Mt. Olive Online Publication November 15, 2020
Mt. Olive Online Publication November 15, 2020
Working as a chef has always been his passion, but after COVID-19, one Flanders man digs deep to discover the secret sauce to his heart and soul.
Bobby Varua, 45, has organized three food drives in the Clover Hill community where he lives since the pandemic has impacted the township. His first run was about a month ago; second one was a week later; and this past week, on Wednesday, April 22, was the third collection.
Who would have thought that Varua’s food drive would be the driving force for his front yard garden and possible plans to open a community kitchen down the road?
As a resident in the Clover Hill development for the past 8 years, Varua’s profession as a chef has kept him away from his community, and unaware of its struggles.
It was right after St. Patrick’s Day when Varua realized “I had some food that I wanted to donate,” such as Gatorade, paper towels and canned foods. So he reached out to others through the Clover Hill Community Facebook page to see if anyone was in need of food. Someone suggested that he donate his items to the Mt. Olive Food Pantry.
“I didn’t even know we had a pantry,” says Varua, who decided to go there with his wife Jennifer to deliver his items. “The parking lot was full for people who were shopping there,” some who he surprisingly recognized.
“It was really disheartening,” says Varua. “I remember driving home and I just said ‘wow!’ It just kind of hit my heart.”
The notion that so many people do not have the basics in life, with food being one of those essentials, truly hit home for Varua.
“I’m a chef by trade,” explains Varua, adding that he was “ashamed” that he didn’t even know Mt. Olive had a pantry; and “I was taken back” that “our community has to go to this pantry.
“No one has to go through that,” says Varua. “The fact that I’m a chef; necessities is food and water. What’s really important is to make sure we are putting food on the table. It hits home without a doubt.”
Varua was also surprised how empty the pantry was when he visited that first time.
“It’s our pleasure to serve others,” says Jennifer Varua, who worked in hospitality as the director of sales at the new MC Hotel in Montclair before it closed from COVID-19. “It is the true sense of humanity. Our community has been so generous and amazing. We are so proud to be part of this township and our community.”
Coping While Unemployed
Both Varua and his wife have lost their jobs as a result of COVID 19, which can be quite troublesome as they have three kids to provide for: Sofia, 13 a seventh grader at Mt. Olive Middle School; 10-year old Grace, a fourth grader at Mountain View Elementary School; and Owen, 7, a second grader at Mountain View.
Varua worked as an executive chef at Americana Kitchen and Bar in East Windsor up until the week after St. Patty’s Day. Prior to that he worked as an executive chef at Logan Inn Landmark in New Hope, Pa. from 2016-2019; at the Blue Morel in the Weston Governor Morris Hotel in Morristown from 2014-2016; Rod’s Steakhouse at the Madison Hotel in Morristown from 2012-2014.
“It hasn’t been easy,” says Varua, who says he “has a nest egg” to provide for his family. “We don’t have millions, but we pray that we can get through this. We do everything to love thy neighbor first.
“We talk about it every morning,” says Varua. “It’s constantly in our faces. It’s hard to conceptualize there’s many people out there suffering from this.
“We’re all in the same storm but we’re all on separate boats,” explains Varua. “Everyone’s experiencing their own stories, which is pretty overwhelming.
Some are on the front lines risking their own lives; others are asked to stay home, feeling helpless.” One is his friend in Covid, Queens, who had to leave with her husband in order to seek work while leaving their children with another relative.
“We talk about that in the morning and we pray,” says Varua. “We pray as hard as we can. If we have faith, we can do wonderful things.”
Others, like himself, want to do more.
Whether a person is a chef, a doctor, a teacher, a police officer, “your inner spirit is being tested,” says Varua, “whether you have faith in you, government in you, your community in you. I have faith in my community, in Mt. Olive. We are a very small community; if we move in faith and love and compassion,” one can make a difference.
Does not matter how small the gesture is, he says. It “can be as small as a mustard seed.”
Explains Varua: “We are the mustard seed. We are one small community; we are one small project. Start collecting food, start filling in the pantries. I can’t feed people in the middle of Utah, but to help Mt. Olive, just a small act. Hopefully, the word gets around and people get fed.”
Varua adds the “second commandment is to love my neighbor; to look outside the door.” He says right now his “priority is to look across the street and make sure that person is taken care of.”
Tide Has Turned
With COVID-19 as the storm and everyone left to survive in their own boat, as he explains, the tide has turned for Varua who sees his community in need and has been driven to help.
As a “chef for 27 years,” Varua admits that “sometimes maybe we haven’t done the right thing.”
His goal has been “trying to be the best chef, the top chef,” the one on the front cover of magazines. His kids would say ‘look dad we could google you.’”
He has been living his life with “blindfolds on,” he says. He was more concerned about cooking, accolades, publicity, fame, money and security.
Since the virus has taken over, Varua says his perspective has changed.
COVID-19, “it’s taught me ‘you should find another driving force in the pit of our stomachs,’” says Varua.
“I’m looking at people who can’t even put the bare essentials on the table,” says Varua. That strikes a nerve for Varua since he knows how much he can help others when it comes to his skill.
“I can take chicken soup and make it a thousand ways,” says Varua. As chef and a father, he says he knows how much food it takes to feed a family three times a day, seven days a week..
“It’s a lot of food,” says Varua, adding that there are “135 families from Mt. Olive who shop at the Mt. Olive Food Pantry. It wretches my heart that people have to go through with this."
Living here for eight years, Varua says he took this community for granted, but now realizes “We’re just one big family here.”
He has made it his priority to now take care of his neighbors by helping to provide food and water.
“We can find a vaccine tomorrow but if families don’t have food and water, bare essentials, food, water and shelter…now is our time to do that, to make sure they have something on their table.”
Food Collections Begin
To help fill the food pantry, Varua posted a message on the Clover Hill Community Facebook Page announcing his first collection in March.
“If you could leave one or two cans,” Varua posted, that would make a difference knowing there are about “500 homes in our community. I have a trailer I attach to my truck. It was full to the brim. Food was toppling over the truck.”
Varua says he collected about 600 pieces of food items and essentials for the Mt. Olive Food Pantry during the first drive. Water, Gatorade, cans of food, frozen food.
“I would drive around,” hitting about 65 homes in the first run. He put his address on the community page so many people dropped off their items on his front porch or placed it right into the trailer of his truck.
For the “first one, people were so excited,” he says. “It was incredible.”
Realizing the difference he can make, Varua organized his second food collection a week later, collecting about half of the amount, he says, which was “still incredible.”
The third drive was just last Wednesday, April 23. He tries to pick nice, sunny days for the collection.
“Incredible turnout again,” he says.
For each collection, Varua and his wife would drive around, picking up food at mailboxes.
“People started talking to their neighbors everywhere I was driving,” says Varua. “It was such a beautiful thing. This community has been overwhelmingly gracious with their donations. Just driving down the street, they leave something on their mailbox.”
It takes about two hours to collect the food, says Varua, adding that he and his wife collect between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. He gets in the truck with his wife at 2, flying a big American flag at the rear of his truck.
“It’s just been incredible; it’s been so nice,” he says. “They’ve come out of their cars,” to drop the food in the trailer.
The trailer is also left out between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., for those who want to drop items off.
Varua has been working weekly with Susan Morse, the coordinator at the Mt. Olive Food Pantry, to gage the needs of the pantry and schedule deliveries.
“We come in with a trailer; it’s not like we are dropping off a bag of food,” says Varua. We back the trailer up, open the door and flood the pantry” with food and other essential items.
Another woman, Rose, also helps unload, making a team of four.
With all of its freezers and refrigerators that were donated, the pantry is accepting hams, turkeys, chicken and burgers, as well as canned food items. It even has a section for pets, says Varua, with a selection of dog and cat food.
“I’ve never been there before,” says Varua, about the food pantry. “It’s in Budd Lake at a church. The parking lot is full for people to shop.” He “looked inside and they didn’t have a lot. As a professional chef, I know they need a lot of food.”
Virus Stirs New Path For Chef
“I want to continue this,” says Varua, who admits to finding an “unbelievable compassion in our neighbors and humanity.”
He has found a “deeper appreciation” of his community and his skill. Now is the time to “find our skill sets in this community,” whether that is making masks, donating food, helping in hospitals.
“It’s our responsibility to find it no matter what you do,” says Varua. “God has given us each a gift; he’s given us an opportunity to find it.”
He mentions the disc jockey/music lover at the end of his block who has been playing music for his neighbors.
“It was beautiful,” says Varua, adding that is where the silver lining is and he “never opened our eyes to see it. We are being encapsulated by beauty right now; to love thy neighbors.
“That’s what we do; that’s why we are here,” says Varua. If I can do something for my community, I will. It’s not easy. My wife and I, we both lost our jobs. We pray every single day that God will provide. I wake up every morning and I count my blessings.”
For Varua, that means collecting food, growing a garden, baking bread and possibly opening a community kitchen.
“I’m getting farming tips from my neighbors,” chuckles Varua. “I want to grow vegetables,” such as potatoes, carrots, peppers, squash, green beans and lettuce.
“I ripped up my front yard,” on Renault Drive. “My front yard is going to look like a garden.” Since there is no sunlight in the backyard, Varua is tearing up his front yard for his vegetable garden and plans to then donate his vegetables to anyone in need.
“I’m baking bread,” says Varua, adding that he has prepared a variety of bread recipes for the past 27 years. He is making “wheat sandwich rolls” and put a note on the Facebook Community Page offering some bread.
“I don’t have a million dollars, but God has given me a gift to make wheat sandwich rolls,” says Varua, and a community to give back to.
“I’ve been blessed with a beautiful home,” says Varua. “I have some beautiful neighbors, I’ve taken for granted. People are taking a look at their simple aspects of their life.
They “can’t go to church, but we are praying at home. There’s a form of simplicity, that’s really beautiful. As we adapt, we adjust; it’s going to open up some beautiful processes.”
He says, as “scary as this is, it has slowed everything down, to be more insightful; to dig deep, to look at how we are living. God has pulled the breaks on the roller coaster. He has pulled on the breaks for all of us, to think; to think about your neighbors and your community. It’s hard to think about that when we are going 1,000 miles an hour.”
Now is the time to think how people “can be productive but slow it down to live in a different way; to love our neighbors,” and not just athletes, actors, singers.
“I love my sports; I wanted to be a professional baseball player.” Rather than watching ESPN all day, he will spend his time finding other pastimes, such as gardening
“I’m guilty of it,” says Varua. When he was working in New York 8:30 a.m. to midnight, he says “I was going a thousand miles an hour; I was getting ready for 5 o’clock reservations. I didn’t have time to look at my community, to look at my neighbors.”
After 16 years of marriage, he says he spent two Christmases and three Thanksgivings at home and went on 1.5 family vacations because on the holidays and summers he has been at his place of employment cooking buffet dinners.
“We have time now,” he says. “Maybe it’s a message to me to help my community,” he says. “Right now, it feels pretty good,” adding that he can’t wait until tomorrow.
Every year he feeds the homeless, driving into Penn Station with his family to provide food, boxes of sanitary things, sweatshirts and blankets; and D.C. one year with food on the back of his truck.
“It’s a beautiful thing, we try to do that,” says Varua. “You have to give back; it’s a tough world out there.
This is the time “To love humanity; to be empathetic, he says. “It’s a scary time without a doubt,” says Varua, but “if we have faith, as big as a mustard seed we can move mountains and do amazing things.”
For Varua, that may mean opening a Community Kitchen in Mt. Olive. He is thinking of writing a letter to the mayor with his idea.
The “mission is that no one should go hungry,” he says.
He mentions a community out west that offers breakfast and lunch in a big barn. Community run, “they supplied it, funded it and cooked in it.”
Perhaps the restaurant business has “gone too far,” in which some restaurants are “so elaborate” and “markups so absurd,” he says.
“We lost sight” of the true meaning of the word restaurant: “Lodging area; to restore the spirit. We’ve forgotten bare necessity of food and water.”
The “restaurant business has grown wildly,” reaching $400 billion in revenue, says Varua, adding that he has been a chef at very expensive restaurants. His training is in classical French cuisine, but with a nationality of Filipino he also specializes in Asian, Italian, Brazilian and Portuguese recipes.
“At the end of the day not everyone needs to look at 50 flat screen TVs,” beautiful silverware, fine china. People “need nice home-cooked food, some water, some nice music, that’s it” …a community kitchen that provides for the community.
His idea is to allocate a certain amount of money for food, cooks and that would dictate what to charge for that hamburger. Instead of $12 for a hamburger and fries, how about $7 for a “really good burger and fries.”
Maybe the tables will be built by the community, along with the furniture and the food.
“We do not live in Beverly Hills in Mt. Olive,” says Varua. “I know the model of restaurants; I know what you have to charge.”
His purpose would be a “Community kitchen built by the community,” he says.
“Why can’t we utilize the people in our community to have a community kitchen? “Donate food. Let’s build some wooden tables by the community; turn tomatoes into tomato chips. That’s where the cost comes down. I’m changing the model so no one in Mt. Olive does not have food; no one goes without food. We are going to figure it out. This famous chef will figure it out; he can figure out a way to make four-star food for anyone who wants to eat.
“You may not get a lobster; you may not get a filet mignon…but if it’s a two-pound lobster I can make lobster mac-n-cheese. I can spread it out, maybe for a price that everyone can afford and if you can’t afford it, we will figure it out.
“Now is my time to give back,” concludes Varua. “Maybe that’s my mission…no one shall go without food and water. It’s so in the pit of my stomach…it’s brewing.”
Background As Chef
Varua’s passion for cooking stems from his childhood. While his father was a professional banker, he was also the cook in the family.
His parents were immigrants and cooked Filipino peasant food, Varua describes.
“I used to love watching him cook,” and when Varua turned 8, his dad invited him to help.
“I was making a complete mess,” laughs Varua. “He kicked me out of his kitchen.”
Varua started his studies at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he played baseball and majored in criminal justice with hopes to go into law enforcement, FBI or police.
Reminded of his love for cooking, Varua decided to attend New York Restaurant School, now called The Art Institute, to earn a culinary arts degree in 1996. From 1998-2000, he worked at Windows of the World at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, N.Y., leaving just a year before 911 destroyed the towers.
Anyone who wants to donate food, is in need of vegetables or even bread, contact firstname.lastname@example.org; or call 914-826-4392.
The Mt. Olive Food Pantry is located at the bottom level of the Christ Episcopal Church in Budd Lake. Call 862-251-3938; visit https://mountolivepantry.org.
By Cheryl Conway
Taxpayers in Mt. Olive have been granted a 15-day grace period to pay their second quarter taxes.
The Mt. Olive Twp. Council unanimously approved a last-minute resolution at its virtual Zoom meeting Tuesday, April 28, which extends the payment of property taxes until May 15. Quarter two taxes were supposed to be paid May 1.
The decision to approve the extension comes just hours after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order at 3 p.m. that allows municipalities to grant property tax extensions up until June 1.
Local officials decided to provide a partial extension as they feared that holding off a whole month could have in substantial impact on the township’s finances.
“We need to identify the issues and come up with resolutions,” says Mt. Olive Twp. Mayor Rob Greenbaum. “A small percentage have difficulty with their cash flow right now.”
Without the “full analysis” on the impact on the township’s finances, Greenbaum was hesitant in a full month extension on tax payments.
Out of the property taxes collected in Mt. Olive Twp., 20% goes toward the municipality, 70% goes to the schools and 10% goes to Morris County, stresses Greenbaum.
The township “has an obligation to continue to pay the schools” its 70% and the county its 20%. He says, “if we have a shortfall, the township “would have to make drastic decisions” in order to pay for services. Without those finances, the township could be faced with layoffs in departments that provide essential services such as the Mt Olive Police Department and Department of Public Works.
Greenbaum does agree that offering some grace period to taxpayers would benefit those who have not yet paid their taxes, as some may be waiting to receive their stimulus check, unemployment check or for the economy to turn.
He stresses that taxpayers who already submitted their second quarter taxes will be excluded from this grace period and will not be issued a refund.
“Anyone who has paid, has paid,” says Greenbaum.
Greenbaum asks Township Attorney Fred Semrau for guidance on what other townships are doing regarding the executive order.
Semrau, who supports the 10-day extension, says 75% of the other towns, “the majority of them,” are trying to make arrangements to extend the grace period. “Today is the first day to move the grace period,” he says, and “a lot of towns have contacted us.”
From the tax payments that come in, 55% comes from banks; 45% directly from taxpayers, says Sherry Kalody, twp. chief financial officer.
She adds that the school and county taxes get paid in the middle of the month, therefore a “happy medium” would be to extend the payment until half-way through May.
Councilman Alex Roman was opposed to extending the grace period until June 1.
“I’m inclined not to extend it until June 1,” says Roman. “The overall impact will be greater,” he says, “to balance our books” verses the number of taxpayers who will benefit with the extension.
When Council President Joe Nicastro moved the approval of the resolution to extend until May 20, as advised by Greenbaum, Roman suggested May 15 instead.
All agreed with that date.
Greenbaum adds that “the council has the option of extending the grace period to June 1 after reviewing the financial impact of the extended grace period.”
“This was a fair compromise in what we needed to do,” concludes Greenbaum.
Residents should expect an email explaining this extension tomorrow, according to township officials.
Gov. Murphy Extends Grace Period On Property Taxes
Gov. Murphy yesterday signed Executive Order No. 130, which allows municipalities to extend the grace period for property tax payments due on May 1 to June 1. Such an extension would provide much-needed relief to homeowners struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Allowing municipalities the option of extending the grace period for May property tax payments is the right thing to do as many New Jerseyans are impacted financially as a result of this crisis,” said Murphy. “Leaders of towns and cities across the state have been trying to find ways to lessen the blow on local residents, and with this action, they are empowered to provide relief to homeowners as we continue to do everything possible to fight this pandemic.”
Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, says, “We understand that many property owners are coping with financial challenges they’ve never had to face before as a result of this pandemic and we are considering every option available to answer their calls for help. Allowing municipalities to institute this grace period will afford New Jersey property owners who need it some extra time to get their finances in order so they can submit their quarterly property tax payments by June 1st.”
Under existing law, towns may only allow for a grace period of up to 10 days after the property tax deadline without interest or penalty. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the law was amended to allow towns that have experienced a flood, hurricane, superstorm, tornado or other natural disaster to extend the grace period for up to a month in certain circumstances. There is currently no mechanism in the law to allow municipalities to extend the grace period as a result of a public health-related emergency. Executive Order No. 130 allows towns to extend the grace period for property tax payments due on May 1 to June 1, which will enable homeowners to pay their taxes a month after they are due without incurring any interest costs or penalties.
The order will take effect immediately.
During this pandemic and demand for social distancing, Mt. Olive Online is offering free advertising to local and area businesses. It is a difficult time economically for all and as a valued resource to my readers, I would like to keep them informed on the area offerings around town. You can count on Mt. Olive Online to get the word out. Call or email for more information.
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By Cheryl Conway
It’s a wrap for Sandshore Elementary School in Budd Lake- 3,132 pounds worth of plastic which led them to being named top prize winner after a six-month race to recycle.
Distant learning did not distract the Sandshore Elementary School students, staff and teachers from its commitment of working together to collect recycling and protect the environment. Sandshore Elementary in Budd Lake won this year’s Trex Plastic Film Recycling Challenge by collecting the most plastic bags and film.
Notified with the exciting news just last week, on Friday, April 17, of its victory, Sandshore is thrilled to be named one of two schools in the northeast elementary region to win; Southern Boulevard in Chatham was also selected after recycling 1,564 pounds.
With more than 1,000 schools registered for the challenge with 724 reporting, what an accomplishment for Sandshore Elementary!
“We did it,” comments Sandshore Principal Jennifer Curry, who congratulates and thanks the school students and families for their efforts. “We are incredibly proud of our school community and their commitment to recycling!
As first year contestants, Sandshore’s participation in Trex Plastic Film Recycling Challenge was led by Sandshore School Counselor Elena Melekos, creator and advisor of the Kindness Ambassador Team. In its second year, the Kindness Ambassador Team chose to participate in the Trex challenge as part of its mission to spread kindness and help the community.
“We began our collection in October,” says Melekos. “The last day of the contest was April 15.”
Even after the school district closed its doors due to COVID -19 after the N.J. governor’s mandate, collections continued by the Sandshore community.
“After schools closed, the families were still collecting and reaching out to let us know,” says Melekos. “About a week before the contest ended, we were informed from the company that families could weigh their own plastic and submit a total weight to their school contact to add to the final count.”
“Multiple families reached out with photos of students weighing recycled plastic at home, totaling 87 lbs. for the month of April!” she adds.
Before the shutdown, several sites around town were designated drop offs for the contest.
“Before school closed, families dropped off their recycled plastic bags in our main lobby where the Kindness Ambassadors, students, Officer Stan (our school resource officer), our Interim Principal Mrs. Curry, Instructional Supervisor Mrs. McFarlane, Guidance Counselor Ms. Melekos, Phys. Ed teachers Mrs. Thompson and Mr. Falkman would all help sort and weigh the bags to make sure we were properly recycling the materials collected,” describes Melekos. “Then, Officer Stan and Ms. Melekos would drive truckloads of plastic to the Target in Hackettstown. Target graciously accepted the plastic we collected. Each week we would drop off anywhere from 15-25 garbage bags full of plastic. Some weeks we would double our collections.
“Families who collected in April were asked to drop off their recycled plastic at a local Target, or any other participating retailer,” adds Melekos.
The contest truly became a community effort.
“Each day you would see students coming down the hall or off the bus with bags full of plastic nearly twice their size!” says Melekos.
“Mr. Compano, second assistant chief of the Budd Lake Fire Department, Mrs. Compano and Kaitlyn Compano, a Kindness Ambassador, had also set up a collection at the fire house where they recycled plastic for our project!” she adds. “The family and fire department delivered countless bags to our school.
“Councilwoman Colleen Labow had noticed a flyer for Sandshore’s collection in town and reached out to me to set up a collection bin in the town hall,” says Melekos. “I would pick up the collections once a week.”
Sums up Melekos: “This project was a true team effort!! Everyone was so excited and happy to help especially when they would see how passionate the students were about recycling the materials appropriately to help save our planet.”
More On Trex Recycling
Known as the Trex Recycling Project, the purpose is to collect unwanted plastic materials. The Trex company then recycles the plastic to create environmentally responsible outdoor products like decks, furniture, fencing and railings.
Items collected for the contest include grocery bags, bread bags, case overwrap, dry cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves, ice bags, wood pellet bags, Ziplock & other resealable bags, produce bags, bubble wrap, salt bags and cereal bags.
The participation award for all participants of the recycling project is a flower box.
“As the prize winners, we will also be awarded with a Trex bench which we are looking forward to having as a buddy bench at school,” says Melekos. “At this
time, we do not know where they will be displayed but anticipate the bench being placed in our playground area and the flower box near our front entrance.”
Melekos credits Sandshore’s success to dedication and teamwork.
“The phenomenal teachers and staff created a feeling of camaraderie and teamwork within Sandshore school,” says Melekos. “This continuous echo of teamwork was felt throughout the school and kept the students excited to participate. Students were excited about this project and shared our recycling message with their families, encouraging them to save plastic bags at home.
“Our foyer bulletin board displayed a bar graph with the total weight collected each month,” she continues. “As students arrived each day, they commented on the graph and how our collection weight increased each month. They were very excited to see the bar raise month after month. The teamwork between the students, families and community members created a sense of excitement that excelled us above all other school districts.”
The success from this project carries some life lessons for the students.
“We see that the students have learned the true value in recycling and how important it is to work as a community for a positive cause,” says Melekos. “The students normalized the commitment to recycling and making sure plastic is properly disposed.”
While it is always nice to win, the key lesson was really about the importance of recycling.
“We are thrilled that our school communities' hard work resulted in the first place prize but more importantly, were so happy to be able to share the exciting news with our students, teachers, and families to help to brighten the days of remote learning,” says Melekos. “It was never really about winning, however. We simply wanted students to learn about the importance of recycling and how our small efforts can lead to a positive impact on earth.”
Lessons of recycling went beyond the Trex collection at Sandshore.
Numerous Earth Day lessons incorporated the theme of recycling, says Curry.
Kindergarten conducted a Google chat to discuss ways to help the earth and completed a fun "Home Sweet Home" Earth Ice Cream directed drawing, says Curry.
Second grade used google drawings to create graphic designs incorporating the message of reduce, reuse and recycle.
Fourth grade learned about the impact of cutting down trees, students' carbon footprints, and finding new ways to be earth friendly.
Sandshore is already looking to compete in the Trex contest again next year and offers some advice to other contestants.
“The Kindness Ambassadors and numerous parents have reached out asking if we can do it again next year!” says Melekos, who shares a helpful tip.
“As collections come in, have the students sort and weigh it as soon as possible so that you can deliver it to a drop off location and not let plastic pile up,” she offers.
Pictured, from left, is Lincoln Charman, Logan Charman, and Amber Charman.
By Cheryl Conway
The chaplain for the All Veterans Memorial in Budd Lake is helping to fight against COVID-19 by making thousands of masks and donating them to essential workers.
Chaplain Amber Charman, of Bloomingdale, and wife Emily Charman, joined the front lines to stop the spread of this enemy last month. Both unemployed and ordered to stay home, Charman has been spending his days giving back to his community.
“If I can help one person not get this virus, I’ll do what it takes,” says Charman, disabled Veteran who serves as chaplain for the Morris County American Legion, AVM in Budd Lake and John A. Dean American Legion Post 154 in Butler.
“Army core values, and selfless service,” says Charman.
The Charmans joined the effort of making face masks around March 22.
“We went out and bought about 10 yards of fabric and two sewing machines and got to work,” says Charman.
“We do the masks a couple different ways,” Charman explains. “The main way we make them is a three-layer mask with two layers of cotton fabric and a middle layer of Oly’Fun material interfacing.
“It usually takes us about ten minutes per mask,” he adds.
Protecting others from harm seems to be the common thread for the Charmans: Charman, is an army veteran, and wife Emily Charman is a volunteer firefighter in Bloomingdale and also works in day care as a teacher’s assistant.
“Well after my wife lost her job, we kind of sat around for a couple days, and then she pulled up an article about how there were not enough masks at the hospitals for patients and nurses,” explains Charman. “We felt compelled to do something. We couldn’t let our friends, families, and neighbors get sick if we could be doing something to prevent it. It’s our civic duty and we rolled our sleeves and got to work like Rosie Riveter.”
Pictured is Emily Charman
Working from morning until night, the Charmans make a productive team.
“We stopped counting after 2,000 and that was a week ago,” says Charman. “We are part of a Facebook group started by CJ Walley-Burik called “Coronavirus MASS MASK Make & Donate,” and combined with that group I’m sure the amount of masks donated is in the tens of thousands.
“My wife, Emily and I are making them at home,” explains Charman. “CJ Walley Burik has helped us tremendously throughout the whole process as he is very experienced at sewing.”
Donations have gone to many essential establishments such as hospitals, nursing homes, businesses, fire department and post office.
“We have donated to several local hospitals: Valley, Chilton, Bergen New Bridge, Morristown, Newark University and Hackensack,” says Charman. “We have donated to numerous nursing homes as well. As well as several local businesses, Jersey Mikes and Playa Bowls in Pequannock, and a large donation from the Facebook group and ourselves went to the Bloomingdale Fire Dept. We have also donated to Lakeland Bank, Taco Bell in Wayne, Pizza One, Ferati’s Pizza, UPS, FedEx and our local post office. We made a lot of masks for our friends and family as well.”
Using their own money for materials, as well as donations, the Charmans have been able to succeed in their pro-bono project.
“In the beginning, we were buying the materials ourselves (Emily and I) until CJ donated a large amount of fabric to us,” says Charman. “And the donations just kept coming, whether it be from friends or from the group on Facebook.
American Legion Post 450 commander Dennis Porporna, brought in donations and Morris County Vice Commander Christina Emmets was helping out before social distancing became a real issue.”
The masks that they provide are “always free,” says Charman. “We felt that it was very exploitative to charge people money for a necessity during a global pandemic. Especially since we were getting most of the supplies donated to use. Unemployment is sky high; we didn’t want families to have to choose between buying food or buying a mask.”
Charman did not calculate the cost per mask.
“We spent a few hundred dollars on machines and other fabrics; as the need grew bigger, we bought more,” says Charman. “No real estimate on making them.”
The masks are effective as they can be washed in between uses.
“The best thing about these masks are that they can be washed,” says Charman. “They can be microwaved. Since there is no metal in the ones we make, they can be disinfected and reused.”
Like others who have been mandated to stay at home, Charman has found a creative way to keep busy while also being productive and helping others.
“The way I have been coping is making masks!” says Charman. “Since the day we started, from 9 a.m. until sometimes 1-2 a.m. I am making them.”
Charman offers advice to others during this time.
“STAY HOME,” says Charman. “Do not believe all of the hype. Stay calm and just do what the medical professionals say to do.”
As long as this pandemic continues, Charman plans to keep making masks and is accepting donations.
“We will always take fabric or machine donations, and if we do not need them, there is someone out there that wants to make masks that will use it!” Charman says.
“The masks we are making do break occasionally and we can fix them quickly; even N95 break down, nothing was built to last,” adds Charman. “With an unprecedented event like this we’re doing our best to make them in bulk to help masses stay healthy and safe. Your ears may hurt a little but you’re not sick is the goal; weighing that option, I’ll take sore ears!”
Charman can be reached at 973-513-1730 if anyone needs a mask or wants to donate.
By Cheryl Conway
Whether it is checking in, sharing toilet paper, bringing over some food and even arranging surprises, local residents are looking out for their neighbors during COVID-19.
Lauren Lock, 32, of Budd Lake organized a car parade for a little boy’s birthday earlier this month. The birthday boy, Drew, lives next door to her in Stedwick Village II and was turning seven on April 4.
Since his birthday plans that his parents were planning fell through, Lock’s goal was to get “at least 10 vehicles, just to honk and say ‘Happy Birthday’ from a distance,” she wrote on the Mt. Olive Community Facebook page to gage interest. “His birthday plans all had to be cancelled and I’m trying to do something that will make his day one to remember.”
Drew was not the only one surprised by the car parade, especially when those 10 cars tripled.
“It was absolutely amazing,” says Lock. “When I had reached out to the Mt. Olive Community Facebook Page, I had initially said that I was looking to get maybe 10 vehicles to just come by and waive, honk, yell. We had a fleet of fire trucks and EMS vehicles. The Jeep Club and Motorcycle Club made an appearance and on top of that probably 30 private passenger vehicles – some of which were decorated with signs and balloons.
“Some of his teachers showed up to wish him a happy birthday and some of his extended family drove quite far just to be in the parade and see him from afar,” she says. “Drew even received presents from some of the drivers – lots of candy and a NY Rangers memorabilia.”
When Lock learned that Drew’s birthday plans fell through, she took it upon herself to light up his party.
“Drew’s family had originally planned for him to go to a Rangers Hockey game for his birthday,” explains Lock.
“Once the arenas closed down, they figured they could still bring him to an indoor water park. Then the water parks closed down. His mom mentioned that he was bummed about the cancelled plans but also that he couldn’t see any of his friends/extended family.
“I was feeling pretty helpless in general over the current state of events,” Lock continues. “I have a toddler so I couldn’t be as “hands-on” in helping the community. I had seen some videos circulating Facebook where teachers were doing parades around neighborhoods. I thought I could try to use the power of social media to organize a small parade for Drew’s birthday. I posted on the Mt. Olive Community Facebook page asking if anyone would be interested in driving by. Within minutes, I had almost 100 comments from residents saying they were interested. With interest growing, someone suggested that everyone meet at the Mt. Olive Middle School so they could drive over together. The next day, I got a private message from Budd Lake EMS – an extremely sweet gentleman who said he would like to bring by an EMS vehicle or two with lights on (he wound up bringing a fleet of Fire Trucks and EMS vehicles).
“Another person offered to contact her Jeep Club (who did show up!) and Motorcycle Club (also showed up!),” she continues. “I might have organized the event, but this town and the residents made it come to life.”
Lock did not need a hug or kiss as a thank you for her thoughtfulness. Drew’s reaction, and that of his parents, was enough to fill her heart.
“Tears,” says Lock. “There were a lot of tears, on behalf of Drew and his parents. In times like these where children are filled with fears that they can’t always articulate, it was really amazing to see pure joy on a little boy’s face. His exact words after it was all over was ‘This was the best birthday ever!’”
Why The Extra Mile To Help Another?
“I think I just needed to do something,” explains Lock. “I was reading all of the depressing news, I was sheltering in my home with my husband and our 2 year old.
I was adjusting to the “new normal” of working from home while also being a stay-at-home mom. I needed something uplifting and inspiring to help ease the uncertainty.”
Lock was happy she could help light up another person’s day.
“I just saw a little boy who deserved to smile and feel special on his birthday,” says Lock. “I do think that the whole event was cathartic for a lot of people who had been sitting in their homes, feeling helpless while they wait out the storm that is COVID-19.”
She was even more pleased with the outcome and the community’s eagerness to jump in to join the parade.
“It was perfect,” responds Lock. “It was so much more than I had set out to accomplish for him.
“I want to sincerely thank every person who responded to my request for help and then followed through – it was such a memorable day and this town had everything to do with it.”
Lock offers some personal advice to others who may be struggling during this pandemic.
“Reach out to friends/family,” says Lock. “Talk to people about your fears, boredom, stresses. Being cooped up inside your house with little interaction from the outside world is emotionally draining and nobody is alone in that feeling. Do your best to maintain your relationships through the social distancing. Reach out for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed; this community will absolutely answer any call for help.
“Some days are harder than others,” says Lock. “I am trying to think of it as quality time that I get to spend with my family that I otherwise wouldn’t get. We’ve also done some house projects that have been on the “To-Do” list for ages!”
Mt. Olive Township was coordinating free drive by surprises with its emergency vehicles during this crisis, but are no longer providing this service, according to Mt. Olive Twp. Business Administrator Andrew Tatarenko.
“It was free when it was offered; we are no longer doing it as it put our emergency responders at risk of contracting COVID19 for a non-essential service,” says Tatarenko.
By Cheryl Conway
With schools closed at least through May 15, local school leaders have been getting creative with some ideas on how to still organize end-of-year events.
Most trips, if not all, have been cancelled for the remainder of the school year but graduations and prom are still being considered. Details are still being figured out as the district awaits word from New Jersey State Governor Phil Murphy as to when the school districts can return to in-school learning.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki has been providing weekly live Parent University talks on the Mt. Olive School District’s Facebook page to update parents on new developments and ideas, as well as entertain questions.
Mt Olive is “going to hope for the best,” says Zywicki during his April 20 Parent University talk following spring break. He says school leaders are hoping to be back in June but if not, they will be ready to implement plan B and plan C.
One idea, if school does return, is to attend in partial sessions, says Zywicki.
He is thankful for the teachers, staff, parents and students for their support and patience during these “unchartered waters; unprecedented” time. Parents have been patient, he says, “as we’ve made adjustments along the way.”
In regard to the Washington, D.C. trip for eighth graders, he says parents will most likely get 75 percent of their monies back from the trip company if they pay their trip insurance. His goal, however, is to seek 100 percent of the monies back. Since the company is closed, like most non-essential businesses, the process has been delayed.
For graduations, he says, “I’d like to see that happen if possible.” Other ideas include virtual graduations; use of the Mt. Olive High School television studio; a ceremony with just students and faculty; or drive-thru graduations, he says during the April 27 Parent University. He plans to meet with senior leaders to discuss their best option depending on what the governor mandates in the next coming weeks.
As far as the prom for seniors, Zywicki says “We don’t see the prom happening” in May. There may be a later date, whether in June before graduation, or even around Thanksgiving was another idea, but not to favorable as some students may not come home from college to attend.
Another change has been allowing students in middle school and high school to opt out of a letter grade for the last marking period and instead receive a pass or fail grade. Waiver forms need to be in this week declaring the students’ preference.
The purpose for this grade-change option is to provide “best flexibility,” says Zywicki since some students are being impacted by the virus or maybe working to help bring in money.
During this past week, 100 students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten have been provided with Chromebooks. “All the devices have been sanitized,” says Zywicki.
All tests including NJSLA, PSAT and SAT have been cancelled.
BOE Holds Virtual Meeting
At the Mt. Olive Board of Education meeting held on Google Classroom Monday, April 27, in which more than 50 residents attended, school board members adopted the 2020/2021 school budget. The budget included the addition of full-day kindergarten.
With COVID-19, however, the state may come back and advise on less funding to the district that was allocated before the pandemic.
“We are in a very good financial situation,” says Zywicki. The district “may need to extend some projects,” such as the renovations at Chester M. Stephens Elementary School, he says, as some state aid may be affected.
“Our staff has been phenomenal,” says BOE Board President Anthony Giordano.
As far as reentry into the schools, Zywicki says it would probably include only a partial schedule for students to meet guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
From the way it is being understood, if school districts get the green light to reopen, school boards may allow flexibility as to whether distant learning can remain an option for parents who do not yet feel comfortable in returning their child to the classroom, notes Giordano.
“Our job as a parent, I would never put my child in arms way; safety first before we educate,” says Giordano.
One question came in from a parent regarding students being enforced to wear masks during the school day, which could be quite concerning as a requirement for younger students.
“We donated all of our PPE,” says Zywicki, so the issue would be how to provide new masks to everyone daily.
School leaders express their thanks to Zywicki, as well as teachers, staff and parents during this unprecedented time.
“I want to thank all the teachers and staff for their tireless effort,” says Liz Ouimet, board member.
“We are kind of like the flagship for internet teaching,” says Anthony Strillaci, board member who also mentions how pleased he was by the 53 attendees at the meeting. He also thanks Zywicki: “You’ve done a tremendous job.”
Board Member Dr. Antoine Gayles is also thankful for the teachers. With four kids in the school district, he says, he always gets an email back right away from the teachers.
“We are definitely the flagship,” says Gayles.
“We were ready to go day one,” says BOE Member John Kehmna, regarding virtual classrooms, unlike any of the other school districts.
MOHS Named A Top US High School
Mt. Olive High School was recently named one of the best high schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report, completing a hat trick of prestigious honors received by the Mt. Olive School District this spring.
MOHS ranked in the top 10% of high schools nationwide and received an overall score of 90%. The scoring criteria included college readiness, the percentage of students completing AP courses, the graduation rate, and the percentage of students proficient in math and reading.
“This is evidence of the synergy between the board of education, faculty, support staff, administration, and community on behalf of our students,” said Dr. Robert Zywicki, superintendent of schools. “At a time when spirits may be a bit down because of the health-related closure, this award helps remind all of us of what can be done when we all focus and work together.”
The U.S. News rankings include data on more than 24,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia; 409 N.J. schools made the rankings out of 451 high schools in the state.
According to the report, Mt. Olive High School is ranked 78 within N.J., and 1,800 nationally. It scored 89.88% out of 100%. The AP participation rate at Mt. Olive High School is 38%. The total minority enrollment is 32%, and 13% of students are economically disadvantaged.
Data is based on the 2017-2018 school year.
Earlier this spring, Mt. Olive was honored in two other programs. The district was named as a high performing school system by the New Jersey Department of Education for its outstanding level of student achievement and strict adherence with state education regulations. The honor was based on an examination of the district’s compliance and progress in the areas of instruction, fiscal management, governance, operations and personnel. To earn the “high performing” distinction, a district must earn at least a score of 80% in those five areas on QSAC, the state’s Quality Single Accountability Continuum. The comprehensive review looks at the factors deemed to be most important to highly effective school systems.
The district also received the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the philanthropic arm of the National Association of Music Merchants. The award recognizes the efforts of teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made the study and performance of music an integral part of the district’s educational experience.
The award from the NAMM foundation acknowledges that Mt. Olive is leading the way with music opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The federal legislation designates music and the arts as important elements of a well-rounded education for all children.
To qualify for the Best Communities designation, the district answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were verified by the Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.
County Requests Proper Disposal Of Medical Waste
Medical waste, such as gloves, wipes, masks, and tissues, which are being widely used by all Morris County residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic, should not be placed into curbside recycling containers.
They are contaminants and must be put into the trash, advises the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, which handles recycling for 14 of Morris County’s 39 municipalities.
Recycling crews in many towns across the county are finding high rates of gloves and masks ending up in the recycling mix, with workers at recycling plants having to sort out these items by hand.
When these materials end up in the recycling stream, along with items such as plastic bags and plastic film, they can cause problems at the county’s recycling sorting facility. They can jam the rotating screens and cause equipment to breakdown.
At recycling facilities, workers must try to remove these items, along with any other unacceptable items, before they enter the automated sorting process.
Keeping these items out of the recycling stream is important to preventing system breakdowns and important to the health and safety of workers at the recycling facility.
For more information on proper recycling and trash disposal visit the Morris County MUA’s website: https://mcmua.com/sw_recy.asp
Officials Push For Federal Aid for Morris County
Shortfall Of Just 8,000 In Census Puts Morris Out Of The Money
The Morris County Board of Freeholders, with backing of a bi-partisan group of state and federal legislators, is asking the state and federal governments not to penalize the county to the tune of $80 million to $90 million in direct federal COVID-19 aid because the county is slightly short of a 500,000 county population cutoff figure.
Some $3.4 billion has been allocated to New Jersey from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, established by the CARES Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27.
The Fund provided a $2.4 billion direct payment to State of N.J., as well as more than $1 billion of direct payments to N.J. counties with populations greater than 500,000. Morris County, however, has about 492,000 people, which narrowly misses that threshold.
Sister counties, such as Passaic and Camden counties, with populations of 501,826 and 506,343 respectively are each getting $88 million in direct federal aid, while Morris County received no direct aid and will have to seek a share of the state’s allotment.
A resolution unanimously approved by the Freeholder Board strongly urges the state to provide direct stabilization funding to Morris County from the Coronavirus Relief Fund in an amount consistent with the allocation made to counties that have populations slightly over 500,000.
Morris County has the backing of Republican State Sen. Anthony Bucco, Democratic State Sen. Dick Codey, and Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherill. In a joint letter to Gov. Phil Murphy, the trio contend that a fiscal distinction should not be made between counties with virtually the same populations.
Sherill, as part of a team of 11 members of the state Congressional delegation, also is urging Gov. Murphy to provide direct funding from the CARES Act to all New Jersey counties with less than 500,000 residents.
“This funding is critical to Morris County’s ability to continue its efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and work to keep our constituents safe,’’ said Freeholder Director Deborah Smith. “We thank Sen. Bucco, Gov. Codey, and Congresswoman Sherill for their strong support in dealing with this pandemic, and for supporting our county.’’
Bucco, Codey and Sherill noted that Morris County has the ninth highest number of positive COVID-19 cases of all 21 counties in N.J., and the sixth highest number of deaths from COVID-19. It has 162 deaths as of April 13, compared 136 deaths in Passaic County and 35 in Camden County.
Also, the Morris County mortality rate, comparing deaths to those testing positive for the virus, is currently 33% higher than the state average, the legislators wrote.
“This funding is critical to Morris County’s ability to continue their efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to work to keep our constituents safe,” Bucco, Cody and Sherill wrote.
Among many actions, the freeholders noted that Morris County:
Established outside COVID-19 testing sites at Morristown Medical Center, Chilton Hospital, Dover General Hospital, St. Clare’s Hospital, and Zufall Clinic, helping ensure that infected persons remain outside the perimeter of those critical facilities.
Established a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at the County College of Morris in Randolph with no support of personal protection equipment, testing kits, or other materials from the state.
Supported the needs of both the Atlantic HealthCare Hospital System and the Prime HealthCare Hospital System.
Accepted and medically treated out-of-county adult inmates, juvenile offenders, and children in crisis in Morris County facilities.
Stretched professional resources beyond the realm of reasonability by serving as the Medical Examiner for three counties.
The freeholders, in their resolution, also urged the federal government to adopt an aid funding threshold reflecting the true impact of COVID-19. That funding formula should be based on metrics indicative of negative effects the virus has on a jurisdiction and the level of actions taken to combat the threats.
Read the Freeholder Board ‘s resolution:
Read the legislators’ letter to Gov. Murphy:
Library Goes Virtual For Kids
Virtual Storytime: Do your kids miss Storytime and coming to the library? Tune in Monday through Friday to see all of the Children's Room Librarians reading stories on Facebook and Instagram.
Buzz's Spring Reading Challenge: Are your kids looking for a fun challenge, that could also brighten up your home? Take part in Buzz's Spring Reading Challenge and help Buzz grow flowers all over Mt. Olive. Printable reading logs and flower coloring pages can be found online at www.mopl.org/youth.
Morris County Sounds The Alarm for Help
Morris County is putting out an emergency call for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and medical professionals who are available during this COVID-19 health crisis to sign up for paid openings at healthcare facilities across Morris County that are short of qualified medical personnel and looking to hire people immediately.
The County Office of Emergency Management has created Operation Save-a-Life, which will develop a roster of available medical personnel and provide that list to healthcare facilities, or for home health care providers, that are short-staffed due to the virus and in dire need of employment help.
“Nursing homes, assisted living, long-term care, and rehabilitation facilities across Morris County are working hard to take care of their patients and residents,” said Morris County Emergency Management Director Jeff Paul. “But many are desperately in need of qualified people and struggling to fill staff shortages that are making it difficult to maintain a quality level of care for patients in need.
“Now, more than ever, we need to sound the alarm and do our best to support our healthcare facilities who are working hard to keep their patients safe and to help save their lives,” he added.
To sign up for these critical jobs through Operation Save-a-Life, and help some of the most vulnerable people during this pandemic, qualified medical personnel are asked to call the Morris County Office of Emergency Management at (973) 829-8600.
For those who do not speak directly with a call taker and get the OEM voice mail recording, please leave name, contact number and medical certification (i.e. Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, etc.). One of the Office of Emergency Management staff members will return calls within 24-48 hours.
“We are talking about protecting some of our most vulnerable people, our senior citizens and disabled residents, many are older veterans or former police and firemen who long ago served on the front lines protecting us; now they need our help,’’ said Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon.
“Please, we need your help right now,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Deborah Smith. “On behalf of all Morris County residents, we ask you to consider filling this great need.’
County OEM officials have spoken to healthcare providers across Morris County to identify this need, and are reaching out to RNs, LPNs, and others in the medical field to see if they can match the need with available personnel. Those who are hired would be paid directly by the individual facility.
The New Jersey Firemen’s Home, located in Boonton, is one example of a facility that needs help caring for its 62 patients/firefighters, who are in danger of possibly having to be moved from their safe location due to a lack of staff.
“We love our firemen, and we don’t want them to leave our facility, but at the same time, we need to make sure that they are provided with the same level of exceptional care that they are accustomed to here at the New Jersey Firemen’s Home,” said Donna Russo, Director of Nursing for the New Jersey Firemen’s Home. “We welcome healthcare providers, RN’s, LPN’s, to join our team.”
Local Restaurants Are Offering Takeout and Food Delivery During COVID-19. Click on link below.
Freeholders Create Morris County Covid-19 Recovery Task Force
The Morris County Board of Freeholders is creating a Morris County COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, to include a group of key leaders from all segments of Morris County life, to help plan for the county’s eventual return to normalcy from the COVID-19 crisis.
The Task Force would operate in concert with President Donald J. Trump’s three-phase plan to gradually Open Up America Again. https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/.
“We thank Morris County residents for their great effort to deal with the current crisis, from sewing masks and helping to feed unemployed families to social distancing, hand washing, and caring for their family, friends and neighbors,’’ said Freeholder Director Deborah Smith. “Now we have to consider the next step to determine how recovery will occur, how we will get our great county on its feet again.’’
The Board of Freeholders voted last night to create a Task Force subcommittee, including Freeholders Smith, John Krickus and Tom Mastrangelo, to spearhead this effort.
Leaders from government, health, education, labor, social services, and others would be invited to participate in an effort to gather information, share ideas and develop strategies for the post-COVID-19 world in Morris County, in conjunction with state and federal governments. They would consider how to overcome potential obstacles to recovery.
The Task Force could:
Gather information on the current state of Morris County’s economy, to determine what is and what is not working in the current response to the virus;
Examine the potential gradual ramping up of the county’s work force;
Consider how various businesses, industry, government, and education could adapt to new concepts to be able to reopen;
Examine the role of local and county governments to assist in the reopening of the county.
More information on creation of the Task Force will be provided in coming days.
Please keep up-to-date on Morris County’s response to COVID-19 by visiting the county website at www.MorrisCountyNJ.gov and click the Coronavirus button.
Bail Bond Scam Spreading During COVID-19
The Roxbury Township Police Department has issued a warning to all residents to be mindful of a Bail Bond Scam that is placing fraudulent charges on innocent victims and stealing money.
Anyone who received a suspicious call, should call the local police department immediately.
On Friday, April 24, a 77-year-old female resident of Roxbury Township reported a very serious incident involving a “Bail Bond Scam.”
The victim received a phone call stating that her son was arrested for aggravated assault after he rear ended an undercover police officer with his vehicle. The scammer further explained the undercover police officer’s wife then contacted an attorney as a result of the accident. The caller, who identified himself as an “employee of Chance Bail Bonds,” told the victim her son was in jail and the bail amount for his release was set at $10,500. The caller further told the victim a courier would respond from “Chance Bail Bonds” to her home and pick up the money. The caller explained “Chance Bail Bonds” recently began the courier service as a way to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. “Chance Bail Bonds” asked the victim to provide her address and package the cash in a white envelope which the victim did. Approximately 40 minutes later, a male (possibly Hispanic, in his 20’s with dark hair and standing approximately 6 ft. tall) arrived at her door equipped with a mask and gloves. The victim handed over the money and the suspect left in a black, four-door sedan, driven by an unknown individual.
The next day, the victim received a second phone call advising she would need to pay an additional $25,000 in order for her son to be released from jail. The caller explained the officer’s wife sued for damages and won the $25,000 settlement. The victim told the caller she would withdraw the money from her bank and call once the money was ready. Thankfully family members were contacted and notified the police immediately.
Another Incident Reported
On Monday, April 25, a 90-year-old woman came to headquarters asking if we had her grandson was in custody. She had received a call that her grandson was arrested and needed $18,000 to bail him out. The caller instructed her to go to the bank, withdraw the money and wait to hear from them. The suspects then put a younger sounding male on the phone, posing as her grandson. He told her he was arrested and needed her help and told her he sounded different because he had a fever and was sick. The woman had withdrew the $18,000 and was coming to headquarters to pay his bail. Officers escorted her and the money back to the bank and deposited it back into her account.
“It is extremely dangerous that scammers have become so bold and are now showing up at victim’s homes,” as stated by the Roxbury Twp. Police Dept. “We are very concerned with how this scam has escalated.”
If anyone receives a call like this, contact the person who is “supposedly” in jail and contact the local police department immediately.
Its spring, a time to declutter. With COVID 19 physical isolation upon us, a lot of people have the time to do a full declutter of their homes. Decluttering helps us to remove the negative so the positive can enter. Purging/decluttering helps us to feel calm and peaceful. This might be the perfect time to declutter our stuff and emotional clutter for our next chapter in life.
When we have too much clutter in our lives, we become stressed out, overwhelmed and stagnate. When people talk about clutter, they talk about physical clutter at your homes, offices, closets, etc.
For me, when we talk about clutter, we must look at the emotional clutter first. Emotional clutter causes the physical clutter. If you only remove the physical clutter but don’t deal with the emotional clutter in your head, the physical clutter will eventually re-appear.
Here are some tips on Decluttering your life:
Why we have so much physical clutter:
When looking at Physical clutter you need to ask yourself:
Local Therapist Offers Free Classes Thru ZOOM
Diane Lang, therapist, educator and positive living expert of DL Counseling in Flanders, is offering free online classes from the safety and comfort of home. Each class will be done through Zoom and will include a handout and Q&A.
“During this time my office remains closed but I'm offering coaching through Zoom, phone and Face Time,” says Lang. “I'm offering free workshops that can be done in groups or one on one. You can take any of my emotional wellness workshops.”
Here are a few of her workshops: Positivity During the Pandemic; Parenting during the Pandemic; Stop the Panic & Anxiety; Emotional Detox - Dealing with Negative People; Declutter your Life & Reduce Stress; Managing Stress;
Stop taking things Personally; Coping with Change & Loss; Living a Mindful Life.
On Monday, May 11, 7 p.m., Lang will speak on: Stop the Panic & Anxiety, through The Adult School. Register at 973-443-9222
On Tuesday, May 12, 6:30 p.m.- Having Healthy Relationships with your Adult Kids, through Caldwell Continuing Education.
Register at 973-228-2092 or www.cwcboe.org/continuinged.
For questions, email: DLCounseling2014@gmail.com
For more information, visit Diane's website: www.dlcounseling.com.
As a therapist, educator and positive living expert, Lang has dedicated her career to helping people turn their lives around and is now on a mission to help them develop a sustainable positive attitude that can actually turn one into an optimist, literally.
Through her three books, “Creating Balance & Finding Happiness,” “Baby Steps: the Path from Motherhood to Career;” and “Mindfully Happy- waking up to life,” Lang has been speaking and empowering people nationwide. She is also an adjunct in psychology at Montclair State University, where her college work includes mentoring students for personal issue advisement.
As an expert in her fields of therapy, Lang has been featured in the “Daily Record,” “Family Circle,” “Family Magazine,” “Working Mother Magazine” and “Cookie Magazine,” seen on NJ 12 TV, Good day CT, Style CT, The Veira Network, CBS TV and “Fox & Friends.” She has also participated in a reality based Internet show, ourprisoner.com, hosted Generation X-tinet.
Miriam Rosenberg, a Reiki master and energy coach, with Royal Healing and Reiki in Succasunna, is offering Virtual Healing Classes.
Reiki is a natural healing technique that utilizes Universal Life Force Energy
She is offering Reiki, Singing Bowl meditations.
Please inquire about upcoming classes.
Group rates are available.
Contact Rosenberg at
firstname.lastname@example.org; call 201-650-4709.
CCM Design Professor Anita Collins at her sewing machine while she works on making more face masks.
Helping healthcare and other workers during this time of crisis are six fashion design students, their professors and several employees at County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph who are making face masks to protect those working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What helping people in this way means to me is making an impact,” says Emil Desena, of Randolph, one of the students working on the project. “Even just on a small, local level, it’s still important, and I’m glad that I’m able to use my passion for sewing and creating in a way that helps others.”
The project began after faculty learned that some students had started making masks during the college’s spring break in March and as hospitals and other organizations started asking for personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees.
“As the design faculty migrated to online classes we lost our ability to deliver coursework using our traditional hands-on teaching methods,” says Professor Kelly Whalen, who oversees the design programs at CCM. “Faculty and students shared research and information about acceptable mask designs that would be useful to a variety of facilities and individuals. A few videos, recommended by healthcare organizations and others, were selected, providing clear instruction on how to construct the masks. Faculty then chose to adopt the project in their Introduction to Sewing, Design Concepts I & II and Fashion Construction II classes.”
Whalen is serving as coordinator of the face mask project, while Professors Anita Collins and Wendy Carmona are working closely with the students and making masks themselves. Several CCM staff members also have become involved in the project, making it a college-wide effort.
CCM Masks Being Sent to Health Facilities Throughout the Community
To date the students and professors have made nearly 200 masks, including several child-sized masks that will be donated to a pediatric healthcare facility in the next few days.
Nieasia Wilkins of Budd Lake, a student at CCM, working on making face masks for healthcare and other frontline workers.
Masks have already been delivered to a hematology and oncology facility affiliated with Morristown Medical Center, as well as to Compassionate Care healthcare workers in Sparta. Others that have received, or will be receiving masks soon, are Saint Clare’s hospitals in Denville and Dover, Overlook Hospital and workers at UPS.
“It’s real-world problem solving, as we have had to organize distributing fabric, sourcing elastic, identifying places in need and then getting the masks to where they are needed, while adhering to the social distancing and disinfectant protocols,” says Whalen.
Students are either using fabric they have on hand or received at a recent equipment distribution event the college held for students, faculty and staff earlier this month. Whalen has been receiving the finished masks via home mailboxes and trunk exchanges. Regarding delivery of the masks, they are given to people CCM students, faculty and staff know at the facilities that are looking for PPE for their workers.
“I have shared with the students that their knowledge of sewing and design is an essential skill that impacts the world,” notes Collins. “As fashion designers, they are able to create wearable items that not just make people look and feel beautiful, but also protect them and help to save lives.”
Other students making face masks are Jenna Lentz of Fairfield; Taylor Moss of West Orange; Louis Smith of Basking Ridge; and Nieasia Wilkins of Budd Lake. CCM employees helping with the project include Rosemary Grant, Brian Kafel and Jeri LaBruna and also Adjunct Professor Gregory Somjen.
“I feel very happy and humbled to know that something I love doing can help others stay safe,” says Devyn Orozco of Lake Hiawatha, another student making masks. “I believe that every little bit counts, and together we can help stop the spread of the virus.”
Want to learn more about fashion design? Register now for summer and fall at CCM. Visit www.ccm.edu/experience/.
Registration for summer and fall now taking place.
During these challenging times, it is as important as ever to keep moving forward to ensure your future. As part of that, County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph is here to help students stay on track with their education or to get started on a new pathway to a more rewarding career.
Registration is now open for both the summer and fall. Summer Sessions at CCM provide a convenient way to meet higher education and career goals. Open to CCM students and students from other colleges and universities, choose from a wide selection of courses. Earn a degree. Start a new career path. Explore options. Keep moving forward with 10, seven, five and three week sessions.
Summer classes start as early as May 26 with a total of five sessions being offered, making it easier for to earn some more credit. Classes in the first two sessions, Early 5 and 10 Week, will be offered completely online.
Early 5 Week: May 26 – June 27, online classes only
10 Week: June 1 – August 8, online classes only
Late 5 Week: June 29 – August 1
7 Week: June 30 – August 15
3 Week: August 3 – August 22
Courses offered this summer at CCM cover a range of general education requirements and disciplines such as the arts, humanities, science, business, engineering, health and more.
The Fall Semester at CCM begins on September 9. At CCM, students are able to select from 50 associate degrees and a wide range of certificate programs taught by a faculty specifically focused on teaching. In addition, the college offers more than 150 transfer agreements to ease the process of earning a bachelor’s degree.
To view available courses for both summer and fall, go to https://titansdirect.ccm.edu/Student/Courses/. New students first need to apply to the college before registering for classes. Applications can be submitted online at www.ccm.edu/admissions/.
Adults looking to prepare for a career transition, seeking skills improvement or obtaining an apprenticeship in the fields of advanced manufacturing and health care can take advantage of one of the many industry recognized certifications and courses offered through the Center for Workforce Development. To view those opportunities, go to www.ccm.edu/workforce/.
Morris County, in coordination with Atlantic Health System, has expanded the appointment schedule for the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center for Morris County residents only, located at the County College of Morris (CCM) in Randolph.
After the first day of testing ran smoothly on Monday, with 86 appointments at 15-minute intervals, the schedule of appointments was expanded today to more than 200, with shorter intervals.
The Morris County COVID-19 Drive-Thru Testing Site is located at CCM, Dover Chester Road, Randolph. Residents with appointments must use the Dover Chester Road entrance to access the site: https://goo.gl/maps/gmZBrQSXvyaVc25S7
Residents must show up in a vehicle; must have identification, an appointment and a prescription from a medical provider to access the testing site. It is preferred, for the benefit of the medical volunteers, to have an easy to read printed copy of a medical prescription. However, if there is no alternative, a prescription can be displayed via phone.
For information and to make an appointment visit https://health.morriscountynj.gov/COVIDTesting
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Testing is scheduled between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
To be tested, residents MUST:
have a COVID-19 test prescription from a healthcare provider;
read and acknowledge the consent form;
make an appointment.
Persons WILL be turned away if they don’t meet all of these qualifications.
Residents with a prescription can move forward to scheduling an appointment after acknowledging the waiver.
Please sign up for an appointment at: https://health.morriscountynj.gov/COVIDTesting
Registration will begin at 10 a.m. each day for appointments two days in advance.
Residents may not sign up for an appointment until they get a prescription from a healthcare provider. If a resident is symptomatic, call doctor as soon as possible. Visit CDC for information on symptoms: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
There is no charge for the test.
ARRIVING AT THE TESTING CENTER:
ID (any others that have an appointment in same vehicle) and appointment verification for all potential clients will be confirmed before entry is permitted.
NO photographing or video recording is permitted.
Please pay attention to all signage which is in English and Spanish.
ALL vehicle windows must remain CLOSED.
DO NOT ROLL DOWN ANY VEHICLE WINDOW until instructed to do so
Do NOT move forward until instructed to do so.
There are no emergency services available at the testing location. If experiencing a medical emergency, please go to the nearest hospital emergency room or dial 911.
If patient included an email address when scheduling appointment, expect to receive an email within 48 hours on how to obtain test results from the laboratory’s portal.
Questions, call the County Hotline at 973-829-8250, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information on COVID-19 and Morris County’s response, visit https://health.morriscountynj.gov/coronavirus.
CCM Drive-Thru Test Center Expands To Sussex Residents
The COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at County College of Morris in Randolph will begin to accept a select number of Sussex County residents for daily, week-day appointments for the virus testing starting later this week.
While the site will continue to predominantly provide tests for Morris County residents, about 75 appointments will be set aside for people who reside in Sussex County. The remainder of approximately 240 appointments each day will be reserved for Morris County residents who are showing potential signs of having the virus.
Only residents who have a prescription from a doctor or medical provider and have properly signed up for an appointment will be allowed at the testing site.
For information and to make an appointment residents should visit the Morris County Office of Health Management website.
IMPORTANT: To be tested, you must be in a vehicle, must have identification, must have an appointment and must have a prescription — preferably printed — from a medical provider.
The Morris County COVID-19 drive-thru testing site is located at CCM, Center Grove Road, Randolph. Residents with appointments must use the Center Grove Road entrance to access the site.
“We have the availability at this time to allow some of the residents from our neighboring county to be tested for this virus, which knows no political or geographical boundary,’’ said Morris County Freeholder Director Deborah Smith.
“I appreciate the cooperation and support we are receiving from Morris County during this unprecedented time,” said Sussex County Freeholder Director Sylvia Petillo.
Atlantic Health System, which is Morris County’s main partner in the test site effort, operates Newton Medical Center, which is the largest hospital in Sussex County.
What You Need To Know:
To be tested, residents MUST:
have a COVID-19 test prescription from a healthcare provider
read and acknowledge the consent form
make an appointment
Persons WILL be turned away if they don’t meet these qualifications;
Residents with a prescription can move forward to scheduling an appointment after acknowledging the waiver;
Please sign up for an appointment at
Residents may not sign up for an appointment until they get a prescription from a healthcare provider. If a resident is symptomatic, call your doctor;
Visit CDC for information on symptoms: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-cov/index.html
There is no charge for the test.
Centenary University’s Office of Campus Ministry in Hackettstown planned to host a contactless food drive on Monday, April 27, to benefit several Hackettstown-area food banks serving residents who are in economic distress.
Dubbed Midday Run, this is the second food drive organized by the university during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist the local community. The outreach is an extension of Midnight Run, a late-night relief effort which sends student volunteers into New York City to distribute food, clothing, blankets and personal care items to people who are unhoused.
The two initiatives are integral to Centenary’s commitment to provide meaningful service to the community.
“The need is great,” said Rev. Timothy Nicinski, chaplain and director of Campus Ministry. “People who have never had to ask for support now find themselves in a difficult situation due to COVID-19. At Centenary, we’re doing everything we can to support our neighbors, in a safe way.”
Donations of non-perishable food items were dropped off on April 27 between noon and 2 p.m. at the University’s Lackland Center. Donors were to remain in their vehicles, popping their trunks to allow Centenary volunteers, while practicing social distancing, to retrieve the donated items. Those who could not get to campus can contribute via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1QLIKNSAJEC7J?ref_=wl_share.
Please be sure to change the delivery address to Midday Run, Centenary University, 400 Jefferson St., Hackettstown, N.J., 07840 to avoid your donation being delivered to your home.
Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix provides an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world. The university’s main campus is in Hackettstown, with its equestrian facility in Washington Township. The Centenary University School of Professional Studies offers degree programs at two locations, Parsippany and Edison, as well as online and at corporate sites throughout N.J.
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