Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spice It Up opens in Bay Village on Long Beach Island

If you’re looking for some inspiration in the kitchen, Spice It Up, one of Beach Haven’s newest shops located in Bay Village, has a plethora of dried herbs and spices, oils, vinegars, spice blends, baking ingredients, salts, peppers and different types of condiments and barbecue fixings to transform your bland food dishes into savory cuisine.

“There’s nothing on the Island like this,” said Regina Lotito, Spice It Up shop owner, who also loves to cook with her husband, Dan Starin, at their home in Beach Haven. “Our focus is on ingredients, to make a good meal at home. We want to provide good, quality ingredients for that experience,” she added.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Born to Hula Hot Sauce, made in New Jersey, is
featured in Bay Village's newest Shop, Spice It Up.
Lotito decided to open the shop after Superstorm Sandy, when the building was damaged and its former occupants decided to leave. Starin helped her renovate the space before it opened in March.
Except for a few items that are imported from France and Italy, such as Monograno Felicetti pasta, “something you just can’t pass up,”  said Lotito, most of the shop’s products are made in small batches by small companies in the United States. Many of the products are made with fresh, organic ingredients.
“Most of them are handmade by families, friends or couples who are doing something different and have a passion for what they do,” said Lotito. “You can tell by the quality of their product.”
Some of the shop’s most fanatical creations come from New Jersey, including Hank Sauce, made by two childhood friends from Sea Isle City. The different varieties, although hot, are more about flavor. The cilantro hot sauce has been “hard to keep on the shelves,” said Lotito.
Born to Hula Hot Sauce, made by Monmouth County resident Ed Bucholtz, who lost his home to Superstorm Sandy and created a “Surge of Sandy” hot sauce, is also featured at the shop. Lotito was able to get only 12 bottles of the limited-edition flavor, and most of them have already been purchased. Portions of the sale were donated to charities dedicated to helping Sandy’s victims.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Spice It Up also offers options for people
to grow their own spices at home.
A few of Born to Hula’s other sauces are made with ghost pepper, a chili pepper previously recognized by Guinness World Records as the hottest pepper in the world. So far, said Lotito, there have been a few brave souls willing to purchase the products containing the scorching ingredient.
“People in town really seem to like spicy foods,” she noted. “Some of these products are hot,” she added, admitting she prefers a more mild taste.
But Spice It Up doesn’t cater just to those who enjoy spicy dishes. It also offers a variety of temperate yet flavorful items. Empire Mayonnaise, which is made by a couple from Brooklyn with non-GMO oil, local, pasture-raised eggs and local, seasonal flavors, is available in a range of exotic tastes because “who can resist bacon mayonnaise?” said Lotito.
Alaska Pure Sea Salt, a flake-style finishing salt handmade from the Gulf of Alaska, is another popular item. The blueberry salt, a seasonal flavor, is delicious on vanilla ice cream, Lotito claimed.
Beer and wine brittle made by Annette’s Chocolates in Napa Valley, Calif., also has made a big impact on customers.
“It’s the crack of Beach Haven,” Lotito joked.
Many companies, including a few hot sauce companies from New York and Maryland, are beginning to reach out to the new shop owner for business, but Lotito said she is really looking to find more local products. Stocking a unique ketchup company is next on the list.
In the future, Lotito plans to offer workshops and other hands-on classes at the shop to help people learn how to use the store’s different ingredients. A grand opening party will be held at the shop in May so attendees may sample its various products.
Spice It Up is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours will increase later in the season. For more information, visit spiceituplbi.com or call 609-492-1240.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

LBI Girl Scouts donate cookies to local first responders

Somehow this article was lost in the shuffle of Superstorm Sandy stories I wrote in January. Nonetheless, I believe these young girls deserve their due publicity...

All 17 girls of Brownie Girl Scout Troop 589 sat quietly on the floor of the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School library in Surf City last Thursday, Jan. 24, while troop leader Melanie Magaziner recited the safety rules of selling Girl Scout cookies. Clad in brown vests, decorated with colorful patches earned through participation in the many different programs provided by the global organization, the 8- and 9-year-old girls shared secret whispers and muffled giggles in-between. Their hushed excitement foreshadowed craft time, when pencils were decorated with pink or white foam hearts, bedecked with green and yellow peace signs and enticing phrases they’re hoping will charm customers into purchasing a box or two of their group’s cookies at upcoming booth sales, where most of the transactions are made.
Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
Haley Skimmons, 8, of Loveladies and
Keira Anderson, 8, of Barnegat Light
show off some of the crafts they made
for their booth sales.
Besides the excitement, this year’s cookie sales have taken on added significance. Every year people can choose to buy cookies that are then donated to worthy organizations. This year, however, Troop 589 is earmarking donated cookies in the Gift of Caring program to be given to first responders of Superstorm Sandy.
“I’d say 90 percent of the girls were affected by Sandy and helped by local first responders,” said Magaziner. “They want to show their appreciation by donating these cookies to them.”
All preordered cookies are to be delivered on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Booth sales will take place between Friday, March 1 and Sunday, April 14. Gift of Caring booth orders will be delivered in groups to local fire and police departments and EMTs on Sunday, April 21.
The cookies have only been on sale for about a week so far this year, and the girls have already sold more donated cookies than their total of 53 boxes last year. Even so, selling cookies in general this year has been difficult for some of the girls who have lost customers due to displacement from the storm.
Summer Davis, 8, of Beach Haven, who has been living with her family at a neighbor’s summer home on the Island ever since Sandy devastated her parents’ residence and family business at Foster’s Farm Market, said she has not sold any boxes so far. Last year, she said she sold between 40 and 50 boxes.
“I want to sell the (Gift of Caring) cookies because some people don’t have enough money to buy them,” she said, a hint of sadness in her voice.
Last year, the girls raised enough money from their cookie sales to make a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo, though they never attended due to inclement weather. To make up for it, the group planned to see the Christmas show at Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, but was unable to do so after Sandy blew through the town. They have decided to donate the money that was to be used for the excursion to the first responders, instead. The money they raise this year will hopefully help them pay for a trip to New York City to see a Broadway play.
The fundraiser “is a big deal for the girls,” said Trish McDougall, the troop’s cookie mom. “Every year we sell more cookies than the last. I wouldn’t be surprised if we sold over 2,000 boxes this year,” she added. The cookies cost $4 a box.
To receive a participation patch for the Gift of Caring program, a girl must sell five boxes of the Gift of Caring cookies.
“It’s a good cause. Sixty-five cents of each box of cookies goes to the troop, so a lot of the money stays in the community,” said Sally Burnett, assistant troop leader and mother of troop member Anna Burnett. She said her family stayed in their home on the Island during the storm and went weeks without water, and had to scoop buckets from the bay to fill their toilets.
The entire troop said they are happy the first responders were immediately able to help them put their lives back together.
All other regional Girl Scout troops are welcome to donate their Gift of Caring boxes to the area’s first responders. For more information, email Magaziner at m.magaziner@yahoo.com, or call her at 609-276-5591.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Second Chance Pet Adoption event in Manahawkin will give adoptable cats and dogs another look

Local Girl Scout Troop 421 will host its second annual Second Chance Pet Adoption event at Manahawkin Lake Park on Saturday, May 4, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. A rain date is set for Sunday, May 5.

The event is being held to help promote forever pet adoptions. A number of local pet rescues and shelters will be in attendance during the day, including Homeless Paws, Labs 4 Rescue, One by One Cat Rescue, German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue, East Coast Paws ’n’ Claws Animal Rescue, Pug Planet Pug Rescue, Popcorn Park Zoo and Southern Ocean County Animal Facility.
Photo via Facebook
Members of Girl Scout Troop 421 make
pet supplies for their second annual
Second Chance Pet Adoption event.
Adoptable animals will be available for meet and greets throughout the day. Admission is free, but donations for the rescues, including dog and cat food and treats, as well as toys and supplies, are welcome.
“Our main reason for this event is to get exposure for the rescues and to educate the community to adopt from rescues and shelters,” said Diane Rydell-Modri, troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 421. “A few rescues lost everything during (Superstorm) Sandy. The (troop) girls love animals, and they really want to continue to help them,” she added.
Three years ago, the girls won the bronze award, a leadership adventure and the highest honor a Girl Scout junior can achieve, for their help working with Homeless Paws, a nonprofit organization comprised solely of volunteers and foster families who rehabilitate and place animals into appropriate homes. The annual adoption event gives the girls the opportunity to continue offering their support to such organizations.
With assistance from other local Girl Scouts, Troop 421 will assemble handmade blankets and toys for the animals during the day of the adoption event.
Many pet-related vendors will be in attendance, too, including the Stafford Veterinary Hospital and Lucky’s Bed and Biscuit. The Stafford Township Police Department will also provide dog demonstrations. An “Around Town” raffle basket of pet supplies worth more than $200 from local businesses will be awarded, too. WOBM radio station will play music between 1 and 4 p.m.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, April 26, 2013

SOCAF to host 'Spring Fling Adoption Event'

The Southern Ocean County Animal Facility, located behind the Olive Garden on Haywood Road in Manahawkin, is hosting its annual Spring Fling Adoption Event on Saturday, April 27, between 1 and 4 p.m. A bake sale and mini flea market offering pet-friendly toys and attire will be available throughout the day, as well as a chance for a photo op with your best furry friend.

Photo via Facebook
The SOCAF is hosting a Spring Fling
Adoption Event to help promote its
available cats and dogs.
“Our busy season’s coming, so we want to bring some attention to the shelter,” said Trish McCallum, assistant manager at the SOCAF. “We want to get people excited about adopting animals and get people to come in and see the cats and dogs that we have, and see how we’ve grown. We’re trying to get people excited about adopting and letting them know we’re here,” she added.
Adoption fees will be waived for selected animals to help promote happy adoptions. Fees include vaccinations and micro-chipping, as well as spaying or neutering. A gift bag will be given with each animal that’s given a forever home.
The food bank will be open for donations. Wet and dry food for cats and dogs, as well as treats for dogs, are needed.
For more information, contact the shelter at 609-978-0127, or visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Southern-Ocean-County-Animal-Shelter/152023547081?fref=ts.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

LBIF to host 'Retro Prom,' funds will benefit Sandy victims

A retro prom certainly makes for a fun night out, a spirited event the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences is hosting inside the organization’s art gallery in Loveladies on Saturday, April 27, between 7 and 10 p.m. The evening dance will help raise money for families affected by Superstorm Sandy. Tickets cost $10 per person, or $15 per couple. Attendees are welcome to bring beverages of choice. Light refreshments are included.

Photo via LBIF
Funds from the LBIF's retro prom
will go toward scholarships for the
organization's summer camps.
“Who doesn’t love a prom?” said Amy Carreno, the Foundation’s public programs coordinator. “It’s prom season. Who doesn’t love the ’80s?” she emphasized.
Guy Smiley will provide live entertainment with hits from the ’80s and beyond to keep the party alive all night long. A prom king and queen will be voted on by the audience and crowned at the end of the evening. Prizes and other exciting offerings will also be available, including a chance to capture memories of the night in the photo booth provided by Boardwalk Photo Booth.
The event welcomes all ages. Attire is considered “funky prom.”
“If you’re feeling daring and you want to rip out your old prom dress, go ahead and put it on,” said Carreno. “We don’t want anyone purchasing a new gown. If they want to rent a tux, great. We just want people to have fun with it. (Wear) a duct tape tuxedo, or jeans and a T-shirt. It’s completely relaxed,” she added.
Funds raised from the event will be awarded as scholarships to be used toward the Foundation’s weekly summer camp programs, which are open to children between 3 and 16 years old. The camp programs will be available from June 24 through Aug. 23.
“It would be great if this can become an annual event and every year our prom funds go to scholarships for families that have a certain need,” said Carreno. “That is definitely the direction we would like to take the Foundation. We are a cultural organization here for the community,” she added.
To purchase tickets or for more information, visit lbifoundation.org or call 609-494-1241. Tickets will also be available at the door.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Record-breaking attendance at Wedding Road Show, LBI

The Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, along with its tourism branch, the LBI Region Destination Marketing Organization, joined forces with wedding industry leaders and nearly 60 of its members on Sunday, April 21, for the fifth annual Wedding Road Show on Long Beach Island and the local mainland area. The self-guided tour of the region’s local wedding venues helped showcase the area as a year-round wedding destination, complete with everything and anything a bride and groom could want for their big day.

Photo by Jack Reynolds
A prospective client the Sweet
Memory Cake Shoppe display at
the Brant Beach Yacht Club.
“This event generates revenue,” Lori Pepenella, destination marketing director of the SOCCC, said in a press release. “Contracts are signed and deposits are made not only the day of the Wedding Road Show, but throughout the following year for our local businesses. This allows brides and their families to explore our area and see first hand the possibilities of a one of a kind wedding, vacation, or even a weekend getaway,” she added.
According to the press release, the event drew brides from all across the country, including Washington state, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York. Brides from all over New Jersey came to check out the many different wedding options, too. More than 150 registered brides and their entourages, consisting of grooms, wedding parties and family members, filtered through the show directly to members who were set up throughout 11 locations.
The local businesses played host while booking dates and services and introducing new customers to everything the area has to offer. The event was captured by E Video Productions, which for the past four years has been videoing a documentary to focus on the location, as well as its wedding professionals and future married couples.
Entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, photography, video, concierge services, floral and table displays, invitations, ceremony ideas, cake sampling, accommodations and even standup paddleboard lessons for bridal parties were offered as wedding options.
The Wedding Road Show is sponsored by Demetrios Bridal, Dante Zeller at Uniformity, NJ Bride, The Knot, NJWedding.com, Celebrations Magazine, Jersey Shore Wedding Association, Magic 100.1FM, For The Bride magazine, Ocean Tent, Trolley Tours and the NJ Division of Travel and Tourism. A VIP experience prize was donated by NJWedding.com, The Gables, Camille Floral Designs, Shining Star Limousine and A Sweet Memory, whose winner, Ashley Taluba and her fiancĂ©, Peter Gallagher, came from Roselle Park, N.J.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Belle Curve offers beach chic attire for plus size women

Searching for clothing that is stylish and affordable can be a hassle, especially when you don’t fit into the traditional sizes offered in most stores. Carrie von Gorski, 34, who grew up in North Beach Haven and worked at an Island clothing boutique during her adolescence, had difficulty fitting into the shop’s available sizes as a curvier woman. Unable to find clothing that flattered her figure, she decided to open her own clothing shop.

“I always knew I wanted to have a boutique, and it was inspired basically from being at Sur La Plage,” said von Gorski. “I just loved the colors and everything changing every season. It was a blast. You always got to get dolled up and see the latest and greatest of what was going on.

“The defining thing was that I couldn’t always wear the sizes there because I’ve always been curvier. So I couldn’t always wear the clothing, and it killed me. I knew I was going to have to open a place where I could fit into the sizes. I’ve spent ages looking for things that are nicely made and nicely priced. It’s challenging for the size range,” she added.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
A hooded poncho made out of cotton,
bamboo and recycled plastic water bottles.
After graduating from Drexel University in Philadelphia with a degree in design and merchandising, von Gorski opened Belle Curve, a plus-size women’s boutique, in the historic district of Fayetteville, N.C. Homesick for her friends and family, she decided to move back to the area. Belle Curve reopened inside the Manahawkin Mart Shoppes on East Bay Avenue in February. The shop offers beach chic women’s clothing in modern cuts. Sizes range from large through 3x.
“The idea is to have things that are more contemporary because the problem with the plus-size industry is its always offered very boxy, muumuu, flowered, horrible, ugly things to wear,” von Gorksi said with a laugh. “It’s like being punished for carrying some extra weight. Like, why should you wear pretty clothes? But now I’ve found them,” she added.
Belle Curve’s clothing and accessories are available in limited runs. Nothing is ordered more than once, so everything is considered unique and individual.
“It’s always changing because I want everyone to have something special from here that’s just for them, that you’re not going to see all over the place,” said von Gorski. “It has to be special to shop here because why else would you come? It’s for the curvy beach babe. It’s for the girl who’s tired of muumuus.”
One of the shop’s latest available pieces is a black-and-white striped, hooded poncho made from cotton, bamboo and recycled plastic water bottles.
The store also offers a variety of accessories made by local artists. Oh Joy, it’s soy candles made by Manahawkin resident Linda Keil, are available in small and large sizes and a plethora of delicious scents. The all-natural candles are nontoxic, long lasting and clean burning.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Beach chic jewelry goes perfect with any
outfit no matter what size you're wearing.
Babeedoll jewelry made by Manahawkin resident Angela Varone is also featured inside the shop. The vintage-inspired accessories sold “like wild fire” when first introduced in the shop in North Carolina.
“You can be any size and wear jewelry, for crying out loud. Earrings never make your butt look big,” von Gorski said, chuckling.
So far, von Gorski said, the responses she has received from women who have shopped at Belle Curve have been of relief and excitement. Some customers don’t even put the clothes on. They simply pick them out and take them home, she said.
“It’s been a drag for a very long time to try to find something fashionable if you’re bigger than a size 12,” said von Gorski. “So we’re celebrating it now that it’s available. It’s good to have some curves."
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper

Friday, April 19, 2013

Discounted summer courses available at Stockton College's Manahawkin instructional site

The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey’s Manahawkin instructional site, located on East Bay Avenue, is offering discounted courses to undergraduates interested in attending class during the summer semester. Summer sessions are open to students enrolled in degree programs and non-matriculated students, as well as students currently enrolled at other institutions who wish to transfer Stockton credits.

Taking summer courses “can lighten a student’s course load for other semesters and/or allow him or her to finish college earlier,” said Maryjane Briant, interim news and media relations director for The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. “Plus there’s a discount for summer undergrad courses,” she added.
Photo by PressofAC
Students can take advantage of Stockton
College's discounted summer courses at the
Manahawkin instructional site.
Students who register for summer courses will save more than $75 per credit, which means saving approximately $300 for each four-credit class they enroll in. The courses will be offered throughout May, June and July.
“We review the courses students are seeking during our summer sessions and attempt to deliver a schedule that meets our students’ academic needs,” said Harvey Kesselman, provost and executive vice president of Stockton College. “This also provides our current commuting students with a convenient location, close to their homes, which ultimately reduces the time and cost of traveling to and from our main campus during the busy summer tourism months. In addition, our flexible schedule allows students to register for classes with great ease via our website,” he added.
Summer classes include: “Phonetics,” “Computing Concepts,” “Sign Language,” “The Philadelphia Experience,” “Statistics,” “Veterans: A Global Vision,” “Language Disorders” and  “Justice, Virtue and Moral Philosophy.”
The Manahawkin instructional site opened in the fall of 2012 with seven courses. The college’s spring semester offered 10 courses. Despite having a limited amount of space with only two 35-seat classrooms at the site, the college has provided classes to approximately 250 students.
The site has also offered academic advising sessions, continuing education courses and co-curricular programs, and has co-sponsored several community events and meetings.
“We continue to grow each semester,” said Michele Collins-Davies, operations manager of the  Manahawkin site. “We are pleased to offer eight courses for the summer sessions, providing a nice sampling of courses across our curriculum,” she added.
The instructional site has 13 courses scheduled for the upcoming fall semester. Approximately 165 students have pre-enrolled. Collins-Davies said she expects that number to grow to more than 200 by the time the semester begins.
“As a liberal arts college, Stockton’s curriculum at our instructional sites reflects course offerings from a variety of disciplines,” said Kesselman. “We anticipate continued success at our Manahawkin site this summer and well into the future,” he added.
Summer classes are also available at the college’s Atlantic City, Galloway, Hammonton and Woodbine locations. To register for classes or for more information, visit www.stockton.edu/summer or call 609-652-4235.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Firefighters at Ocean County's oldest volunteer station still displaced, may have to move out of area and find new job

The Beach Haven Volunteer Fire Co., Ocean County’s oldest fire department, which is proudly celebrating its 130th anniversary this month, outshone its own dedication to the community when its devoted crewmembers put their own livelihoods on hold to provide for others during Superstorm Sandy. While housed at the Engleside Inn, where conditions were safer than at the firehouse on South Bay Avenue in downtown Beach Haven, the team rescued more than 100 people from Beach Haven borough and Long Beach Township.

“In the heat of the moment, you weren’t really thinking about much other than getting these people out of their houses and to safe ground,” said Matt Letts, Beach Haven fire chief, who comes from a family of volunteer firefighters going back more than 100 years.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Beach Haven Fire Chief, Matt Letts, is still
displaced from his home nearly 6 months after
Superstorm Sandy. He said he hopes he doesn't
have to leave the area to find a new place to
live, and thus, a new place to work.
In the midst of the crewmembers’ heroic actions, their own firehouse was heavily damaged. Much of the department’s equipment was ruined when 4 feet of floodwater came rushing into the building.
“Everything lived in the ocean for a night,” said Letts.
The department lost a fire truck right after the storm. It is currently borrowing a 1989, 1,000-gallon pumper truck from a West Virginia fire company until a new one can be purchased. The other trucks have been in and out of the shop getting fixed after a long and busy season.
But new-fangled fire trucks are the least of the fire company’s worries right now. Having able-bodied volunteer firefighters who live in the area and can quickly respond to emergencies is the bigger issue. Many of the members’ homes were hard hit during the storm; some lost everything. Nearly a third of the department’s active crew is still displaced.
Those still searching for a year-round residence are hoping to find a place on the Island so they can continue volunteering at the firehouse, a job they agreed they all share a great deal of passion for. But many of them said rent on the Island is unaffordable, and they may have to give up their role at the fire department and move to the mainland, or out of state.
“We found places that are year ’round, but they’re crazy expensive,” said Letts. “Places that were $1,200 or $1,300 bucks last year are $1,800 bucks now. I wouldn’t like to think that people are price gouging around here, but read between the lines.”
Letts, who has also worked as an EMT for the past 14 years, has been bouncing around the Island ever since the storm flooded his rental home in Beach Haven. He recently moved into the second floor of a duplex home in town where his brother, Lewie Letts, assistant deputy of the Beach Haven Fire Co. and who was also displaced, lived before finding a year-round residence and moving out. Matt Letts has until the end of the month to find another place to stay before the owners’ summer renters move in. If he cannot find a place in town, he said, he has options in Pennsylvania that he may be forced to accept.
“There’s a lot of people who are willing to help out, that would love to, but their places aren’t ready, or they don’t have anywhere, but they’re trying to help us find places,” said Letts. “Then there’s the other ones with second, third, fourth, or fifth homes who have summer rentals coming up, and they don’t care.
“They figure they can get $1,500 a month, or $1,500 a week. In a way, I can’t say I blame them. In another way, since I’m on the other end of the deal, it just kind of irks me a little bit because there’s people that know you’re first responders, or have been a staple in this town for years, and have nowhere to go. What they don’t understand is we’re a 100 percent volunteer fire department. Without volunteers, you’re not going to get your free fire protection that you’ve been getting for 130 years,” he added.
The Beach Haven fire department responds to all kinds of urgent calls, including fires, water rescues, gas leaks, carbon monoxide alarms and fire alarms. The department covers the Island’s largest areas, from Beach Haven borough through the southern part of Long Beach Township. Taking a few men out of the equation would mean fewer people to respond to emergencies, which would hurt the community, Letts said. Without enough volunteers, the town would be forced to hire firefighters, which would increase tax rates, he added.
“Then you have guys that are paid that are here because it’s a job, not because they want to be here,” said Letts. “In the beginning they want to be here, but after a few years the novelty wears off, and then it’s just another job.”
While the bond among the Beach Haven firefighters has always been tight, Letts said, it has grown even stronger since the storm. Although the crew received critical-incident stress debriefing to help them deal with the emotional strain of the storm, they also have relied on each other to talk, cry and laugh. They even have helped to repair each others’ homes and have participated in the cleanups in other areas throughout the state.
“For anybody, it’s horrible that this happened, that things got destroyed,” said Letts. “But when you add that extra bit on there of being out in literally 6 feet of water, rescuing people while transformers are blowing up and electrical wires are down, it’ll take its toll on you.
“There’s a lot of stuff that we all as a department have not forgotten about, but kind of hid in the back of our brains from the storm. Most of us spent two weeks together in the Island’s worst to be here for each other, and support each other, and watch each others’ backs no matter what we were doing. There were days of no sleep, no water, no toilets, no showers. These guys put themselves before the community. Many of these people have been on the Island their whole lives; their families have been on the Island their whole lives. It’s unfortunate because if those people have to leave, then you’re losing roots of this Island.”
Tim Nandy, who grew up surfing on LBI during the summers and began volunteering as a firefighter at the Beach Haven Fire Co. four years ago, was forced to leave his Beach Haven residence on Dock Road after almost 4 feet of floodwater came rushing into his home during the storm.
“That house is probably slated for demolition. It’s got a condemned sticker in the window, and I think they’re trying to knock it down, which is kind of a shame because it’s an old house,” he said.
Nandy temporarily moved into a duplex home a few houses down the street from where he used to live. He’s currently living on the second floor of the home since the first floor suffered from about 30 inches of floodwater damage. He is set to move downstairs as soon as the repairs are completed.
“I’ve got a place to stay, but I’m not at home yet,” he said. “It’s scary because we weren’t sure if we were going to have all of our membership. It’s tough to recruit people as it is and to have people stay on board with us because we’re volunteer.”
Nandy said the area’s high cost of living has always been a major factor in determining whether or not people continue to volunteer at the firehouse, especially younger folks.
Living so close to the fire department means Nandy, who said he does not own a car because he does not need one, can make the first truck during emergencies. This is especially helpful during the off-season when lifeguards are not on duty, he noted.
“When the call comes, we show up. If this whole thing happens again next year, we’ll do it over again. We’ll take what comes, and we’ll deal with it: good, bad, or indifferent.”
Until then, Letts said, he and the other displaced firefighters are just hoping to find a place to rent for a reasonable price so they can get back on their feet, “a sense of security, basically.” Letts said he is hoping to find a place to stay for at least a year.
“We’re volunteer; we do this not because we have to, not because someone told us to, because we take pride in our community, we care about our community,” he said. “We’ll come out when it’s snowing out, or when it’s flooded out, for a dead battery in a smoke detector. People take that for granted.
“Think about it if nobody was here to answer just that stupid dead battery call, or the 1 o’clock house fire in July when it’s 110 degrees outside. You got to think about who would take our spot if we weren’t here. It really takes a special person to do this. It’s very physically demanding. It takes time away from your families and from holidays. We get up in the middle of the night, and we don’t complain because that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to take.”
– Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Southern Ocean County Hunger Relief Dinner to cook up vivacious Cuban cuisine

The 18th annual Taste of Southern Ocean County Hunger Relief Dinner and Silent Auction, presented by the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Ocean Community Foundation, will celebrate the many flavors of the Cuban culture through its “Havanah Nights” theme on Wednesday, April 24. The event will take place at Sea Oaks Country Club in Little Egg Harbor and will be catered by some of the area’s finest gourmet chefs. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served at 5:30 p.m., followed by an eight-course sampling. This year’s menu will feature a slew of vivacious flavors from a wide range of Cuban delicacies.

Photo by Jack Reynolds
The 18th annual Hunger Relief Dinner to be held
at Sea Oaks Country Club in Little Egg Harbor will
cater to Cuba's many vivacious dishes.
“Cuban food is influenced by Spanish, African and Caribbean flavors,” said Ian Smith, culinary chairman and founder of the Hunger Relief Dinner. “There’s even a Chinese influence in there. So it’s really about very simple ingredients used with a lot of strong flavors. Cuba has different cuisines depending on the season and the location in the islands. Our menu’s going to reflect that. We’re covering a pretty broad range and a lot of flavor sensations,” he noted.
Taste samplings will include a wide array of delicious fare from a blackened mahi mahi fish taco with black bean hummus, citrus, jicama/radish slaw, cilantro aioli and corn elotes, to a grilled Cuban slider made with fried pickles, cumin garlic pulled pork, mango onion rum relish and mustard aioli. A combination of sweet and spicy flavors will be sure to delight even the pickiest of eaters, a choice many of the area’s residents do not have.
“We started this because we felt that, in our area, hunger was overlooked because of the proximity to affluence that we have,” said Smith. “People suffering from hunger issues were and still are invisible in our area. People tend to think of people who are subjected to hunger as walking around pushing a shopping cart, or sleeping in the street. But they’re actually neighbors and coworkers; we pass them in stores. We want to raise not only funds, but awareness,” he added.
Last year’s occasion raised $70,000, which was donated to seven of Southern Ocean County’s local food banks. This year’s event will help raise money for those same food pantries, as well as the relief center at King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin, which Smith said really stepped up in helping the community after Superstorm Sandy.
“The irony is that the people who run the local food pantries were affected; some of those people were homeless for a while,” said Smith. “Chefs participating in this dinner were homeless for a while. Some of the restaurants were closed for months and months and months, and they’re participating in the dinner. So it’s sort of a full circle that we’ve come after the storm.
“When all is said and done, the problems that we had before the storm are here, and we have new issues because of the storm. The need is greater, it’s more difficult to raise the money, but that can’t stand in the way of what we’re doing,” he added.
Tickets for the event cost $125 each. To purchase vouchers, and for more information, visit the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce at 265 West Ninth St. in Ship Bottom, or call 609-494-7211.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Jersey Hope and Healing program offers emotional support to Sandy victims

Nearly 150 certified disaster response crisis counselors working with the New Jersey Hope and Healing program, a collaboration between the disaster and terrorism branch of the state Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, immediately rushed to shelters and communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy to offer urgent emotional support to the thousands of people displaced from their homes.

“Since the beginning, we have been in the communities providing supportive outreach,” said Adrienne Fessler-Belli, director of the disaster and terrorism branch at the New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services. “We do not sit in the office; it’s not the traditional model. The counselors go into the community, they go door-to-door, and they listen to what is going on with the individuals. We’re kind of the eyes and ears of the community with regard to the emotional recovery with Sandy,” she explained.

Photo by NJ Hope and Healing
Certified disaster response crisis counselors
have been offering urgent emotional support
to the thousands of people who lost their
homes during Superstorm Sandy.
With the help of a $1.94 million grant made possible by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, crisis counselors are continuing to help Sandy’s victims acquire the necessary coping skills to further deal with the long-term effects of the storm, and to help those who are struggling to recommence their daily lives. According to officials, nearly 100,000 state residents have benefited from these counseling services so far.
Most disaster-impacted individuals just need someone to talk to and help guide them through the emotional process. Others may need more long-term help, said Fessler-Belli. Coping skills such as stress and anxiety management can be found through Hope and Healing. Referrals can also be made for individuals who need more clinical services.
“There’s no one way that’s the right way, so we work with folks to see what works for them,” said Fessler-Belli. “We help them work through the process. I want people to know that they’re not alone, even though they may feel like they don’t know what to do. The key is we just want individuals not to suffer and to know that there is someone out there that will just be willing to listen to them, or if they need more, to deal with the emotional impact of this type of storm,” she added.
The organization is hoping to obtain more funding in May to continue counseling services throughout the next nine months.
To speak with someone right away, call 1-888-294-HELP. A line for the hearing-impaired, 1-888-294-4356, is also available seven days a week between 8 a.m. and midnight. All calls are confidential and anonymous.
For more information, visit disastermentalhealthnj.com.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jetty and LBIF host 'Rock for Sandy' concert to benefit LBI's long-term Sandy relief

Jetty and the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences are teaming up for the organizations’ second Sandy relief fundraiser, “Rock for Sandy,” on Saturday, April 13.

The live concert event will be held at the Foundation in Loveladies between 7 and 10 p.m. to help raise money for the area’s long-term storm assistance. Tickets cost $20 each and include food catered by Mud City Crab House. Beer and wine are available for an additional $15 for individuals 21 and older.
Photo via LBIF
A live concert event co-sponsored
by Jetty will be held at the LBIF on
Saturday, April 13 to help raise
money for LBI's Sandy relief.
“Things are starting to get back to normal for people,” said Joe Belsh, 27, from Mount Laurel who grew up spending summers on LBI and recently started consulting for Jetty. “We’re rebuilding, and we’re doing it with a smile on our face and a lot of hope, but it’s not over yet. So we thought this event would be another great night out for people, to remind them that the work’s not over yet, and to raise that awareness.
“We want to keep the community engaged in support, and we want it to be really uplifting as possible,” he added.
Two Jetty-sponsored bands will perform live entertainment throughout the night. Theodore Lovely, a California-based band, will be completing its cross-country The Heart Leads the Way tour at the event. Almost There, a New Jersey-based band, will be traveling from Ocean Township, Monmouth County, to represent their home state, as well.
A silent auction featuring big-ticket items donated by Vans Warped Tour, O’Neill, Sun Bum, Nike, Volcom, Lost, Reflekt and Dark Horse Percussion will also be available. A custom snare drum from Dark Horse Percussion and two VIP tickets to the Vans Warped Tour are just some of the many items offered.
The groups’ initial fundraiser in January helped raise more than $12,000 for Waves for Water, a California-based nonprofit organization that has been working with Jetty to help repair many of the area’s storm-damaged communities. This month’s event will benefit the new nonprofit arm of the Jetty brand, Jetty Rock Foundation, a 501(C)3 organization that aims to help individuals, families, businesses and other nonprofit organizations to deal with the long-term effects of Superstorm Sandy. Funds will directly support LBI. So far, Jetty has donated more than $230,000 from its Sandy Relief effort.
The event “is going to be really great for the community to break away from all the Sandy nonsense and get ready for spring and summer,” said Lydia Owens, marketing and special events coordinator at the LBIF.
The Foundation will be a conduit for more of Jetty’s charitable projects this year, such as the Coquina Jam, an all-female surf contest, and the Get Rad! Scholarship.
For more information about LBIF’s many events, visit lbifoundation.org or dial 609-494-1241.
To purchase tickets for the Rock for Sandy event, visit lbifoundation.org/eventsDetail.php?ROCK-FOR-SANDY-12. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase at Farias in Manahawkin, too.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.