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 PHOTOGRAPHER 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 PHOTOGRAPHER 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.”

North Brunswick fire marshal draws 6 months for fraud

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

Former North Brunswick Fire Marshal Craig Snediker was sentenced to six months in prison, six months home confinement and three years supervised release after pleading guilty to embezzlement earlier this year.

Snediker, 40, of Monroe Township, will also pay a fine of $3,000 and has already paid restitution in the amount of $87,812.41, according to information provided by Matthew Reilly of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding Snediker’s sentencing on Dec. 16.

The former treasurer of North Brunswick Volunteer Fire Co. 3, Snediker confessed to one count of wire fraud in federal court on Sept. 2, charging that he embezzled at least $89,000 from the fire company since last year, according to a statement prepared by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

According to Fishman, Snediker had the authority to deposit and withdraw money from the fire company’s bank account, which held public funds and private donations, since he was the treasurer.

Snediker admitted that from March 25, 2014, through May 19, 2015, he used ATMs at banks in Middlesex County to access the funds for his personal expenses. Overall, Snediker admitted that he withdrew between $89,000 and $92,986 without the fire company’s authorization.

Snediker later concealed his actions by misrepresenting the account balance to the Township of North Brunswick, Fishman said.

Although Snediker also served as treasurer of the entire North Brunswick Fire Department, the charges themselves and the damages they caused pertain only to the bank account for Fire Company 3, not the whole fire department’s fund, according to William Skaggs, deputy public affairs officer for the United States Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey.

Snediker had been the township’s fire marshal since August 2000, his only official position with the town, according to North Brunswick Business Administrator Robert Lombard. Donald Salzmann has been the acting fire marshal, pending the still-in-process search for a permanent replacement, Lombard said.

Snediker’s attorney, Robert C. Scrivo, a partner in McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter of Morristown, could not be reached by press time.

Police investigate stabbed man found on Ridge Road

SOUTH BRUNSWICK — Police are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the discovery of a man stabbed on Ridge Road on Dec. 11.

Police received a phone call from a motorist at 2 a.m. reporting an injured man on the shoulder of Ridge Road near Corn Road. Officers arrived and discovered the 25-year-old New York City man to be suffering from several stab wounds, according to a statement released by the South Brunswick Police Department.

Monmouth Junction First Aid Squad members and paramedics transported the victim to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick where he underwent surgery. The victim was listed in stable condition as of press time.

Detectives are working to identify where and how the victim suffered the stab wounds, according to officials. South Brunswick police are coordinating with New York City police in the investigation.

Preliminary indications are the incident was not a random act, officials said.

Police are asking anyone with information to call police at 732-329-4646.

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

Spicuzzo released from prison after serving two of nine-year sentence

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo has been released from jail.

Spicuzzo was sentenced in 2013 to nine years in prison for running a jobs-for-cash scheme that yielded him approximately $112,000 in bribes from those seeking positions or promotions in the sheriff’s department, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said at the time.

He was released from the Central Reception and Assignment Facility (CRAF) in Trenton on Dec. 17, according to a receptionist at the CRAF. Spicuzzo had to serve at least two years before becoming eligible for parole. He faced numerous charges in the scheme, but entered into a deal in which he pleaded guilty to only one of them.

The 70-year-old Helmetta resident was sentenced in state Superior Court in Monmouth County on Sept. 20, 2013, after pleading guilty to a charge of accepting $25,000 in exchange for a job in his office. He was the Middlesex County sheriff for three decades, from 1980 until his 2010 retirement, and was chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization for 16 years.

Former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Investigator Darrin P. DiBiasi, 47, of Monmouth Junction, and former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer Paul A. Lucarelli, 50, of South River, also submitted guilty pleas. The two men admitted to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant.

DiBiasi was sentenced on Sept. 20, 2013, to 364 days in jail, five years probation, 200 hours community service and a $5,000 fine.

Lucarelli was sentenced to three years probation, fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service during his sentencing on Oct. 4, 2013.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

No information available about weapons seized in North Brunswick

NORTH BRUNSWICK — An undisclosed number of weapons have been seized from a residence on Livingston Avenue.

The weapons were taken during an investigation by the North Brunswick Police Department, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI, according to a statement released on Dec. 18 by Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Director Kenneth McCormick of the North Brunswick Police Department.

The investigation is active and is continuing. No other information is available at this time.

End-of-year campaign targets drunk drivers

Local law enforcement agencies will be cracking down on drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs as part of the annual end-of-year “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” statewide campaign.

Through Jan. 1, police officers will conduct saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints looking for motorists who may be driving while intoxicated.

The national effort endeavors to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving through a combination of high-visibility enforcement and public education.

Last year, 27 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in New Jersey were alcohol-related. Nationally, more than 10,000 people die each year in drunk driving crashes.

In December 2013 alone, there were 733 people killed in crashes involving a drunk driver with 23 of these deaths occurring on Christmas Day.

The societal cost associated with these crashes is estimated to be $37 billion annually. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Law enforcement agencies participating in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over 2015 Year End Holiday Crackdown offer the following advice for holiday season:

– Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a sober friend to drive you home;

– Spend the night where the activity or party is held;

– If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement; and

– Always use a seat belt.

Coca-Cola fined for serious health and safety violations

SOUTH BRUNSWICK — The Coca- Cola distribution warehouse in Monmouth Junction has been fined more than $61,000 for repeat and serious safety and health workplace violations.

Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc.’s distribution warehouse at 60 Deans Rhode Hall Road was cited for four repeat and two serious safety and health violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Dec. 11.

OSHA inspectors cited repeat violations for hazards associated with obstructed exit routes, lack of illuminated emergency exit signs, unmarked exits and improper storage of compressed gas cylinders, according to a statement prepared by OSHA.

The serious violations were related to unguarded floor holes and lack of refresher training related to forklifts.

“Blocked exit routes and unmarked exits pose a serious danger to Coca-Cola’s warehouse employees, as they prevent quick escape in case of an emergency,” said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA’s Avenel office. “Employers have a legal obligation to ensure workers have a safe and healthy workplace, and will be held accountable when they fail to do so.”

To view the citations, visit www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Coca-ColaRefreshmentsUSAInc_ 1070964.pdf.

Townhouse resident killed during accidental fire

SOUTH BRUNSWICK — Police have identified the man who died in a townhouse fire on Dec. 11.

John Doran, 59, lived at 27 Deerberry Lane with another family member who was not home at the time of the fire, according to a statement prepared by Capt. James Ryan of the South Brunswick Police Department.

The Middlesex County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy over the weekend; the official cause of death is pending additional test results.

Doran suffered from several medical conditions and had limited mobility, Ryan said.

Fire investigators from the South Brunswick Fire Marshal Office, the Middlesex County Fire Marshal Office and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office have determined the cause of the fire to be accidental, Ryan said.

When firefighters arrived at 2:45 p.m. for the smell of smoke in an adjacent townhouse, the fire had already been burning for some time, officials said. The fire was extinguished within minutes of its discovery.

“On arrival we began to check the entire twelve units of the building. We quickly picked up high levels of carbon monoxide and began to search for the cause. I came around the opposite side of the building from the initial caller and saw smoke coming from one of the doors and a blackened window. I knew we had a fire inside that unit,” Kendall Park Fire Chief Chris Perez said. “Firefighters had the blaze extinguished within minutes, but the damage was extensive.”

The fire created extensive damage to the first-floor townhouse. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters located Doran deceased in the home.

All residents were allowed back into their homes by 7 p.m.

Stroke of Creativity uses art to help people cope with life’s challenges

 Brandywine Senior Living resident Alice Leach and A Stroke of Creativity owner Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio. Brandywine Senior Living resident Alice Leach and A Stroke of Creativity owner Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio. Ten residents of Brandywine Senior Living in Princeton enjoyed an afternoon of ceramic painting in Monroe to express their creativity.

The seniors were able to pick a sculpture from a large selection to paint at A Stroke of Creativity on Englishtown Road on Nov. 18.

“This was our first experience of many to come at A Stroke Of Creativity,” said Stephanie Gaber, activity director at Brandywine Senior Living. “The owners of this creative shop were patient, caring and very hands-on.”

Patty Lang was a special education teacher in Watchung. One day in 2008 she suffered a stroke while driving home. On that very same day, her husband Bob Lang lost his job at Avis.

As Bob Lang was without work, he was able to take care of their three children while his wife recovered.

 Brandywine resident Kirt Wedemeyer, left to right, A Stroke of Creativity owner Bob Lang, resident Nancy Pike and resident Harriet Strauss work together on a project. Brandywine resident Kirt Wedemeyer, left to right, A Stroke of Creativity owner Bob Lang, resident Nancy Pike and resident Harriet Strauss work together on a project. “During my recovery my occupational therapist got me involved in painting. I had never painted before,” said Patty Lang, who explained it helped speed her recovery. “Then I realized, ‘Hey, I’m pretty good at painting.’”

Bob Lang was unable to find work in his own profession and had his mind set on opening his own business. The Langs decided on a paint-your-own ceramic studio, assisted by friends in Virginia who ran a similar studio. “I thought of this name Stroke of Creativity because I had a stroke and then I became creative,” Patty Lang said of the business that opened in December 2008. “It’s not just a place to be creative, but a place for people who have hit life’s speed bumps to come together and share experiences, struggles, success and resources, all while enjoying the opportunity to explore their creative side.”

 Brandywine resident Flo Webber and A Stroke of Creativity’s Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio.  PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE GABER Brandywine resident Flo Webber and A Stroke of Creativity’s Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio. PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE GABER Brandywine Senior Living is an assisted living residence located at 155 Raymond Road, Princeton. For more information, visit www.brandycare.com or call 732-329- 8888.

A Stroke of Creativity is located at 557 Englishtown Road, Monroe. For more information, call 732-446-4268 or visit www.astrokeofcreativity.com.