PSE&G warns customers about increase in phone, home scams

Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is urging its customers to be cautious of callers who demand immediate payment via a pre-paid card, and wary of phony utility workers showing up at their door to “check a problem.”

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in the number of scams being reported to us by customers,” said Greg Dunlap, vice president of customer operations for PSE&G. “The only way to protect against these scams is for customers to be cautious when contacted by someone seeking access to their home or demanding immediate payment. Even one customer being cheated is one too many.”

Phone scammers use scare tactics such as threatening service termination if they do not receive immediate payment with a pre-paid credit card. PSE&G offers a number of payment options and would never require a customer to use one specific type of payment, representatives said.

Door-to-door scammers use trickery such as showing up at someone’s house dressed like a utility worker and say they need to “check a problem.” Often, after they gain access they burglarize the home. Residents should always ask to see ID.

When in doubt of suspicious activity, PSE&G customers should call 1-800-436- PSEG (7734) and report scamming activity to their local police department.

North Brunswick hires police officer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — The township police department has added another officer to its roster.

Cal L. Hibbitts was sworn in during the Dec. 21 council meeting.

Hibbitts recently graduated from the Monmouth County Police Academy’s 89th class on Dec. 17. He is a graduate of North Brunswick Township High School and Middlesex County College, where he earned an associate’s degree.

Police Director Kenneth McCormick said the new hire is in response to replacing retiring officers.

Race, ride and party into 2016


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

Kloos Christmas light show shines spotlight on fallen Spotswood EMT

Staff Writer

 Paying tribute to Hinal Patel, the Spotswood EMT who was killed while on duty in July, Kloos Family Lights incorporated a Spotswood EMS badge into their Christmas lights display. The Kloos family will also be accepting donations that will go toward a scholarship to be awarded in Patel’s honor to a graduating Spotswood High School senior.  MICHAEL NUNES/STAFF Paying tribute to Hinal Patel, the Spotswood EMT who was killed while on duty in July, Kloos Family Lights incorporated a Spotswood EMS badge into their Christmas lights display. The Kloos family will also be accepting donations that will go toward a scholarship to be awarded in Patel’s honor to a graduating Spotswood High School senior. MICHAEL NUNES/STAFF EAST BRUNSWICK — For this year’s Christmas display at Kloos Family Lights, a badge honoring fallen Spotswood EMT Hinal Patel was the focal point of the display.

“Every year we choose a different charity to donate to. … We really like doing a cause that is close to home. So this is why we went with Hinal this year because we wanted the money to benefit something close to home and see the results of what we do,” said Billy Kloos, who along with his brother Ryan has been setting up elaborate Christmas light displays.

Kloos Family Lights held a First Responders Night on Dec. 12, inviting Patel’s former co-workers and other first responders to the display at 13 Sterling Court.

Patel, 22, of Piscataway, was killed when her ambulance, while en route to an emergency call, was struck by a motor vehicle on July 25, causing the ambulance to turn over. The accident occurred at the intersection of Cranbury Road and Ryders Lane.

“This is actually a great honor because this shows she was well loved and well respected,” said Miriam Barbarise, director of Spotswood EMS.

The Kloos family also collected donations, which will fund a scholarship for a Spotswood High School senior who plans on pursuing a career in the medical field, just as Patel had dreamed of going to medical school.

The recipient of the scholarship will be chosen by a special committee and awarded during the Spotswood Public Schools’ Senior Awards Night.

“To do this to help someone achieve what she had planned on achieving, I think it’s an honor. … For them to choose my Hinal is pretty cool,” Barbarise said.

For Spotswood Mayor Nicholas Poliseno, this scholarship is a way of keeping Patel’s memory alive.

“I am so excited to honor Hinal and to keep her memory going,” he said, adding that he hopes to keep the scholarship going for years to come.

“We’re hoping to get 10 years out of this at least and get more people to start donating to this fund so we can keep her name going,” said Poliseno.

In the past, the Kloos family has used the light show to spotlight charities such as Elijah’s Promise Kitchen in East Brunswick, The Make a Wish Foundation, and New Jersey’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

According to Kloos, over the past six years they have raised $28,000.

Last year, Kloos Family Lights raised around $14,000 in honor of Mikey Nichols, the Monroe Township student who became paralyzed when he shattered his C-5 vertebra during an ice hockey game.

According to Kloos, it took 225,000 lights, 1,500 strands and five miles of extension cords to make their display possible.

“I am so proud of both of my sons for doing this,” said Bill Kloos, father of Billy and Ryan. Kloos is a retired North Brunswick police lieutenant.

According to Kloos, the badge honoring Patel will be used in future displays.

Those who wish to donate can do so at

Contact Michael Nunes at


 PHOTOS BY KATHY McBAIN/STAFF PHOTOS BY 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.


Melissa and Rick Geiger of Milltown announce the birth of their daughter, Molly Kate, July 1, 2015, in Saint Peter’s University Hospital, New Brunswick. The baby weighed 8 pounds, 15 ounces and joins her sisters, Julia, 7, and Rachel, 5, and her brother, Ricky Jr., 2. Grandparents are Lynn and Rick Geiger of Spotswood, Joyce and Bill Countess of Medford and Debe and Clifford Munyan of Blue Ridge, Ga. Great-grandmothers are Florence Geiger of South Brunswick and Betty Munyan of Cinnaminson. Godparents are Thomas Geiger of Spotswood and Kristen Eliopoulos of Milltown.

New year offers opportunity to organize

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, 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

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

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

New permit process effective Jan. 1 in North Brunswick

North Brunswick Township recently adopted a new inspection requirement for all residential homes sales and transfers.

The obligation for sellers to secure a Certificate of Continued Occupancy (CCO) takes effect Jan. 1.

This inspection process is limited to address three distinct areas: there are no open building or zoning permits for the property; there has been no work done with the absence of a construction permit or zoning permit where one is required; and there are no identifiable unsafe structures or unsafe conditions as evidenced by a general inspection of the property, according to Michael Hritz, director of Community Development.

If discovered, all open permits must be fully satisfied with all associated fees and inspections as required before the CCO will be issued. If work has been done without a permit, the property owner must file the proper applications, pay all associated permits, fees and secure the inspections necessary to satisfy the permits before the CCO will be issued.

This program was adopted to address two growing areas of concern for the municipality, Hritz said. First, many property owners have been unresponsive to a large inventory of open permits, which have not been fully satisfied. Secondly, work done without proper permits is frequently discovered, which regularly include finished basements, new roofs, and water heater and furnace replacements.

The fee for a CCO for detached residential dwellings — including one-, two-, three- and four-family dwellings — is $150. The fee for a CCO for attached multi-family dwellings, commonly referred to as townhomes or condominiums, is $125.

The construction office will call the designated contact to schedule the inspection once the application has been processed with the appropriate payment, and the necessary zoning approval and permit search have been accomplished.

CCO inspections will require access to the home with the expected inspection time to be an average of 15 minutes. Once a property has been properly inspected and approved for sale, the associated CCO shall generally be issued the next business day, Hritz said.

This new CCO requirement is in addition to the longstanding home sale inspection required by the fire marshal, who verifies the presence and good working order of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher.

Information about the CCO program, along with a copy of the single-page application and the fully detailed adopted ordinance are available at

South Brunswick officers play Santa for victims of burglary

South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka recognized the efforts of a half dozen officers who made sure a township boy had presents under his tree this Christmas.

On Dec. 17, police took a report of a burglary to a Dayton home. Detectives began investigating and soon learned that the suspect had stolen presents that a single mother was going to give to her 5-year-old autistic son on Christmas, police said. The mom explained that she had spent all her money buying the gifts and was unable to replace them.

The officers decided to coordinate with the local PBA to buy they young boy presents. On Christmas Eve morning, officers showed up at the home and gave a tearful mom the presents, police said. The PBA and officers were able to more than double the number of presents for the child.

“These are the kind of officers who make up the outstanding department we have,” Hayducka said. “They wanted to make sure this little boy had a Christmas this year and pulled together to make it possible. They represent the best of our department.”

The investigation into the burglary is ongoing.

Youngster shows strength in battle against cancer

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-