Mt. Olive Online Publication January 14, 2020

Mt. Olive Online
Mt. Olive Online

slide over turkey brook, Flanders Park Improvements Begin


By Cheryl Conway

Plans to improve Flanders Park are in motion, and once complete, will be a swinging place for families and fun.

Liz Meininger, marketing director for Mt. Olive Recreation, shared the department’s capital improvement plan at the last Mt. Olive Twp. Planning Board meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 21. The project is being spearheaded by the DPW and Parks and Recreation.

Renovation plans are targeted for completion within the next two years and include a new swing set, playground, gazebo, Gaga pit, Bocce court and volleyball court and adult exercise equipment. Township leaders and organizers are excited for what’s to come. 

“The play structures have been in place for more than 20 years, and met the needs of the community at that time,” explains Meininger. “The new playground and swings will be current, accessible, and lots of fun for families of the Flanders area. We review the amenities in our parks on a regular basis, and look to see if new ideas, interests, and various park considerations are a good match for our residents’ needs.

“We are excited about the new shade pavilion and picnic tables that are being added to the park,” continues Meininger. “In the summer, it will be a great place to enjoy the park and get some relief from the sun. The other new items coming to the park will make Flanders Park the “place to be” in Flanders!"

Howie Weiss, chair of the Mt. Olive Planning Board, had requested Meininger to attend the board meeting to provide an update every six months on what recreation has planned in regards to capital improvement spending.

“In 2019, we have budgeted approximately $300K for Flanders Park Improvements,” says Meininger.

She says the basketball courts at Flanders Park had already been redone and that it was time to improve other aspects of the park.

“Flanders Park will be renovated in stages over the next two years,” says Meininger.

The first part of the plan is currently underway and includes the installation of a 24x36 concrete pad and gazebo next to the concession stand. Building permits had been received, and monies from last year’s capital budget are being used, she says. This part of the project “should be done by the end of March, weather permitting.” 

Continues Meininger, “Once the budget is approved in the next few weeks we will be authorizing a contract to install a new swing set and an ADA compliant playground.  The swings have four youth swings, two toddler swings, two ADA compliant swings and one parent/child swing.  The playground is equipped with three slides, ADA ramps, musical and touch features and protective sun shades.  Both areas will have a rubber under matting for enhanced safety.”



Timing is perfect.

“Construction should start in April and be ready by the end of June before school lets out for the summer,” says Meininger.

 Other future improvements include the construction of a Gaga pit, Bocce court and volleyball court.

“We are also working on obtaining a sponsor to help fund an adult exercise equipment area,” says Meininger.

While Turkey Brook Park has been the main attraction in Mt. Olive, as far as playgrounds go, Flanders Park is up and coming.

“The swings and playground are the original and over 20 years old,” says Meininger. “Throughout the years, a lot of resources have been focused on Turkey Brook Park.  Now that most of those improvements are done, we are re-focusing our attention on other areas throughout Mt. Olive.”

Pleased with the improvement plans, Weiss says “I’m very impressed when you talked about the swing set you are including in the swing set ADA panels or elements, which is wonderful. You didn’t isolate ADA to their section. I just think that’s a wonderful thing to do.”

He adds, “You guys have done such a wonderful job at Turkey Brook; the fact that you are bringing some of these things to Flanders Park is great.” 


Flanders park

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Local 2nd Grader Finds Her Voice In New Children’s Book

 By Cheryl Conway

A local 8 year-old girl has been the inspiration for a new children’s picture book that speaks to other shy children afraid to use their words.

Ava Jessica Drew of the Hackettstown section of Mt. Olive is the proud granddaughter of first-time author MJ ‘Mary Joyce’ Zonfrillo of Long Valley. On Dec. 7, 2018, Zonfrillo self-published “The Little Girl Who Lost Her Words,” being sold online for $9.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Since the 32 pg. soft-covered book has been published, Drew has read the story to her second grade classmates at Sandshore Elementary School in Budd Lake, as well as to the first graders.

“I said ‘Ava I’d be happy to bring the book to class for the students,’ and she said ‘Grandma, I think I want to read it to the class,’” explains Zonfrillo.

“So many children struggle with shyness and I wanted to share this story with children not comfortable to speak up, to let them know it was ‘safe to use your words,’ explains Zonfrillo, 70. The book, “was inspired by my granddaughter, Ava, who was very shy and just couldn’t find her words. She eventually learned it was safe to speak among adults and other children.”

Proud of her grandma, Drew could not agree more with the book’s message.

“I think it's really cool and awesome,” says Drew regarding the book, adding that she feels “Good and it makes me feel happy.”

Like her grandma, Drew says “I think it will help them by saying it's ok to use your words and you don't have to be shy all the time.”

It has already helped her.

“It helps me by reminding me that I don't have to be shy and I have a lot to say,” says Drew.

Retired two years ago, in January 2017, in the field of education after working 27 years as assistant business administrator for the Somerset Hills Board of Education, Zonfrillo has found time to fulfill her life-time passion of writing for children.

“It took six months to really write it and edit it,” says Zonfrillo, who knew about her idea for some time. “My granddaughter Ava was a very shy little girl. She’d look at you with these big blue eyes and her words wouldn’t come out.

Drew’s grandfather, Michael, 75, would pick her up from school, and while she was always excited to see him, her shyness would still get in the way.

“He would say, ‘she’s so shy.’”

So “I said ‘a lot of children are shy too,’ and hence, decided to write a book, explains Zonfrillo.

Looking back, she says, “It was hard work.”

New Author Emerges

To get going, in February 2017, she had joined Just4Kids writing workshop, a mix of about 20 children and young adult book writers that meets once a month at the Washington Township Library in Long Valley.

“At the meetings, chaired by author Lauren Spiotta-DiMare, we discuss publishing issues, ideas and critique books and mainly support each other in our writing and publishing,” explains Zonfrillo. “After two or three meetings, I said ‘I could do it. That’s how I got the confidence to write it. Everyone looks at your work; they say ‘I don’t like this word, or this picture.’ They put in their input.”

For a picture book, Zonfrillo knew she needed quality illustrations so she called upon her husband’s cousin- Sue Griggs-Bailey from Maine, a N.J. born professional pastel and mixed media artist.

A graduate of Paier School of Art, Griggs-Bailey’s specialty is landscape art but she was up for the challenge in this first experience illustrating a children’s book, described as being “beautifully illustrated with soft pastel illustrations.”

Adds Zonfrillo, “Every illustration is actually Ava; the face, it’s hers.”

In publishing the book, Zonfrillo points out that her goal is neither for fame nor fortune, but to simply help other children.

Although she has already sold 250 books, she admits, “I’m not going on the N.Y. Times Best Seller list. I did it because there’s so many little shy children out there.” The book also raises awareness to “the children that are very outgoing” so they “can understand their shy friends.”

It creates “empathy in highly verbal children for friends and classmates less talkative than themselves,” she says.

At the end of the book, Zonfrillo provides questions to readers to engage discussion. “Kids, they really get into it,” says Zonfrillo. “Kids love it because they love to talk about it at the end. All kids are shy at any given time; everybody’s shy; you’re not different; you have to learn to use your words.”

With each book, Zonfrillo gives each child a bookmark with a scene from the book on the back. “Here’s a bookmark, she says. “If you are shy or frightened, read it; you will feel better.”

Recommended for readers ages five to eight, or grades kindergarten through second, Zonfrillo plans to read her book to first and second grade students at the Chester Bragg School and the Bedwell Elementary School in Bernardsville.

The Washington Twp. Library plans to host a program to promote her book on Thursday, March 14, at 4 p.m., on how the book was developed, along with a craft and book sale.

Zonfrillo also volunteers as a board member for the Chester Area Senior Housing Center; crochets red hats for the American Red Cross and blankets for various children’s hospitals; and is affiliated with the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrator.

Her other interests include yoga, meditation, sewing, reading, serving as a Feng Shui practitioner with a unique meditation garden and spending time and talking to her four children and five grandchildren.

“The Little Girl Who Lost Her Words” is the first of a series of adventures with Ava and her other grandchildren, she concludes. For more information visit or email


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March On over to the LIBRARY for events

Kids Event at the Library

NJ Makers Day is Saturday, March 23: Join in at the Mt. Olive Public Library for a full day of fun for kids and families. Enjoy STEM programs, MAKER tools and learn about robotics.

* LEAP into Science, 10 a.m.-11a.m., for all ages. Join in for another special Leap Into Science program, engineered by the Franklin Institute, to learn about balance.

* COLAbots and Cruise Control, 2 p.m.-3 p.m., for all ages. Get ready for these awesome robotics teams, as they come to show off the robots they’ve been building and teach others why it’s cool to be in robotics.

* Button Press and Bloxels, 10 a.m. -3 p.m., ages 6 & up. Throughout the day, check out the MOPL’s newest maker tools. Learn how to create one’s own button using a  new button press, or design own video game with Bloxels.

  Learn How To Speak Italian At Library 

 Interested in learning to speak Italian? Join Domenico Tancredi for a 10 week Standard Italian Class being offered at the Mt. Olive Public Library. The class will cover: How to ask for something? How to ask where something is? How much something is? How to say you like something?

Classes are on Tuesdays, starting April 2 through June 11, from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. in the Gathering Room. No class on April 23. For those who miss more than two classes, they will forfeit their space. Class is limited to 10 adults.

Registration required. Call 973-691-8686 ext. 106 or go to to register.


Biggest Losers Contest Kicks Off In MO

Kick off that weight loss before summer by entering the 2019 Biggest Losers Contest offered through the Mt. Olive Exercise Program. Challenge that body for this two month contest to lose as much as possible while getting fit in this invigorating and fun workout program. A variety of classes are taught by different instructors to offer unique styles that focus on cardio, toning and core training.

The contest is being held March and April and is only $90 for unlimited classes, weigh-ins and nutrition advice. See the flyer for more details or call Laura Hars at (973) 903-0453  or for questions.


MO Schools To Showcase Science & STEAM

Mt. Olive School District plans to host its Maker Fest event on Saturday, March 9, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mt. Olive High School dome. This event is an exciting showcase of how Science & STEAM education are celebrated both in the education sector and workplace.

It will also have Drones competition, District Elementary Science & Innovation Fair, Musical and dance performances, STEAM exhibits/activities for all age groups, live animals and their bio-facts and so much more.

MO Online Features Local Women In Month of March

 Help share her success story

The month of March is known for quite a few things such as the start of spring, March Madness for college basketball fans, Daylight Savings, St. Patrick’s Day and Purim. At a national level, March has been recognized in so many various ways such as National Craft Month, National Kidney Month, Red Cross Month, Music in Our Schools Month, National Nutrition Month, National Puppy Day, National Peanut Month, International Waffle Month, to name a few.

While puppies, and peanut butter, music and basketball are loved by many, women are also recognized in the month of March- both nationally and internationally with National Women’s History Month and International Women's Day, celebrated annually on March 8 as a focal point in the movement for women’s rights and women's achievements.

Each year centers around a different theme such as Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives in 2018; Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030 in 2017; Equality for Women is Progress for All in 2014; and Empower Rural Women, End Poverty and Hunger in 2012.

For this year, the International Women's Day 2019 campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter, which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world, according to the International Women’s Day website.

Although International Women's Day is celebrated annually on March 8, the global campaign theme continues all year long to encourage action.

According to Wikipedia, International Women’s Day dates back to Feb. 28, 1909, when the Socialist Party of America organized a Women's Day in New York; the 1910 International Socialist Woman's Conference suggested a Women's Day be held annually. March 8 then became a national holiday in Soviet Russia in 1917, after women gained suffrage there, and then grew internationally in 1975 when the United Nations adopted the day.

Today, International Women's Day is a public holiday recognized in some countries. Some plans protests that day, others celebrate womanhood.

To celebrate National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Mt. Olive Online would like to recognize local women and their achievements, whether small or great. Throughout the month of March, this publication will be featuring women from Flanders and Budd Lake who have made some kind of impact or change, or have gone above and beyond in making a difference.

Give a shout out to any women in town who have earned respect or admiration by submitting a brief description/write up about this woman and how she is a standout. Photos accepted too. Email

Events happening at CCM

CCM Dance Students To Perform on New York Stage

Through the initiative of Adjunct Professor and Choreographer Colleen McArdle, of Riverdale, six dance students at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph will have the opportunity to perform on a New York City stage this month.

The dancers will be performing a new piece, “Once,” choreographed by McArdle as part of the HATCH Presenting Series. The HATCH series provides a forum for choreographers to investigate new work, present work in process and engage in dialogue with the audience.Performances take place at The Works Studio, 131 West 24th Street, New York City. The CCM dancers will perform on Sat., March 30, at 8 p.m. Tickets, available at the door, are $20 general admission and $15 for students.

The CCM students who will be dancing in the performance are Kara Byrnes, of Andover; Noelle Cappuzzo, of Succasunna; Courtney Crerand, of Lake Hiawatha; Jessica Giraldo, of Wharton; Grace Logue, of Vernon; and Sabrina Olivieri, of Long Valley.

“I have participated in this program several times and am delighted at the opportunity to return,” says McArdle. “This is a wonderful chance for our students to have the real-world experience of performing in a professional NYC venue for dance.”

To learn more about the Dance Program at CCM, visit


CCM Provides Informative Speakers To Community

County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph provides an easy-to-use online Faculty Speakers Bureau to help civic organizations, nonprofits and other groups find informative speakers to educate audiences.

The bureau features more than 30 full-time CCM faculty members who can speak on a wide range of topics, including American roots music, the art of memory, critical care nursing, cybersecurity, economics, fantasy and myth, journalism, landscaping, public relations, STEM careers and much more.

The service was implemented in the fall of 2015 as part of CCM’s mission to provide the larger community with exceptional programs and services.

Those interested in securing a speaker can visit the online Faculty Speaker Bureau at to select a topic and contact the appropriate faculty member to arrange for time, location, equipment and any other details related to the desired event.

Local Church Plans Lent/Easter Events

United Presbyterian Church in Flanders welcomes all visitors to its upcoming Lent/Easter events. The 11 a.m. Jesus Café adult education hour will engage in a video series entitled “Simon Peter-Flawed but Faithful Disciple.”

Produced by well-known Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton, this series will take participants to sites in the Middle East and the center of ancient power in Rome as they follow the journey of St. Peter. Rev. Rick Oppelt, the church’s pastor, will do a related sermons series on the topic “Flawed but Faithful Disciples” during 10 a.m. Sunday services.

The church will kick off its annual Holy Week celebrations with a Celebration of the Palms at the 10 a.m. service. An Easter Egg hunt is held at the same time for kids during Sunday School. The afternoon concludes with the church’s annual Seder Dinner in the afternoon. Reservations are required for the dinner, which includes a delicious full course lamb dinner to remember the Exodus journey of the Israelites. Holy Week services include a meditative Candle light Maundy Thursday Service at 7:30 p.m., and Celebration of the Resurrection Sunday, April 21, at 10 a.m.

United Presbyterian Church is a faith family open to all people, regardless of race, faith background, or lack thereof, country of origin or sexual orientation.

For more information, call 973-584-8195. or find on Facebook.


Layups 4 Life Looking for teams to register

 On  Saturday, April 27, Layups 4 Life will be hosting its 5th annual 3v3 charity basketball tournament at the Parsippany PAL Youth Center in Parsippany. This tournament has quickly become one of New Jersey’s largest 3v3 charity basketball tournaments as it averages 40 teams per year. Registration for this tournament is open to ages 18+. 

 Layups 4 Life is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is founded on the principles of making a difference in the fight against cancer. Led by cancer survivor Dan Exter and his wife Dana Levine Exter, it is L4L’s mission to help raise vital funds for cancer research and clinical trials. Since 2014, Layups 4 Life has raised close to $80,000 through hosting a variety of events in the sports and social spaces. With the funds that they have raised during the last four years, L4L has made contributions in support of leukemia, pediatric and bone marrow research departments supporting one of the leaders in cancer innovation and research, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). 

To learn more about Layups 4 Life, visit its website at   Questions about this theme night or anything else regarding L4L, email Dan Exter or Dana Levine Exter at

About Mt Olive online

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Experienced journalist since 1990, living in Flanders for 21 years and covering Mt. Olive Township for the past 10 years.

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