By Clare Marie Celano
FREEHOLD – Many small towns in America often have a core group of dedicated volunteers who show up to perform community service, no matter what, and Freehold Borough is no exception.
Mike Page and Mary Randolph are two volunteers who have helped make Freehold Borough a nicer place to live. In recognition of their efforts, Page and Randolph were honored as the 2015 recipients of the John G. McGackin Award.
They received their awards at the inaugural Mayor’s Recognition Reception on May 20 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, East Main Street. Six community organizations were also honored at the event.
Page owns the Court Jester and was saluted as Businessman of the Year and Randolph was honored as Volunteer of the Year.
Mayor Nolan Higgins said, “Volunteers are the backbone of this great town. Mary and Mike have volunteered their time and talents to make Freehold Borough the community we are proud to call our hometown. We sincerely say thank you.”
Former winners of the McGackin award were in attendance and a moment of silence was observed for former winners who have passed away – Robert Lloyd Coutts, Edna Kelley, James F. Higgins and George Kelder.
The award is named for John G. McGackin, who was Freehold Borough’s mayor when what came to be known as the town’s renaissance got under way in the mid-1980s. McGackin died in office in the spring of 1985.
The award is presented to individuals who emulate McGackin’s ideals and who embody the spirit of his vision for the borough’s rebirth.
“The Knights of Columbus was the place to be on May 20,” said Judi Guy, who chaired the event with Rich Kane and Councilwoman Sharon Shutzer. “I am so proud to have co-chaired this inaugural event recognizing the borough’s dedicated volunteers. We were hoping 50 or 60 people would show up and were awed when over 180 people made reservations. There was standing room only. The borough rocked the house that night.”
McGackin award honorees are chosen by previous recipients. Page and Randolph received the award “in recognition of their tireless efforts and unending commitment to the betterment of Freehold Borough.”
Shutzer said she was happy to co-chair the event because she knew McGackin.
“I think it’s a wonderful award and I wanted to be part of it,” the councilwoman said. “It is a testimony to the legacy of Jack McGackin and the wonderful work these two individuals and these organizations do. The event was quite successful and a testimony to what people really thought of Jack and to how much they appreciate the work Mary and Mike and the organizations do every day.”
Randolph came to Freehold Borough from Kansas in 1972 and began teaching English in the Freehold Regional High School District, a position she held for 36 years. She thanked the committee and said she was “grateful and truly honored” to receive the award. She said that at an early age, her parents taught her the importance of helping others.
“When I arrived in Freehold, I immediately loved the feeling of a small town and got involved with Freehold Area Hospital (now CentraState Medical Center) and served on the Board of Directors for Kingsley Square (residential development),” she said.
When her son, Josh, began playing sports, Randolph served on the Freehold Borough Little League Board of Directors, volunteered for the Freehold Soccer League and became a member of Freehold Borough Recreation.
She and several friends helped to establish an interscholastic sports program at the Freehold Intermediate School. She also became involved with the borough’s Spooktacular activities at Halloween and Olde Freehold Day.
After retiring from teaching, Randolph joined the First Presbyterian Church of Freehold and began to help the hungry and house the homeless through her membership in several organizations. She became a friend of the Freehold Public Library.
Page said he was “humbled” to receive the McGackin award.
“It was unexpected,” he said. “When I looked at the past recipients I thought, wow, they are major, major contributors to the town’s renaissance and I am honored to be in the company of those who have done so much for the town.”
Page was born in Hartford, Conn., and moved to Freehold Township in 1967. He attended Freehold Township elementary schools and graduated from Freehold High School. He moved to Freehold Borough in 1975 with his wife, Patty, and later moved his family to Freehold Township.
Page said he enjoys doing things for Freehold Borough because it is his hometown, the place where he was raised and where he has his business.
“When the town does well, businesses do well,” he said.
The Court Jester is housed in an historic building and Page provides tours of the building to borough school children. Page has been involved with the Freehold Center Partnership which promotes events and activities in town, and he was instrumental in establishing the trash district in the Market Yard. He supports local organizations through his philanthropic donations and is a sponsor of the annual “Born to Run” race.
The co-chairs extended special thanks to Carl Steinberg, Carl Beams and Craig Nimick for their hard work to make the event a reality, to Rob Kash, the owner of the Metropolitan Café, who provided “delicious delectables,” and to the businesses and individuals who sponsored refreshments. Entertainment was provided by singer-musician Alex English.