Mt. Olive Online Publication March 17, 2020


Cover photo by Lara Beth Photography


Local Woman’s Heart & Hand Warm Homeless Vets & Dogs

By Cheryl Conway

Thanks to a kind-hearted Budd Lake woman, dozens of homeless veterans and their dogs will soon have a handmade crocheted blanket.

Mary Heddinger, 74, put her passion for crocheting to good use and donated 22 of her handmade blankets, six of which are for little dogs. Heddinger gave the blankets to Charlie Wood Uhrmann, founder of the All Veterans Memorial in Budd Lake and All Veterans Alliance on February to donate to a group of homeless veterans in Newark later this month.

Whether it is to keep them warmer, sit or lay on, or even roll up as a pillow, each blanket carries a sense of warmth from the love that went into each stitch.

“I have a soft spot for army vets,” says Heddinger tearfully as she speaks about her son Master Sergeant Daniel Heddinger who has served in the army for the past 23 years. “He’s in Germany so I don’t get to see him much.”

Heddinger, who works as a bookkeeper for Dietary Specialists, spends her free time crocheting.

“I learned it from my mother when I was in the teens,” says Heddinger. “She always crocheted as long as I can remember,” she says about her mom, Frances Novesl of Pennsylvania, who would crochet just for fun and for profit. “She could look at it and count the stitches and just figure out how to make it.”

Her mom would also make decorative items out of the yarn such as doilies and crocheted doll dresses.

“I never had that talent,” Heddinger admits. “I don’t get into anything too fancy.” She sticks to four different patterns that include shell stitch, chevron stitch, double crochet and single crochet.

“I incorporate different colors; I started off making sports colors,” she says.

When her husband got sick, she started to crochet more thinking that she would sell her blankets with the help from her daughter, Jamie Hans. But when her daughter got pregnant, the sale never happened.

“I was wanting to sell them,” says Heddinger, three years ago but there was no time for her to help me list them on eBay. “I just kept making them and never had time to sell them.”

She started to make baby blankets instead in different colors, such as red, white and black for the N.J. Devils, and red, white and blue for the N.Y. Rangers teams, since her daughter and son-in-law- Jamie and David Hans- are big fans.

She gave her daughter 14 baby blankets and then sold an afghan as a wedding present for her daughter’s co-worker’s son’s wedding.

When she saw an advertisement regarding donations to homeless veterans and their dogs, Heddinger contacted Uhrmann in December 2019 and knew she found the perfect recipients for her handmade creations.

Giving her baby blankets to dogs also holds a special place in Heddinger’s heart since her daughter spends her time training dogs to help guide others.

“I have a soft spot for both of them,” veterans and their dogs, says Heddinger.

Heddinger’s donated blankets are in all different sizes and colors She made lap blankets about 2.5 feet wide that cover the top of the lap to the floor; afghans double in size, about five to six feet long; and baby blankets 2x3 feet wide, perfect for the veterans’ dogs.

“I just piled them on the table and she took them with her [Uhrmann],” says Heddinger. She also gave her some handmade scarves with the leftover yarn to donate.

“Six are little dog blankets to sit on,” says Uhrmann. “They have flags on them. They are really made from absolute love. Mary’s blankets are absolutely beautiful.”

Uhrmann planned to deliver the blankets on March 17 to a homeless veteran community in Newark. These veterans live in a “little tent city,” and will greatly appreciate these woven creations.

“They can always use the blankets no matter what,” says Uhrmann, even when the weather gets warmer. “You can roll them up, use as a pillow. The blankets are always nice because they can lay on them.”

Uhrmann also plans to deliver 100 small string backpacks filled with necessities and first aid items.

“We have 100 because we have the supplies,” says Uhrmann. “There are so many homeless there.”  

Passion For Crocheting

Depending on the size and color, Heddinger can take anywhere from three weeks to two months to complete a blanket.

“I only work on it at night when I’m done working,” says Heddinger, who says the craft relaxes her.

“It’s like therapy actually,” says Heddinger who has lived in Budd Lake for the past five years since her husband, Thomas Heddinger of Morristown, died in October 2014 from blood cancer.

“When my husband first died and I couldn’t afford a place in Morristown, I needed something to occupy my time,” says Heddinger. For two years, “I was taking care of him, so I started doing puzzles; ones that I liked, I glued and framed them,” she says, “but there is only so much wall space. So, I started crocheting again.”

With three granddaughters, the most recent born Feb. 16, Heddinger has given each their own blankets.

With four bookshelves filled with yarn, Heddinger is looking to make many more blankets.

For extra financial support, Heddinger is still looking to crochet blankets for profit. If anyone is interested, specify colors and contact Heddinger at 862-209-4241 and leave a message. Cost varies depending on blanket size. 

“It keeps me off the street,” she laughs.

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Veterans Gain More Opportunities In Mt. Olive

By Cheryl Conway

Veterans just got moved up in rank in Mt. Olive with a resolution that offers them more opportunities for bid contracts, employment in the township and convenient parking spots.

The Mt. Olive Twp. Council passed a resolution on Tuesday, Feb. 18, that establishes goals for contracting with veteran owned business enterprises, hiring veterans in the municipal workforce and recognizing the military service of residents in the civic affairs of the township of Mt. Olive.

In the resolution, the council agrees to notify veteran-owned businesses registered with the state of NJ; make a good effort to award 6% of the total contract dollars/year to veteran business enterprises; make a good faith effort to achieve a minimum 5% veteran workforce; and install veteran only parking in township owned lots, minimum of three.

With the passing of this resolution, Mt. Olive is the first municipality in Morris County to be designated by the N.J. State Veterans Chamber of Commerce as a Veteran Friendly Municipality.

Mt. Olive resident Ray Martinelli, who is the vice president for Skills and Development for the N.J. State Veterans Chamber of Commerce, awarded the township with a plaque at the last council meeting.  

Martinelli “reached out to us about becoming a Veteran Friendly Municipality,” explains Mt. Olive Twp. Business Administrator Andrew Tatarenko. “It was discussed with Mayor Greenbaum and Council President Nicastro who thought it was important to do all that we can do to support our Veterans.”

Adds Martinelli, “As a resident of Mt. Olive, and being part of the Chamber, I wanted to ensure our town achieved this before any other in Morris County. This is a New Jersey Veterans Chamber of Commerce ( initiative for both the municipalities and counties in the state of N.J. to participate to honor their local veteran community.

“This is a state initiative only developed specifically by the leadership of this chamber as a way for the towns, municipalities, and counties to give back to their Veterans,” he says. “The first award was presented during the summer of 2019. There are a constantly growing number of municipalities being awarded this designation, in fact just after Mt. Olive was Scotch Plains who is the first in Union County.

Other towns that have been granted the designation include: Bogota, Fairview, Garfield, Hackensack, Ho-Ho-Kus, Lacey, Linden, Lodi, Marlboro, Ocean Township, Old Bridge, Paramus, Pemberton, Rochelle Park, Roselle, South Amboy, South Hackensack, Union City and Scotch Plains.

While he was not aware of the number of veterans living in Mt. Olive, Tatarenko says “about ten employees which is approximately 7 percent of our workforce,” currently work for the township. 

As far as awarded bids on projects, he says “we did not keep track prior to the resolution being passed. “

To seek the employment and procurement of more veterans to reach 6% goal, Tatarenko says “We will proactively notify veteran-owned businesses registered with the State of New Jersey  (  

of each public bid opportunity.”

For Veterans-only parking, five signs were installed.

“They were made in house by our sign department,” says Tatarenko, and have been placed at townhall, Turkey Brook Park and Flanders Park.

As far as fees waived for veterans, he says “the resolution did not waive any fees.” 

Why is this a positive designation to be given?

Martinelli explains: “This program establishes a minimum structure for municipalities and counties to have a goal of 6% for their contracts going to disabled veteran owned businesses, they strive to attain a veterans hiring rate of 5% or greater, established specialty parking in the municipality or county for veterans, and ensure special hours for services for veterans, or waiving of fees for veterans for certain programs.”

The program also pushes municipalities to continue to provide opportunities to honor veterans.

“There are many patriotic citizens in this state and I do not know of a single township that does not want to honor those who served as well as those who supported them,” says Martinelli. “However, short of another monument or parade there are decreasing ideas as well as ever tightening budgetary values, to honor them. This structure is not about a parking spot up front next to the handicapped or pregnant moms, although that is very much appreciated. This is primarily focused on the 6% procurement from municipality/county with certified Veteran Owned Businesses (VOB) or certified Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB). It also focuses on that municipality/county striving to achieve a hiring rate of 5% or greater. Also, often those who are serving are unable to get to their local municipality/county offices within the standard working hours as they themselves are working. This program also looks to assist the local veteran community with special hours for services, or perhaps waiving of fees for veterans for certain programs.”

When asked whether veterans can be treated better when it comes to the criteria points raised in this designation, Martinelli responds: “There are very difficult metrics to gather on this, but there are laws in this state that are not being adhered to now. While I will not go into those, I will address that veteran businesses and veteran hiring are not well supported and remain very low. Without inflammatory nor bombastic rhetoric this chamber leadership wanted to focus on a way to change that positively, and we have been successful so far through this program.”

The N.J. State Veterans Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)3 entity which gives back for veterans causes.

Editorial: Spread Kindness Instead Of Germs And Negativity

Long lines

Empty shelves

Empty shelves


As we all sit and await what comes next with the pandemic before us, it is important to inhale/exhale.

Schools are closed with students participating in distant learning; all local buildings including the Mt. Olive Senior Center, Municipal Building, Library, Drakesdale closed for the public; bars, gyms, movie theaters closed; restaurants limited to drive thru, pick-up and delivery only; all fields and parks closed; all recreation events cancelled; township board meetings postponed; group events have been limited to 10 people; more and more businesses are shutting their doors, including the most recent closure of indoor malls; curfews have been set; sports events cancelled.

Every day is another announcement on the news and as a society we must embrace what comes next. As things constantly evolve, the one thing that must stay constant, is common courtesy to your neighbor, to the person in the aisle trying to grab a roll of toilet paper if there is any left, or a pack of chicken. This is the time, more than ever, to use your etiquette, morals and common-sense positive behavioral traits that you hopefully learned when you were a child.

Say ‘hello,’ say ‘good bye,’ say ‘thank you,’ say ‘you’re welcome,’ say ‘excuse me,’ say ‘sorry,’ say ‘God Bless You’ when someone sneezes, hold the door for someone, share, ask someone if they are OK or if they need help if they are struggling.

A recent trip to the grocery store provided a gross image to how people are forgetting their manners. When I went to put a quarter in the shopping cart, and could not release the cart, the person behind me saw my struggle and just kept on walking. 

Empty shelves

Empty shelves

Empty shelves


When the grocery store clerk started to stock the shelf with fresh chicken, a mob of people approached, I grabbed my selection and went on my way but accidentally ran over someone’s foot with my cart. The person gave me a dirty look. Instead of giving a dirty look back and fleeing the scene, I stopped and apologized. Eye contact was made, and she said ‘that’s OK.' 

At checkout, one of my kid’s friends was standing in line in front of me. She turned around and rudely said “this line is closed after me!” The person who knows me for years didn’t even say “hi Mrs. Conway.” So I looked at her and I said “Hi …..” Like what happened to the common decency to say 'hello?'

A mother of my kid’s friend flew by me twice in the store and didn’t even make eye contact.

On a trip last year to Fiji, I was most impressed on how everyone in that country says “Bula” which can mean so many things…such as "hello, goodbye, good morning, good day.” If a person does not say “Bula” as someone passes by, the Fijians get insulted. Perhaps a little Bula during this time, can be reassuring that we have not turned into non-caring monsters. Be human, be kind, be polite and perhaps we can get through this with some decency toward one another. 

Please send any stories which exemplify kind behavior to Mt. Olive Online to share with readers. Email me at

Enough with all of the negative news that surrounds us with this pandemic. Optimism breeds positive energy. Stay safe, be kind and instead of spreading the virus, let’s work together to spread acts of kindness. To that, I say “Bula!”

Local and county news


Freeholders Proclaim Girl Scout Week 2020 


The Morris County Board of Freeholders declared the week of March 8 to 14 as Girl Scout Week in Morris County, celebrating the more than century-long accomplishments of the organization, which has roots in Morris County that date to 1917.

"The Girl Scouts are the standard-bearer in providing leadership development for young ladies in Morris County and across the state and nation,'' said Freeholder Director Deborah Smith.

"Girl Scouts offer hands-on, girl-led and girl-centered training on everything from outdoor and business skills, to projects that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math development.''

“We are proud of the accomplishments of these girls and thank the Girl Scouts for their commitment to developing the leadership potential in each girl who participates,” added Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo.

The freeholders at their meeting in Morristown on Wednesday evening, Feb. 26, presented a Girl Scout Week proclamation to Betty Garger, president and CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, and Morristown area Girl Scout Troop Leader Sandy Cassidy. Assemblywomen BettyLou DeCroce and Aura Dunn also joined the girls at the event.

Freeholder Director Smith pointed out that there are many female leaders in Morris County, including herself and Freeholder DeFillippo, Assemblywomen DeCroce and Dunn, County Clerk Ann Grossi and County Surrogate Heather Darling, among others.

Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey serves girls ages 5-18 in more than 160 communities in Morris, Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, and northern Warren Counties.

The origin of Girl Scouts in Morris County dates to 1917 when a young woman named Mary Minor Lewis formed a troop of five girls in Chester. Each girl paid a 25-cent registration fee to become a part of the new “active educational pastime.”

Today, there are more than 12,000 girl and adult members in Morris County.

Girl Scouts offers engaging, challenging, and fun activities like earning badges, going on awesome trips, selling cookies, exploring science, getting outdoors, and doing community service projects.

The Girl Scout Leadership Experience gives girls the chance to gain important skills in the areas of STEM, Outdoors, Life Skills, and Entrepreneurship. 
It also offers many unique opportunities to try new things, such as robotics through the group’s First Lego League robotics teams, which they have sponsored for 10 years, with Girl Scout robotics teams winning an award every single year of competition.

Also, Girl Scouts Destinations, which is the Girl Scout travel program, enables girls to journey to other parts of the country or world to participate in amazing adventures such as a SCUBA diving and sea turtle encounter in Costa Rica, kayaking in Greece, attending space academy in Alabama, biking through Denmark and Sweden, or having a Great Panda Adventure in China.

Girl Scouts also fosters advocacy through the G.I.R.L. Agenda, an initiative designed to inspire, prepare, and mobilize girls and those who care about them to lead positive change through civic action.

For more information on the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, visit:


Think Spring! Garden Plots Available At Community Garden

Now entering its seventh year of operation, the Community Garden at South Branch Preserve has plots available for the 2020 season, which runs from April 1 through Nov. 30. 

“The camaraderie and friendships among the gardeners has been amazing, and the gardeners donated over 350 lbs of excess produce in 2019,” said Barbara McCloskey, garden manager and Membership & Outreach manager for the Land Conservancy.

The annual membership rate for Mt. Olive Township residents and/or members of The Land Conservancy is $35 per 10’ x10’ plot and $45 for non- residents. There is a one-time irrigation fee of $30 for each plot.

The Community Garden is located at the intersection of Wolfe Road and Route 46 West.  It is part of South Branch Preserve, which totals over 200 acres in this location.  Preserved by The Land Conservancy and its partners (including Mt. Olive Township) this land was purchased to protect the headwaters of the South Branch of the Raritan River, a drinking water supply source for over 1.5 million New Jersey residents. 

The garden is surrounded by fencing, to keep out deer and rodents, including rabbits and groundhogs. A shed is located onsite, which houses some gardening supplies.  Gardeners are encouraged to bring their own gardening tools.  Water is provided by The Land Conservancy by individual spigots and hoses throughout the garden. Only organic gardening practices are allowed at the Preserve. 

For additional information, contact Barbara McCloskey at The Land Conservancy of New Jersey at (973) 541-1010, x14, or visit our website at

Founded in 1981, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey is a member supported, non-profit land trust dedicated to preserving and protecting vital natural lands and water resources throughout the State. The Land Conservancy has preserved over 27,000 acres of land and helped towns secure $235 million in county, state, and federal grants for their land conservation projects.

Accredited by the National Land Trust Accreditation Commission in 2009, and reaccredited in 2015, The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has worked with 100 municipalities in 13 counties and is recognized for meeting the highest quality standards for protecting open space, upholding the public trust, and ensuring that their conservation efforts are permanent.

For more information about the work of The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, visit or call (973) 541-1010.

College news


CCM Awarded For First-Generation Students’ Support

The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph has received the Silver Award of Excellence from NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education for its record of success in serving first-generation students.

The national award recognizes programs, policies, procedures, best practices and services that support students who are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Sponsored and supported by the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, EOF provides underserved, low-income and predominately first-generation students with academic and financial support to assist them in completing a college education. EOF students receive a state grant to help defray the cost of their education. At CCM, the program also offers them comprehensive, customized and holistic support services, including a summer orientation on college readiness, academic counseling, tutoring, mentoring, workshops on study and time management skills, and opportunities to develop leadership skills. 

At CCM, EOF also collaborates with other campus departments, such as Counseling, Career Services, Campus Life and The Academic Success Center, to ensure the success of its students.

Students who participate in the CCM EOF program have high success rates, both in terms of graduating with an associate degree and transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree. On average, nearly 45 percent of CCM’s EOF students graduate within three years of enrolling at CCM, compared to the 22 percent three-year rate for community colleges nationwide. 

“Ultimately, EOF at CCM meets students where they are regardless of their background, academic aptitude, social challenges or needs,” says Dr. Pam Marcenaro, dean of Learning Support and Opportunity Services, who oversees the EOF program. “Our philosophy is to personalize and customize support for students to help them fulfill their academic and professional goals and increase their overall chance of college success.”

“The EOF staff at CCM does an outstanding job of assisting first-generation students so they can improve their lives and positively impact their communities,” notes Dr. Anthony J. Iacono, president of CCM. “We’re delighted that their work and the success of the students they serve have been recognized with this national award from NASPA. Our EOF students are invaluable members of the CCM community and are leaders in the making. Every one of these students has a dream, ability and the need for a great education. They are our future.”

NASPA serves as a leading voice for student affairs whose mission is to drive innovation and evidence-based student-centered practices throughout higher education nationally and globally.


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Experienced journalist since 1990, living in Flanders for 22 years and covering Mt. Olive Township for the past 12 years.

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