32-Year Hospital Volunteer and Belleville Resident Receives the Prestigious New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award

Belleville, NJ - At age 96, Marie Vander Zwan has given more than 30 years of volunteer service to Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville – with nearly 8 of those years as President of the 73-year old Auxiliary. Just recently, she was rewarded for her service with the prestigious New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award at a small ceremony and luncheon held in The Learning Center at Clara Maass Medical Center.

Surrounded by her daughters, son, fellow Auxilians, volunteers, hospital employees, friends and supporters, Marie was presented with the coveted New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award on August 30th by Heather Tedesco, Regional Executive Director of the Jefferson Awards Program and Robert C. Provost, of the program’s Board of Selectors.

Each year the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards highlight the spirit of civic engagement among New Jersey’s 1.5 million volunteers and provide Jefferson Awards medals in 22 categories of volunteer service. The Jefferson Awards were established in 1972 as the official recognition program of the United States Senate. They are considered America’s highest honor for public service and volunteerism. This year’s presentation ceremony and celebration of volunteerism event was held in June at the Trenton War Memorial. Since Marie was unable to attend, Bob Provost and Heather Tedesco agreed to come to Belleville to officially present Vander Zwan with the award and medallion.

“The Jefferson Award program recognizes ordinary people doing extraordinary things and Marie has set an incredible example for volunteerism and community service that will help cultivate the next generation of ‘Marie’s’ in the future” said Provost, who also serves as Program Ambassador. In New Jersey the awards are also the official recognition program of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Volunteerism, administered by a partnership that includes the NJ Office of Volunteerism, NJ Advance Media, the Community Foundation of New Jersey, and corporate sponsors, such as PNC Bank, PSEG, BD and others.

“Marie embodies spirit of our heroic namesake, Clara Louise Maass particularly her commitment to volunteerism and in self-less service to others” said Mary Ellen Clyne, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Clara Maass Medical Center. “Marie’s unlimited love and devotion to Clara Maass Medical Center will always be an inspiration to us all, and we appreciate her for always going above and beyond to serve” Clyne said.

“RWJBarnabas Health congratulates and applauds Marie Vander Zwan on the well-deserved honor of receiving the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award,” stated Barry H. Ostrowsky, President and Chief Executive Officer, RWJBarnabas Health. “This highest honor for volunteerism is an outstanding recognition of Marie’s 30-year commitment of giving and caring for her community at Clara Maass Medical Center.”

A resident of Belleville for her entire lifetime, Marie volunteered at the Medical Center simply because she wants to help families and to advocate for them. Though she has volunteered from home for the last two years, the hospital’s administrative team, employees, patients, and fellow volunteers continue to rely on Marie’s straightforward honesty and sincere voice.

“I’ve enjoyed giving my time every Thursday for the last 30 years to Clara Maass Medical Center and especially to the many patients, employees, fellow volunteers and Auxilians” said Marie. “My work at Clara was truly a team effort and I am very thankful to everyone who made it possible for me to receive the Jefferson Award this year.”

“In every way, Marie models volunteerism for all of our volunteers, patients, visitors and friends” said Angela Cuozzo-Zarro, President of the Clara Maass Auxiliary.

As a volunteer and member of the Auxiliary, Marie has helped to move forward many programs and initiatives at the hospital including chairing the medical center’s 61st Annual Volunteer Service Awards Luncheon, for which she arranged the menu and seating charts, ordered floral arrangements, selected gifts and spearheaded a collection of donated baskets for door prizes.

Marie was also instrumental in raising funds in various ways to support initiatives at Clara Maass. One hallmark of her time at Clara Maass was her idea to host an Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony. Marie began organizing the tree lighting event as a way to give employees, volunteers, medical staff and the public an opportunity to honor loved ones by purchasing holiday symbols such as tree ornaments, lights, snowflakes, Dreidels, Menorah and Shamash Candles, Stars of David or symbols of Kwanzaa and to raise funds in support of programs and services at Clara Maass Medical Center. Today, the Tree Lighting Ceremony has grown into a signature event hosted by the Auxiliary that has raised more than $100,000 since its inception in 1992.

Marie has helped with more than fundraising and special events. Because of her admiration for the compassionate and care provided by the Maternity Unit at the Medical Center, Vander Zwan recruited a local knitting club in Belleville that includes the Fewsmith Knitters along with individual knitters as far away as Jersey City to create handmade blankets and hats for newborn babies at Clara Maass. She has even volunteered to be a mock patient during several disaster drills to for staff and employees and she was also featured in a patient education video for CMMC’s Patient TV Channel.

“Marie is the glue that holds it all together. Her energy, fundraising and organizational expertise are constantly working on behalf of the hospital” said former Clara Maass Medical Center Auxiliary President, Grace Purdue.

To understand more about the Jefferson Awards in nationally, CLICK HERE.

Marie Vander Zwan, volunteer at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville

2018 Jefferson Award Recipient Marie Vander Zwan and President and Chief Executive Officer of Clara Maass Medical Center, Mary Ellen Clyne, Ph.D.


About Clara Maass Medical Center
Located in Belleville, NJ, Clara Maass Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, provides a complete continuum of care to residents of northern New Jersey. Clara Maass recently completed state-of-the-art campus expansion project featuring a new four-story 87,000 square foot building with a private, 32-bed Intensive Care Unit, new Main Entrance and Lobby, Retail Pharmacy, Patient Registration Area and designated new space to accommodate our future Emergency Department expansion. Clara Maass’ services include: The Cancer Center, Center for Breast Health and Disease Management, Radiation Oncology, Infusion Therapy, Cardiac Services Elective and Emergency Angioplasty and Cardiac Rehabilitation, The Pain Management Center, The Joint & Spine Institute, a Vascular Lab, The Vein Center, The Wound Center, The Center for Sleep Disorders, The Bariatric Surgery Center, Rehabilitation; Therapy Services which includes, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, The Eye Surgery Center, Maternity Services and Parent Education, Pediatrics, Center of Excellence for Latino Health, and the Health and Wellness Center. Clara Maass has been recognized with ten Grade ‘A’ scores for patient safety and quality by The Leapfrog Group. It is listed by the American Hospital Association as one of Healthcare’s Most Wired hospitals. In 2016-17 Clara Maass has received the Healthgrades Obstetrics and Gynecology Excellence Award and the Labor and Delivery Excellence Award. Clara Maass received Disease Specific Care Certification from the Joint Commission for Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS), Congestive Heart Failure, Hip Replacement, Knee Replacement, Cardiac Rehabilitation and Advanced Certification in Palliative Care. Clara Maass earned Clara Maass’ steadfast commitment to improve the health and well-being of the communities it serves is exemplified through award winning programs including the nationally recognized HELP Volunteer program, recipient of the American Hospital Association 2017 HAVE Award, and the Wellness Assessment Van for Elders (WAVE) which was recognized as the New Jersey Hospital Association’s 2017 HRET Community Outreach Award. For a physician referral or more information about Clara Maass, call 1-888-724-7123 or visit www.rwjbh.org/claramaass.

Contact: Stacie J. Newton
Clara Maass Medical Center

Office: (973) 450-2989
Mobile: (201) 424-9678
E-mail: Stacie.Newton@rwjbh.org