Middletown recognizes ‘Distinguished Citizen’


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Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN — Keeping with the tradition of honoring residents going above and beyond the call of duty to enrich Middletown’s community, the Township Committee presented its third Distinguished Citizen Award to a consummate businessman who just happens to have a big company to his name.

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“The reason that Richard Saker is getting the Distinguished Citizen Award is because I have never seen anybody who’s there for us the way he is,” Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said at the governing body’s Feb. 16 meeting.

“I think he dreads seeing my number come up on his phone and goes ‘now what’ and I always start off saying, ‘Rich if it is getting to be too much tell me’ and it never is.”

According to the proclamation read by Scharfenberger, Saker is “a community-minded businessman who generously supports his hometown [and who] gives freely of his time and resources whenever he is called to service.”

Saker is president and CEO of Saker Holdings Corporation and Saker ShopRites Inc., which owns and operates 29 supermarkets in central New Jersey, including Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex, Somerset and Mercer counties.

In the wake of superstorm Sandy, Scharfenberger said Saker didn’t think twice about encouraging emergency responders to take necessary supplies from his badly damaged store to assist storm-ravaged neighbors.

“After superstorm Sandy — and this is really what opened up everybody’s eyes — Richard’s ShopRite store on Route 35 got very heavily damaged, and I remember calling him up and saying ‘the town is devastated and we need some help,’” Scharfenberger said.

“His exact words to me were, ‘if you can get a truck over here you can pretty much take everything you want’ and that was just amazing the day after the storm … and the list of things he does for the township just goes on and on and with stories like this … it is such an honor to work with him.”

According to the proclamation, Saker is an “ardent supporter of the township’s Cultural and Arts Council, the Middletown Arts Center and Middletown Day.”

Saker is a sponsor of many township outreach programs, including the Welcome Home Picnic for Vietnam Veterans and the Mayor’s Food Basket, and a member of the township’s Economic Development Committee.

Scharfenberger said the Township Committee is honored to recognize Saker for his service and is proud to call him “one of Middletown’s own.”

“I just want to point out we don’t give this [award] out very easily,” he said. “We only do one or two a year, and Rich is the first and possibly the last one for 2016, but he encompasses everything that this award is about, and he deserves this and so much more.”

Committeeman Kevin Settembrino also recognized Saker for his service.

“It is people like these that define the best towns to live in, so I am glad to be part of Middletown,” he said.

Saker thanked the governing body for the recognition.

“On behalf of my wife and I, we are so thrilled to be part of this town and to be part of this community,” he said. “It has been a great education for me. I have learned a lot about local government … and I appreciate all that you do for us and for the people of Middletown as well … so thank you all very much and I appreciate the recognition.”

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