2019 Person of the Year
Middle Smithfield Township's finalists for the 2019 Person of the Year Award were Dennis and Ronnie O’Leary, Louis Santiago and George Vagelakos. An independent panel of judges selected the finalists from all those nominated for Middle Smithfield Township’s annual Person of the Year award. The judges announced the winner at the Person of the Year and Volunteer Appreciation Banquet on January 24, 2020. The Person of the Year received $1,500 towards their cause and the finalists received $1,000 towards their cause.
George J Vagelakos
2019 Person of the Year
George was born in Brooklyn, NY where he attended St. Brigid’s Elementary School in Brooklyn. He attended Christ the King High School in Middle Village NY where I graduated from in 1970.
George completed one year at Baruch College in Manhattan and one year at Queens College in Queens, NY.
In 1972 he joined Local #3 IBEW and retired in 2015, after 44 years as an Electrician-General Foreman. He worked on many phases of new construction, renovation and repairs in him time as a Foreman, but has fond memories of his work at the original Twin Towers, 3 Power Houses, the new Yankee Stadium, 16 years at Columbia University’s Butler Library and 4 years at Fordham University.
He also proudly served in the Army Reserve for 7 years.
George met his wife Maureen in 1969 and got married in 1973. They have 2 children, Nicholas and Melissa.
Nicholas graduated from Vanderbilt University and Melissa is a graduate of Suffolk Community College.
Nick works currently works and lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming and will be married in October of this year. Melissa lives and works in Smithtown, NY in the banking industry. George is proud of both his children not only for what they have accomplished in life but for the future accomplishments he knows they will achieve. They have grown into kind, compassionate caring people and this fills him with pride.
George is a member of St. John’s Parish in Middle Smithfield and has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for 18 years. He is a past Grand Knight and currently holds the position of District Deputy serving Catholic gentlemen in 5 parishes: St. John’s, St. Matthew’s, St. Luke’s, Our Lady Queen of Peace and Our Lady of Victory. George is honored to serve the over 700 Knights in these parishes.
After retirement, he was lucky enough to start volunteering at Monroe County Meals on Wheels and RSVP (Retired Senior & Volunteer Program) Minor Home Repair Program as these programs not only help seniors and disabled, they have given George a profound sense of gratitude that he is able to help in some small way.
George feels blessed to live in Middle Smithfield and be able to use these volunteer opportunities to serve the community.
He wishes to thank the Supervisors for their untiring efforts to make Middle Smithfield a place that takes care of those in need and makes it a great place to live and raise families.
Louis Santiago has volunteered for the Boys Scouts of America over 15 years. He also volunteers DJ Services for the Annul Haunted Lehman Trail events for the Community since it started, and also he’s involved with Valor House fundraising. Mr. Santiago is currently the Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 87, an outdoor program designed to develop character, citizenship, leadership, and fitness for youth ages 11 through 17, which helps in the development for Scouts to be well-rounded young adults. As a Scoutmaster, he offers guidance to every youth member and adult in the Troop under qualified trained leadership, safe conditions, and the policies of the Boy Scouts of America. He conducts interviews with every single Scout once they complete all of the requirements to move up in Rank. It’s his job to determine if the Scout is ready to Rank up and to go in front of a Review Board for approval. Responsibilities are delegated through him to other adults that all have a part in Troop operations. Under his direction the Troop has been involved with serving the community in ways such as the Scouting for Food Program for Bushkill Outreach, marching in Parades, accepting the International Peace Light at our Scout House, Veteran flag replacement, various Eagle projects done in our area, such as at Echo Lake Park (adjacent to the new construction of the new Library and Community Center being built.) Scoutmaster Santiago along with Committee members, advises Scouts on many Eagle projects such as, a fire pit for St. Johns Church, an outdoor wedding chapel for a local Judge, refurbishment of a local VFW storage shed, exercise stations at Echo Lake Park, community flag poles, and a Veterans Memorial station in the front of Echo Lake Park. The entrance to the MST dog park across the way has been enhanced with a Troop 87 Eagle project under Mr. Santiago as Scoutmaster.
Scoutmaster Santiago serves as a Merit Badge Counselor for activities such as Cyberchip, which teaches the Scout about Cyber safety, the proper use of cell phones and technology. Mr. Santiago is also involved in volunteering every winter for the Annual Klondike Derby for Boy Scouts of Minsi Trail Council, and volunteers at shelter building, which is an important outdoor survival skill. During the summer, Scoutmaster Santiago volunteers to go to Boy Scout summer camp to guide and be a mentor and encourage the Scouts to complete their merit badges and succeed in their duties.
Mr. Santiago selflessly gives up many hours to help promote the Scouts to be better citizens of the community. Even though he already raised his two youngest sons in the Scout program from First grade through High School, and then on to helping them to attain the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
Scoutmaster Santiago enjoys every minute along with the other 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers and he is always looking to make improvements to make the program even better.
Dennis & Ronnie O’Leary
Dennis Was in the US Army 3rd Infantry Division from 1959-1960. He and Ronnie then got married on May 19, 1962. They built their home in Saw Creek in 1987 and moved there full time in 2012.
They have 4 children: Kevin, Theresa, Dennis and Michael. They also have 10 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.
They were both active in the Hollis Bellaire Queens Village Bellerose (HBQVB) Little League which included 800-900 boys and girls. They were also involved in Pop Warner football.
Dennis ran baseball and field maintenance operations at HBQVB and Ronnie ran the refreshment stand. They were both named “Man & Woman of the Year,” in 2004.
They have also volunteered on their community board, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Our Lady of Lourdes Outreach and High School CCD Programs and other fundraisers for various organizations.
They began volunteering for Monroe County Meals on Wheels in 2014.
About the Judges:
An independent panel of judges volunteered to select the finalists:
- Laura Law, 2014 Person of the Year, Mady’s Angels
- Thomas Gansel, 2017 Person of the Year Finalist, Reformed Church of Bushkill Community Dinner
- Frances Boshell, Asst. Director of Student Life & Leadership Development, NCC- Monroe Campus
- Gary Smith, Gary in the Morning, Pocono 96.7
- Marlyn Kissner, Executive VP, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Northern Tier
- David Paskiet, Alternate Judge, 2018 Person of the Year, Phoenix Martial Arts
- Al Compoly Jr, Alternate Judge, 2016 Person of the Year Finalist, Operation Chillout