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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Nurse from Little Silver recognized by March of Dimes

LITTLE SILVER — The March of Dimes New Jersey chapter honored Little Silver resident Rebecca Norton from CentraState Healthcare System in Freehold as the 2015 March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award in the Surgical Services category.

Through Nurse of the Year Awards, the March of Dimes recognizes nurses who demonstrate exceptional patient care, compassion, and service. Whether serving as a health care provider, educator, researcher, or chapter volunteer/advisor, these nurses have played a critical role in improving the health of New Jersey’s mothers and babies.

Norton is a registered nurse in the operating room at CentraState Healthcare System. She was part of starting a post-operative timeout program that tracks specimens, wound class, diagnosis, plus room and equipment issues; has achieved large improvements in her unit of the goal to reduce immediate use steam sterilization; and partnered with a surgeon to rewrite the hospital’s website on robotic surgery, according to a statement prepared by the March of Dimes.

She developed and is currently conducting a study comparing postoperative pain levels between patients undergoing robotic single site gallbladder removal versus traditional laparoscopic gallbladder removal.

“We could not do the work of the March of Dimes without the passion and commitment of our nurses. This is our opportunity to show them how special they truly are,” said Allie Hall, Central Division executive director for the New Jersey chapter of the March of Dimes.

New Jersey award recipients were announced at a special awards gala on Nov. 18 at the Pines Manor in Edison.

More than 196 nurses were nominated in 19 different award categories. At the event there were 115 finalists who represented 48 hospitals and healthcare facilities.

The event raised over $90,000 to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

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.”