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2008 Winners

Najlah Feanny Hicks. Photographer Najlah Feanny Hicks of Clifton, co-founder of the Heart Gallery of New Jersey, earned a $50,000 cash grant from the Russell Berrie Foundation as winner of the 2008 Russ Berrie Award for Making a Difference. Since she conceived the idea of a traveling portrait gallery to publicize the plight of adoption-eligible children mired in the foster care system, over 100 children have been adopted into permanent, loving homes.

Juanita Hines. Taking home the $35,000 award was Juanita Hines of Orange, who, every Saturday morning for the last 20 years, has traveled to Newark Penn Station to distribute sandwiches, soups and stews to the homeless and needy who affectionately call her “the chicken lady.”

Chaya Bender of Lakewood was awarded the $25,000 grant. As a high school student, she started the Special Children’s Center as an after school program for seven children with developmental disabilities. Over the last 12 years, the center has grown into a full-service respite and family support agency for children, offering a daily after school program, summer camp, 48-hour weekend respite, 24-hour overnight respite, case management and other services, all at no cost to families.