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Sierra Leoneans in New Jersey bid farewell to HSBCC Executive Director, Efren Dato

Sierra Leoneans in New Jersey bid farewell to HSBCC Executive Director, Efren Dato

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, council members, community and business leaders of Franklin Township at the Caribbean Restaurant, De Island Breeze, on Franklin Boulevard, Somerset, New Jersey, on Saturday, June 12, to bid farewell to Efren Dato, Executive Director of HSBCC, who is leaving New Jersey for Texas after years of unrelenting service to Franklin Township. Described as a community leader, a man with a strong passion to get things done, Efren Dato was very instrumental in Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary Parade that took place on April 23, 2011 in Somerset, New Jersey.

Speaking on behalf of the Sierra Leonean Community of New Jersey, Ms Madina Rahman, who was chair of the Parade Committee that organized the Big Independence Parade, described Efren Dato as a consensus builder, who instilled in her the importance of being a good team player. ”I learned a whole lot from him. He was a positive influence to me,” says Madina Rahman, who worked assiduously in the planning of the Big Independence Parade that drew a very large crowd, despite the inclement weather.

Mr. Foday Mansaray, who had the opportunity of working with Efren Dato on many projects – from establishing a sister city with Freetown to Sierra Leone’ 50th Anniversary Celebration – described Efren Dato as “a true friend and brother of Sierra Leoneans in Somerset.” Among other things he said Efren Dato was very instrumental in the proclamation of April 27 as Sierra Leone Day in Somerset. ”In his bid to promote community diversity in Somerset, he encouraged some of us to participate in Township affairs,” Mr. Mansaray stated. “If Sierra Leone’s national flag is a hoisted along the street lights of Hamilton Street Business District, it is because of Efren Dato.” On behalf of the Sierra Leonean Community of New Jersey, Mr. Mansaray expressed profound thanks and appreciation for what Efren has done to put Sierra Leone on the spotlight in New Jersey. “We’re definitely going to miss you. But we wish you the very best in your endeavors,” he concluded.

Speaker after speaker paid glowing tribute to Efren Dato, attesting to the outstanding contribution he made to Franklin Township. Bill Grippo, a Franklin Township School Principal, described Efren as a true leader – very charismatic, dedicated and highly committed. He recalled how Efren worked very hard with him to broaden the Democratic base in Franklin Township.

Other speakers included: Upendra Chikuvula, New Jersey Assemblyman, who praised Efren Dato for the great job he has done since he came to New Jersey; Dr. Tulsi Maharvan, Executive Director, Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition, who lauded the effort of Effren in promoting community Diversity. Rozlyn Sherman, Councilwoman, Franklin Township, Carl Wright, Councilman, Franklin Township; Frank Hasner, Director, Franklin Food Bank; Leon Hughes, Franklin Chamber of Commerce; Percy Sanders, Director, Week of the People; Elsie Foster-Dubun, Councilwoman, Highland Park; Clarita Ramos, Past President, University of the Philippines Alumni Association, and New Jersey President, Philippines Chamber of Commerce – all had something good to say about Efren Dato.

Pat Gianatto, President, Hamilton Street Business Community Corporation (HSBCC), expressed his thanks and appreciation to Efren Dato for the selfless service rendered over the years to the Franklin Township Community, especially while serving as HSBCC executive director.

In his farewell speech, Efren Dato thanked all those who gathered to honor and bid farewell to him. “I’m going to Texas, but I will never forget Franklin Township. It has been quite wonderful experience working with you all doing what I love most: serving others.” He recalled growing up in the Philippines; how he became a priest at the age of 23, and how he eventually decided to quit the priesthood to start a family. “Doing the right thing has always been my guiding principle. And that is deeply rooted in my Filipino heritage, of which I’m very proud,” he stated, amid a sustained round of applause.

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