Holmdel home damaged in fire

HOLMDEL—A Tuesday morning fire broke out in a home in Holmdel just weeks before the homeowners were set to move in.

The Holmdel Police Department responded to an unoccupied home on Hop Brook Lane just after 2 a.m. on Dec. 22.

The home was newly constructed and was approximately two weeks away from being occupied by homeowner. 

The cause is still under investigation by the Holmdel Fire Inspector, Monmouth County Fire Marshall’s Office, Monmouth County Prosecutors Office and Holmdel Detective Bureau. 

Fire departments from Holmdel and several surrounding towns responded along with Holmdel First Aid Squad.  

Any immediate inquiries can be referred to evening Patrol Commander Lt. Robert Philhower.  All other case inquires please refer to Lt. Keith Cannata.

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.”

Cancer care center rising in Middletown

By KAYLA J. MARSH
Staff Writer

Residents of Monmouth County will soon have easier access to cutting-edge cancer care, treatments and medicines when Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center opens a new 304,000-square-foot outpatient treatment facility in Middletown in December 2016.

“Construction at the site is currently underway,” said Richard Barakat, deputy physician-in-chief for MSK Regional Care Network and Cancer Alliance. “All the mechanical equipment is in place, the duct work and utilities have been installed, more lighting is being put in for patients … and now we are really focusing on the redesign of the interior space.”

MSK Monmouth will be situated on a 40-acre property at 480 Red Hill Road off Garden State Parkway exit 114.

The Red Hill Road property was home to a three-story, 285,000-square-foot office building last occupied by Lucent Technologies a decade ago.

“What we did was looked at the areas where a significant number of our patients come from,” Barakat said. “This is an area where approximately seven percent of our patients travel to the city from, and this building was available, was large, could be fitted out very well for medical purposes [and] was in a fantastic location being right off the Garden State Parkway.”

When doors open in December, 2016, patients from Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties and other surrounding communities with different cancers such as lymphoma, breast, lung, colon and gynecological cancers, will have access to the most advanced care under one roof.

MSK physicians and nurses will provide services ranging from chemotherapy, radiation oncology, diagnostic and interventional radiology, ambulatory surgery and endoscopy, social work, nutrition and genetics counseling and other support and survivorship services.

“The unique thing is that this is the first site we will be performing outpatient surgery,” Barakat said. “Surgical consultations can be done here, and we will have the tools and the resources to perform minor operations here.”

Barakat said the advantage of having a centrally located site like this is that patients who might have undergone major surgery at the center’s city location may need further treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, which can make you sick and tired.

He said the central location is making it more convenient for patients and puts less of a strain on their bodies, and on family members.

“The incidence of cancer in and around Monmouth County is expected to increase by 17 percent over the next 10 years,” he said. “This is due in part to population growth and the success of screening programs at detecting new cancers, as well as to the rising median age of the population.” Barakat said that by MSK Monmouth employing more than 800 clinical trials, new techniques and treatments could be found to combat cancers.

“At MSK we are constantly working to expand the clinical trials to increase the spectrum of studies we’ve gone through and to give us the best outcome and make novel treatments available to our patients,” he said.

The building that will house the center — which was approved by the Middletown Township Planning Board in January 2013 — is currently undergoing renovations to also accommodate more than 120,000 square feet of clinical space, according to Barakat.

Extra room will be used to also create a 50,000-square-foot data center, which will house research, health records and other digital information under one roof.

“This is about doing what’s best for the patients and seeing how to make it more convenient for them, and we look forward to bringing the care to them, making it more local and more patient-friendly,” Barakat said.

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 fire quickly brought under control

By KAYLA J. MARSH
Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN — The cause of a house fire that broke out in the North Middletown section of the township is currently under investigation by the Middletown Township Fire Prevention office, according to authorities.

At approximately 11:41 a.m. Dec. 19, the Middletown Township Fire Department was dispatched to a call of smoke at 171 Route 36, in the North Middletown area of the township, according to Dennis W. Fowler, public information officer for the department.

Upon arrival, firefighters encountered a heavy volume of smoke and fire emanating from a building’s second-floor bedroom.

According to Fowler, firefighters quickly ensured that all residents safely exited the structure and proceed to extinguish the fire.

Firefighters contained the blaze to the second floor bedroom, using Thermal Imaging Cameras and used a series of fans to ventilate the smoke from the structure, Fowler said. There was heavy smoke and minor water damage to other areas of the structure, according to Fowler.

Deputy Chief John Gorsegner declared the fire under control by noon and responding units cleared the scene by approximately 2:30 p.m.

Approximately 60 firefighters from the Belford Engine, Belford Independent, East Keansburg and Port Monmouth Fire Companies responded to the scene.

Also assisting at the scene were the Middletown Township Fire Department’s Air Support Unit and the Fairview First Aid Squad stood by during the incident.

According to Fowler, no injuries were reported during the incident.

Laura Steinmetz, chief communications officer for the Jersey Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross, said assistance was quickly given to those affected by the blaze.

“American Red Cross responded to a request for assistance on Dec. 19 at 171 Highway 36 in Middletown, Monmouth County,” she said. “Red Cross Disaster Volunteers met with one adult female who was displaced from her home and was provided care, comfort and emergency assistance including food, clothing and temporary lodging.”

Youths may enter poster 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 the 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

New Jersey collects over $100M in criminal and civil actions

The District of New Jersey collected more than $100 million in criminal and civil actions in Fiscal Year 2015.

Of the $102,476,557 amount, $64,631,183 was collected in criminal actions and $37,845,373 was collected in civil actions, according to a statement prepared by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

The District of New Jersey worked with other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and components of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $9.27 billion in cases pursued jointly with these offices. Of this amount, $297,806 was collected in criminal actions and $9,265,900,389 was collected in civil actions, Fishman said.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced on Dec. 3 that the Justice Department collected $23.1 billion in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, which represents more than seven and a half times the approximately $2.93 billion of the Justice Department’s combined appropriations for the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the main litigating divisions of the same period.

“Our office is responsible for keeping the public safe from all kinds of abuse, from violent crime to financial exploitation,” Fishman said. “As part of that mission, the public servants in our office continue to collect far more in fines, penalties, asset forfeiture, restitution and settlements than our operating expenses. Using that money to make crime victims whole, invest in our law enforcement partners and help fund the general treasury is good economics and good public safety.”

The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, along with the department’s litigating divisions, are responsible for enforcing and collecting civil and criminal debts owed to the U.S. and criminal debts owed to federal crime victims. The law requires defendants to pay restitution to the victims of certain federal crimes who have suffered a physical injury or financial loss. While restitution is paid to the victim, criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims’ Fund, which distributes the funds to state victim compensation and victim assistance programs, according to Fishman.

The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the United States recovered government money lost to fraud or other misconduct or collected fines imposed on individuals and/or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws.

In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Small Business Administration and Department of Education.

Additional, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, working with partner agencies and divisions, collected $18,808,153 in asset forfeiture actions for the fiscal year. Forfeited assets deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund are used to restore funds to crime victims and for a variety of law enforcement purposes.

In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey obtained final orders of forfeiture for property that is being held pending sale.

Team Kevin Strive gives youths a helping hand

By P.J. CANDIDO
Staff Writer

Volunteers who share a passion for an active lifestyle regularly dedicate their time to individuals who have a medical disability.

The volunteers make up Team Kevin Strive, which was started to raise awareness and to show that people who have a medical disability can still be participants in an active lifestyle.

The nonprofit Team Kevin Strive started when Kim Hansen, of Freehold Township, entered herself and her son, Kevin, 16, in a race. Hansen said Kevin is a special needs child who is medically fragile, but loves to be active.

Hansen and her son have been racing for three years, while Team Kevin Strive is 1 year old.

“My passion is to let Kevin experience anything he can and wants to experience,” Hansen said. “It makes me really excited and happy to see him doing things he enjoys.”

She said Team Kevin Strive’s goal is to raise money that can be used to purchase wheelchairs that have been designed for racing. The equipment allows individuals who have special needs to participate in races in ways that would otherwise not be possible.

“We have racing chairs, bike chairs and even boat chairs that pull the kids in the water,” Hansen said. “Our motto is you can do anything if you just try.”

She said Team Kevin Strive provides opportunities to individuals with special needs who want the thrill of racing by providing a “pit crew” and racing chairs for races of different distances.

“This past year we have done two triathlons and numerous 5K runs,” Hansen said. “Being disabled does not mean you cannot achieve your goals. It is just amazing how unselfish everyone is in helping those in need. You want to help these kids have a really good experience.

“What is so amazing is that these volunteers come just because they want to. When they see these kids smile, they want to come back and do more with them and the kids just have a great time,” she added.

Team Kevin Strive is sponsored by Hooters restaurants. Hansen said Hooters and the Elizabeth Police Department help to raise awareness and money so that children who have special needs may have an active and fun lifestyle.

“The kids hit the finish line and there is really nothing more tear-jerking than going through that with the child you are pushing,” she said.

Individuals who would like to volunteer for Team Kevin Strive may visit www.teamkevinstrive.org for additional information.

‘Go Green’ during holidays

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

 Reuse holiday items such as a festive holiday napkin used as wrapping, newsprint-wrapped gifts, burlap-wrapped gifts and gift tags cut from Christmas cards.  PHOTO COURTESY OF NANCY KRAUSS Reuse holiday items such as a festive holiday napkin used as wrapping, newsprint-wrapped gifts, burlap-wrapped gifts and gift tags cut from Christmas cards. PHOTO COURTESY OF NANCY KRAUSS Residents are encouraged to “Go Green For the Holidays.” Trash sent to the landfill increases an average of 25 percent because of the holiday season, according to Nancy Krauss, recycling program aide for the North Brunswick Department of Public Works.

To reduce, buy gift items with the least amount of packaging, consider wrapping presents in reusable fabric instead of paper and consider a potted Christmas tree that can be planted after the holidays.

To reuse, cut old holiday cards into fun shapes to use as gift tags, bring reusable shopping totes to the store, save gift bags and gift boxes for next year’s use and use recycled wrapping paper or brightly colored newspaper to wrap gifts.

To recycle, place gift boxes, packing materials, non-metallic wrapping paper, greeting cards and envelopes, plastic drinking cups and cardboard wrapping paper inserts in the appropriate recycling bins. Also, bring packing peanuts to a local UPS store.

The ideas stemmed from Krauss’s childhood, as she learned recycling tips from her parents, who being from the World War II generation, were “recyclers extraordinaire,” and from her grandparents, who did not have much money to buy new items while living through the Great Depression.

“I didn’t realize it was recycling at the time but it did make financial sense,” Krauss said of habits such as putting food scraps in a can on the sink to compost, burning newspapers and cardboard in a fireplace, returning plastic soda bottles to the store before it was mainstream, turning eggshells into mulch, using the “Funny Pages” of the newspaper as birthday paper and her father turning extra copies of music sheets into notepads.

Although growing up, she thought her family was “crazy” for its obsession with recycling, she quickly learned that there was a spillover effect because of the resourcefulness of recycling.

“Still, to this day, I do that kind of stuff because habits, when they’re part of your everyday routine, they stick with you,” she said.

For the holidays, she continues in the traditions her mother set, such as cutting Christmas cards into gift tags, sending the same Christmas cards back and forth, wrapping wine bottles in fabric or putting presents in a totebag.

“It saved the consumption of new materials and was also a fun tradition,” Krauss said.

“Some of these habits bled into my group of friends as well. … I have friends who wouldn’t buy a gift tag if their life depended on it.”

As a member of DPW and a certified recycling professional through Rutgers University, Krauss undoubtedly understands the financial impact of recycling, as recycling rates go up as disposal rates decrease.

But although she pursued employment with DPW because of her computer skills, she turned her “passion” into something more productive. She believes that if one resident partakes in just one recycling activity, the results would be significant.

“Small acts create a huge impact if everyone does just a little bit,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to make an impact now.

“Old-time points of view are important today, if not more,” she said.

For more “green” tips, call Krauss at DPW at 732-297-1134.

County auction nets more than $180K

The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders has announced that the county’s recent auction of surplus items generated $180,736, bringing the combined total of the county’s online surplus property auctions to $2,961,759.

The county began conducting its surplus property auctions completely online in 2008, according to a press release.

Surplus property from the county’s Division of Fleet Services, Sheriff’s Office, Buildings and Grounds department, Reclamation Center and park system, and seized and surplus property from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office was sold to the highest bidders.

“This auction consisted of 259 items, including 89 vehicles,” said Freeholder Director Gary J. Rich Sr. “These surplus auctions are beneficial for both the county and our residents who are obtaining these items for a fraction of their actual cost.”

The auctions are coordinated by the Department of Public Works and Engineering, Division of Fleet Services, with assistance provided by the Purchasing Division.

“By continuing to conduct the surplus and seized property auctions online, the county eliminates the need to pay overtime for security and item pick-up,” Rich said. “The online auction has made this process a revenue stream.”

The auction was conducted Oct. 17-20. As usual, vehicles made up a good share of the items that hit the auction block, according to the press release.

The auction was conducted by Auction Liquidation Services of Eatontown.