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Mothers of the Year, 2011

by Editorial Staff--Suburban Family Magazine
Haleh Rabizadeh Resnick
Cherry Hill
A mother of five, Resnick authored and published a book titled, Little Patient Big Doctor, after disputing her youngest son’s diagnosis of hearing loss. It turned out that her son is not hard of hearing, but rather has a condition called auditory neuropathy, in which the hearing is intact but there’s a glitch in the nerves that carry sound to the brain. Far from helping, the hearing aid Resnick’s son had been fitted with was actually amplifying sound to a painful degree. Resnick, who was previously a lawyer, has become a proponent of patient advocacy and alternative medicine, appeared with her son on CNN.com.

Kathryn Quigley
West Deptford
Being a single parent was a choice Quigley made for herself: she adopted her son four years ago, beginning as a foster mother when he was an infant, then raising him and eventually gaining full custody. She juggles motherhood with a career as a journalism professor and faculty adviser at Rowan University, assisting her students in finding jobs during a poor economy, while helping her father, who has Alzheimer's disease. During Hurricane Irene, Quigley and her son left home and went to the Esby Gymnasium at Rowan University to assist with the care of evacuees. While there, she observed the fundamental supply needs that were running short and took to Twitter and Facebook to share requests for supplies like diapers, Ziploc bags, wipes, kids’ toys and games. In no time, she was able to get help from the community to meet all the evacuees’ needs.

Michelle Nocito
Voorhees
The mother of two—a 4-year-old, Johnna, and a 2-year-old, Gage—strives to make the most of every day for herself and those around her. A full-time financial adviser for PNC Bank, Nocito spends her off hours updating her blog, 26for60, about her adventures as a mother, Bikram yoga enthusiast and dog lover. She hopes to use her writing to inspire other working mothers to create balance in their lives and take time for themselves. This year, she has pledged to inspire 52 people (one per week) to try Bikram yoga, in an effort to spread the balance and confidence that she gets from her practice. Bring coworkers, clients, friends to classes and friends of friends. She also volunteers for the Voorhees Animal Orphanage and the South Jersey Alzheimer's Association.

Shirley Fayan, Janice Milley, Pam Machulsky and Lori Leonard (pictured)
Mount Laurel
These four area moms, each juggling children and commitments or careers, hardly knew one another before they were brought together by a single common trait: compassion. When Machulsky noticed another Mount Laurel mother, JoAnne Stratton, struggling to get her son, Dominic, who has cerebral palsy, onto a school bus along a busy thoroughfare, she asked if she could help. She quickly found that the family, living in a renovated chicken coop, needed more than just a better way to get to school and a reprieve from honking drivers. She reached out to Leonard, and soon Milley and Fayan—acquaintances mostly through their kids’ sports programs—stepped in, too. The four became trustees of Dominic’s House, a fund created to build a new, wheelchair-accessible home for the Stratton family. The group of moms—Leonard, who has two sons, Ryan and Eric; Fayan, mother of teenage boys Casey and Scott; Milley, mother to four sons Kevin, Connor, Casey and Kyle; and Machulsky, who has a daughter, Amanda, and a son, Jimmy—were featured in People Magazine and the local media for their efforts. While they began their fundraising and organizing work out of their own personal desire to help a neighbor, though, that doesn’t mean they weren’t rewarded. This fall, Oprah is sending each woman a new Volkswagen Beatle in recognition of their outstanding commitment to their community.

Kahra Buss
Moorestown
When her daughters Anna, Grace and Abigail wanted to do something to help others, Kahra Buss and her husband Joe didn’t condescend—instead, they challenged them to go ahead and figure out how to do it. The girls designed their own bumper stickers to sell and raise money for food pantries, organized food drives at area schools, and eventually launched the Live Civilly food pantry at Moorestown’s St. Matthew Lutheran Church. The pantry, open two Fridays a month, has collected thousands of pounds of food to date, and the Buss family has plenty more ideas in store.

Michele Held
Marlton
A mother of two and founder of her own business, Iron Mom Training, Held is a certified personal trainer who specializes in helping other moms get in shape. She provides personal training sessions, boot camps in the park and fitness classes, while attending seminars and training sessions to keep her knowledgeable on fitness and nutrition. Held also volunteers time to teach fitness to children in schools and her church. Besides the hard work put into her business, she still finds the time to read to her children, help out at school functions and be there for her family.

Pam Strobel
Haddonfield
The mother of four showed what maternal devotion looks like when her daughter Mia was diagnosed with a rare and painful cancer. Pam has been dedicated to meeting the needs of her children, and worked with the Canuso Foundation and Babe's Kids to help support her daughter both financially and emotionally. Strobel is also an advocate for pediatric cancer research.

Michele LeMasney
Sicklerville
LeMasney has been an active supporter of adoption as the training coordinator with the Open Arms Adoption Network; she also adopted two of her five young children. Timber Creek Service Unit Leader also oversees roughly 60 to 80 Girl Scout troops in the Gloucester County area, and serves as a leader of her own Girl Scout troop.

Tina Gabrielle
Cinnaminson
An award-winning author of historical romance novels and the mother of two girls, ages 7 and 4, Gabrielle encourages her daughters to excel in writing and reading. She is a literacy advocate, and she has given free workshops to the Girl Scouts, public libraries and various writers’ organizations. The former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General and mechanical engineer pens novels about intelligent and ambitious heroines set in a time period when brains were not highly appreciated among women. Along with her four published novels, Gabrielle has also been published in the Rutgers Law Journal.

Jennifer Bolitho
Medford
Bolitho, formerly a scenic painter in the film industry, last year battled a rare type of lymphoma that left her with severe chest pains and paralysis of her vocal chords – just a month after giving birth to her third child. Thankfully, after several months of treatment her cancer went into remission and Bolitho was able to speak again. Now a stay-at-home mom to her three young children (Annabelle, 7, Jack, 6, and Oliver, 18 months), the Medford mom is challenging herself to run a half-marathon in October as part of “Team in Training,” a fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. With a team of more than 40 runners, she’s raising funds and awareness for a good cause.

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Gina Argentina-Day
Marlton
“My mom is special because she is gifted in many ways. She is a great cook, always making Easter and Christmas dinner for my family, and leaving everyone with ear-to-ear smiles. She also is very humorous. I swear sometimes I cry laughing. Maybe her best specialty, is everyday she helps people physically. She is a physical fitness trainer. She owns her own small business and is literally one of the best in the business, and she loves that she does this. She even was in the local paper a few years ago because of her masterfication of physical fitness. But my favorite part about her is her ability to love endlessly so that I always feel wanted. She’s the best mom on Earth, and I mean it.” —Zachary, 13

Melissa Wheatcroft
Haddonfield
“Melissa is a wonderful mother to two great kids: Alison, 9, and Ian, 6. Not only does she do an awesome job helping her kids learn and grow, while taking care of the whole family, she also encourages them to become responsible and self-motivated. In addition to taking care of her family, Melissa has been amazing in her ability to balance her career. She currently serves as corporate counsel, vice president and executive team member with Bancroft, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Haddonfield. In short, Melissa has found a way to balance a great family, successful professional life and giving back to the community more than she would acknowledge.” — Blair Talty, Haddonfield

Jen Baker Leonard
Maple Shade
“When I was overwhelmed with a severe case of postpartum depression, I learned that Jen lets a local support group meet at [the kids’ play space she founded], Little Sport, after hours. After a long day of running her business, she personally watched and played with my two children, (a 2-year-old and a newborn), so that I could attend the meeting. Without her generous support and time, I could not have attended any meetings and may have never won my battle with postpartum depression. A stranger to me, she offered a shoulder to lean on in a tough time. She even runs an "Ask Jen" column on her Facebook page, where parents frequently turn to her for guidance or a much needed vote of confidence. If ever there is a person who has taken a simple idea, which is to create a safe, welcoming and fun place for children and their families to come and play, and turned that idea into a viable and, more importantly, socially responsible business, it is Jen Baker Leonard.” —Marissa Pona, Delran

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 7 (September, 2011).
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