Grocery stores expand services

By KAYLA J. MARSH
Staff Writer

 Grocery stores are offering more than food shopping such as this gingerbread cookie decorating class held at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17.  STAFF PHOTGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Grocery stores are offering more than food shopping such as this gingerbread cookie decorating class held at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17. STAFF PHOTGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Area grocery stores are slowly changing the way they cater to their customers by providing more services and programs to help make a regular trip to the supermarket a day filled with fun, learning and adventure.

From nutritional assistance, children’s classes and even free home delivery services, supermarkets have become hotspots of activities and resources, showing it is not just about the shopping, but about community togetherness. “I feel like we are definitely providing something more than just shopping,” said Laura Fette, marketing team leader at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro.

“I feel like the store has been a destination for events, whether kid- or adult-focused, and we are even finding people within the community, partnering with them and helping them to build their own businesses, and I think that has been what has worked really well here — finding what our community needs and really catering to it.”

 Children of all ages watch a gingerbread cookie demonstration by Dani B. Fiori at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Children of all ages watch a gingerbread cookie demonstration by Dani B. Fiori at Whole Foods Market in Marlboro on Dec. 17. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR According to Fette, Whole Foods in Marlboro offers some unique partnerships and classes for its clientele, such as with Heirloom Kitchen in Old Bridge for cooking classes and Macaroni Kids of Western Monmouth County, where children get to make their own pizza and macaroni necklaces.

“Finding these local experts who are really trying to build their businesses as well, and collaborating together to bring programming inside the store, people see we are beyond a shopping destination,” Fette said. “We’re offering the full scope of things.”

Fette also said the store offers a You & Me Toddler Program several times a month.

“Each Whole Foods Market is different, and I really feel like that we cater to our community … we’re becoming a part of people’s routine beyond just shopping,” she said.

Aside from classes, Michael Sinatra, public relations and public affairs director at Whole Foods Market’s Northeast Region, said the supermarket chain also offers additional services such as catering and takes pride in giving back to local communities.

“A lot of people enjoy taking advantage of our programming, such as our special ordering and catering services and our special menus,” he said.

At Whole Foods Market, customers can make shopping quick and easy by reserving and ordering meals, entrees, and party must-haves online and then picking them up at the store.

“We definitely see a higher volume of orders this time of year, but customers are aware and use this service at various times of the year,” Sinatra said.

The supermarket chain also participates in community giving days or what they refer to as “5% Days.”

“Each store is always donating food to area food banks and shelters,” Sinatra said. “Then several times a year, we hold community giving days where five percent of that day’s net sales are donated to a local area charity or educational organization.”

The Whole Foods Market in Marlboro will also join the Manalapan and Marlboro municipalities for holiday tree lighting events, providing baked goods, hot chocolate and company.

“I feel like we do a lot in the community,” Fette said. “People are coming here for things, but we’re also coming to them as well … and I think that makes a big difference too.”

Valerie Fox, media relations coordinator at Wegmans Food Markets, said providing services such as catering and a free public app is about making customers’ lives and shopping experience as simple as possible.

“Wegmans’ aim is always to help mealtimes for families be as great and easy as possible,” she said.

“Our services help save customers time … but I think the number one thing that separates us are our people and customer service representatives who provide an added convenience.”

One service Fox said Wegmans provides is a free downloadable app that makes going to the supermarket less of a hassle.

“The Wegmans app is a very useful tool,” she said. “Customers can create their shopping list right there, and it’ll sort everything by aisle, and as you add items to your list, it will automatically estimate the total so you can manage your budget.”

On the app, customers can also browse through hundreds of recipes and add ingredients to their shopping list with just one touch and can even watch easy how-to videos to make meals easier.

“We also offer three ways for customers to enjoy our catering services, and that is either by going online, ordering by phone or by coming into your local Wegmans store,” Fox said.

From simple cheese and deli platters to cocktail party menus, complete holiday dinners and even delicious dessert trays, catering experts and chefs help with cooking and planning so families can have a memorable gathering.

“Many families have told us that they just don’t have time to do all the prep work themselves, so while this is not a full catering service with people coming to your home to serve, it provides our customers a service where they can order all their party-planning needs in one place.”

At ShopRite, a growing service is the supermarket’s ShopRite From Home program, which allows customers to save time and energy by ordering their groceries from the convenience of their own residence.

“The majority of ShopRite stores offer the ShopRite From Home service, which allows customers to shop online and pick up groceries at the store or have those groceries delivered right to their doorstep,” said Karen O’Shea, spokeswoman for Wakefern Food Corp.

Whether you are a busy parent, are injured or can’t make it to the store for some other reason, the ShopRite From Home service is an effortless way to get all the groceries you need with the click of a button.

“The ShopRite Mobile App and ShopRite From Home service allow customers to place orders electronically, and those grocery orders are then shopped in store by personal, trained shoppers,” O’Shea said. “Customers can tell our shoppers how they like their produce picked or cold cuts sliced. Our shoppers will also call customers at home if we are out of a certain item.

“Service is key, and it’s the reason our ShopRite From Home service continues to grow each year.”

Heather Casey of Edison said that, with being a mom of four sons and she and her husband both working full time, ShopRite from Home allows her to order her groceries on her time and schedule the deliveries for when it is most convenient.

“With four kids and both my husband and I working full time, every second counts,” Casey said. “We started using ShopRite from Home when my youngest son was born and food shopping became an added challenge.

“It is so helpful because we can shop from our phones or computer early in the morning or late in the evening when the kids are asleep and schedule pickups [or] deliveries around our work/family schedules. I rarely see the inside of the store any more because this service is so helpful!”

The ShopRite Pharmacy App makes getting prescriptions easier for customers.

“The ShopRite Pharmacy App makes managing prescriptions simple by allowing customers to refill prescriptions and transfer prescriptions right to their local ShopRite,” O’Shea said.

Diana Fransis, retail dietitian program supervisor at Wakefern Food Corp., works closely with more than 120 registered dietitians across 130 stores, training them to work with customers and educating them on making healthier choices while food shopping, as well as carrying out these choices by preparing healthy, well-balanced meals.

“Our registered dietitians will sit down with customers in a free one-on-one consultation, talk about their needs and goals, find out what they are looking for, dive into a diet plan and will even walk around the store with customers showing them where the food that is best for them is,” Fransis said.

ShopRite’s Culinary Workshops is a hands-on cooking class program taught by professionals who share their skills and knowledge, helping customers acquire limitless meal possibilities that include delicious, healthy ingredients.

“They’re cooking full meals with appetizers, entrees, desserts, and we even have a kids cooking class that teaches them how to make a very easy meal.”

According to Fransis, part of the supermarket’s Health and Wellness program includes the Dietitian’s Selection recipe program, a collection of recipes featuring healthy ingredients and essential nutrients while limiting the amount of fats, cholesterol and sodium.

“People are becoming much more aware about healthy eating and getting proper nutrition, and there is so much that our registered dietitians and chefs offer and can help with,” Fransis said. “All our services are free.”

Arlene Putterman, manager of public and community relations at Stop & Shop’s New York Metro Division, said getting prepared for the holidays or other festive occasions is easy as customers can order party platters, desserts, cakes and other arrangements online for in-store pickup and can order flowers.

“Stop & Shop provides fully prepared holiday dinners,” she said. “All the fixings without the prep work.”

Putterman said the supermarket’s Peapod service also makes delivering groceries to your home or business easy.

“Peapod online home delivery service strives to deliver convenience and value,” she said. “Customers can order online or on Peapod’s free mobile app for grocery home delivery or car-side service at one of our many pickup locations.”

Briefs due in January on pipeline plan

By MARK ROSMAN
Staff Writer

A proposal by New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) to construct a natural gas pipeline through parts of Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties will be on the docket for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) in 2016.

The company’s proposal has been in the news since early in 2015 when it filed a petition with the BPU to construct the Southern Reliability Link (SRL).

The project would connect the natural gas system in the three counties to a new supply point with the Transcontinental Pipe Line Company (Transco) in Chesterfield, Burlington County.

During the summer, residents and elected officials had a chance to state their views about the SRL at two public hearings that were held by the BPU.

The board will eventually make a determination on the 30-mile-long natural gas pipeline that is proposed to cross a portion of south central New Jersey, including portions of Upper Freehold Township, Jackson and Plumsted.

In July, BPU Commissioner Dianne Solomon granted the motions to intervene of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders, Chesterfield Township and North Hanover Township.

Solomon also granted the motions to participate of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and Plumsted Township, including the right to argue orally and to file a brief or statement, according to an order establishing a post-hearing briefing schedule that Solomon filed on Dec. 10.

The order states that an evidentiary hearing was held on Dec. 7 and that NJNG proposed an expedited briefing schedule, with initial briefs to be filed on Dec. 23 and reply briefs to be filed on Jan. 6. The intervenors and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance proposed that initial briefs be filed on Jan. 15 and reply briefs be filed on Jan. 29. Solomon wrote in the order that she concluded that the expedited briefing schedule proposed by NJNG would not provide sufficient time for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, BPU staff, and the intervenors and participants “to thoroughly review the extensive record that was created in this proceeding to prepare and file their positions on the petition (for the new pipeline).”

Solomon directed that initial briefs are to be filed by Jan. 15 and reply briefs are to be filed by Jan. 29.

John Valeri, an attorney representing NJNG, previously said, “The SRL project is necessary to support the reliability and system integrity of the company’s natural gas transmission system. It provides a second major transmission tool to a critical part of the company’s service area … which serves Monmouth and Ocean counties and a portion of Burlington County.”

According to NJNG, the SRL is a highpressure 30-inch-diameter pipeline that would run 30 miles from Chesterfield Township in Burlington County to Manchester Township in Ocean County. The utility states the SRL would “provide supply diversity and system resiliency, supporting the safe, reliable distribution of natural gas to more than one million people.”

The SRL would connect a natural gas system that serves customers in Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington counties to a new Transco supply point in Chesterfield. The new pipeline will tie into NJNG’s transmission system in Manchester that is near the southern end of the transmission system.

As things stand today, Valeri said, the utility’s service area is served by a single pipeline that runs through Middlesex County, which he said is “well outside of the company’s franchise area.”

Since there are no intrastate pipelines in NJNG’s shore service area, Valeri testified that the company had “no other choice” but to run a secondary pipeline through an area of the state it does not serve.

At a public hearing this summer, Jaclyn Rhoads, the assistant executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, took issue with NJNG’s statement that it needs to bolster resilience for the company’s shore area at all.

“New Jersey Natural Gas has not demonstrated this pipeline is necessary or even desirable for maintaining or safeguarding the region’s natural gas supply,” Rhoads said.

— Contact Mark Rosman at gmntnews@gmnews.com

Package theft a concern

By JENNIFER ORTIZ and KENNY WALTER
Staff Writers

 STAFF PHOTGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The theft of packages delivered to doorsteps is becoming a bigger problem as more and more people shop online for their Christmas gifts.

Woodbridge Police Capt. Roy Hoppock said package theft has become a growing issue, and there are very few ways to address it.

“It’s a problem. It’s a crime of opportunity is what it comes down to,” he said. “So many more people are [shopping online] and more and more packages are being left on people’s front steps, and people drive by and they see them and they grab them.”

Hoppock said Woodbridge police recently made an arrest involving package theft and charged a woman with three counts of theft by unlawful taking after three packages were taken from an apartment complex on Dec. 7 in the Fords section of Woodbridge.

“We did a follow-up and on Dec. 13 we made an arrest of a female that was staying at [a nearby hotel],” he said. “Most of the time it is difficult to make an arrest unless there is video.”

According to Hoppock, some shoppers utilize their neighbors in an effort to thwart any potential theft.

“If they have the luxury of having some neighbors that don’t work or if the person knows there is going to be a delivery in a day or two, let your neighbor know,” Hoppock said. “That seems to be the best, but not everybody has that luxury.”

Howell Police Detective Sgt. Christian Antunez said thefts of this nature occur sporadically throughout the year, but increase in frequency significantly during the holiday season. He said that as of Dec. 14, police had received at least five reports of thefts of packages since Nov. 1.

“The number is likely higher because some people do not report the thefts to police. We strongly encourage residents to report any thefts to the police department,” Antunez said.

In a public awareness announcement, Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick said most thefts of packages occur during the afternoon and/or early evening hours.

Victims are asked to report thefts online at www.howellpolice.org or call the police. In the event the person who stole the item is caught, the merchandise could be returned, Kudrick said.

“Once the item is confirmed to have been delivered and most likely stolen, call the police immediately and file a report with as much information about the theft as possible, including the number of boxes, the items stolen, the value of items stolen, carrier, the time and date of delivery,” Antunez said.

He said the Ramtown area of Howell south of Lakewood-Allenwood Road appeared to be a target for this type of illegal activity.

“We are adding extra patrols in the area to stop and identify suspicious vehicles and persons and to increase visibility. This also includes plainclothes personnel,” Antunez said, adding that the reported thefts remain under investigation.

He said police are working diligently to investigate the crimes that have occurred and to prevent future crimes.

“We encourage residents to be vigilant and to contact the police immediately if they see suspicious vehicles or people in their neighborhood. Suspicious vehicles can include vehicles driving aimlessly, very slowly, up and down the street, apparently lost, such as driving down cul-de-sacs or dead end streets, and other similar actions.

“Suspicious people can exhibit similar behavior and also include clothing meant to conceal their identity, approaching houses and then asking about lost dogs or other fictitious stories when confronted by homeowners and other similar behavior,” Antunez said. “Unfortunately, we cannot be everywhere at once, so we ask that residents bring their delivered packages inside as soon as possible to limit their exposure to thieves. We also ask that neighbors be aware of their surroundings as much as possible to protect the community and to look out for one another.” Kudrick suggested residents might want to view a www.travelers.com “How to Protect Yourself from Package Theft and ID Fraud” article. Tips include having packages delivered at work or choosing a specific delivery time if the retailer provides such an option. Delivery alerts and a trusted neighbor to take one’s package inside for safekeeping are also advised.

“There are undesirables always looking to take advantage of you,” Kudrick said, adding that residents should be aware of their surroundings.

Manalapan Lt. Edward Niesz said the Manalapan Police Department has tips for consumers shopping online.

“We try to get people to either use one of the shipping locations to pick up there, to have the tracking devices so they know exactly when their package is going to be arriving or set up a delivery with a friend, or what a lot of people do now is have packages delivered to their place of employment,” Niesz said.

Niesz said while the problem seems to be growing nationwide, it hasn’t been that big of an issue in Manalapan.

“There is a heightened awareness about it and in our township it hasn’t been as much of a problem,” he said. “In Manalapan we haven’t seen a great increase in it as of late, it’s been sporadic here and there.”

Niesz said while it is difficult to solve crimes involving stolen packages, a lot of homeowners are now using surveillance cameras and uploading the footage to social media to help identify the perpetrators.

Michael, the supervisor of customer service for the U.S. Postal Service in Red Bank, who wouldn’t disclose his last name, said the growing theft problem began about six years ago as online shopping increased.

He said mail carriers are taught different ways to conceal packages so they are not just left in plain site.

“If they have a screen door and the package fits, a lot of times the carriers will put it in between the doors,” Michael said. “Sometimes if they have a side door, they will do something like that, but other than that there is nothing to prevent it.”

Residents are being put on notice that packages delivered to and left outside homes are a target for thieves, particularly around the holidays.

“It is getting worse and worse,” Michael said. “After Thanksgiving is when it becomes larger.

“That’s when it becomes big but it is an all year round problem.”

In a statement from United Parcel Service (UPS), which delivers an estimated 630 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, the company has not seen an increase in package theft in recent years.

“UPS delivers about 18 million packages every day, and our data indicate that the rate of incidents involving UPS has been relatively flat over the last few years,” the statement reads. “We have procedures in place to ensure all of our packages are properly delivered.

“We alert our drivers and seasonal driver helpers to specific incidents where law enforcement has contacted us. If a customer contacts UPS to report a stolen package, UPS would work with the original shipper through our claims process to make the consumer whole.”

Delivery tips

 If you are not going to be home, have your packages delivered to work, a neighbor’s or relative’s house

 Have your package delivered to a local store for pick-up

 Track your package so you can be notified when a package arrives

 Pick up the package from the delivery company’s closest facility

 Ask the shipper to require a signature confirmation for delivery

 Give the delivery company instructions where packages can be left out of sight from the road

Middletown man charged with making threats at theaters

REGIONAL INTEREST

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Investigators have arrested a Middletown man and charged him with making a pair of bomb threats at the Freehold AMC movie theaters at Freehold Raceway Mall, Freehold Township, Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.

The prosecutor said Jesse Carroll, 22, of Middletown, who is an employee of the Freehold AMC theaters, was arrested on Dec. 18 and charged with two counts of second degree public false alarm. He was initially placed in the Monmouth County jail, Freehold Township, on $200,000 bail with no 10 percent option, as set by state Superior Court Judge Honora O’Brien Kilgallen.

The judge ordered Carroll not to return to the scene of the crimes and told him he may not have any contact with any movie theaters.

The theaters were evacuated twice last week after a series of threatening notes were discovered in the men’s room at the complex, according to the prosecutor’s office. On the evening of Dec. 14 and on the afternoon of Dec. 18, notes were found in the men’s room of the movie complex containing threats to either the theater management or specific threats of bombs inside the theater. One note that was found on Dec. 18 afternoon read: “I’m coming for blood; 4 p.m. bomb, 6 p.m. empty mag in guests.”

After each discovery the movie complex was safely evacuated while law enforcement departments were called to the scene. A thorough check of the movie complex yielded no threats to the safety of patrons, employees or management and business was returned to normal, according to the prosecutor.

“Making bomb threats in a movie theater is nothing short of domestic terrorism. Thankfully for everyone involved this was a hoax. We have wasted too much time, money and resources with these dangerous and disruptive threats. We will continue to fully respond to every threat to protect our citizens, but we are also going to react with the full force of the law every time threats turn out to be hoaxes,” Gramiccioni said.

If convicted of public false alarm, Carroll faces a sentence of five to 10 years in a New Jersey state prison for each count, which also comes with a fine of no less than $2,000 and up to the actual costs incurred by any first responder agencies.

“Our office fully intends to seek full restitution for the collective costs of all the responding agencies,” Gramiccioni said.

On Dec. 14, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Freehold Township Police Department, K-9 units from the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the Middletown and Wall Township police departments, New Jersey Homeland Security, the Freehold Township Independent Fire Company No. 1 and the Freehold First Aid and Emergency Squad all responded to the movie complex.

On Dec. 18, the response included the prosecutor’s office, K-9 units from the sheriff’s office and Freehold Township police.

Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to contact Freehold Township Detective John Catrone at 732- 462-7500 or Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Patrick Petruziello at 800-533-7443.

Youths may enter contest

New Jersey’s soil conservation districts are now accepting entries in a poster contest designed to raise awareness of natural resources and related issues among young people. The theme for this year’s poster is “We All Need Trees,” according to a press release.

Students may compete in the following categories: Grades 2-3, Grades 4-6, Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12. The winner in each category will receive $200. The secondplace finisher in each category will receive $100 and the third-place finisher in each category will receive $50.

The winners will be entered in the National Association of Conservation Districts poster contest.

The competition is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey Association of Conservation Districts and the state’s 15 soil conservation districts, which work to conserve and manage soil and water resources in the state, according to the press release.

To find a town’s local soil conservation district, go to www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/ anr/nrc/conservdistricts.html. All entries must be submitted through the local district.

For more information and the entry form, visit www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/ anr/pdf/conservationpostercontest.pdf

Pallone proposes improved disaster communications

Proposed federal legislation could one day help residents across New Jersey who lose cell phone service and experience power blackouts similar to what occurred during superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-Monmouth, Middlesex) has introduced the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act (H.R. 3998) that would, if passed in the House and Senate and signed into law by the president, improve communications and prevent widespread cell phone service outages during disasters.

“It is about trying to improve communication because during Sandy a lot of cell phone towers went down, it was difficult to communicate in general,” Pallone said. “So we are trying to get at that problem.”

The congressman said that the primary aspect of the legislation would ensure that consumer cell phones would work on other carriers’ networks when their carrier goes down.

The act would also give priority to 911 services and emergency alerts, increase coordination between wireless carriers, utilities and public safety officials, and provide 911 services over Wi-Fi hotspots during emergencies.

According to Pallone, during superstorm Sandy, one in four cell phone towers in New Jersey was not functional, and in the hardest hit areas of the state almost half of the towers were not functional.

Pallone said that the initiative would be a multi-faceted approach to improving communications during emergencies.

“The whole idea is to have communications systems to be inter-operable during a storm or any kind of emergency,” he said. “The idea is that systems would kick in during an emergency that would be inter-operable because we had major problems during Sandy.”

The bill, according to Pallone, would launch an expansive study of the future of network resiliency.

“We had a lot of discussions, even in the first days after Sandy, to make power lines more resilient, communications more resilient, so they do not go out,” he said. “Some of the power problems we had during Sandy had actually occurred during previous storms, so the idea is to make the communications infrastructure more resilient so it does not go out during a storm.”

Another component of the bill would ensure that communications providers, including radio, TV and telephone, could repair outages more quickly.

Pallone said the bill is currently in the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, of which he is the ranking member.

He said many of the ideas that are contained in the bill came from a recent roundtable discussion in Monmouth Beach that focused on telecommunications, broadcast, social media and first-responder communications and included reps of broadcast, telecommunications and utility companies.

— Kenny Walter

Groups combine efforts to spruce up Allentown

By ANDREW MARTINS
Staff Writer

ALLENTOWN – Months after receiving a grant for environmental and aesthetic improvements in Allentown, residents gathered to plant trees in a historic part of the borough.

On Dec. 12, members of the Allentown Environmental Commission, the Allentown High School FFA chapter, Boy Scout Troop 180, the Allentown Lions Club, the Allentown Garden Club and the Allentown Village Initiative, as well as members of the public, planted a weeping cherry tree at an historic cemetery off Lakeview Drive and a pair of sweet gum trees in Heritage Park.

“This cemetery is one of the oldest in Monmouth County and it is composed of people from Allentown and Upper Freehold Township who lived as early as pre-colonial times,” Allentown Village Initiative Vice President Ann Garrison said.

Garrison said the cemetery is multi-denominational, as it was near a meeting house where Baptists, Methodists and Episcopalians gathered. The meeting house was used as a makeshift stable by British forces during the Revolutionary War, she said.

Officials said the landscaping plan for the project was created by Carla Lebentritt, who is a member of the Allentown Garden Club.

To pay for the work, the Allentown Environmental Commission applied for a $750 grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions earlier in the year.

Although the grant amount may not seem substantial, Allentown Environmental Commission Chairman Greg Westfall said the funding was “enough to do something.”

“There is a committee that has been meeting about the cemetery over the last few months,” Westfall said. “This is just the first piece of what they hope to do at the cemetery.”

Westfall said the committee has been charged with documenting all of Allentown’s open space and has been involved in numerous applications over the years, including the creation of the perimeter trail and a restoration of Heritage Park.

The new trees provide positive changes to the area, according to Westfall, including improved shade and cleaner air, reducing storm water runoff and creating habitats for wildlife.

Westfall said he was proud of the work the assembled group of borough organizations was able to accomplish.

“People in Allentown are very community minded and the groups that helped are good examples of that,” said Westfall, who is the borough’s mayor-elect.

Garrison said the effort meshed with the Allentown Village Initiative’s mission “to build on our assets, and our assets are historical and natural in nature. The more we can do to enhance those historical areas and the natural beauty of the place, the more visitors we will have to our downtown and the more it will encourage the people in Allentown to walk around and see these things.”

Westfall said that as mayor, he hopes to encourage the community’s involvement with similar projects.

“Volunteerism is important and that is one of the things I want to encourage,” he said. “All of these groups make Allentown a better place to live.”

Master gardener class to begin

The Monmouth County Master Gardener program is the way for an individual to become a certified expert in all things related to home gardening. The deadline to apply for the 2016 program is Jan. 4.

“As a Master Gardener trainee you can get in-depth, hands-on training in horticulture from the best in the field – Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service professional staff and their associates at Brookdale Community College and the Monmouth County Park System,” Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said. “The program includes plant biology, propagation, soil science and pest control.”

After completing classroom and hands-on training, a Master Gardener graduate can share their knowledge by conducting garden lectures, demonstrations, school and community gardening projects, telephone diagnostic service for callers and research, according to a press release.

To enroll in the program, an individual must live in Monmouth County, be available to attend 10 weeks of classes and make a commitment to provide gardening information and services to the community.

Classroom sessions will be held from February through May on Tuesday and Thursday mornings beginning Feb. 18. At the conclusion of the classes, all Master Gardener trainees give 60 hours of volunteer time in horticultural projects and answer calls on the county’s “horticulture helpline.”

The application can be downloaded at www.visitmonmouth.com (click on the Department link to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service) or obtained at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service office at 4000 Kozloski Road, Freehold Township, or call 732-431-7260 to request an application be mailed. There is a $250 fee for material and program costs.

Guitar donors find grateful children in Asbury Park

By CLARE MARIE CELANO
Correspondent

Karen High is doing what she does best — giving away guitars to young musicians who need them.

High, who founded The Project Matters and serves as its executive director, seeks to further the creation of music, with an emphasis on aspiring musicians age 21 and younger.

High and her husband, Bill, of Freehold Borough, lost their son Benjamin, 19, in 2007. The couple are honoring the memory of their son, who died from a heart condition, by taking Benjamin’s love of music and helping young people achieve their musical dreams.

Since its inception in 2010, The Project Matters has received donated guitars and has supported bands crossing the genres of indie rock, pop, Americana and stadium rock. Fundraising has allowed the organization to provide musicians with instruments, instrument repair, studio time and other assistance, according to High.

To date, The Project Matters has received 30 guitars and given away 22. High recently donated guitars to children at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Asbury Park.

She has partnered with Jon Leidersdorf, the owner of Lakehouse Music Academy, Asbury Park, who came up with the idea of donating guitars to All Stars, which is the after-school program at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Children participate in activities such as arts and crafts and robotics, but until now music was not an option.

High reached out to Leidersdorf to find recipients for several of the nine guitars that were donated to The Project Matters by Cordoba, a guitar manufacturer.

“Jon suggested we give the guitars to Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s after-school program and add guitar as one of the programs being offered,” she said.

The Lakehouse Music Academy is providing a guitar instructor.

Connie Isbell Nathanson coordinates the after-school program through the nonprofit Friendship Train Foundation.

Guitar instruction began in September and now nine fifth- through seventh-graders are learning music and strumming away happily.

High said, “It remains to be seen if the children in the beginner class will move up. We can offer an intermediate class if they become proficient enough. The hope is that the program will grow and we will get more guitars donated from Cordoba to keep the program going.”

High said she is grateful for the work done by The Project Matters board members because it was through their efforts that the guitars from Cordoba were acquired.

“Seeing the class in person and seeing the guitars in the hands of these amazing kids is really heartwarming,” she added.

Young musicians who are interested in applying for a guitar may contact Karen High at karen@theprojectmatters.org

Photo

 MATT DENTON MATT DENTON Allentown High School’s Tristan Millett muscles his way through a pair of Trenton Catholic Academy defenders during a preseason basketball scrimmage in Allentown. The 2015-16 season will tip off Dec. 19 in Allentown with the Redbirds playing Lawrence High School.