New year offers opportunity to organize

By CHRISTINE BARCIA
Staff Writer

Mise en place is a French culinary term that means “putting in place.” For chefs, having ingredients prepared and arranged before the cooking process begins allows for greater organization and efficiency in executing a recipe. Applying that concept in everyday life can bring that same organization to almost any task.

“The ability to be organized has become increasingly more important because living in contemporary America, life has become very complex and multifaceted. We live in an age of specialization which creates more options and more decisions,” said Michael Osit, Ed.D., a psychologist, author and speaker from Warren.

Osit offers an example. Forty years ago, he said, one would go to the grocery store to buy orange juice and it was available fresh or frozen and came in either a frozen can or a glass bottle.

“I recently went to the local market and found 27 varieties of orange juice — pulp, no pulp, some pulp, concentrate, vitamin D, and it now comes in cartons, juice boxes, pouches, bottles, etc.,” Osit said. Such mundane decisions can overwhelm individuals and lead to an inability to focus, and in turn, to stay organized.

“To become organized takes a good deal of emotional control and focus,” said Michael Vito, Ph.D., a psychologist with offices in Morristown and Watchung.

To get (and stay) organized, individuals must be “convinced of the value of organization,” Vito said.

Organization, Vito said, leads to better mental health by creating a “less stressful and better functioning” state of mind.

“Organized individuals run their life instead of their life running them. They are in control, which optimizes positive outcomes and minimizes stress and crisis occurring in their life,” Osit said.

According to National Association of Professional Organizers Member Director, Lori Vande Krol, good organizational systems reduce stress and allow people to focus time and energy on what matters most.

“With the speed and volume of information and clutter in our lives today, it has become even more important to have the right systems in place to manage it all,” Vande Krol said.

Organized people, Osit said, can greatly reduce anxiety when life is relatively predictable and surprises are at a minimum.

“Organized people frequently have a plan B, so they do not feel trapped or victimized in specific situations,” Osit said.

The first step to getting organized, whether at home or at work, involves a commitment to putting in the work upfront.

“Employ a ‘work now, play later’ philosophy,” Osit said.

In other words, “become a list maker and prioritize items,” Osit said.

Other suggestions that Osit offers include the following: immediately enter appointments into either a mobile phone or calendar; promptly list items on a to-do list; leave buffer time for appointments and deadlines to account for unexpected events such as traffic or illness; and develop routines for daily tasks so they are automatically completed.

Although technology is often designed to help with getting organized, the opposite effect often occurs.

“Technological devices can be critical tools to help a person be organized in their life if used appropriately (calendar, reminders, to-do lists, alerts, etc.), but they are also a significant distraction from the task at hand, which can cause inefficiency,” Osit said.

The Internet, tablets and mobile phones, Osit said, have created a “tremendous distraction from the present moment.

“Even when people are not sending or receiving messages, a piece of their attention is on the device that could buzz or vibrate at any moment.” Osit said.

Simple advice, like make a plan and stick to it, can facilitate greater organization.

“Put the keys in the key spot and the junk in the junk spot,” Zito said.

In the last decade, the organization industry has experienced growth, as evidenced by the increase in membership in the National Association of Professional Organizers. In 2005, there were 2,945 members, and today there are nearly 4,000 members, about a 30 percent increase, Vande Krol said.

“Interestingly, I am seeing a revitalized interest in living a simpler lifestyle by downsizing space, possessions and activities,” Vande Krol said.

Heather Pierce, owner of House in Order, a professional organization company serving central New Jersey, said the most common request she receives is for help in organizing paperwork.

“Many people hold on to much more paper than they need to because they don’t know what to keep and what to get rid of,” Pierce said.

People often become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paper that enters their home whether it’s via mail, their child’s backpack or shopping receipts, Pierce said.

“They do nothing to clear the paper clutter. The result is often cluttered kitchen counters, drawers or cabinets, overstuffed filing cabinets, bags and boxes of papers that get moved from place to place, but never sorted and dealt with,” Pierce said.

Pam of Toms River, a client of Pierce, said her “breaking point” with clutter came after she retired and was at home amidst years of accumulated items.

“I started feeling overwhelmed with my possessions,” Pam said.

With Pierce’s service, Pam was able to organize papers that had piled up for years.

“Now I follow a path that there is a place for everything. I’ve been able to break old habits,” Pam said.

When Pierce meets with clients, she discusses any fears or anxieties they may have about the reorganization process.

“Every client is different, so my plan for each client may be different — what works for one person does not work for all. It is important to set clear expectations as far as the desired outcome, projected time needed to complete an organization project, costs of completing a project and the roles each of us will play in the overall completion of the organization project, Pierce said.

It takes a great deal of courage for many people to reach out to a professional organizer for help, Pierce said.

“Many people feel shame, anxiety and embarrassment about the disorganization of their home or office,” according to Pierce.

By conquering the clutter, she said, clients are able to focus on the things that matter most to them.

“Generally, you first want to determine your vision. In other words, how would your ideal space or day look and feel?” Vande Krol said.

Seeing a revitalized interest in living a simpler lifestyle, Vande Krol said, has led to individuals downsizing space, possessions and activities.

Organization Strategies

Get Organized at Home

Some basic tips for better organization at home, according to www.webmd.com, include: find a place for every item; keep clutter out of the house; shop for containers after de-cluttering is complete; get rid of duplicates; de-clutter nostalgia, such as children’s artwork, by taking a picture of a child holding art work or crafts.

Get rid of old clothes using the 80:20 rule: we wear 20 percent of the clothes we own 80 percent of the time; look for simple solutions, like a key hook by the front door; and schedule de-cluttering for areas that need it daily, weekly and monthly.

Get Organized at Work

A focus on time, space and mindset is the key to organization at work, according to www.entrepreneur.com.

Concerning time, the website recommends that individuals start the day with structured time by sorting through email and responding to quick responses and referrals right away, deleting unimportant information and scheduling more essential tasks.

Space, which refers to physical and virtual space, is critical to productivity, the website stated.

The absence of office interruptions can improve concentration when writing or researching a topic, and this might be a task better completed away from the office, according to the website.

Switching off pop-up notifications on mobile devices and on computers, in addition to limiting the number of times email is checked, can result in greater organization of virtual space.

Finally, there is an individual’s mindset. To reduce the feeling of overload and the procrastination associated with taking on overwhelming jobs, divide large tasks into small chunks to better focus, according to the website.

Get Organized at School

It’s as easy as ABC to keep school-related tasks in order, according to www.scholastic.com.

First: “A” place for everything — keep a ready-to-use homework kit filled with school supplies. Next, “be” focused — studying needs to come first when scheduling time and planning activities. Finally, “calendars” posted in a central place at home can help students prioritize tasks, such as test dates and report due dates.

Children should keep a small, personal to-do list in order to get a better understanding of time management, according to the website.

Contact Information

Fo info, visit the National Association of Professional Organizers at www.napo.net.

Mahon bids farewell after eight years as Oceanport mayor

By KENNY WALTER
Staff Writer

After eight years as Oceanport mayor, Michael Mahon joked that he will finally get to enjoy New Years Eve.

Mahon said during the Dec. 17 Borough Council meeting, his final meeting as mayor after losing an election to new Mayor John Coffey, that he was proud of his service to the borough.

And, he said, for the first time since 2008, he will not have to attend the borough’s annual reorganization meeting on New Year’s Day.

In a letter to borough residents, Mahon said he enjoyed his time as mayor, having accomplished much.

“My time as your mayor is at an end. I have enjoyed the last eight years serving this community,” Mahon wrote.

“I am proud of the many accomplishments that we have achieved and give credit to the many participants that helped along the way.”

During the Nov. 3 general election, Coffey, who ran as a write-in candidate, recorded 949 write-in votes to unseat Mahon, who received 721 votes. Coffey credited the social media campaign as the main impetus for his victory.

Mahon was elected to his first term as mayor in 2007, after serving one term on the Borough Council in 2001.

“My hair is grayer than it was in 2007 when you elected me Mayor at the age of 47, and much grayer since I was elected to council in 2001,” Mahon said. “Much has changed in this borough and I have worked hard to protect, to preserve, and to improve it.

“Thank you all so much for the opportunity to echo your voice in local government and the honor to serve Oceanport as mayor.”

Mahon said the major issues facing the borough’s future include the futures of Fort Monmouth and Monmouth Park and finding a new home for Borough Hall, which was destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

During the meeting, each member of council thanked Mahon for his service and presented the outgoing mayor with a decanter as a gift for his service. Mahon works as a roadway manager for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s Garden State Parkway Division. He is currently a member of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority and the Oceanport Planning Board; liaison to the Environmental Commission, Library Association and Buildings & Grounds Committee.

In the Borough Council race, incumbent Republican John Patti received 901 votes and Republican newcomer Patricia Cooper registered 843 votes for four-year terms.

There was also a write-in campaign for council candidate Cullin Wible that was not as successful. According to the Monmouth County Board of Elections, Wible received 694 write in votes.

Councilman Stuart Briskey, a Republican who was recently appointed to replace Robert Lynch, who resigned, was elected to fill a one-year unexpired term with 1,141 votes.

Jonelle Melton remembered; police honored for efforts

By MICHAEL NUNES
Staff Writer

To family and friends of Jonelle Melton, a Social Studies teacher at Red Bank Middle School, she was a bubbly, butterfly-loving, history-obsessed soul who put her students before everything.

Six years since her murder, three men have been charged, and those closest to her shared their fondest memories of Melton, 33, and the long reaching influence her tragically short life had on theirs at Calvary Baptist Church on Dec. 18.

“Not only was she a teacher, but she was my school mother … she always told me try and better myself, to continue to do you, stay on the right path, don’t be like everybody else,” said Nacier Roundtree, who was one of Melton’s students and is currently in college. “She was a teacher, and I am going to be a teacher to continue her legacy,” Roundtree said.

Other former students echoed the sentiment.

“Every time my friends and I mention her, it’s always good memories, her laugh, her smile. Even though we are past our middle school days and some of us are well into our university years, she still plays an important part in our lives,” Mario Williams said, who also spoke to the gathering of around 50 people.

“The blessing with Jonelle is even though you’re feeling low and sad and missing her like crazy, you’ll start laughing because there’s humor in all of it; she was such a wonderful and beautiful person. She brought color, life and feeling into the room. She could not be with you and you not be changed,” Toni Graham, who was one of Melton’s friends, said.

Graham also joked about Melton’s love for history.

“I never saw anybody go down to Virginia, where George Washington [lived] and listen to the lectures about Washington’s slaves and she acted like she was going to the Bahamas. She was so excited wanting to tell me about the trip,” said Graham.

“I just think this is a positive way to show her family that we still support them,” said Linda Clark, who helped to organize the event with Tiffaney Harris.

The night was also dedicated to thanking law enforcement for staying with the case and charging three men in the killing of Melton: From the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Det. Daniel Baldwin, Det. Scott Samis, Sgt. Michael Magliozzo, Sgt. Shannon Kavanaugh, Lt. Jeffery Wilbert, and Capt. Douglas Johnson. According to those who worked on the case, the investigation is not over.

“These types of crime are so terrible. … We tried not to let this case be personal, but it was. This case continues to move forward … [the case] is not over yet,” Samis said.

“All we wanted to do was bring closure to the family; now we need to bring justice in the case of Jonelle.”

The Neptune City Police Department was also honored, represented by Det. Hoover Cano and Lt. Matthew Quagliato. Melton was a resident of Neptune City.

On Nov. 19, the Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced that three men from Asbury Park had been charged with the murder. The investigation found that James Fair, 27, Ebenezer Byrd, 35, and Gregory Jean-Baptiste, 26, had planned to rob another apartment in the Brighton Arms complex in Neptune. The men mistakenly broke into Melton’s apartment and allegedly murdered her. The three are currently awaiting a grand jury hearing.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.

Youngster shows strength in battle against cancer

By CHRISTINE BARCIA
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

Photo

 KATHY McBAIN/STAFF KATHY McBAIN/STAFF Greater Media Newspapers held a holiday food drive in the Manalapan office from Dec. 9-21. Donations were brought to the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune.

Oceanport to consider Habitat proposal

By KENNY WALTER
Staff Writer

OCEANPORT — Facing a deadline, the Borough Council is considering a proposal to allow Habitat for Humanity to build two single-family homes on Pemberton Avenue in an effort to satisfy affordable housing requirements.

The council discussed the proposal during the Dec. 17 meeting, but cited concerns over allowing construction on the property, which is currently used as overflow parking for the nearby Oceanport Senior Center and Oceanport First Aid Squad.

“It is for the good of the first aid, for the good of the community, for the good of the seniors,” Councilman Stuart Briskey said. “Nothing against the homes, but we should be able to find other properties.”

The proposal by Habitat for Humanity is to construct two 1,200-square-foot singlefamily homes on the corner of Pemberton Avenue and East Main Street.

Borough planner Elizabeth McManus said the Pemberton lots are included in the borough’s 2015 affordable housing plan for the first two Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) rounds, and the borough is still awaiting approval of the third round.

The borough’s history with COAH began in 2005 following a builder’s remedy lawsuit, a lawsuit filed on behalf of a developer complaining a municipality does not do enough to fulfill affordable housing requirements.

Recently the borough was granted immunity from future builder’s remedy lawsuits while the courts consider the borough’s third-round COAH obligation.

However, the borough must decide quickly on the Pemberton proposal as the court has stipulated that the Borough Council pass a resolution by the middle of January committing to the project and a resolution within four months entering into a developer’s agreement with Habitat for Humanity or an alternate developer.

McManus said it would be difficult for the borough to substitute the Pemberton project with two housing units elsewhere in Oceanport.

“In order to substitute those properties, the borough would need to adopt a revised housing element and fair share plan,” she said. “It would be a complicated process.

“Municipalities do have the option to amend the plan, but this would be a complicated process.”

Borough Attorney Scott Arnette also said the decision to substitute the properties could open the borough up to future litigation.

“The judgment says this is the circumstance,” Arnette said. “Is everything set in stone? Perhaps not, but you would need to acquire two properties.

“Then you would need to go back and open this judgment, which means opening the litigation. This is what was agreed to. You run the risk of reopening litigation that is settled.”

However, Councilman Joseph Irace said when the council adopted the affordable housing plan in 2012 they intended to switch the housing project slated for Pemberton Avenue with affordable housing at Fort Monmouth.

“It was never intended to be built there, it was always intended to be built somewhere else,” he said. “That’s the impression we were given.”

Residents and first aid volunteers voiced concerns over the proposal, citing increased traffic and safety concerns for pedestrians with additional street parking as the main concerns.

The Borough Council will discuss the issue during a special Jan. 7 council meeting where action may be taken.

Race, ride and party into 2016

TOP PICK

iPlay America rings in the New Year with a blast during the Fifth annual New Year’s Eve Bash from 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 31. iPlay America’s New Year’s Eve Party pass includes unlimited rides and attractions, a $10 game card, party favors, spectacular prizes and giveaways throughout the evening, a confetti cannon, light show and great music pumping through the entire park, with a live D.J., all for just $39.99. A la carte treats can be purchased at Sonny’s Boardwalk Grill, Boardwalk Bites, Rob’s Pizza, The Grind Coffee Co. and Mixx Frozen Yogurt throughout the celebration.

The New Year’s Eve Party and Prix Fixe Dinner pass is just $79.99 for adults and $54.99 for children age 12 and younger. This pass includes everything in the New Year’s Eve Party Pass plus a champagne toast for adults 21 and older. Dinner reservations begin at 7:30 p.m. and are for 90 minute seatings with staggered seatings every 15 minutes. Toddlers are free. Reservations are required to 732-577-8200.

You can watch the ball drop on one of iPlay America’s multitude of big screen monitors. iPlay America is located at 110 Schanck Road in Freehold.For more information call 732-577-8200 or visit iPlayAmerica.com/NYE2016.

Local families receive holiday meals

NEPTUNE — Children in the Kids Café program receive a hot meal each day during their after-school programs. However, when schools are closed, many families struggle.

The grocery chain, Wegmans, wanted to help those families.

So Wegmans teamed up with The Food- Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties to distribute a frozen turkey and bag of groceries to each child’s family.

“We are big supporters of the work being done at the local Boys and Girls Clubs. The way in which their teams engage children is rooted in enhancing the future of our community through foundational instruction. It is a mission that holds a place in our hearts; one that resonates with our people. As we looked at the needs for the holiday season, we thought of no better way than to work through the FoodBank to provide a turkey and holiday bag for the members of the Boys and Girls Clubs in Asbury Park and Red Bank, as well as wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season,” said John Zammetti, store manager of Ocean Wegmans, in a press release.

“There are 40,000 children in our serving area that are in food insecure households,” said FoodBank Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez in the press release. “For some of the children in the Kids Café program, it’s the only hot meal they receive all day and it truly makes a difference in their ability to thrive so they can focus on their school work. Kids cannot concentrate when their stomachs are empty. When the program is closed, some families have to go without or stretch their meals so everyone can eat. This donated meal allows them to enjoy the holiday with less stress over food.”

“I know for a fact that this extra meal is a great help to our families, so we are very grateful to Wegmans and The FoodBank for working together to make this happen,” said Stephanie D’Alessio, Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County’s director of education and programs. “This is what community is all about.”

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

Rumson Garden Club spreads ‘holly day’ cheer

 Christmas Greens co-chair Liz Dusko, left to right, Rumson Garden Club President Diane Guidone and Christmas Greens co-chair Angela Benin proudly display some of the wreaths donated to local non-profits this year.  PHOTO COURTESY OF RUMSON GARDEN CLUB Christmas Greens co-chair Liz Dusko, left to right, Rumson Garden Club President Diane Guidone and Christmas Greens co-chair Angela Benin proudly display some of the wreaths donated to local non-profits this year. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUMSON GARDEN CLUB RUMSON — For more than 80 years, the Rumson Garden Club (RGC) has held its annual Christmas Green Workshop to spread holiday cheer and help local not-for-profits deck their halls.

Since its inception in 1930, the workshop’s boughs of holly, boxwood, magnolia, pine and spruce are clipped from members’ properties and brought to Bingham Hall. There, members gather to create evergreen centerpieces, embellish wreaths and stuff candy into bags to herald the start of the holiday season.

The wreaths, table pieces and candy bags are ferried to local not-for-profits. This year, the organizations included Parker Family Clinic, Love Inc., Monmouth Historical Society, John Montgomery House, History House, King James Care Center, Meridian Health Care Center, Rumson Borough Hall, Oceanic Public Library, Lunch Break, St. Marks Keansburg Center for Community Renewal and the Boys & Girls Clubs in Asbury Park and Red Bank.

“It’s my favorite RGC activity,” said Nancy Dickson, a member of 50 years, about the annual workshop held the first Saturday of every December. “It’s so worthwhile and a wonderful way for members to get together and give back to the community. It’s a great feeling to give to others.”

In addition, this year the Christmas Greens volunteers created 100 small arrangements for the meal trays for Red Bank Area Meals on Wheels clients.

“It’s a joy to create just a little holiday cheer for those who are unable to leave their homes during the season,” said coordinator Jan Glass.

“There is so much creativity, talent, camaraderie and good spirits to go around,” said Angela Bennink, who co-chairs the event with Liz Dusko. “It’s great fun to be a part of Christmas Green Workshop and know that everything you do will bring a smile to someone’s face.”

For more information, visit wwww.rumsongardenclub.org.