It’s truly a rare and special thing to be able to use your own passions to help those around you. Remarkably, this year’s selection of Men of the Year have been able to do just that. From an extension of their interests in fields such as community, sports, religion and more to turning workplace responsibilities into a way to help others, these men make South Jersey a better place for all.
Man of the Year: Troy Green
On November 15, 2009 Green was involved in an accident and was not expected to make it. Incredibly, a group of strangers saved him—including Willingboro police officer Eddie Foga. From that point on Green had a new perspective on life and he knew he had to pay it forward.
He wanted to continue to help people and started by going to local supermarkets and paying for others groceries. When many people turned around in grateful shock and asked what they should do in return, Green simply replied that they should “Return Kindness” and pay it forward to someone else.
In 2017, following the Hurricane in Puerto Rico, Green sat with a friend at breakfast and found himself increasingly frustrated over how little was getting done in response to the emergency. His friend, Harry Devine, looked across the table and told him to do something about it himself and so he did. Green and a group of friends they raised over $500,000 worth of supplies to send to the Island including food, clothing, generators and many other items of need. In addition, they were able to cover the logistics, personnel—including doctors—and ground help needed to receive the items.
In 2022 he started the nonprofit “Return Kindness” in effort to give back to the community. His nonprofit has hosted toy drives resulting in over 1,500 toys being distributed throughout the community alongside the Burlington County Sheriff’s office and many other local police organizations. His kindness, however, did not stop there.
Green also worked alongside Al Nasr Mosque of Willingboro to assist with their food pantry and is currently working on a housing project that will provide emergency housing facilities to the local community.
Green is a member of the advisory board of the Burlington County Institute of Technology in South Jersey where he graduated in 2000. The school provided him with great leadership skills—taught to him by one of his mentors Tom Molnar—and as part of giving back, Green now works hand and hand with current automotive technology instructors at BCIT.
Green’s continued goal is to spread random acts of kindness throughout the community. He gives many thanks to all of the people that not only inspire and support him but also show compassion and kindness in the world.
“In this day and age we need to realize that everyone is silently fighting a battle, so we must practice kindness daily”.
Willmann is proud to be a very active member of his community. His passion for both the arts and youth sports has inspired many and continues to foster the talents of many artists and athletes.
An Emmy-winning, marketing communications veteran and local business owner, Willmann is the co-founder and CEO of WMSH Marketing Communications.
Willmann has also served as a member of the board of the Non Profit Development Center of Southern New Jersey since its inception in 2006. He served as Chair from 2008-2014 and as President from 2019-2020. The NPDC works to ensure the over 10,000 nonprofits working in South Jersey have the support, education, networking, information and more to achieve their goals.
In addition to his work with the NPDC, Willmann chaired the Planning Committee for the first-ever South Jersey Non Profit Summit in 2022 and eight subsequent county-based mini-summits. He also chairs the committee tasked with planning Summit II coming in March 2024.
He is a co-founder of the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust and has served as Vice Chair of the HOST board since its inception in 2013.
A graduate of Leadership New Jersey’s Class of 2001, he is the recipient of the New Jersey Governor’s Volunteer Award for the Arts and LNJ’s Aletha Wright Volunteer Leadership Award for “outstanding leadership in an organization as a volunteer.” Furthermore, Willmann has been recognized twice for "outstanding corporate philanthropy" in the arts by the Community Foundation of New Jersey.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Michael is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and has taught regularly at the collegiate and professional levels since 1971.
He has also coached and officiated youth baseball, basketball, and soccer for more than 40 years.
Dr. Ali A. Houshmand
Dr. Ali A. Houshmand became Rowan University’s seventh president in 2012. Under his leadership, Rowan has evolved from a well-regarded state school to a rising Carnegie-classified national research university with two medical schools and, soon, New Jersey’s first veterinary school. Enrollment has grown from 11,000 students in 2012 to 23,000 students in fall 2021, making Rowan the fourth fastest-growing public research university in the United States.
One of 10 children raised by hardworking but illiterate parents in Iran, Houshmand embraced education as a way to a better life. A disruptive thinker inspired by his own rise from extreme poverty, he has worked to make education more affordable and accessible to others, establishing programs to help students and forging new “3+1” degree pathways through partnerships with community colleges.
Passionate about gardening, the university president created Houshmand’s Hazardous Hot Sauce, with all proceeds benefiting Rowan University students. The effort also produces tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables annually for local food pantries, as well as Philabundance and the South Jersey Food Bank. Recently, Houshmand was honored with the Saint John Neumann Award for Leadership by the Catholic Charities of South Jersey.
Throughout his four-decade health care career, Peter Kaprielyan has always understood that building relationships is crucial to, not only achieving his professional goals but helping others achieve their goals as well. While serving in multiple high level roles, including vice president of marketing and communications, vice president of government relations and currently chief development officer, it has been the relationships that make the work the most satisfying and successful. Those relationships have also given Kaprielyan the chance to be a voice for the under-represented and for communities at risk -- a role he is most proud of and grateful to carry out.
In his current role as senior vice president and chief development officer for Inspira Health, Kaprielyan is committed to listening to donors, understanding what’s most meaningful to them and helping them make an impact or realize their dream-- regardless of the size of their gift. He acknowledges that many people can’t imagine doing what he does – asking people to support their local health system. For Kaprielyan, it is another opportunity to build relationships, match the donor with the need and, as a result, help facilitate the joy and satisfaction he sees when people achieve their goals when making a philanthropic gift.
The same motivation also energized Kaprielyan in his government relations role. He advocated tirelessly on behalf of under-served communities; built relationships with elected officials and other stakeholders; in support of legislation that would improve the health of their constituents.
He considers the role he played in the hard-fought battle to expand access to elective angioplasty for more communities in South Jersey to be among his most impactful advocacy. Thanks to his efforts, and those of colleagues from other health care organizations, residents of Cumberland and Gloucester counties in need of a non-emergent coronary intervention can receive the treatment close to home and eliminate the need for a second trip to a cardiac catheterization lab or a transfer to another hospital.
In a fitting twist, as Kaprielyan transitioned from government relations to philanthropy at Inspira during the early 2020s, he went from advocating for the expansion of elective angioplasty to raising dollars for the expansion of the cardiac catheterization labs on Inspira’s Vineland and Mullica Hill Campuses. The expansion became necessary to accommodate the local residents who, thanks to Kaprielyan’ s advocacy, can now have elective angioplasty procedures at their local hospitals.
Larnerd is the president of Checking For Charity (CFC), a nonprofit corporation changing the world through competitive hockey events. CFC was founded by a passionate group of players with a shared love for the game and a desire to make the world a better place. Since its beginning, Checking For Charity has been committed to not only raising as much money as possible for worthy causes, but also to putting on competitive and professional tournaments and events. CFC has raised over $600,000 for over 100 different charities since 2009. Within their leagues are everyone from NHL players to lifelong hockey players, all of whom love meeting all the children and people that some of the charities support.
In addition to his work with Checking for Charity Larnerd is the executive vice president of Flyers Youth and has been coaching teams for over 20 years. Flyers Youth is a nonprofit organization that provides a fun environment for players to develop—physically, mentally, and socially—and advance to the highest playing level of amateur hockey. Flyers Youth has developed thousands of youth hockey players over its 20-plus years and is an integral part of its players’ lives both on and off the ice. In addition to mentoring youth players, the organization has a scholarship program for high school seniors moving on to college or trade schools to help them achieve even beyond their hockey abilities. There’s also has a special program for youth players with disabilities which provides the opportunity to participate in the sport while in a caring positive environment.
Kraus is the executive director of the Katz Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Cherry Hill, a pillar organization in the Southern New Jersey Community since the 1940s.
Kraus has held this post since April 2021 and during his tenure, he has navigated the membership-based social and recreational organization through unprecedented challenges presented during and in the aftermath of the pandemic. Of note, the Katz JCC has grown membership by over 1,000 units in the past year and its JCC Camps at Medford had a record-breaking year of 1,600 campers this past summer. Under Kraus’s leadership, fitness and wellness offerings continue to grow, adult education classes have been expanded and the JCC’s award-winning early childhood and after-school care programs continue to enroll students into these vital offerings for young families.
A native of Israel, Kraus has been living in the United States since 2002 and has since gained citizenship. He began his U.S. career in the hospitality industry and college admissions in New England.
Michael J. Levitt
Levitt founded The Michaels Organization in 1973. Headquartered in Camden, Michaels is a national leader in residential real estate offering full-service capabilities in development, property management, construction and investment management across 39 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Throughout his career, Levitt has served as inspiration for all Michaels teammates to—in his words—“Go Out a Little Further” in order to fulfill the company’s mission of "Lifting Lives.”
In 1989 and 1991 respectively, Levitt established resident social services and scholarship programs—both of which continue to provide support to the 175,000 individuals that call one of Michaels’ 500-plus communities home.
In 2012, Levitt was named to the Affordable Housing Hall of Fame, an honor that pays tribute to the pioneers who have advanced the cause of affordable housing and made lasting contributions to the industry.
Today, what originated as Michaels’ social services department has transitioned into its own independent nonprofit organization, Better Tomorrows, which provides academic support, financial literacy, health and wellness, job readiness and more for affordable housing residents. The Michaels Organization Educational Foundation has also expanded to include all of Michaels’ affordable, military and student living communities, with Levitt and his wife Pat continuing to contribute $2 for every dollar raised.
In 2023, a record-breaking $1,834,500 was awarded to 242 residents living at affordable and military living communities owned or managed by Michaels, with plans for more scholarship funds to be awarded to residents residing in student housing communities later this year.
Rev. Joseph Fortunato
Fortunato has been in ministry for over 40 years. He is the pastor of Faith Fellowship Ministries, a non-denominational church in Mount Laurel. He is also the founder of the South Jersey Dream Center, an outreach to low-income families in West Deptford, that’s all about breaking the cycle of poverty in South Jersey. He is also the director of Charis Bible College-Cherry Hill, an Extension School of Charis Bible College in Woodland Park, Colorado. He is married to hiw wife Natalie and has two married children as well as two grandchildren.
Pastor Joe has a genuine passion to see lives changed and the lost saved through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. He believes that God has an amazing plan for every person, filled with health, abundance, hope and victory. His purpose in life is to share God’s unconditional love, grace, and goodness, both in word and deed, everywhere he goes and with every person he meets.
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Published and copyrighted in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 20, Issue 8 (November 2023)