2018 Person of the Year
Middle Smithfield Township's finalists for the 2018 Person of the Year Award were Francis Oquendo, David Paskiet and Thomas Watson. An independent panel of judges selected finalists from all those nominated for Middle Smithfield Township’s annual Person of the Year award. The judges announced the Person of the Year at the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet on January 18, 2019.
The Person of the Year received $1,500 towards their cause and the two finalists received $1,000.
2018 Person of the Year
David was nominated for his work with Phoenix Martial Arts Society- which is the only 501(c)3 martial arts program in the area. David has been practicing martial arts for over 45 years and has spent the last 10 years passing on his knowledge, primarily to children. He started Paskiet Martial Arts in 2009, and sought to create a community based program accessible to all student regardless of income or ability. After 8 years, with a team of dedicated board members, he formed Phoenix Martial Arts Society. There is no fee to participate, only requested donations to keep the program running and he has not received any financial compensation.
David has made an impact specifically by training kids with special needs, who have found a home in his program. He has challenged them to do the best they can, accepted them for who they are, quirks, limitations, special needs and all. He has also offered classes to students with parents serving in the military overseas or children who have lost a parent and who need a little extra guidance.
In addition to Phoenix Martial Arts, as a Navy veteran, he has served with the Monroe County Honor Guard.
Francis Oquendo was nominated for the work he does with Boy Scouts of America Troop 87 and St. John’s Church. He serves as a committee member of Troop 87 and is a mentor coach for scouts looking to become an Eagle Scout as well as overseeing their Eagle Scout projects until their completion. He also serves as a Merit Badge counselor for multiple activities in the Pocono District. He organizes the annual Camporee, which involves canoeing on the Delaware River and an overnight camping weekend. He also puts together overnight trips, historical hikes, and assists with the Pocono District Klondike Derby in Jonas, PA in January. He also serves as the Troop Chaplain and trains scouts district wide to be Troop Chaplain aides.
He also participates in the receiving and the passing of the Annual International Peace Light, which is transported from the original lamp from the eternal flame located in Bethlehem, Israel to JFK Airport in NYC. He is also responsible for bringing the peace light to MST.
Lastly, he in the president of the St. John’s Pastoral Council, Eucharistic Minister, and sometimes altar server. He teaches CCD to youth in preparation for Confirmation and organizes the monthly Scout Sundays in order to give scouts the ability to complete “Service to God,” requirements. He has also organized scout visits to other denominations in order to expand their experiences and views.
Born in Patterson, NJ, Thomas moved to PA in 1986. He has a daughter who has been serving in the Army for the past 27 years and has been deployed twice. Thomas worked at FedEx, where he retired from in 2013.
He is a member of Mountain Stream Baptist Church where he serves as a Deacon. He also volunteers for Garden-of-Giving, Meals on Wheels, MST 1000 Feet of Street Adopt-a-Road program. He also goes with a group from church to visit the Meadows at Stroud Nursing Home to visit the Alzheimer's patients to talk with and sing songs and have devotions.
In his free time he enjoys gardening and building 1/35th scale World War II Military models.
About the Judges
An independent panel of judges volunteered to select the finalists:
- Miquel Barbosa, Chief of Staff, East Stroudsburg University
- Valerie Case, V.P. of Operations & Development, Greater Pocono Chamber of Commerce
- Jan Korb, 2017 Person of the Year, Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry
- Gary Smith, Gary in the Morning, Pocono 96.7
- Brianna Strunk, Eyewitness News Reporter, PA Homepage
- Laura Law, Alternate Judge, 2014 Person of the Year, Mady’s Angels
- Vinny Bianchi, Alternate Judge, 93.5 SBG