James E. Stoever of Epiphany Parish, Brick, was named a medallion winner of the 2020 New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award in a virtual ceremony held Feb. 21.

Stoever, who is state secretary for the New Jersey Knights of Columbus, was recognized for his creation of and work with the “Send a Hero Home” program, which raises funds for junior enlisted service men and women to travel home during the holidays.

The awards are the state’s official recognition for community service and are in partnership with the Governor’s Council on Volunteerism. Members of the community are encouraged to “nominate a volunteer who makes a difference in the community” with those selected recognized for achieving measurable community impact and representing outstanding acts of public service, without the expectation of recognition or compensation.

Said the awards emcee, “‘Send a Hero Home for the Holidays’ has raised over $310,000 over the past seven years. This has enabled 585 [personnel] to travel home for the holidays at no cost to them or their families where they otherwise would not have been able to.”

Stoever expressed hope that the Jefferson Award might prompt additional donors to help deserving military personnel unable to pay for their way home to their families.

“With the number of men and women needing the assistance … increasing,” he said, “it is vital that we receive donations all year long rather than in just the last quarter of the year when the holidays come to mind.

“I’m hoping that the attention this award has brought to [the program] will help donors see what it does, and spur them to contribute to its success.”

The Jefferson Awards were created in 1972 by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft Jr., and entrepreneur Samuel Beard to recognize the efforts of volunteers on both the local and national level. Nicknamed the Nobel Prize of community service and public service, they commemorate those who promote their talents without expectation of award. The 2020 ceremony, originally slated for this past summer, was delayed due to the pandemic.

Winners were announced in over 20 categories spanning the focus of aiding the hungry and homeless, environmental stewardship, social justice, animal causes and emergency services. Each award winner, notified prior to the virtual ceremony, was presented with a certificate signed by Gov. Phil Murphy; one winner per category learned they had received a gold medallion for excellence during the live virtual presentation.

Stoever won top honors in the “Service to Veterans / Military Service” category, underwritten by PSE&G, which recognizes extraordinary volunteer service by, or in support of, veterans and those in active military service.

The foundation noted, “Using the resources of the diocesan [Trenton Federation] of the Knights of Columbus, James initiated a program to pay transportation costs for active duty military personnel to return home for the holidays.”

For more information, or to donate, visit www.njkofc.org/sendaherohome/.