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AARP AARP States New Jersey

AARP New Jersey Recognizes Karen DeMarco for her Dedication and Commitment to Community Service with its Most Prestigious Volunteer Award

Karen DeMarco.jpg

Across the country, AARP has a community of 60,000 volunteers who donate their time and talent to improve the lives of older Americans and their families. Without our volunteers who dedicate their time and share their skills and passion, we wouldn’t be able to do all the work that we do to empower people to choose how they live as they age.

AARP’s commitment to volunteer service can be traced back to our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, whose motto “to serve, not to be served” has shaped our community service efforts at the national, state, and local levels. Each year, AARP honors the legacy of Dr. Andrus with the AARP New Jersey Andrus Award for Community Service.

The annual Andrus Award for Community Service is AARP's most prestigious and visible volunteer award. It recognizes individuals who enrich their communities in ways that are consistent with AARP's purpose, vision and commitment to volunteer service, and that inspire others to volunteer. Only one volunteer per state (or a couple performing service together) can receive the Award.

We could not be more honored to recognize a volunteer who truly reflects Dr. Andrus’ motto - our 2023 AARP New Jersey Andrus Award recipient - Karen DeMarco.

During a family health crisis in 2017, the DeMarcos were fortunate to have a caring friend who organized a "meal train," whereby their neighbors banded together to provide nightly meals for the family to lessen the strain upon them. Afterward, Karen wanted to “pay it forward” and she became even more committed to making a difference in the lives of others. She went on to found and build what has now become a major supplier of food assistance and support in Northern New Jersey.

Karen’s hunger-relief non-profit, The Food Brigade, has over 800 volunteers who help with the food distribution operations.

One of the most important aspects of the programs and services offered by The Food Brigade is that all clients are to be treated with dignity and respect.

To promote the goal of treating elderly clients with dignity, The Food Brigade offers home delivery for those who are disabled, shut in, or lack the means to travel to one of the organization’s food distribution centers. To make the process even easier, Karen developed a “virtual pantry,” an online storefront where clients are able to place custom orders which are then delivered to their homes on the next distribution day.

To further assist the elderly, Karen’s nonprofit also provides adult diapers. She has grown from operating a single "pop-up" drive-through food distribution to establishing and operating three fixed food pantry locations in two counties in less than 2 1/2 years, serving residents of five New Jersey counties.

For her volunteer service over the past two years, Karen has been named to the 2022 Inspiration Honor Roll of President George H.W. Bush's Points of Light Foundation; she was named the 2021 medal winner of the New Jersey Governor's Jefferson Award as the top volunteer Founder/Innovator in the state for her work in battling food insecurity; and she was honored in 2021 as a "Hometown Hero" by Congressman Josh Gottheimer.

See her accepting her award with our Volunteer State President, Donato Nieman, below!

2023 Andrus Award Presentation.mp4

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