style.
Lori Engler, First Responder
Lori Engler was born and raised in Bordentown, until 2 years ago. She comes from a long line of first responders, and has followed in her family’s footsteps. She has been an EMT/Firefighter for over 20 years. She is currently employed by the Bordentown Township Police Department and Capital Health and has been worked nonstop combatting COVID-19.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lori has been transporting COVID patients. Working through the pandemic was a challenge for her since she was unable to be around her family. On numerous occasions, she has had to isolate herself from her family in order to keep them safe. However, she worked around the clock to help Burlington County residents throughout the entire pandemic.
Lori was the first female firefighter at Consolidated Fire Association at only 16 years old. Today when she isn't working as an EMT, she is answering fire calls. She also volunteers to educate students on fire prevention and safety. She is a great role model to young girls showing them that females can be firefighters.
Lori currently resides with her fiancé, who also works as an EMT. She remains dedicated and committed to supporting to supporting the residents of Burlington County.
Skylar Brotz, Alice Paul Champion Award
Skylar Brotz graduated from Delran High School and has participated in many school organizations and activities. She was in the concert choir, Bel Canto (an all-women’s choir) participated in the Fall Play, Spring Musical, National Honor Society, Thespian Society, and on the Mock Trial team.
While on the Mock Trial team, Skylar competed for an attorney spot. She was the first freshman ever to do so in her teacher’s seven years as the Mock Trial coach. She was able to use this spot to mentor others on the team. She has also helped with back to school nights and helped run Freshman Orientation.
Outside of school she has organized a Memorial Day picnic and participated in Adopt-A-Family through the Volunteers of America Delaware Valley.
She is outspoken about women’s rights and equalities to her classmates, mentors and coworkers. She has spearheaded a Sexual Assault Awareness campaign at her workplace and hopes to create legislation that better protects survivors of sexual assault and raise awareness. She also previously ran a social media account that focused on political issues and women’s empowerment.
Much of her deviation has come from being raised by a single mother. Both Skylar and her mother are sexual assault survivors, so she is motivated to remain commitment to raising awareness on that issue along with helping to empower other women seek the help and treatment they need.
She is currently attending Rowan College at Burlington County and plans to transfer to the College of William and Mary in the Spring. She plans to go to Law School and hopes to work with the American Civil Liberties Union to fight for the rights of other sexual assault survivors like her.
Maya Tanikawa-Brown, Celeste Arties Memorial Award
Maya Tanikawa-Brown graduated from Northern Burlington Regional High School and participated in many school clubs and organizations. She was an active member in the No Place for Hate organization at Northern Burlington. The Andi-Defamation League began this student-run organization aiming to end the escalation of hate and to create a more equitable and inclusive climate. Maya also spearheaded a school-wide project honoring Indigenous Peoples Heritage Month by creating a lesson for history teachers to recount Indigenous American history.
While at Northern Burlington Maya participated in the marching band for four years, was in the Food Science CDE club, a member of the golf team, participated in Science League, Jazz Ensemble and played on the Girls’ Basketball team.
As part of the Food Science and Technology Career Development (CDE) team, she also participated in a Future Farmers of America CDE competition. Outside of school, she was active on the United Nations Association of the United States of America Southern NJ Chapter and participated in the Interact Club.
Maya also volunteered with Choice One, a local women’s health organization based out of Mercer County, NJ and Bucks County, PA. Using her Spanish bilingual skills, some of her responsibilities included answering phones and communicating with Spanish speaking clients, assisting women to pick up necessities (such as diapers, baby wipes, formula, and baby food) providing peer counseling, and helping women get connected to community services.
Maya is currently attending the University of Nebraska Lincoln for the Food Science and Technology program with a major in Food Science. She hopes to achieve and utilize her undergraduate degree in Food Science and research of food microbiology by working for the FDA or with a company detecting and preventing foodborne pathogens and illness to uphold the preservation of food safety.
Makayla Scott, Elizbeth Coleman White STEM award
Makayla Scott graduated from BCIT Westampton and was on the honor roll all years of her high school career. She was also on the Principal’s List, on the Student Council and was a Student Athletic Trainer. She also participated in the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) organization. While part of the Health Occupations Students of America, she helped organize and facilitate blood drives and was a competitor in regional and state competitions.
Outside of school, she participated in a girl’s program through the Rancocas Valley Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., since sixth grade. Through this organization, she has participated in community service events and activities that promote women's empowerment. She participated as a speaker in Black History Programs and a Rites of Passage Ceremony and helped facilitate food drives for community members in need.
This year, she organized a shoe drive for Soles 4 Souls. She has also mentored students by offering homework help and facilitating activities for children at the All Things Are Possible Foundation.
Makayla also attended a summer program called Med Academy, hosted by Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, that prepared high school students for medical school. It was through this program she realized she strived to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Makayla plans to attend Delaware State University and major in Kinesiology. After graduation, she plans to attend Physical Therapy School to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy.