B.D. Lenz to offer concert at library

Composer and jazz guitarist B.D. Lenz and his trio will perform in concert 2:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Old Bridge Public Library Main Branch, Route 516 and Cottrell Road.

Lenz has released eight recordings as a leader, and his music has been featured in television shows including “Breaking Bad,” “Catfish” and “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.”

Joining Lenz at the library will be James Rosocha on bass and Joe Facey on drums. The group will perform a mix of original music and jazz standards from greats including Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington.

The event is part of the library’s Second Saturday series of free concerts.

For more information, log on to www.oldbridgelibrary.org or call 732-721- 5600, ext. 5033.

Stewards will study the environment

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County will offer an Environmental Stewards Program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Jan. 27-June 8 at the EARTH Center, in Davidson’s Mill Pond Park, 42 Riva Ave, South Brunswick.

The program will introduce non-scientists to the science underlying key environmental issues in the Garden State. Leading authorities from academia will be joined by colleagues from government and the nonprofit sector to share understanding and insights with the students.

The Middlesex County program will be covering issues such as climate change, soil health, energy conservation, water resource protection, invasive species management, and open space management and habitat conservation.

In addition, the program will partner with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership to focus on watershed health and volunteer monitoring so students can learn how to become citizen scientists and help collect data about our local river.

The 60-plus hours of training does not replace a science degree, but helps citizens educate themselves when presented with a real world environmental problem.

To register, contact Michele Bakacs at bakacs@njaes.rutgers.edu or 732-398- 5274, or visit the program’s website at http://envirostewards.rutgers.edu.

Carriers should ensure deliveries

I have been hearing a lot in the news lately about missing packages from people’s front porches. The carriers who deliver the packages can solve this problem.

For example, as it is now, the delivery person sets the package on the front porch and rings the doorbell. The carrier does not wait to see if the customer is at home. Whatever happened to making sure the customer gets the shipment? There have been times when I was doing something upstairs and by the time I get downstairs the delivery person is in the truck already.

In some cases, the customer may not be at home. Is it too much effort to go next door and leave the package with someone?

In conclusion, there is a solution to this problem and if the carriers (UPS, FedEx, DHL etc.) would finish doing the job by making sure the shipment actually gets into the customer’s hands then there would not be any problems.

Whatever happened to customer service?

Michael Hart
North Brunswick


 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The Force was strong at the Plumsted Library in Plumsted Township, Ocean County, on Dec. 16 when a celebration of all things “Star Wars” was held in conjunction with the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Artists will paint still lifes on Jan. 8

The Suburban Artist Guild of Central New Jersey will hold its next monthly meeting at 2 p.m. on Jan. 8 at the East Brunswick Library, Jean Walling Civic Center on Ryders Lane.

Bring in materials suitable for a still life, such as bottles, imitation flowers or fruit. Several arrangements will be set up around the room. Artists can choose any or all to draw in his/her choice of medium, such as charcoal, pastels, colored pencils or watercolor.

To reserve a seat, call Allie Skislak at 732-257-0031.

Milltown council thanks Murray for three years of service

Staff Writer

MILLTOWN — As the Borough Council commenced its final meeting of the year, Patricia “Patty” Murray said she enjoyed her three years serving on the council dais.

“It has been a real honor serving the residents of Milltown and it has been a great learning experience for myself personally,” she said on Dec. 14. “I am grateful for the opportunity and very humbled.”

Murray, a Democrat, did not seek a second term in the November election. She said due to the nature of her business, which requires her to be out on the road, it would not be possible for her to serve another term.

“I’ll never say never … maybe in the future I hope for the opportunity again,” she said.

Murray served as chairwoman to the Parks & Recreation Department this past year and has served as chair to the Finance, Planning & Administration in the past.

Councilman Francis Guyette thanked Murray for her service and said she would be sorely missed.

Mayor Eric Steeber thanked Murray for her dedication to the residents of Milltown and presented her with the key to the city.

“You lead various departments making significant contributions and for that we will always be thankful,” he said to Murray.

Murray said she was touched and honored by the memento and said she will place it in her office.

Temple teaches children to perform mitzvahs

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK — For those children whose only source of food may be a school lunch, Temple B’nai Shalom has made a weekend care package for them.

On Dec. 13, members of the Little Sisterhood of Temple B’nai Shalom, Fern Road, packed zipped storage bags with food to give to children who may not always eat three meals a day.

“Kids throughout New Jersey are on either free or reduced lunch in their schools, and unfortunately, we don’t know if they are actually eating over the weekend,” said Paula Storm, vice president of the sisterhood.

All 250 bags of food that were packed at the temple were donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside.

“We wanted to get our kids (at the temple) involved in this because it’s basically kids helping kids. We really wanted kids to be involved in community service and understand there is a bigger world out there than themselves,” said Storm.

She explained that the sisterhood collected the food through food drives at the temple.

The bags of food are distributed to about a dozen schools throughout the state that have children in need.

“A school nurse will come and get these bags of food and then bring them back to their school. Students could quietly, and privately, go to the nurse’s office and receive a bag and put it in their backpack, take it home, and nobody knows,” Storm said.

The act of charity ties in heavily with the Jewish faith.

“For us, being a Jewish organization, Friday is a very special day for us. Friday [night] is Shabbat (Sabbath). Knowing that (children are need) are receiving the package on Friday and they are not going to go hungry on Shabbat is very important,” said Storm, referencing the religion’s day of rest.

“In Judaism, feeding the hungry is one of the greatest mitzvahs (good deeds) we can do,” Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer said. “Everyone, no matter how rich or poor, is obligated to give, even if it’s a small amount. We are teaching our children today to continue this Jewish tradition of charity and helping those in need.”

For the children who participated in packing the bags of food, this was an opportunity to do something good in their community at a young age.

“I want to help others in need and I feel that by doing this, I’m helping a lot of people who don’t have enough to eat and that makes me feel really good,” said Alex Fernandez, who has participated in the program since its beginnings three years ago.

The same feeling was echoed by some of the younger volunteers.

“I want to help people who can’t afford food. I [want] to make people happy,” said Ethan Storm, 10.

“I feel bad for people who don’t have as much as we do, especially around the holidays. We are getting all these presents and they don’t have basic needs,” said Rebekkah Taistra, 10.

The food drive was one of many charity events that the sisterhood organizes. The group takes part in the Peyton’s Heart Project, which helps raise awareness for mental health issues, bullying and suicide by tagging hand-crocheted hearts with uplifting messages.

There was also a Mitzvah Day on Dec. 23 to provide first responders with baked goods.

In addition, the temple has a plot in the Community Garden that provides food for the East Brunswick Senior Center, according to Iris Udasin, adult social action chair for the sisterhood.

“We are a very affluent area and knowing that we are able to help others is very important to help teach our kids,” Storm said.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.

Youngster shows strength in battle against cancer

Staff Writer

 Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis.  CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West, a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years and recent scans showed no evidence of the disease. In December 2014, Gracie traveled to Rome and received a blessing from Pope Francis. CHRISTINE BARCIA/STAFF Gracie West literally jumped for joy with the good news her doctor recently delivered to her. Gracie, 12, of Freehold Township, has been battling cancer for two years. After she found out her latest scans showed no evidence of the disease, she was jumping on a trampoline within the hour.

“I knew I was going to hit the clear mark,” said Gracie, who is the daughter of Don and Sharon West.

Sharon West said it felt like “the world lifted off your shoulders” when she heard from the doctor that her daughter’s scans were clear.

Gracie, whose nickname is “Cookie,” as in one tough cookie, is a seventh-grader at the Barkalow Middle School, Freehold Township. Two years ago she was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma.

 COURTESY OF THE VATICAN COURTESY OF THE VATICAN Gracie’s protocol included chemotherapy and radiation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and additional treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City.

But it was a special blessing given to her by Pope Francis in December 2014 that brought Gracie the greatest sense of healing. “I felt calm and peaceful, like everything was going to be fine after (the papal blessing),” the youngster said. Gracie’s trip to see Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was the result of a wish granted to Gracie and her family by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pope Francis hugged and kissed Gracie and gave her a benediction. The pope also shook hands with her brother, Joey.

“It was just the most amazing thing,” Gracie said.

The most difficult part of her battle against cancer, Gracie said, has been “not being able to do the stuff I normally do,” like swimming and playing with her French bulldog Topy, who is named after her first chemotherapy drug, Topotecan.

Gracie’s approach to life can be summed up in the mantra that guides her: you have no choice but to be strong, but you can choose to be happy and positive. Whether facing cancer or a just bad day, Gracie lives by these words.

Sharon West said the support of family members, friends and the community has been critical throughout her daughter’s fight against illness.

The West family established the Cookie’s Crumblers Foundation with a goal to not only help Gracie crumble her cancer, but also to help other children fight cancer.

A portion of the foundation’s proceeds will be contributed to research aimed at curing and eliminating childhood cancers.

The Cookie’s Crumblers 2016 Inaugural Gala of Gratitude will take place on June 4 at the Battleground County Club, Manalapan. For more information, visit Cookie- Gala2016.eventbrite.com