HOWELL – Christa Riddle, who is the coordinator of the Howell Municipal Alliance, has been named Citizen of the Year by the Howell Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber recently announced its 2019 community award honorees.
The Howell Municipal Alliance’s mission statement says it “collaborates across the community to prevent substance abuse, underage drinking, alcoholism, tobacco use, teen vaping, and other at-risk behaviors through prevention awareness, education, and programs. It also promotes mental well-being and reduction of the stigmas associated with substance use and mental health disorders.”
In August 2018, Riddle was named the alliance’s coordinator. By that time she had already been participating with the alliance as a volunteer and chairwoman for more than 10 years.
“My focus is community collaboration, because without a dynamic and supportive community, there cannot be a citizen of the year,” Riddle said.
Since 2007, Riddle has owned a writing consulting business, All About Writing, and she has been active in the Chamber of Commerce.
She volunteers with the Howell Optimist Club as a member and serves as the youth essay/oratorical contest chairwoman. Riddle sits on the steering committee of the Stigma Free Zone of Monmouth County, she was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse 2021-25 grant guidelines workshop committee, she is a member of the Prevention Coalition of Monmouth County, and she served on the Howell K-8 School District’s Strategic Planning Committee for 2019-24.
“I volunteered for the Howell Municipal Alliance for about 10 years before the job (as coordinator) became available and I applied for it, but I have had family struggles with substance abuse and suicide as well, so it is also a passion of mine. I also love working with youths and helping them become the best they can be,” Riddle said.
The alliance coordinator said she thinks teaching that message early in life helps with resiliency and decision making, and that is something she values as the head of the alliance.
Riddle grew up in Ocean Township and moved to Howell in 2003. She has a son, Antony, who is her inspiration and pride and joy as a kind-hearted human being, menswear designer and young entrepreneur.
She credited her work ethic and community dedication to the loving, supportive upbringing and positive example set by her parents, Sandy and Gary Kessler.
“My parents raised us with complete acceptance of ourselves and others, to live life with an open heart and an open mind. They always taught us that if you commit yourself to integrity, compassion and kindness, you will always find true happiness and success while making the world a better place,” Riddle said. “It is my life intention to pay this message forward, as the future and the power for change rest in our youth.
“I feel honored to serve my community, especially when it comes to substance abuse prevention efforts and helping our youths live better lives. It is a true blessing when you get to pursue a career that aligns with your personal passion, heart and soul, as I am lucky enough to do every day.
“Without collaboration across Howell and the encouragement and support of my family, friends and dedicated colleagues, I would not be receiving this honor from the Howell Chamber of Commerce.
“From the town manager and Township Council, through all the department staff, and across all departments … the Howell police, Chief (Andrew) Kudrick and Capt. (John) Storrow … the Howell schools under (Superintendent of Schools) Joseph Isola … that (support) helps me do what I can do,” Riddle said.
She said the biggest challenge in her position is getting people to listen to the alliance’s message.
“And understand the decisions kids make early on like underage drinking, vaping and (using) marijuana can influence their path for a lifetime, but in our culture, I do not think people overall listen to that,” Riddle said. “We need to teach (youths) to make positive choices.
“Getting people to understand the seriousness of underage drinking, vaping and marijuana use is definitely one of my biggest hurdles, just getting people to understand the grave outcomes that can come from (those activities),” Riddle said.
At present, individuals associated with alliance are working to address the issue of vaping in the community.
Riddle credited the alliance co-chairs, Jeanna Ribon, who is the Howell K-8 School District’s student assistance counselor and anti-bullying coordinator, and Howell Police Cpl. Michael Pavlick, who is the school resource officer at Howell High School, for their efforts.
“They are amazing in helping me run the alliance, they are both supportive, they are wonderful. I have collaborated with so many of the other (chamber) honorees and without the community there would not be a Citizen of the Year,” Riddle said. “It is not me getting the award, it is really the whole community.”
The Howell Chamber of Commerce 2019 Community Award honorees will be feted at the 39th annual awards dinner, With CommUNITY Comes Unity. The event will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at Eagle Oaks Country Club, Howell.
In addition to Riddle, the 2019 honorees are:
• Business of the Year: ProCare Rehabilitation, LLC, Steve Friedeman;
• Shining Star: Jeanna Ribon, Howell K-8 School District student assistance counselor and anti-bullying coordinator;
• Service Organization of the Year: Optimist Club of Howell, John Alliano;
• Making a Difference Award: Jason Rivera, CFC Loud ‘n’ Clear Foundation;
• Howell Ambassador for the Performing Arts: Joe Cantaffa, instructor, Howell High School Fine and Performing Arts magnet program; founder, creative director and arranger of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chorus;
• Shining Brightly Youth: Steven Sayegh, Monmouth County finalist, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs Competition.
Tickets for the Howell Chamber of Commerce awards dinner are $95 per person. Visit www.HowellChamber.com or call 732-363-4114 to make a reservation.