Serbian-American Recipients of the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Serbian-Americans, Philanthropist Obren Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage, Inc. and Heritage Marketing Leader, Mira Zivkovich, CEO of MZI Global Marketing were awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 12, 2007. Chosen among thousands of applicants by NECO, the nominees portray a lifestyle dedicated to community service and exhibit interests for the preservation of cultural groups.

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New York, NY (PRWEB) June 2, 2007

Each year, NECO serves as umbrella organization representing over 300 ethnic groups in the U.S. and annually awards the Ellis Island Medal of Honor to 100 outstanding U.S. citizens. Chosen among thousands of applicants, the nominees contribute through personal and professional achievements toward the overall benefit of society. This year, two Serbian-Americans, Philanthropist Obren Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage, Inc. and Heritage Marketing Leader, Mira Zivkovich, CEO of MZI Global Marketing were awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 12, 2007.

The United States Senate and House of Representatives have both officially passed resolutions recognizing the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, which ranks among this country's most prestigious awards. Each year, Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients are listed in the Congressional Record, honoring those who have made enduring contributions to our nation and to the world.

The Ellis Island Medal of Honor two-day event begins with a reception the evening before the official presentation ceremony at the prestigious Metropolitan Club in NYC where the medalists meet each other. The following afternoon, recipients and guests are taken by ferry boat to Ellis Island for the ceremonial event lasting seven hours. The colossal production starts with a ceremony in a 16,000 square foot tent with over 250 entertainers, marching bands, performers in full regalia, to honor the medalists. There are lights, camera and plenty of action but nothing matches the patriotic and emotional event which medalist Mira Zivkovich describes as the most memorable moment in her life: "excitement of life time, which is beyond description." Following the tent ceremony, the medalists and over a thousand guests proceed to the Great Hall ballroom where candlelight, elegantly appointed tables, music and dance greet the medalists and their families for the evening's dinner celebration. To top everything, this spectacular ceremony and premier event of the year in New York City, ends with Grucci spectacular fireworks display in backdrop of New York Harbor.

In his letter of greeting in the Commemorative Journal for the Ellis Island Medals of Honors Awards Gala, His Excellency Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr. Mitrophan, Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Eastern America, congratulated all recipients of the medal and particularly those being honored from the Serbian community. He stated: "For the Serbian community and myself, this occasion marks a milestone since it is the first time that those Americans of Serbian heritage have been honored as a distinct nationality. Early Serbian immigrants to America helped establish the first Orthodox parishes in the United States since the 1860's in New Orleans and San Francisco. The first Serbian Orthodox Church was erected in Jackson, California in 1894. I am pleased to send warm greetings and congratulations to everyone gathered tonight for the Ellis Island Medals of Honor Awards Gala of the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations."

"I am very proud of our two Serbian-American medalists for 2007 that have enlightened our orthodox approach, advocating stewardship, empowerment, and social responsibility, coupled with the spiritual philosophy and moral principles that is a prime example of how values, responsibility, commitment, service, integrity, openness, and idealism can lead the Serbian community. Obran Brian Gerich promoting the spirit of orthodoxy and Mira Zivkovich advocate for community awareness did just that with our Serbian community," says the Very Reverend Father Djokan Majstorovic.

Mira Zivkovich became aware of this award when she was invited to attend the Ceremony and Gala on Ellis Island seven years ago and saw that, among ethnic recipients listed in the beautiful commemorative journal with letters from U.S. dignitaries and Presenters- there was not a single Serbian name and hardly any Slavic representation. Mira Zivkovich states: "Since then I have made my personal mission, that whatever it takes, I will personally research and nominate the most prominent Serbs in the community, who contributed either via their charity work or contribution to their Serbian community, heritage and faith. As a result, I nominated the Serbian-American Thomas Stankovich who was honored with the 2005 Medal, and in 2006 Vlado Divac, and this year 2007, I nominated Obren Brian Gerich, prominent Serb and Senior Vice President of Public Storage, Inc and respected philanthropist of the Orthodox Christian community in America. He was awarded this honor for his dedication and leadership in community service on May 12, 2007.

Along with him, this year, as result of my efforts in fundraising for St. Sava Serbian Church, our landmark building in NYC, as well as my personal contributions of over 1000 hours of MZI Global Marketing company's time in creating marketing, web and publishing materials (including St. Sava's journals), books, web sites for various charity organizations and altruistic causes, I was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. My objective was to advance a positive Serbian image and awareness among Americans of the extent of the Serbian community's contributions to the economic, cultural and political life of America and to have Serbian-Americans recognized for their achievements."

The following Serbian-Americans were nominated by the Slavic Heritage Coalition founded by Mira Zivkovich and received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. A short profile of their achievements follows:

2007: Obren Brian Gerich

Obren Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage, Inc and Philanthropist is Awarded the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Obren Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage, Inc and respected philanthropist of the Orthodox Christian community in America has been awarded the "Ellis Island Medal of Honor" for his dedication and leadership in community service. Mr. Gerich, along with other recipients from various heritage groups, chosen by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations NECO, received this honor on May 12, 2007. Each year, NECO awards the "Ellis Island Medal of Honor" to outstanding individuals who lead a lifestyle dedicated to community service, exhibit interests for the preservation of cultural groups and to those who share and contribute through personal and professional achievements toward the overall benefit of society.
Obren Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage, Inc and Philanthropist is Awarded the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

2007: Mira Zivkovich

Mira Zivkovich, Heritage Marketing Leader and Philanthropist, is Awarded the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Mira Zivkovich, a leader in heritage and multicultural marketing, President and CEO of MZI Global Marketing and founder of the Slavic Heritage Coalition, is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor presented on May 12, 2007 on Ellis Island. One of 100 recipients from the entire U.S., Mira Zivkovich was chosen by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations to receive this honor because of her contributions to various charitable causes and her devotion to her Serbian group and dedication to preserving the multicultural diversity of American society.
CEO of MZI Global Marketing, Mira Zivkovich, Heritage Marketing Leader, Among 100 Recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor 2007
Mira Zivkovich, Heritage Marketing Leader and Philanthropist, is Awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor

2006: Vlado Divac

Vlado Divac, Global Basketball Ambassador and Tireless Philanthropist, Awarded 2006 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

After several successful seasons in the NBA, Vlado Divac and six of his Yugoslavian National Team teammates decided to create the Group Seven Children's Foundation. This Foundation was formed to assist those children whose lives had been adversely affected by the ravages of war in Divac's homeland. Divac later expanded efforts to reach out to disadvantaged children in other parts of the world as well. He organizes several events a year through his Group Seven Children's Foundation to raise dollars that fund humanitarian projects to assist underprivileged children. One of these events is the annual summer basketball camp held in Folsom, California. Events like this have allowed Group Seven to provide more than $2 million in humanitarian assistance and educational programs to children in Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United States, Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Vlade Divac, Global Basketball Ambassador and Tireless Philanthropist, Awarded Ellis Island Medal of Honor
Photos of Vlado Divac during the Ellis Island Medals of Honor in 2006

2005: Thomas Stankovich

Thomas Stankovich is honored with the 2005 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Alongside Independence Day, Serbs are working to raise awareness in politics about the region known as the former-Yugoslavia, and to bring attention to the voices of the Serbian Diaspora community. At the forefront of this movement is the Serbian Unity Congress, which is organizing Serbian Day in Washington, DC on June 28-30 in collaboration with Senator George Voinovich, and Congresswoman Melissa (Luburich) Bean, with a planned visit to the White House followed by a briefing at the State Department.

Mr. Stankovich's experiences involve him in the business and political sphere and bring him into contact with prominent American representatives. When asked about a possible future in government, Mr. Stankovich stated that "anything is possible and it would be a wonderful opportunity." Given his past accomplishments, his potential for the position is clear. Through transforming the current business practices of Eastern Europe into business practices which more closely resembled the West or free market economies, Mr. Stankovich has succeeded in sharing American principles, and solidifying international relations and alliances.
A Golden Celebration: As July 4th approaches, Thomas Stankovich is honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor
Photos of Thomas Stankovich during the Ellis Island Medals of Honor ceremony in 2005

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Grucci fireworks over the Statue of Liberty Grucci fireworks over the Statue of Liberty

Undeterred by the rain, the famed Grucci fireworks burst over the Statue Of Liberty (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Fireworks to honor the medalists Fireworks to honor the medalists

The dinner is capped by a stunning display of fireworks presented by Grucci at the New York Harbor as the medalists sail back to Battery Park (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Grucci fireworks over the Statue of Liberty Grucci fireworks over the Statue of Liberty

Undeterred by the rain, the famed Grucci fireworks burst over the Statue Of Liberty (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Cultural Dancers Cultural Dancers

Cultural Dancers are among the 250 entertainers to greet VIP's and their families at the Ellis Island Harbor, New York (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


The Ballroom ceiling with the American flag The Ballroom ceiling with the American flag

Registry Room Great Hall ceiling with beautiful décor of a million painted stars and the American flag (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Sparkling Stars covered the ceiling of the Registry Room Great Hall Sparkling Stars covered the ceiling of the Registry Room Great Hall

The Registry Room Great Hall décor included a ceiling full of painted stars and the American flag, which enhanced the evening with a grand sense of heritage and history (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala in the Registry Room of the Great Hall on Ellis Island Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala in the Registry Room of the Great Hall on Ellis Island

In a production worthy of Hollywood, filled with glitz and glamour, 1500 guests gathered in this breathtaking venue adorned with flowers, candles and a ceiling full of stars (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Welcoming and Honoring Medalists on Ellis Island in New York Harbor Welcoming and Honoring Medalists on Ellis Island in New York Harbor

U.S. Military Corps of Cadets Color Guard march at the military reception for Ellis Island Medalists on Ellis Island, New York Harbor (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Honoring Medalists Honoring Medalists

The United States Army 82nd Airborne Division, All- American Chorus, Fort Bragg, NC honors the recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


VIP Performance VIP Performance

Recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor are honored with a military performance and patriotic songs (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Cadets honor recipients and their guests Cadets honor recipients and their guests

A military reception to honor the medalists at Ellis island Harbor, New York, NY (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Red Carpet Honor with military reception Red Carpet Honor with military reception

U.S. Military Corps of Cadets Color Guard march at the military reception for Ellis Island Medalists on Ellis Island New York Harbor (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Cadets honor recipients and their guests Cadets honor recipients and their guests

Over 250 members of the military march outside Ellis Island to honor the recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Thomas Stankovich Medalist Thomas Stankovich

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Mr. Stankovich-Ellis Island,Medals of Honor Mr. Stankovich-Ellis Island,Medals of Honor

Mr. Stankovich and family in front of Immigration Museum’s “Peopling of America” Gallery, after receiving Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award. (Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Thomas Stankovich with a medalist friend and his son Thomas Stankovich with a medalist friend and his son

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


NECO Co-Chairmen Lee A. Lacocca with Medalist Thomas Stankovich NECO Co-Chairmen Lee A. Lacocca with Medalist Thomas Stankovich

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Thomas Stankovich and family with MZI CEO Mira Zivkovich (right) Medalist Thomas Stankovich and family with MZI CEO Mira Zivkovich (right)

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


The roster of Ellis Island Medalists The roster of Ellis Island Medalists

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Mira Zivkovich with traditional dancers Mira Zivkovich with traditional dancers

(May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Vlade Divac with Ana Lazic at Metropolitan Club Vlade Divac with Ana Lazic at Metropolitan Club

(May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Vlade Divac with NECO Executive Director Rosemarie Taglione Vlade Divac with NECO Executive Director Rosemarie Taglione

(May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich with the Honor Guards MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich with the Honor Guards

(May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalists Vlade Divac and Josip Cermin with Mira Zivkovich Medalists Vlade Divac and Josip Cermin with Mira Zivkovich

(May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Thomas Stankovich is honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Thomas Stankovich is honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor

A Golden Celebration: As July 4th approaches Thomas Stankovich is honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his American-inspired ideals and work to preserve ethnic diversity. (Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Thomas Stankovich receiving his medal Thomas Stankovich receiving his medal

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


The pageantry of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony The pageantry of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony

On the big screen in front of 1500 guests, under a 16000 sq foot tent Thomas Stankovich receives his Ellis Island Metal of Honor (Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Thomas Stankovich with Mira Zivkovich at the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala Medalist Thomas Stankovich with Mira Zivkovich at the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Thomas Stankovich Medalist Thomas Stankovich

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Thomas Stankovich with his wife and family the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala Thomas Stankovich with his wife and family the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Thomas Stankovich Medalist Thomas Stankovich

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Thomas Stankovich with his son and daughter the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala Thomas Stankovich with his son and daughter the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Gala

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Thomas Stankovich with his wife Medalist Thomas Stankovich with his wife

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Welcome VIP Reception for Medalists Welcome VIP Reception for Medalists

(2007) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Thomas Stankovich receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Thomas Stankovich receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor

(Ellis Island, New York, May 14, 2005) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


The Metropolitan Club The Metropolitan Club

The grand entrance of the Metropolitan Club, NYC (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


The Metropolitan Club The Metropolitan Club

Family and friends of the recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor are proud to be a part of the Gala Cocktail Reception at the Metropolitan Club, New York, NY (2007) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor wait to disembark, amazed by the greeting by the Honor Guard Recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor wait to disembark, amazed by the greeting by the Honor Guard

Military commands included the Hanscom Air Force Base, The United States Air Force Band of Liberty, US Military Academy, US Corps of Cadets, Honor Guard, United States Naval Academy, United States Army XVIII Airborne Corps, United States Army 82nd Airborne Division, HQS 3rd Battalion 321st Field Artillery Regiment and Military Color Guards (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Cadets welcome recipients entering the museum building Cadets welcome recipients entering the museum building

Military commands included the Hanscom Air Force Base, The United States Air Force Band of Liberty, US Military Academy, US Corps of Cadets, Honor Guard, United States Naval Academy, United States Army XVIII Airborne Corps, United States Army 82nd Airborne Division, HQS 3rd Battalion 321st Field Artillery Regiment and Military Color Guards (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Fireworks to honor the medalists Fireworks to honor the medalists

The dinner is capped by a stunning display of fireworks presented by Grucci at the New York Harbor as the medalists sail back to Battery Park(2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


NBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana Lazic NBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana Lazic

NBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant at the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award Ceremony. Zivkovich and her firm are responsible for nominating Divac. (May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


NBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana Lazic NBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI Global CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant Ana Lazic

NBA Superstar Philanthropist Vlade Divac with MZI CEO Mira Zivkovich and her assistant at the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award Ceremony (May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Vlade Divac at NECO cocktail Reception at Metropolitan Club Vlade Divac at NECO cocktail Reception at Metropolitan Club

(May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


The pageantry of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony The pageantry of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony

On the big screen in front of 1500 guests, under a 16000 sq foot tent Vlade Divac receives his Ellis Island Metal of Honor (May 13, 2006) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


NBA Superstar Vlade Divac receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in Recognition for the Work His Charity Group Seven Has Done NBA Superstar Vlade Divac receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in Recognition for the Work His Charity Group Seven Has Done

Vlade Divac enthusiastically receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 13, 2006. Over 1500 dignitaries were in attendance to see the award presentations. (May 13, 2006)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Vlade Divac Proudly Receives His Ellis Island Medal of Honor Vlade Divac Proudly Receives His Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Vlade Divac enthusiastically receives the Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 13, 2006. Over 1500 dignitaries were in attendance to see the award presentations. ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Mira Zivkovich and Obren Brian Gerich Mira Zivkovich and Obren Brian Gerich

(2007) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Miriana Majstorevich and Mira Zivkovich Miriana Majstorevich and Mira Zivkovich

(2007) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


V. Rev. Nicholas Ceko during the Military Reception V. Rev. Nicholas Ceko during the Military Reception

(2007) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Obren Brian Gerich and Mira Zivkovich enter on red carpet Obren Brian Gerich and Mira Zivkovich enter on red carpet

Proud Medalists on way to receive Ellis Island Medal of Honor award, on the grounds of the historical Ellis Island.(2007) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Mira Zivkovich with military officer after receiving 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor Medalist Mira Zivkovich with military officer after receiving 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

It has been a long journey from the former Yugoslavia (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalist Obren Brian Gerich Medalist Obren Brian Gerich

Special moments after receiving Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2007) ©Photo: www.mziglobal.com


Medalists Mira Zivkovich and Obren Gerich Medalists Mira Zivkovich and Obren Gerich

Proud Medalists: Mira Zivkovich, President and CEO of MZI Global Marketing and Obren Gerich, Sr. Vice President of Public Storage, Inc., with military officer after receiving their Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2007)©Photo: www.mziglobal.com