Three women to be honored for giving back to the Princeton area

Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women to grant awards

By: Jake Uitti
   MONTGOMERY — Three "outstanding" area women will be honored by the Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women at the group’s annual awards dinner March 10.
   "All of this year’s honorees have made significant contributions to the quality of life here in Somerset County," said county Freeholder Denise Coyle, liaison to the commission. "Their accomplishments cover a wide range of public, private, volunteer and career achievements."
   This year, there are 11 winners in 10 categories — plus a distinguished honoree award named for the late Shirley Noble, a commission founder who died last year. Honorees are women who reside or work in Somerset County, Ms. Coyle said.
   The Distinguished Honoree/Shirley Noble Award will be given to township resident Valerie Smith, who is one of the organizers and leaders of Operation Friends, a community-wide program dedicated to helping the children and families in Biloxi, Miss., whose lives and homes were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
   Under her leadership, Montgomery residents have collected more than 2,000 boxes of clothes, toys and personal items for Biloxi children. She also is the founder of the NPDC Citizens Committee, a group of citizens whose mission it was to push for the transfer of the 250-acre former North Princeton Developmental Center property to the township from the state. The sale agreement was eventually reached, and the official transfer of the property to the township is expected soon.
   The Business Management Award will be given to Jeanne K. Perantoni of Princeton, a principal of SSP Architectural Group of Somerville.
   Since joining SSP in 1982, she has become a recognized leader in the designing of grades K-12 educational facilities, particularly those incorporating "green" design and smart-growth principles.
   She has provided design and planning services to the Bridgewater-Raritan, Somerset Hills and Somerville school districts. She also received a county planning award for her work on the 25-year facilities Master Plan for Raritan Valley Community College. She became a registered architect in 1984, at a time when fewer than 2 percent of registered architects in the state were women.
   The Hometown Hero Award will be given to Helen Morris of Rocky Hill, director of the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library.
   When the library opened in 1971, Ms. Morris was a volunteer. She later became a library assistant, earned a master’s degree in social work and library science from Rutgers University and was named director 15 years ago. She most recently oversaw the completion of a major expansion project that doubled the library’s size and upgraded its facilities.
   Her award nomination, submitted by Library Board President Brenda Fallon, notes that "the library has become more than a place to get books. It is now a true community center."
   The commission on the Status of Women presents its awards annually in celebration of Women’s History Month in March.
This year’s awards dinner will be held March 10 at the Martinsville Inn. For a reservation form or more information, call Commission Chairwoman Irene von Dohlen at (908) 604 6278 or print the form from