This is Volunteer of the Year: Krista Vellis
By Jennifer Ersalesi
A long-time Rutherford resident, a Rutherford High School alum with an incredible athletic record, and an active volunteer in the community, Krista Vellis (Gastelu) is someone who finds the value in giving back to her hometown. For her tireless efforts as a Rutherford Public Library Foundation Board Member, PTA Member, Coach, former Rutherford Education Foundation Board Member, and so much more, Krista will be honored at the Mayor's Volunteer Recognition Dinner on June 23rd. This is Rutherford interviewed Krista to learn more about her volunteer efforts in Rutherford.
TIR: How long have you lived in Rutherford? What year did you graduate RHS?
Krista Vellis: I have lived in Rutherford for 45 years. My family moved her when I was three years old. I graduated in 1993. TIR: Over the years, you have coached many children in basketball and softball. Why did you decide to give back to your community by coaching?
KV: Sports has always been an important part of my life. It taught me perseverance, how to be a teammate, and the magnitude of setting individual goals. Besides life lessons, sports were responsible for some of my favorite childhood memories. I wanted my daughter and her friends to have the same experience. As a former educator, I knew fostering team spirit and modeling proper mechanics, at the child’s developmental level, were key to developing a love for the game.
TIR: In the past, you organized a middle school volleyball clinic through Rutherford Recreation. What did you enjoy about coaching volleyball?
KV: Volleyball is one of my favorite sports. I love that it requires players to work as a team to spike the ball over the net. Amanda Davidson and I organized a pilot program that resulted in the RHS Freshman Girls Volleyball team going undefeated with a record of 17 to 1. Rutherford still offers the volleyball clinic that develops athletes' skills and lays the foundation for the fundamentals of volleyball. I am hoping one. day they will revisit our former program which offered Rutherford athletes a middle school volleyball travel program.
TIR: Your daughter is now a freshman at RHS. Throughout her education in Rutherford, you have been an active volunteer. What are some of the PTA activities that you have been excited to be a part of throughout the years?
KV: In my opinion, the PTA is an amazing organization that doesn’t get enough recognition. PTA members work tirelessly to provide our children with enriching extracurricular activities, celebrations, fundraisers, organize lunches, and help fund special assemblies, and extracurricular activities. I was fortunate enough to participate in the Scholastic book fair, bagel breakfasts, organize classroom parties, help run school carnivals, and chaperone field trips.
TIR: You are the Vice-President of the RPL Foundation and have been an active member for many years. Why did you decide to become a part of this Foundation?
KV: I joined the Rutherford Public Library Board in 2014 and the Rutherford Public Library Foundation in 2019. In my opinion, the library is one of the most important facilities in town. Residents have thousands of books, audio books, and newspaper articles at their fingertips. They also have access to hotspots, Wifi, museum passes, reference resources, programming, book clubs, and author discussions. Joining the Foundation ensured I’d be able to help raise money for the perks Rutherford residents enjoy. The Friends of the Library of Rutherford is another organization that helps aid the library. Thanks to their efforts, children can enjoy a myriad of free activities and programs, and all residents can take advantage of the movie nights and museum passes they help fund.
TIR: As a “Rutherfordian”, why are you invested in giving back to your community?
KV: I come from a close-knit family. I’d do anything for them. Rutherford is an extension of that family. Instilling a sense of community in my daughter is a priority to me. Modeling ways in which we can give back to our town is the best way I know how to reinforce that message.
TIR: On Friday, 6/23, you will be honored as the 2023 Volunteer of the Year. How do you feel about receiving this honor?
KV: To say it’s an honor is an understatement. Volunteering in town is a privilege. It’s my small contribution to this amazing town. I’m thankful to Mayor Nunziato and Council for this award and excited to celebrate with my family and friends on the twenty-third of June.