Despite his passing away in January of 2011, John J. "Sonny" Kovatch Jr. continues to give back to his community through the Sonny Kovatch Scholarship Foundation.

This year's Sonny Kovatch Scholarship Dinner was held May 21 at Macaluso's at the Lantern in Nesquehoning. The Foundation's board of directors awarded $16,000 in scholarships to eight students, two from California, two from New York, one from Virginia and three from Pennsylvania.

The foundation was created in honor of Sonny following his death, memorializing his dedication to work, community and the employees of KME and its affiliates.

The corporation encompasses 45 plants and service centers located throughout the country, as well as its Nesquehoning headquarters.

A life long resident of Nesquehoning, Kovatch was a business pioneer and community leader, dedicating 65 years to building a successful business while giving back to the community. The strongest criteria used in judging who will be awarded a scholarship is the student's involvement in community service.

The foundation distributes applications to all affiliates of the Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corp. (KME) in April of each year. This year, 21 students applied for the scholarships, eager to pursue a secondary education at either a college or trade/technical school.

This year's winners are relatives of employees from KME plants/service centers in Latham, NY; Ontario, CA; Roanake, VA; and Kovatch World Headquarters in Nesquehoning. The foundation awarded four scholarships in the amount of $1,500 and four for $2,500.

This year's $2,500 scholarship award winners were: Alex Bock of Running Springs, Cal.; David Bock of Running Springs, Cal.; Jordan Kulp of Nesquehoning; and Bryan Vandenburgh of Valatie, N.Y. Awarded $1500 scholarships were: Alyssa Huyck of Valatie, N.Y.; Michael Stauffer of Nesquehoning; Brent Webster of Copper Hill, Va.; and Samantha Zlock of Nesquehoning.

The three local recipients attended the awards dinner. The other five recipients were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Jordan Kulp noted, "I have a strong commitment to learning and have dedicated myself to achieving a distinguished education. Though faced with adversities, I have set to overcome them and go further than anyone can imagine." She will be attending Elizabethtown College, majoring in Pre-Med.

Samantha Zlock, who works during the summer at Northeast Pharmacy Services in Lehighton, said, "My job, volunteer hours and the extracurricular activities put a smile on my face every day; motivate me to be a better person; and push me to be a better leader. I love doing these activities; so I am a positive person in everything I do." She plans to attend Temple University, Philadelphia, in pursuit of a Pharmacy degree.

Michael Stauffer said, "Morals and family are most important to me. I look to my mother, who has beaten two forms of cancer, and my grandparents, who worked so hard their entire lives only to come to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Seeing what they have done makes me realize each day is a gift." He is attending Marywood University working toward a degree in Architecture.

David Bock offered, "Throughout my life, the balance of my education, volunteerism and sports have dictated my path of everyday living. I aim to use my confidence, work ethic and love for learning to be successful in my college education and in the career that I will choose in hopes of making the world a better place." He plans to attend the University of California, U.C. Davis Campus, pursuing a degree in Biochemical Engineering.

Bryan Vandenburgh told the board, "It is never an easy task to lead others, but I want to be a leader of men and women and be a positive influence to many." A U.S. Marine Corps veteran with two deployments to Afghanistan as a scout sniper, the volunteer firefighter is attending Hudson Valley Community College, pursuing a degree in Business Administration.

Alex Bock declared "I always strive to do my best in anything I do. This has not only improved me as a person, but, more importantly, I have been able to help others improve themselves." He plans to attend San Diego State University, studying Mechanical Engineering.

Brent Webster wrote, "While I intend to take the challenge of college head on, I still have the intentions to assist my family and my community. I would like to help my church and my grandparents on their farm and continue my part time job." He plans on attending Virginia Western Community College for a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology.

Alyssa Huyck noted, "I have dedicated myself to my family, work and volunteer services, which makes me a strong person, a loving family member, a volunteer to my community and, to me, that defines a well-rounded person." She plans to attend Columbia Greene Community College in hopes of becoming a high-school guidance counselor.

The Foundation's Board of Directors includes: Dr. Joseph Mussoline, president; Carol Blaschak Kahane, vice president; Kathy Kovatch Reaman, treasurer; Judy Kovatch Lebo, assistant secretary/treasurer; George Mermon, chairman; the Rev. Anthony Drouncheck; and Sharon Kovatch.

John J. Kovatch III sees the foundation as an opportunity for his father's legacy to live on, commenting "I believe the scholarships help to continue Sonny's legacy and provide opportunities for growth to employees and their families. Congratulation's to this year's recipients and thank you to the board of directors."