Township women honored for their exceptional achievements and service to North Brunswick

March 21, 2023

At the March 20th Township Council Meeting, the North Brunswick Township Women of Influence Committee honored Joyce Dreger, Cyndi Baumgartner and Sudharani Kankanala as its 2023 Influential Women of the Year Award recipients.

The award is bestowed upon women who have demonstrated exceptional achievements in their fields, professions and communities. It recognizes the outstanding efforts of women whose drive has moved the Township of North Brunswick forward in the areas of Arts & Culture, Business, Community Volunteerism, Education and Government and Civic Human Services.

Below is a photo gallery and biographies of the award recipients. Congratulations to Joyce, Cynthia (Cyndi) and Sudharani (Sudha)!

Joyce Dreger

Biography read by Sue Kneller

Mrs. Dreger began her teaching career in Metuchen at Mildred B. Moss Elementary School where she attended school as a child.

While raising her family she subbed in North Brunswick schools for several years before going back full-time.  Mrs. Dreger taught first grade for 23 years at Parsons Elementary School.

In 1970, Joyce joined the North Brunswick Woman’s Club and has been a member for the past 53 years serving various positions including President from 2016-2020. She is always involved in making treat bags for our Police Department and for Meals on Wheels recipients each year as well as placing wreaths and flags at the cemetery for our fallen Veterans.  She volunteers her time at various activities and fundraisers to support homeless veterans, children and their families dealing with cancer and high school scholarships for graduating seniors from NBTHS and surrounding Vocational Schools.  It seems to give her no greater joy than to serve the community she loves and to make North Brunswick a great place to live, work and play.

Even after retirement from the school system and because of her love for reading, she volunteers each year to read to school aged children on “Read Across America Day.”

Joyce has won awards for her poetry writing.  Most recently she took First Place from the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs for her poem titled “Pandemic Ramblings” which was a beautiful reflection of life during the Covid Pandemic.

She has always been involved in music. She is an accompanist for plays and the National Federation of Woman’s Club’s State Chorus. She sings with the Our Lady of Peace Chorus and has sung with the North Brunswick Woman’s Club for at least 25 years. She also accompanies Parsons orchestra and chorus for their Winter and Spring concerts.

On behalf of the Women of Influence Committee, it gives me great pleasure to present Mrs. Joyce Dreger with the Influential Women of the Year Award for 2023.

Cyndi Baumgartner

Biography read by Eleanor Molloy

On behalf of North Brunswick Women of Influence Committee, it is my privilege to present Cynthia Baumgartner with the 2023 Influential Woman of the Year Award.

Cyndi’s hard work, her dedication to the residents of North Brunswick and her commitment to transformative change has saved the lives of those in our township, county and state.

Cyndi served as the North Brunswick Police Department Records Supervisor for over 20 years.  During that time, she set standards for records management which were praised by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.  Her work ethic and dedication have led to practices which are still maintained.  The consummate professional and leader, she is respected for her willingness to share her knowledge and wisdom with her peers and those in her field.    

Over the last 30 years, Cyndi has been raising awareness about the issue of Domestic Violence in our community. Today, there are women and children in our community are that are alive and safe because of Cyndi’s work and determination. Since her training with Women Aware in 1987, Cyndi has been advocating for survivors of domestic violence and raising awareness about Domestic Violence throughout Middlesex County.

 She served on the North Brunswick Domestic Violence Response Team since its inception in the 1990s.  After nearly a decade of this work, she spearheaded the formation of the Middlesex County Coalition of Domestic Violence Response Teams as a way for teams to support each other and standardize response.  She has trained countless Domestic Violence Advocates through this group, setting the standard for victim advocates throughout the county. 

Cyndi also pays it forward as a member of the Ladies Adams Athletic Club providing support for youth sports and scholarships to High School Athletes.

A lifelong resident, we would like to thank Cyndi for her dedication to North Brunswick and for making our home town residents smarter, better and safer.

Thank you Cyndi.

Sudharani Kankanala

Biography read by Tangie Cobb

Sudha as she is lovingly called, is a true leader, advocate and gracious servant to the youth and citizens of her community. She has acquired many volunteer community service accomplishments and presidential volunteer recognitions as well. Her passions include: inspiring and empowering women and young girls. She has served in many capacities some of which include: Chair of NBI India Day (An annual Twp event celebrating India’s independence). She is the recipient of the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award for her unwavering service to our youth.

She is currently the advisor of the North Brunswick Interact Club; a youth organization in conjunction with the Rotary Club where she is guiding (35) students and organizing youth leadership activities. I have personally had the pleasure of working along side Sudha in the North Brunswick Soccer Club Snack Shack. The first year she volunteered I said to her, “Do you ever smile? You’re always so serious”. She gave me a really serious look and then POOF… her face lit up with the most beautiful smile. I’m grateful to have earned that sentiment. And now whenever our paths cross she makes sure to share her beautiful smile.

When we celebrate someone; it gives us an opportunity to remind them of the qualities that make them special. Sudha you have a true servants heart and it is golden! On behalf of the North Brunswick Township Women of Influence Committee; NBTHS; our Mayor and Township Council, I proudly present to you the 2023 Influential Woman of the Year Award for your Volunteerism and Youth Advocacy.

Thank you for all you’ve done and will continue to do.