The late Pat Colavita Jr. was the consummate volunteer who dedicated his life to helping others.
Colavita made ill children’s wishes come true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and found time to help at the St. Lawrence Rehabilitation Center. He volunteered at CONTACT of Mercer County, which is a suicide and crisis hotline, and at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.
He was also a former mayor and Lawrence Township councilman. He was a former Lawrence Township school board member and school board president. He also served as a commissioner on the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners (formerly known as the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders).
The Lawrence Township Council recognized Colavita’s contributions and presented his family with the Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously at its May 2 meeting. Colavita died in September 2022.
The award was one of six Citizen of the Year awards presented at the Lawrence Township Council meeting. Formerly known as the Volunteer Awards, the awards are given to individuals and groups to acknowledge their service to the township.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a volunteer whose lifetime of service exemplifies notable achievement in community service, township officials said. It is given to a volunteer who is at least 60 years old.
Colavita is the second resident to win the Lifetime Achievement Award. It was presented to William Agress last year in recognition of his service on the Lawrence Township and Mercer County planning boards. He also is a historic re-enactor who portrays Revolutionary War soldier Col. Edward Hand and Albert Einstein.
Lawrence Township Councilman Jim Kownacki presented the award to Colavita’s family at the meeting.
“Pat was a lifetime resident of Lawrence and he dedicated most of his life to our community. People said he was an ambassador for Lawrence and the face of Lawrence,” Kownacki said.
“What made Pat so special was his ability to touch people’s hearts and minds. Any town would have been proud to have Pat, but we were the lucky ones,” he said.
Marianne Colavita accepted the award on behalf of her late husband and the Colavita family. She thanked Kownacki and Mayor John Ryan for giving him the award.
“I know he would be over the moon with it. He loved it here and never wanted to move (from Lawrence). I am proud to be his wife. We miss him dearly,” she said.
Among other awardees, Annette Loveless was presented with the Leadership Award. It is given to a person who has demonstrated significant community impact while serving in a leadership role, officials said.
Loveless serves on the township’s Environmental Committee and has led it since 2019. The committee has increased its presence under her leadership through participation in events such as stream and lake cleanup efforts, Ryan said.
Loveless’ leadership style is welcoming and inviting, he said. She continues to grow and cultivate her skills through attendance at workshops on environmental issues. She is everywhere, he said.
Loveless accepted the award and said she wanted to dedicate it to her late father, Nicholas Loveless. She said her father was her inspiration.
The Youth Award was given to Camila Nichole Martinez. It is given to a person who is 18 years old or younger. Camila is 11 years old.
Camila has made a remarkable impact on the community through her tireless volunteer work, Ryan said. From supporting residents struggling with homelessness and food insecurity and to promoting equity, she has been involved in multiple volunteer activities for several years, he said.
Camila belongs to the Lawrence Neighbors Together youth advisory group, Ryan said. She has had an opportunity to work with school district officials to advocated for positive change in the school system.
Camila has volunteered at a food pantry helping to pack food, sort and stock shelves, Ryan said. She has volunteered with Luz Esperanza y Vida to distribute food and clothing to those in need.
The Small Group Award was given to the Lawrence Township Patriotic Committee. The award is given to a group of 10 or fewer volunteers whose efforts have strengthened the community, Ryan said.
The Lawrence Township Patriotic Committee is a group of military veterans and residents who work tirelessly to promote patriotism in Lawrence, he said. It meets monthly with the Lawrence Township Recreation Department to discuss and assist in the planning of patriotic events, such as the Memorial Day parade and Veterans Day.
“The Lawrence Township Patriotic Committee has helped to foster a strong sense of patriotism in our community. It has worked to ensure that our veterans are remembered and honored, and that their sacrifices are not forgotten,” he said.
The Large Group Award was given to the Hamnett Soccer Association, whose volunteers have served the youths of Lawrence Township since 1957. The award is given to a group of more than 10 volunteers that has enhanced the community through its efforts, Ryan said.
The club, which serves about 600 children in Lawrence, has helped to promote youth soccer and a love for the game. It has imparted valuable life skills, such as commitment, grit and teamwork, Ryan said.
The club provides a soccer environment that stresses a relaxed, fun-oriented approach to the game. It teaches basic soccer skills and provides competition for the youth to play the game in with a high standard of sportsmanship and fair play, he said.
Finally, the Arts, Culture and Diversity Award was given jointly to Lawrenceville Main Street and the Lawrence Township Education Foundation. The award is given to an individual or group whose activities promote arts, culture or diversity within the community.
The two nonprofit groups have worked together to organize the annual Spring for the Arts festival for several years, Ryan said. It provides opportunities for school district music students and professional musicians to perform. It also attracts more than 100 vendors who sell items on Craven Lane and in Weeden Park, he said.
The Spring for the Arts event is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the organizers, Ryan said. They put in many hours to plan the event, which in turn brings many people to Lawrence Township. It also brings the community together, he said.