Friday, November 29, 2013

Red Cross, FoodBank offer holiday meals to Sandy victims

Photo by Jack Reynolds
Red Cross volunteers deliver enough turkey
dinners to feed at least 140 local residents.
Local residents still suffering from the fallout of Superstorm Sandy one year later signed up at King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin on Thursday, Nov. 21, to receive a take-home Thanksgiving dinner provided by the American Red Cross and the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. The holiday meals are funded through a $5,000 grant from the Red Cross’ $307 million Sandy relief fund acquired through public contributions. The donation is expected to help feed nearly 1,200 people throughout New Jersey in areas still struggling with the aftermath of the storm.
Volunteers from the Red Cross Jersey Coast Chapter, which serves all of Ocean and Monmouth counties, helped deliver enough turkeys and trimmings, including sweet potatoes, yams, green beans, stuffing and cranberries, to feed at least 140 local residents.
“I’ve seen very good things happening. It might be slow, but recovery is coming,” said Toms River resident Terry Studnicky, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for eight years.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Many more people use the food pantry
due to additional financial burdens.
Although the state’s storm-affected communities are in different recovery phases, said Tara Maffei, director of community recovery for the Red Cross’ NJ Storm Sandy Long Term Recovery program, many people are still struggling to maintain the basic necessities, especially food.
“There’s an extra demand in food. The need hasn’t subsided,” agreed Carlos Rodriguez, executive director of the FoodBank. “People don’t have the same income they had before,” he explained.
Many individuals were already using the food pantry prior to the storm, and many more have come through the doors due to additional financial burdens, Rodriguez said. Sandy victims are still displaced, which means many are making mortgage and rent payments on top of rebuilding expenses.
Rodriguez attributed the increased need for food to what he called “the perfect storm”: the nation’s economic collapse, Superstorm Sandy, and the recent cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.
The FoodBank provided 7.3 million pounds of food during the 2012 fiscal year and 8.5 million pounds of food during the 2013 fiscal year. The organization plans to distribute 8.25 million pounds of food during the 2014 fiscal year, but distribution is already 20 percent higher than expected. If demand continues at this pace, the FoodBank will provide more than 9 million pounds of food for the year.
“The need is much higher than we anticipated,” said Rodriguez, who expressed concern about future cuts.
The Red Cross is also receiving a high volume of calls from people seeking help due to financial stress. Many Sandy victims are calling for the first time, said Maffei. The Red Cross expects New Jersey residents will need several more years of recovery efforts.
“It’s overwhelming. People are still struggling with their own personal recovery,” said Maffei. “If you told people we’d still need to do this one year later, I don’t think anyone would have believed it. But we’re here for the long haul to help support people in their recovery,” she added.
–Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Stafford Township’s youngest competitive cheerleaders earn first ticket to nationals

For the first time ever, the Southern Rams Mighty Mite cheer team, the youngest division of the American Youth Cheer competition teams, has earned a ticket to the 2013 AYC National Championships set for Dec. 15 in Orlando, Fla. The team consists of 16 girls ages 6 through 9 who attend Stafford schools.
“Since this is only the second time a team from the AYC Rams has made it to the national competition, this is a big deal to our organization. We couldn’t be more excited,” said Jennifer Terefeno, Mighty Mite head coach and a former Southern Regional cheerleader.
Photo via Southern Rams Mighty Mites
The Southern Rams Mighty Mite cheer team places
third at the AYC Big East Regional Competition.
The team’s first competition was held in October at the New Jersey AYC Jersey Shore Conference. The girls placed third out of four teams, allowing them to advance to the AYC Big East Regional Competition in November.
“We got right back to work (practicing),” said Terefenko.
The girls placed third out of six teams at regionals, advancing them to the national competition, where they will compete against nine other regions.
“Our girls were completely ecstatic when they announced our placing at the regional competition. They could not believe that we made it to Nationals,” said Terefenko. “Overall with the age range of the cheerleaders, we have been very lucky with their dedication and ability to come together as a team to perform.”
The girls started practicing as a new cheering squad in the beginning of August, dedicating themselves to learning all-new cheers, formations and stunts. The girls began choreographing their competitive routine in the beginning of September with the help of Mighty Mite coaches Terefenko, Janel Easterling and Rebecca Scott, as well as members of the junior varsity team, which also recently earned a ticket to Nationals in February.
The girls practice three times a week, while also cheering for the local Mighty Mite Football team on Sundays.
“The girls are very motivated and want to make sure their routine is clean and that they maximize their difficulty,” said Terefenko. “I am so proud of them. They go to school, come home, do homework, and then they are off to practice.”
During the warmer weather, Terefenko said the district allowed the team to practice its routines outside on the American Youth Football fields in Stafford. When the weather became colder, the district opened up its doors at the McKinley Avenue Elementary School, Southern Regional High School and Middle School, as well as at the Ocean Acres Community Center.
Despite injuries and several routine changes, Terefenko said she is amazed at how far the team has come.
“As the coach of this amazing team, I am very lucky to have such a wonderful group of young girls,” she said. “I am amazed how my 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds could learn a new routine so quick. Most of these girls come to practice tired due to their long day, but they fight through it and practice, practice, practice.”
The team will hold a number of fundraisers throughout the community to help raise the funds needed to attend the national competition. The girls will be canning in front of Five Below in Manahawkin on Friday, Nov. 29, through Sunday, Dec. 1. Ten percent of each purchase will be donated to the team when customers mention the Southern Rams during those days. The girls will also accept donations outside Marchioni’s Pizzeria in Barnegat on Friday, Dec. 6.
A fundraising event will be held on Sunday, Dec. 1, at Calloways Restaurant in Staffordville between 1 and 4 p.m. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $12 for children younger than 16. Beer, wine, pizza, wings and live music are included. Gift baskets will be raffled off throughout the event. For advance tickets, call Michele Torres at 609-713-9058. Tickets will also be available at the door.
— Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Official opening of LBI GeoTrail leads to adventure for tourists and businesses

The official opening of the LBI GeoTrail was a major hit for tourists and local businesses on Saturday, Nov. 16. The outdoor treasure-hunting game, which uses a handheld GPS-device to lead participants to a specific location, attracted more than 150 visitors ages 2 to 80 in search of hidden canisters called geocaches, which hold unique objects people can obtain and observe.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
LBI resident Mary Ann Gutchigian demonstrates
how geocaching works on a GPS device.
The day kicked off with a pancake breakfast at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Brant Beach, where participants gathered to swap trackables, a collectible found on trails, and pick up their passports and coordinates for the game just before the trail was released for viewing at 9 a.m.
“There was a woman there who reached her 18,400th geocache find. That’s all geocachers think about,” said Mary Ann Gutchigian, a local resident who began lobbying for the LBI GeoTrail two years ago. “They’re collectors. Every weekend they’re looking for an event to go to so they can find more stuff,” she explained.
Many people also camped out on the Island, waiting for the trail to load onto their iPhones and Garmins so they could be the first to find the caches.
“Usually there’s a really cool item in there that they want, and if they’re the first to find it, they have the opportunity to take it,” Gutchigian explained. “There’s all these cool things people do to add value to their boxes and to add suspense to what’s going on,” she added.
Gutchigian became intrigued with the game when she stumbled
Photo by Mary Ann Gutchigian
LBI GeoTrail participants obtain a special coin.
upon geocaching.com, the official website for the real-world competition. She believed that creating an official trail on the Island would prove to be economically beneficial to the area, especially during the off-season since geocachers are known to do their searching in places with little disturbance.
“They’re not going to try to find stuff in the summer because it’s too crowded, and everyone will be asking what they’re doing. It’s a big headache,” said Gutchigian. “But they’ve been exposed to a beach they’ve never been to before, and they’re chomping at the bit to come back.”
Gutchigian eventually obtained support for the trail from the LBI Business Alliance and Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, which helped fund the game.
There are currently 2,270,491 active geocaches and more than 6 million geocachers worldwide. The LBI GeoTrail includes 30 caches hidden across the Island from Barnegat Light to Holgate. The Island has the potential to hold about 150 caches, Gutchigian said.
The trail was set up by a group of members from Central Jersey Geocaching who prepared the boxes for the geocaches and made sure all game requirements were met. Many local establishments donated items to be hidden in the caches, and many more want them hidden near their property.
The last coordinate brought geocachers to a Wherigo cache, a toolset for creating and playing GPS-enabled adventures in the real world, enticing tourists to continue their journey around the Island.
“That was an excellent brainstorm for the woman who planned the trail, to send everybody back in the opposite direction, knowing they wouldn’t have time to do it and they’d want to come back and do it another day,” Gutchigian said.
Gutchigian’s belief that setting up a geotrail on the Island could provide extra income for local businesses during the “shoulder season” appeared to prove true as many of the weekend’s game players were seen dining at restaurants and shopping in stores all across the 18-mile island before the meet and greet at Nardi’s Tavern, where every chair was filled.
“They had a ball,” said Gutchigian. “They’re from all walks of life, and they came down and ate fudge and had chowder and drank beer and cruised around. They bought souvenirs and had a really great time and are looking forward to coming back. It’s a tremendous way to bring people to the Island,” she added.
Gutchigian is looking into getting more LBI geocoins, which are collectibles geocachers can view online and trade at meet and greets. All 150 coins made for the opening were distributed on Saturday.
“People will still come do the trail, but they’re way more excited if they know they’re going to get a coin,” Gutchigian explained.
The local resident hopes to set up another meet and greet early next month. Visit facebook.com/lbigeotrail to stay up to date with the latest happenings. Call Gutchigian at 609-947-1377 for more information.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Limited edition Superstorm Sandy books for sale at LBIF during 'Giving Thanks' event

The release of a limited edition of Surviving Sandy: Long Beach Island and the Greatest Storm of the Jersey Shore will be made available at a “Giving Thanks” evening hosted by the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. All profits from the sales of the special edition books will benefit local relief group Stafford Teachers and Residents Together (START).
The limited edition books are specially bound with cloth ribbon created by the publisher, Down The Shore. Only 137 copies are available. The first 100 books are numbered on the front endsheet. The remaining copies are foil-stamped “Limited Edition.” Each book sells for $100, and all revenue above the cost benefits START.
Photo via Down The Shore Publishing
Sales from the limited edition books of Surviving Sandy
benefit local relief group START, which was formed
last year during the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
The Foundation’s event is part of the month-long “Reflections of Sandy” exhibition about the impact of the storm on the community, which includes photographs and sculpture.
“We thought it would be a really nice evening to thank START for their work and be able to unveil the books here in the gallery, and allow everyone to see the artwork on the walls,” said Kristy Redford, Foundation executive director. “Most of the photographs from the book are in the gallery right now. They’re really wonderful,” she added.
Surviving Sandy author Scott Mazzella, along with other residents whose stories are shared in the book’s narrative, including START cofounder Joe Mangino, will be available during the evening to sign books.
The event is free and open to the public. Sangria and wine will be available, and participants can BYOB.
Additional copies of the regular edition of the book will also be available, and purchases of those copies will also benefit START.
START was founded, with photocopied flyers handed out right after the storm, by Mike Dunlea, a teacher in the Stafford Township School District, and by Mangino, whose wife is a teacher in the district.
“Even though their own homes were damaged, they felt compelled to help others in dire need throughout Southern Ocean County,” said Ray Fisk, a local resident and publisher of Down The Shore. “They networked and coordinated volunteers who were literally boots on the ground, gutting homes and helping residents recover. While many citizens and groups donated funds and services, START offered an incredibly valuable resource – people.”
START is currently being formalized into a full-fledged 501(c)(3) charity and continues to help local people in need more than a year after the storm struck.
For more information about the event, call the Foundation at 609-494-1241.

–Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Acclaimed NJ pine needle basket weaver uses native materials for crafting

Mary Carty, 61, owner of Pinelands Folk Music and Basketry Center located in the Mill Race Village section of Mount Holly, will not tell anyone where she gets her materials for her award-winning pine needle baskets. But she will proudly tell you that the needles are handpicked from a longleaf pine tree that dates back to the 1920s. The tree, which is considered indigenous to North and South Carolina, is said to have been planted in the area by a family that had used it as a bald Christmas tree. Though no one expected it to survive, the tree has continued to flourish year after year, allowing the artist to make exceptional basketry with materials that are native to the area.
“It’s a renewable source. Every year the pine tree loses its needles,” said Carty.
Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
Mary Carty crafts pine needle baskets at the

Pinelands Folk Music and Basketry Center in Mt. Holly.

Longleaf pine needles, which reach up to 12 inches in length, are much longer than the loblolly pine needles indigenous to the area, which are roughly 6 inches in length. Using a longer needle makes weaving the material into a basket much easier, Carty said. A good pine needle basket has no give to it, she added.
“It gives you more material to work with. You could weave a basket with these, but it’s a little more work,” said Carty while rummaging through a pile of freshly picked loblolly needles.
Longleaf pine needles are also easier to dye compared to loblolly needles, which do not absorb color well due to their waxy, resin-like nature, said Carty.
Carty’s basketry, which also includes gourd and woven baskets handcrafted with an array of natural fibers such as rattan, split oak and even antlers, can be found all over the world. Her basket weaving expertise has been displayed at the Tuckerton Seaport. She and her family, seven generations in Burlington County, are also featured in Legendary Locals of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, which was published this year.
Photo by Kelley Anne Essinger
Carty uses needles from a local 
longleaf
pine tree to craft her handmade baskets.

Carty is a descendant of the original Native American inhabitants of the area, the Piney-Lenape, and brings that heritage into play with her handmade baskets, something she said “just comes naturally.”
“My mother always said that as a child I could go out in the yard and take a pile of shit and make it into something,” said Carty. “She used to always tease like that. I was crafty from the beginning. I even got caught one time building something with white, petrified dog poop,” she added, laughing.
Carty, who said she learned from the “college of hard knocks,” took up basket weaving in the early 1980s after her husband, Richard Carty, was hired to play his mountain dulcimer, a stringed instrument generally played on the lap by plucking, at Kentucky Music Week. It was there she was introduced to the "old-time crafters" who taught her how to weave baskets and encouraged her to teach classes.
After delving into night school courses and purchasing pricey basket weaving kits, Carty decided to gather her own materials and teach her own classes.
“When you’re a basket maker, you’re always looking for something you don’t have to buy to keep your costs down. So I started getting into trying to collect the natural stuff,” she said. “You’re putting labor in to gather your own materials. It takes time, but it’s fulfilling, too.”
Hickory run, honeysuckle, grapevine, driftwood and sweet grass are just some of the many materials Carty and her family gather.
Although there are no other known ancestors who took up basket weaving in Carty’s family, she believes her grandmothers guided her to the art.
“I’m one of those weird people who believes my grandmothers are all standing right behind me, all the way back. And I’m sure that one of them has helped me because sometimes when you’re weaving something you feel like ‘Oh, I’ve done this before.’ It just comes so naturally,” she said.
Carty’s son, Steven Carty, 38, decided to take up basket weaving full-time after losing his job in 2010. He and his mother coordinate classes at the center. Although they teach students how to weave the same baskets, they have different weaving styles.
Steven specializes in driftwood and sea grass baskets, but credits his mother for teaching him the craft. He is heading to Puerto Rico for the winter to learn how to work with different, tropical materials.
Carty’s pine needle baskets are more for decorative purposes. She said she likes their more delicate features and the fact that they are a great representation of the Pine Barrens-area. Weaving pine needle baskets requires a lot of work, using fine motor skills.
“You have to not be intimidated by sewing,” said Carty. “If arthritis sets in, I think you’d have a hard time doing this,” she added.
Carty and Steven are big believers in trying out different classes and techniques to better hone a special niche.
“I’m not territorial. There’s going to be something that I said that you didn’t grasp hold of that the other teacher will say and a light bulb will go off,” Carty explained.
“Develop your own style. There’s nothing wrong with doing a pattern a little differently,” added Steven.
A little bit like a grandmother herself, Carty hopes that her students will go on to become “basket makers, not makers of baskets.” She said she loves teaching all ages and is willing to share her expertise with anyone interested in the craft. Of course, she said she wouldn’t give up her secret pine needle tree no matter what.
To learn more about Carty and her beginner and specialty basket weaving classes or workshops offered at Pinelands Folk Music and Basketry Center, visit pinelandsfolkmusic.com or call 609-518-7600.

–Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

School of Vintage sells unique items year 'round on LBI

School of Vintage in Surf City is a gold mine for shoppers who are truly looking to purchase something that no one else will have. The shop is a lot like the creative online marketplace Etsy, only in person. In fact, the store’s owners, Erin Buterick, 30, of Manahawkin and Jeannine Errico, 32, of Tuckerton originally opened the vintage and handmade clothing and accessories boutique on Etsy in 2004.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
School of Vintage shop owners Jeannine Errico
and Erin Buterick offer alterations by appointment.
Now going into its third year as a full-fledged business with a storefront located on the Boulevard in one of Surf City’s quaint shopping centers, School of Vintage is filled with unique-patterned clothing and vintage wedding dresses, antique jewelry, handmade purses and other eclectic d├ęcor that is primarily sourced from the 1920s to the ’80s.
“If it’s something we would wear, we’ll sell it,” said Buterick, who favors soft, neutral colors.
“You can’t go wrong with the ’40s or ’50s,” added Errico, who seeks out bold colors and structured lines. “We’ll sell anything, but the ’60s has too much polyester. There’s too much psychedelic-looking stuff.”
Photo by Ryan Morrill
SOV offers one of a kind
wedding dresses
The shop was recently honored for Best Vintage Clothing in Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly 2013. Through the connections of Dawn Simon, curator of Gallery 1603 – an art gallery and boutique in Surf City – the store also opened a pop-up shop in October at Art Star Gallery, located in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia, where it will stay until the end of November.
“It would be nice to do permanently,” said Buterick. “We have an audience in Philly, so it would be good for us to have a location out there. Their clientele is like our clientele. It’s not so mainstream. It’s outside of the box a little bit,” she explained.
Business is usually booming at School of Vintage during the summertime when tourists frequent the area. But as with many specialty niche shops on LBI, the store is only open on Saturdays and by appointment on Mondays during the fall and winter months, when business slows.
The shop owners said they do not have any plans to relocate despite certain obstacles.
“There’s almost something to the challenge of surviving in a place where we kind of stick out. Maybe it’ll help bring other left-of-center ventures here,” said Buterick. “We do feel like this area needs something a little bit different. We’re waiting it out for the locals to catch on and start coming year ’round. I know they’re here, because I grew up here. I would have killed for a place like this,” she added.
Customers in the know are very loyal, the owners said. Many have even become friends, bonding over the eclectic pieces offered in the store. Patrons are known to buy their favorite items right away, as they understand the inventory does not stick around. A number of women have even purchased their wedding dresses in advance.
“Our stock is always evolving and changing. If you see something and you like it, you should probably buy it because it probably won’t be here long. It happens all the time,” said Buterick.
The store’s clothing and housewares offer an interesting and unique design but are also classic and timeless.
The shop owners recently acquired an array of inventory from Johnnie’s Beachwear in Surf City, a popular store on LBI that opened in 1947 and closed around 1960. The original owner’s nephew, local resident Richard Jeffries, had kept the clothing in storage until finally selling it off this summer.
The owners also recently purchased handmade, vintage-style clothing from Barnegat Light resident Karen Larson. Handmade jewelry and bath and body products as well as vintage-inspired art are also consigned from other local artisans.
Buterick and Errico sell their own handmade clothing and handcrafted perfume in their new venture, Modern Chemistry. Custom headpieces and wedding veils can also be specially ordered.
Buterick offers alterations for any item purchased at the shop or elsewhere. She specializes in mending vintage attire, including lace, silk and other fine materials.
For more information, visit schoolofvintage.com or call 609-494-1171.
–Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Routine a comfort factor for Beach Haven Elementary School students, post-Sandy

Last year, Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on many of Long Beach Island’s homes and businesses, uprooting families from their daily lives and creating a mix of emotions. In the midst of chaos, Beach Haven Elementary School’s students had to be bused over to Eagleswood Township Elementary School, where they finished out the school year while repairs were being made to the storm-ravaged building on the Island.
“We had so many people at the Beach Haven School affected by the storm. It seemed like everyone was displaced, students and teachers,” said Mary O’Meara, a licensed professional counselor who provided counseling services to Beach Haven Elementary School’s students following the storm.
Photo via The Star-Ledger
Gov. Christie welcomes students back to
Beach Haven Elementary School in September.
O’Meara has been the school’s social worker for the past 10 years. She also provides private counseling sessions out of the New Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy on Mill Creek Road in Manahawkin. She, too, was displaced from her home in Beach Haven due to storm damage last year.
“In a way it was helpful that I had also experienced this because I was going through it at the same time the kids were. We could really relate on the issue of not being in your own house and the lost stuff and the damage,” she said.
Though the experience was unsettling for many, O’Meara said the students expressed great resilience and even created new friendships with the Eagleswood students.
“It was a pretty smooth transition, actually. Eagleswood really welcomed us with open arms,” O’Meara said. “I think it was a very good fit between our two schools because we were both small schools. The staff there was great. We really have a place in our hearts for those people at Eagleswood.”
The Beach Haven students returned to school on the Island in September, which helped them to regain a sense of normalcy, O’Meara said. They even invited their new friends from Eagleswood to participate in the school’s “welcome back” celebration in October, leaving Sandy behind.
Though many students would rather not talk about the storm anymore, O’Meara said, she has seen an increase of clients, both children and adults, who suffer from heightened anxiety.
“Some of it I’m sure is storm-related, but some of it is just a general rise in anxiety because of vulnerability to things. You just don’t know what’s going to happen next. If it happened once, it could happen again. Something has changed,” she said.
In many cases, O’Meara said, kids are most likely picking up on their parent’s anxieties about lost homes and jobs and other issues that stem from the storm.
“When things change in adults, it affects kids, too,” she said.
O’Meara expects emotions will continue to run high for a while, especially during such tough economic times. Hypervigilance and even flashbacks of the storm are not uncommon.
“Some people might call it a mild form of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). You’ve gone through a traumatic experience,” she said.
O’Meara recommends seeking help if the anxiety becomes debilitating, affecting school or work performance and home life.
“I think the biggest thing for kids is to get back to routine and normalcy. It was very important for us to get back to the school and for the kids to be back in their own environment,” she said. “I felt the same way when I was able to move back into my house. It makes a big difference in the way you feel.”

–Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

'Superstorm Sandy - One Year later': Emotions emerge in art at student show in Stafford Twp.

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Superstorm Sandy – One Year
Later” art show gives childrens'
perspective.
Pictures of fallen trees toppled over houses and raging ocean waves littered with debris drawn by Stafford Intermediate School’s fifth- and sixth-grade students dotted the halls of the Stafford Township Arts Center during the school’s “Superstorm Sandy – One Year Later” art show, held Wednesday, Oct. 30. The exhibit incorporated nearly 700 pieces of artwork – one for every student who attends the school. The mixed media and literary work projects, grouped together and displayed on dune fencing donated by Long Beach Township officials, recounted the storm from the perspective of the area’s youth.
“The artwork is so precious, and it really gets to you to see one extreme to another, from one kid writing that he couldn’t play video games, to somebody who completely lost everything. Kids are innocent, and it’s their innocent interpretation of how (the storm) affected them,” said Marybeth Weidenhof, STAC’s community school manager. “It was emotional for me, to tell you the truth. I wasn’t prepared for it to be that way. But after going along and reading and reading and reading, there’s no way it doesn’t get to you because that’s where it’s coming from, an innocent place in these kids.”
The exhibit was sponsored through a grant from the Monmouth Art Helps Fund, a joint effort among local and national foundations, New Jersey corporations and individuals to support local nonprofit organizations working in communities affected by Sandy. The grant was obtained by the Pines Shore Art Association, members of which volunteered to help prepare the students’ artwork for display.
The children also contributed storm-related photos and relics to a giant fiberglass clam from the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, which will stay at STAC and be added to ReClam the Bay’s Clam Trail.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Stafford Township students
contribute relics to giant clam.
“I wanted to make sure we included every student because you never know who would need to reflect on this one year later,” said Intermediate School art teacher Jessica Gomez. “The results were very interesting. There was such strong emotion. I was surprised,” she added.
Though kids sometimes have a hard time expressing their thoughts in art form, Gomez said, all of the students seemed to know exactly what they wanted to say about the storm. Each student wrote down his or her idea in the form of a paragraph, poem, or phrase and later created an illustration to interpret those feelings.
While sleeping in and playing games were at the top of the list, many of the projects painted a frightening picture from power outages and flooding to high winds and even death. But many also gave tribute to the more sentimental part of the storm, from hunkering down and eating canned vegetables with family to inviting friends and neighbors over to share the use of a generator. Others remained positive and hopeful of the future. Drawings of Jetty’s relief efforts as well as the first responders appeared in many of the projects.
“The kids seem to be more scared when they think about the storm, when they think about the sound of the wind and the rain,” said Gomez. “When you’re younger, that’s what’s scary to you. It’s a much smaller world. When you’re older, you’re wondering what you’re going to lose and what you’re going to have to rebuild. The kids just want to get through it.
“Some students were almost thankful for the storm,” she added. “They wrote things like ‘This is the most time I’ve ever spent with my family.’ A lot of them actually became closer with their families. You could see the pure glee in their drawings.”
Working on the project also gave the students a chance to reflect on the storm and share their experiences with one another. Speaking about their feelings brought the kids together, helping them to bond, Gomez noticed. Though the discussions sometimes caused tears, the students were very supportive of one another, she said.
“Having the artwork there, having that one concrete thing in front of them, maybe helped keep them from completely breaking down, like a little life preserver,” said Gomez. “They were focused on making it the best drawing they could and adding the right colors and making you feel the same emotion they did. That’s the coolest part. Most artists spend their whole life trying to make things that express how they feel and then get people to react to it with their feelings. (The students) all accomplished that, and that’s just so amazing.”
Hundreds of community residents came out to view the artwork throughout the night. Many considered the projects to be “very emotional” and expressed gratitude for being given an opportunity to be open about their feelings surrounding the storm.
“I think people were expecting it to be like a regular art show where you go in, you find your kid’s piece, and you take a picture and you leave. People just got sucked in,” said Gomez. “It was almost like the whole thing was like a wave. It kept people engrossed, and every time they read one (project), they saw something else they wanted to read, and then they saw an image and wanted to read the one that went with that. People spent a lot of time, which you don’t normally see at art shows. They took the time to investigate what was there, and I heard people on the phone telling other people to come down,” she explained.
The “Superstorm Sandy – One Year Later” art exhibit will be on display at STAC through November. Weidenhof said she hopes to create a book of the artwork to help raise money for a local charity.

–Kelley Anne Essinger


This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Harvest time down on the bog: Generations gather annually at Lee Brothers cranberry farm

It was a crisp, early morning on Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Lee Brothers cranberry farm in Washington Township near Chatsworth where several generations of family were busy collecting cranberries during the second week of its 2½-week autumn harvest ritual. Loud machinery drowned out the men’s voices, causing them to shout. It was all business after the family had gotten a late start in the day due to some technical glitches and a late-night freeze.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Family members and staff help
corral cranberries at Lee Brothers

farm near Chatsworth.
As sprinklers spat across a seven-acre bog of frozen cranberries to help thaw them and an irrigation system worked to flood the area for picking the following day, family members, friends and staff waded across a nearby nine-acre bog, corralling freshly plucked cranberries into a bin that would be shipped off to the Ocean Spray processing plant 4 miles down the road, where they would later be turned into juice or dried as Craisins.
“Look at the color of them, man. They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” said David Diapolo, 48, a family friend who has been working on the farm for 10 years. “I love cranberries. I could sit down and eat a whole boatload of them,” he added, while raking in the excess berries that had fallen outside the boom.
New Jersey is the third largest producer of cranberries after Wisconsin and Massachusetts, respectively.
“One of the things that’s really cool about this is a lot of families get together during the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and in our family it’s a little different,” said Stephen Lee IV, 45, mayor of Tabernacle Township, who co-owns the farm with his family. “We kind of start to get together the two weeks in October when we pick. That’s kind of the beginning of our celebration.”
While a group of tourists eagerly watched from the side of the bog and others roamed around the farm on a cranberry tour, the men, bundled up in layers and protected by waterproof chest waders, pushed the mix of red, pink and purple berries across the nearly 40-degree water toward a vacuum that sucked the fruit through a hose, onto a conveyor and into a storage bin on the back of a truck. It’s a tedious process during a 12-hour day; the crew often took time to toss cranberries at each other and sometimes eat a few directly from the water.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
David Diapolo and Patrick Lee engage
in a lighthearted cranberry battle.
“I think it’s pretty neat to just be here all year and see a crop appear,” said Stephen Lee III, 67, the oldest family member working on the farm. “It comes because the blossoms were here at the right time. The bees were here, and they did a good job pollinating. And we had good growing weather and no hail. A lot of things have to work right for us to have a crop in October,” he explained.
The farm was acquired in 1868 by Lee III’s great-great-grandfather who emigrated from Ireland and purchased the land from a brother-in-law. Though Lee III grew up on the farm, like the rest of the Lee generations, he decided to go to college at Rutgers University, where he studied electrical engineering, a background that helped him design the different farm machinery, such as the cranberry picker and cranberry cleaner, which the family uses to better collect cranberries.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Ed Vincent tosses a rakeful
of berries into the collection
ring to be cleaned.
After flying airplanes in the Air Force for many years, Lee III finally turned to working on the family farm full-time with his father and brother in 1973. He has been working on the farm ever since and said he does not plan to ever retire. Of course, he said he plans to cut down on his hours to spend more time at his vacation home in Surf City, which his father bought in the late 1970s.
“We have 127 acres of harvest, and it takes us about two to 2½ weeks (to harvest it all), depending on what the crop size is,” said Lee IV. “It used to take us about a full month, but because of our picking techniques and our commitment to efficiency, it takes us a shorter amount of time.”
The farm includes 18 bogs that vary in size from three to 11 acres. By Saturday the farm had yielded nearly 29,000 barrels, which weigh 100 pounds each. The family still had another 14 acres to pick and another nine acres to deliver for the season.
The vines the berries were being picked from also included next year’s harvest, the buds that develop at the tip of the vines.
After the autumn harvest, the family will drain the bogs and sprinkle them with a post-harvest fertilizer. The bogs will be flooded again around the first week of December until the middle of April. Then they will be kept dry until October when they are ready to be picked, Lee IV explained.
The family harvests Stevens and Early Black cranberries. Three of the bogs were renovated seven years ago with three other varieties of cranberries, including Crimson Queen, Mullica Queen and Demoranville, which were cultivated at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, a substation of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station of Rutgers University, located in Chatsworth. Lee IV’s son, Andrew, 11, recently attended the Cranbassador Program at the station, which exposes local middle-school students to agriculture and agricultural research. Andrew said he hopes to eventually take over the family business after graduating from college.
“It’s a year’s worth of work. What we’re doing now is the romantic, picturesque portion of the time on the farm,” said Lee IV. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it. This is kind of the culmination of the growing season, but this is really a two-year process. It’s a year-round operation. Cranberries don’t stop growing on the weekend or the Fourth of July,” he added with a laugh.
On site to experience the process for the first time was Seaville resident Monica Jones, 45, with her daughter Ryann Jones, 20, and Ryann’s boyfriend, James Gallagher, 25. After having missed the harvest season last year, the group had made it a point to finally visit the farm.
“Steve said, ‘Come on up.’ He was very personable,” said Monica Jones. “I like that the farm is family owned, too, something they hand down generation to generation.”
Don Beckett, 82, of Mullica Hill, who had been raised on a dairy farm in southern New Jersey, had also made the trip, with his two daughters. It was their eighth time visiting the farm, which has become a sort of family tradition.
“We like cranberries,” said Beckett. “Cranberry nut bread and Ocean Spray is delicious. I wanted to know first-hand where my cranberries come from,” he joked.
As the work continued under the shining sun, the workers (and their cranberries) loosened up and shrugged off their jackets. Lee IV, who had stopped to watch his nephew John Lee Pesotski, 13, and two sons Andrew and Patrick, 8, looking through a bin of cranberries, took a second to enjoy the moment before tending to the crop again.
“That’s what makes it for me,” he said, “those three guys right there, the fact that they’re down here showing interest.”

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.