Marie L. Alfano, a case management nurse consultant at Aetna’s Cranbury, NJ office leads a life of service to her community. Inspired by the work of Barbara Lightner’s organization, Joining Hands, Inc., Alfano founded Children at Heart, Inc., which strives to make the dreams of children in need a reality.
Alfano spends hundreds of hours a year enlisting support for Children at Heart. She works closely with East Brunswick schools and the Mayor’s office. She networks with local business and community organizations, including Telephone Pioneers, Knights of Columbus and the Chamber of Commerce. She has single-handedly brought together the entire community—including mom and pop business, mega-conglomerates and government agencies—in support of local families in crisis. As a result, families who might not have dreamed it possible have electricity, clothing, medical equipment, toys and even plane tickets to visit relatives.
With a seemingly limitless supply of energy, Alfano sets the pace for volunteerism, both at work and in the community. For the past 20 years, she has run an annual toy drive for the entire Middlesex community. She serves on the boards of several organizations, including Joining Hands, Inc., the entity that inspired many of her efforts. Her outstanding community service has earned local and national recognition, including from the Italian American Cultural Society of Monroe Township, the East Brunswick Division of Parks and Recreation and the United Way of Central New Jersey’s Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Rebecca Brenowitz, who has organized clothes drives and other community efforts, says Alfano’s mentoring is what turned her into a committed volunteer. “Marie has always found innovative ways of empowering the people she enlists as well as those she helps, building community spirit with every effort.” Brenowitz credits Alfano for teaching her to identify community needs, network and research solutions, and – most importantly – to never take no for an answer.
Anne Duffy, an Aetna coworker, may have summed up the uplifting effect of Alfano’s spirit best. “Such exemplary community work makes all who know Marie Alfano proud to be a small part of her life. Ms. Alfano is truly an asset. Indeed, one can only imagine what our world would be like if, like Alfano, every adult sprang into action anytime a child was in crisis.”