Shrewsbury, NJ (Oct. 8, 2018) –  The Community YMCA presented its annual Distinguished Citizen Service Award to Christopher D. Maher, chairman and chief executive officer of OceanFirst Bank, and Community Partner Award to New Jersey Natural Gas Company at “A Night of Inspiration Gala” on Sept. 28 at the Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch.

Approximately 160 people attended the annual fundraising event, which raised $170,000 to benefit The Community YMCA’s YCares financial assistance program for kids and families in need of free and reduced membership and program fees, as well as community initiatives such as water safety for at-risk youth and disease prevention.

“The Y’s annual gala was a wonderful success thanks to the amazing support of our community,”  said Laurie Goganzer, president and chief executive officer of The Community YMCA. “We are so thankful to our honorees for their inspiring leadership and congratulate them on this recognition.”

Maher was honored for his outstanding community service. A dedicated volunteer in the nonprofit community, he serves on the Board of Trustees of Monmouth University, and as a director of Hackensack Meridian Health Hospitals and Hackensack Meridian Residential Care. He also serves as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Helen Keller Services, a national non-profit agency serving people with hearing and visual disabilities, where he has been involved since 1998. He is also chairman of the Board of Directors of OceanFirst Foundation, which has provided over $36 million to help strengthen more than 600 nonprofits in central and southern New Jersey, including The Community YMCA and other Ys.

New Jersey Natural Gas has been a long-standing partner of The Community YMCA through their support of the Y’s Annual Campaign and the Camp Zehnder Capital Campaign, which made it possible for the Y to offer needed year-round swim lessons and aquatics programs to families in southern Monmouth County. In addition, each year the women and men of NJNG contribute over 5,000 hours of volunteer service and help support the important work of more than 1,800 area nonprofit and community organizations. The Community Partner award was accepted by Tom Hayes, NJNG’s director of customer and community relations.

Marielaina LaRosa, representing the 13th legislative district for Senator Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, and the State of New Jersey, presented proclamations to both Maher and NJNG’s Hayes, acknowledging their accomplishments.

The event featured a “flash mob” of dance and music during the program. About 20 Y employees, Ocean Place resort staff and professional dancers surprised guests with a dance presentation choreographed by LB Kass of DANZHouse Fitness. Guests joined the fun by getting up and dancing to the ever-popular “Y.M.C.A.” song by the Village People.

Guests also enjoyed an inspiring video that included the honorees and Y members whose lives have been positively impacted by the Y. The evening also included music from the Infernos Band and a live auction led by Y board member Carol Stillwell that raised over $60,000.

The annual gala was planned by a committee of volunteers and Y staff, led by co-chairpersons and board members Samara O’Neill and Irene Hall.

“We want to thank the Y’s supporters, volunteers and staff for such an inspiring event,” Goganzer  said. “The Y can only thrive with support that it receives from our community. We are truly grateful for the generous contributions that will have a meaningful impact on individuals and families who  rely on our essential services.”

About The Community YMCA

The Y is a leading nonprofit charity that strengthens communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Community YMCA serves more than 20,000 residents in greater Monmouth County, NJ through programs such as: preschool, before and after school care, summer day camp, teen leadership, arts enrichment, health and wellness and personal and family counseling. In 2017, the Y provided $871,250 in financial assistance and program subsidies to strengthen 1,746 children and families in Monmouth County. For more information, visit