Friday, August 28, 2015

Technology upgrades will allow St. Francis Community Center to go wireless

Photo via Newsworks
The upgrades will allow employees to work from
anywhere within the building and even the county.
The St. Francis Community Center, a nonprofit organization located in Brant Beach that offers a wide variety of services and programs aimed at meeting the needs of Ocean County residents, is cutting the cord with old ways. The center will be upgrading its computer server as well as creating wireless access points within the parish and community center to enable employees to work from anywhere within the building as well as the county. The upgrade is being made possible with a $14,500 grant from the OceanFirst Foundation of Toms River.
“Our work environment is changing, and we must move forward if we are to continue to provide the best supportive services within Southern Ocean County,” said Connie Becraft, executive director of St. Francis. “The reality (is that) as a nonprofit organization we cannot afford to upgrade an entire system, and the system we have is unable to support wireless services.”
The current server is at the end of its life and can no longer be supported by Microsoft, Becraft noted. The grant should help offset IT expenses and keep administrative costs low.
“The new server will have better security, more performance and will help St. Francis Center stay current and keep up with mobile technology,” said Stacey Kelsall, comptroller.
Upgrades will allow employees to use on-the-go devices, she noted.
“With this funding, we will now be able to access information on our computers when working remotely in the community, allowing us to access web-based systems and faster Internet speeds,” said Lori Tomaro, director of family support.
The local community center was awarded the first OceanFirst Foundation grant in 1997. Since then, the foundation has awarded the center 20 grants totaling $413,674.
Since its inception, OceanFirst Foundation, which provides grants to organizations that meet community needs throughout central New Jersey, has contributed more than $25 million to over 600 local charities and schools in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inspired by husband’s photography, mainland resident opens Beach Haven gift shop featuring local artists

For mainland resident Denise Giardina, managing her own gift shop on Long Beach Island “is the life.” That’s also the translation of the store’s name, Sea LaVie, which is a play on the popular French saying, c’est la vie.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Sea LaVie offers a plethora of adorable
items that are perfect for the home.
“When this opportunity came up, I said yes out of nowhere. Who knows what I was thinking at that point?” Giardina said, while wrapping a customer purchase in tissue paper. “I always wanted to own my own store, but I never thought I could. I love it.”
The incentive for the shop, which opened just two doors away from The Chicken or the Egg on North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven right before Memorial Day, stemmed from Giardina’s desire to display and sell the photography of her husband Frank, who has owned Oceanview Electric for 26 years.
“That was my inspiration, all the local photographs that he’s taken of the Shack and the local birds and the boats down Dock Road in Manahawkin and Viking Village,” she said. “I wanted to market his photos that he has thousands and thousands of.”
An array of artwork from other local artists is also featured in the shop, including photos by SandPaper photographer Jack Reynolds as well as handmade glass, painted beads, mosaics and wine glasses by Reynold’s wife, Cheryl Syminink.
“I can’t keep them in the store. They fly out,” Giardina said, picking up a new box of hand-painted wine glasses from Syminink.
Oils and acrylics by Amy Kunze, watercolors by Dorothy Smith, Sharon Twomey’s handmade pottery and Ruth Hawthorne’s up-cycled furniture from local destinations, such as a table made out of beach fencing from 19th Street in Beach Haven, are also for sale in the shop.
“There’s just a little bit of everything,” said Giardina. “It’s not a totally beach store because people that come here week by week, yes, they want a memento of the beach, but not everybody goes home and decorates beach.”
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Owner Denise Giardina makes sure she doesn't
carry anything other local stores have.
The shop also offers unique accessories and giftware from limited-edition Shwood sunglasses made from Atlantic Records’ vinyls to handmade snow-ladies fashioned from vintage clothing.
“I like a lot of American-made things, so I have a lot of people from all over the country that make things for me. That’s what keeps me different,” said Giardina. “When everybody comes in here to see what companies I buy from, I go into their store to make sure I never buy what they’re selling.
“Frank says everything I touch turns to gold,” she added, noting that she receives new items every day.
Giardina is not a newcomer to the Island. She has worked in the local area for over 25 years, she said.
“We moved down here in ’85. We came down for Labor Day weekend and never went home,” she emphasized.
During the early 1990s, Giardina managed Cornucopia, a former gift shop on Route 9 in Manahawkin. She also worked as a bookkeeper at Diane Turton Realtors for 12 years as well as the front-end manager at Defiglio’s supermarket in Ship Bottom. Because customers used to keep open charges or running tabs or checks, she used to know everyone on the Island by their last name, she noted. Now at Sea LaVie, she is running into customers both new and old.
“I actually meet a lot of the people that I’ve known in the past, a lot of whom I recognize by their voice, or their name, or their mannerism,” she said. “It’s so funny. I look totally different than when I did back then, and so do they. It’s like a trip down memory lane, so to speak.”
For a chance to meet Giardina and check out her inventory, Sea LaVie is open seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. After Chowderfest, the store will be open five days a week until the holidays, when it will close for the season.
“I had an incredible summer,” Giardina said. “I had no idea what to expect, how much to order, or how busy I would be. I heard from other store owners that it’s been slow this summer, and if this is slow, I can’t wait for next year. I literally cannot keep up.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Beach Haven Council hosting public comment session for new borough hall project

Anyone interested in learning more about Beach Haven’s municipal complex project is invited to partake in a public comment session with council members and project officials on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. The discussion will be held at the old Coast Guard station, located at 420 Pelham Ave., which has been acting as the town’s temporary borough hall since Superstorm Sandy wrecked the main building on Engleside Avenue.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
The town's Emergency Operations Center
is a former Coast Guard building along the bay.
Point Pleasant-based Robert Sebring, who designed Barnegat Light’s borough hall and also rendered Ship Bottom Borough Hall’s expected renovations, has been hired as the architect for the municipal building, which will accommodate administrative offices, emergency management and the police department. The project will also include the refurbishment of the police department building for housing the building and zoning departments as well as the public works administrative offices.
Sebring and Borough Engineer Frank Little will be in attendance at the meeting.
“The purpose of this meeting is to update the town on the new municipal building construction project and present the architectural plans,” said Beach Haven Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis. “The meeting will be chaired by the borough council and will include the borough engineer and project architect. Together we will outline the construction timeline, building amenities and discuss funding, including grants received.”
In March, the council approved an ordinance appropriating $5 million to finance the cost of the reconstruction. The N.J. Economic Development Authority and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, which is covering 25 percent of the project through an Economic Development Grant, gave the town the authority to expend the funds in June.
Demolition of the municipal building is expected to begin after Labor Day.
To address everyone’s concerns, a list of questions and answers surrounding the project is available on the borough’s website at
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Beach Haven honoring all LBI municipality badges until end of summer season

Photo by Ryan Morrill
The pilot program will hopefully lead to an
Island-wide beach badge.
For the remainder of the summer season, individuals with 2015 seasonal beach badges are welcome to use their tags, regardless of what LBI municipality they are for, to visit any of Beach Haven’s beaches, from 12th Street to Nelson Avenue. The pilot program started by borough officials could lead to the adoption of an Island-wide seasonal beach badge, which is something many local residents and visitors of the Island’s numerous municipalities have been pushing for a long time.
“People have been talking about an Island-wide beach badge for years,” said Beach Haven Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis. “We thought it was time that we did something about it. We hope this action will be reciprocated by other municipalities on the Island.”
If established, the Island-wide badges would allow beach-goers to pass between municipalities without being penalized, and free of having to purchase more than one badge. Municipalities are still considering different options for implementing such a plan, said Taggart Davis. However, Beach Haven’s pilot program is producing interesting data that has the potential to accelerate the negotiations currently underway on LBI, she explained.
Taggart Davis said she hopes more people come to Beach Haven, “to sit there and walk and swim and enjoy” the beaches.
“LBI has some of the finest beaches in the world. Our goal is to balance their accessibility with proper maintenance and safety,” she noted. “For generations, our community has been one of the most family-friendly in America. People come to LBI for its beaches, but they stay for the world-class dining, shopping and entertainment.
“We are just trying to make it as easy as possible for people to have a good time down on the Jersey Shore,” she added. “I hope the mayors and councils of the other municipalities on the Island will take part.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Anthony’s debuts in Beach Haven with New York-style Italian fare

Although some regular customers at Anthony’s Trattoria want the new Italian restaurant’s fare to remain a secret, the word has already begun to spread throughout the area.
“It was so good last night, we had to come back for more,” Mike Smith, who was visiting family, told co-owner Vito Santo as the two engaged in a firm handshake.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
The restaurant menu is a spin-off from the owners'
other restaurant, the Elm Park Inn in Staten Island.
“We like good food. The red sauce is the best around,” added Smith’s father, Pete, who had eaten at the Beach Haven restaurant “a few times already.”
“The eggplant parm is the best I’ve ever had,” said Smith’s mother, Debbie.
The family-owned restaurant, which opened Fourth of July weekend, specializes in thin-crusted, brick oven pizza made to order with fresh ingredients, including mozzarella brought in from New York, and prepared by city chefs.
Specialty desserts, including the sweet and creamy New York cheesecake served with two heaping dollops of whipped cream (I can’t believe I ate a whole slice), come from Aunt Butchies of Brooklyn, who is also a family relative.
Other big sellers so far include Italian favorites such as stuffed pork chops, stuffed salmon, chicken parmigiana, pork giambotta and seafood fra diavolo.
The menu is a spin-off from the family’s other Italian-American restaurant, the Elm Park Inn, which is currently up for sale after having been a Staten Island icon since the late 1980s.
Anthony’s Trattoria offers strictly Italian fare.
“We wanted to try something new,” said Vito’s wife, Carolyn. “We’re beach people, so we’re here all the time anyway,” she added, noting that their daughter-in-law’s family has been vacationing on Long Beach Island for about 20 years.
“We’re hoping to make a name here,” said Vito.
The restaurant offers beach delivery for those who would like to enjoy their food while catching some rays near the water. Takeout as well as catering trays are also offered. Early-bird specials will be presented in the fall. Reservations are not available.
So far, the restaurant has been “very busy,” and the customer response has been “very good.” If all continues to go well, the family hopes to expand the seating area for larger parties.
“We hope this stays open,” said Smith.
Anthony’s Trattoria, located at 1511 Long Beach Blvd., is currently open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m. Hours will decrease after Labor Day through Christmas.
For more information, call 609-848-9778.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Public shares concerns over Beach Haven’s upcoming beach replenishment

Photo via Google
Replenishment in Beach Haven is now expected
to begin sometime at the end of the year.
Multiple residents and visitors of Beach Haven stood before the town council during the regular monthly meeting Monday, Aug. 10, to express their concerns regarding the borough’s beach replenishment, adding that many of them like the beaches “just the way they are.” The project, which was last said to begin shortly after Labor Day, has again been pushed back due to the dredge having to be redeployed elsewhere, Borough Manager Richard Crane announced. Officials expect it to return sometime between September and November, or as late as early December.
John Weber, a member of the Surfrider Foundation, urged the council members to think of themselves as customers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. He suggested the ocean beach at Centre Street have a gentler slope because it is the “most populated beach” in town.
Local resident Doris Tuder said she was worried about steep inclines that would make it difficult for older people to get onto the beach.
Councilman Don Kakstis assured her that there would be three handicap-accessible beaches, at Centre, Fifth and Pearl streets, that will have ramps with side rails and wheelchair-accessible mats down to the water.
“There have been some problems in the projects they’ve done before in this respect, and they are fixing them,” Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis stated. “It is a concern, but you do have to remember the whole reason for this is the protection of the properties.”
Charles Barkley Jr. said the town needs to offer more than three handicap beaches. He also said the sand brought into other local towns is “too much” and of “poor quality.”
Taggart Davis explained that extra sand is put down at the beginning of replenishment and that it should level out within one to three years.
Councilman Chuck Maschal added that sand will be taken out of the inlet and put onto the beaches during other cycles.
In response to another concern about the dangers of the sand covering the jetties, Taggart Davis explained that the jetties will be re-exposed over time.
Weber supported the idea of moving the town’s “nice sand” aside and putting it back on top of the sand laid down for the project, a process known as back-passing. He said the state has done this in other instances and should pay for it.
“I think you can, and you should, ask the DEP for that,” he urged.
Ron Pospisol and Ed Seith both denounced the idea of back-passing since officials claimed most of the sand would wash away during erosion.
Pospisol added that most of the destruction from Superstorm Sandy came from flooding from the bay, not the ocean.
“Let’s not do anything to our sand,” he urged. “Just leave it there, and let it be ours. What’s made us Beach Haven is the sand, the quality.”
Ginny Fine, a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who also works for Long Beach Township, expressed concern for the project’s effects on the environment, including where the sand is being mined.
John Hammer, a fourth-generation resident and surfer, asked the council to consider the town’s surfing and tourism communities.
A town meeting to discuss concerns with representatives of the Army Corps and DEP will be held at the old Coast Guard station on Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. Weber praised the council for hosting the discussion, adding that he believes this is the first town to do so.
“We’re all still keeping on top of this,” stated Taggart Davis, who added that Maschal has been attending all project meetings with the Army Corps and DEP. “We feel fortunate that they’re starting Beach Haven sort of late in the game so that we can inspect the other beaches. ... We really appreciate everybody that is concerned about this because we want the best beaches.”
In other meeting news, the borough’s public tax rate recently proposed by the county is $1.26, which is an overall increase of 6.9 cents from 2014. The county rate increased by 1.3 cents or $268,007; the regional school tax increased by 2.9 cents or $518,215; and the municipal tax rate increased by 2.6 cents or $484,322. The total amount to be raised by taxation for municipal and county schools is $21,210,097, which is an increase of approximately $1,306,771.
Because the county tax rate was struck later than usual, the deadline has been extended by resolution to Sept. 10.
Beach badge sales so far have surpassed sales for this time last year, Crane noted. Total sales to date are $448,693, an increase of $12,643 over last year at the same time.
“We hope this continues for the following 3-plus weeks of the season,” said Crane.
The council honored members of the local beach patrol, police department and first aid squad for “a very big life-saving effort on the beach” Tuesday, Aug. 4. Details of the incident were not made available.
Crane also welcomed Lauren Campellone as the borough’s new court administrator. Campellone previously worked in Manchester Township and has over four years of experience in the municipal court system, he said.
The council adopted a bond ordinance authorizing $310,000 for various water system improvements as well as another bond ordinance of $700,000 and the issuance of $523,500 in bonds or notes to finance various capital improvements and acquisitions.
On first reading, the council passed a 2015 salary ordinance as well as a mercantile license amendment.
A public meeting regarding the construction of the new municipal building will be held at the old Coast Guard station on Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. Demolition of the existing building will begin after Labor Day.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Three-story structure to be built in Beach Haven’s marine commercial district

After being denied by the Beach Haven Land Use Board in May for the development of a three-story structure in the town’s marine commercial district, due to the “intensity” of the project, William Burris stood before the board Monday, Aug, 3 seeking approval for a slightly different plan.
Photo via the Black Whale Bar & Fish House
The Black Whale is expected to move
to the Boat House on the bay.
The new application was approved by the board with a unanimous vote.
The project includes the development of a new structure at 100 North West Ave., containing a ticket booth for the Miss Beach Haven and Black Pearl charter boats as well as a public bathroom, office and storage room on the ground level at the bay. It will also consist of three single-family, residential dwelling units on the second and third floors, with two parking spaces below for each unit and two additional off-street parking spaces for the commercial area on the property.
The land is currently an empty lot with an unused ticket booth. The previously existing building was torn down in 2010 due to being undermined when the bulkhead was breached.
The plan also includes 28, and possibly more, transient boat slips.
“He’s not selling them for seasonal use. They’re going to be for people who have boats from other towns on the Island or from the mainland and who need a place to park so they can go eat, hopefully at his restaurant, as well as visit the Maritime Museum and other sites in the area,” said Beach Haven Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis, who attended the hearing but did not vote on the project.
Burris, a part owner of the Black Whale Bar & Fish House on Centre Street, anticipates moving the eatery to the Boat House Restaurant at the end of the 2016 summer season, Taggart Davis said.
“He hopes to take his liquor license from the Black Whale that’s on Centre Street, and he plans to move it to the Boat House on the bay. The Boat House is going to be the new Black Whale,” the mayor explained.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Pickleball gets rolling in Beach Haven with new, permanent courts

Photo by Jack Reynolds
Players of all skill levels join the game.
The sound of Wiffle balls smacking back and forth against hand paddles filled the courts of the newly renovated Nelson Avenue Skating Rink in Beach Haven on Monday evening, Aug. 3, as local residents and visitors of all ages gathered to participate in friendly and/or competitive games of pickleball. The racket game, which combines elements of tennis and badminton, is currently one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States.
“This is so wonderful, that they brought this to LBI. These courts are beautiful,” noted Joan Thomas, a vacationer who had been introduced to the game in Florida last winter. “It’s an addicting sport; you get on the court, and you can’t get off. I’m going to play it every day here.”
The desire for permanent pickleball courts in Beach Haven quickly became a necessity after local residents Ted and Candy Zolcinski introduced the game to other individuals on LBI last summer. A growing number of players, ranging in age from 12 to 90, participated in the game on temporary courts at the Beach Haven School before moving indoors for the winter at the St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach.
Now Beach Haven has its very own six-court pickleball facility. Scheduled games are held Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, with instruction taking place between 9 and 10. Anyone interested in playing roller hockey or roller skating can do so at the rink from noon on. Individuals with their own pickleball equipment are also encouraged to set up games throughout the day.
“How could it not turn out any better than this? Look at this crowd,” urged Ted Zolcinski, motioning to the many players and individuals who came out to learn more about the game during the grand opening. “This is a tremendous response. It’s probably even better than I expected.”
The rink was originally constructed many years ago by now-retired Beach Haven Police Chief Butch McCaffrey. It had been in disrepair the last few years before borough officials and local volunteers recently teamed up to revamp it. The town contributed around $19,000, $7,000 of which was left over from the initial project. Volunteers donated another $3,000 to $4,000 in repairs and equipment.
The local, volunteer-run pickleball enterprise, led by ambassadors Karl Lombel and Robin O'Brien (a silver medalist of the 2014 New Jersey Senior Olympics for pickleball), currently includes about 100 players from on and off the Island. It is free and open to all, including beginning, novice, intermediate and advanced players. Players must wear sneakers, and are encouraged to play at their own pace and skill level.
“If you’ve played before and you want to play on the beginner courts, you can do that. And if you want to play competitively, we have a place for that, too,” Zolcinski said. “It’s really just about having fun.”
Many described the game as a “social sport,” where they can catch up with neighbors and friends and make plans to play games later.
“We’ve met more people through pickleball in the last year than we have since we moved here in 1997,” Zolcinski said.
The players anticipate a greater response in the future, as more people learn about the courts.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tour old Beach Haven via bus with town historian Jeanette Lloyd

What better way to celebrate Beach Haven’s 125th birthday than by traveling to the places that were there during the early development in 1874? The Long Beach Island Historical Association will rediscover times past through a “Discover the History of Beach Haven Through a Unique Bus Tour,” held Wednesday, Aug. 19, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
The bus tour will begin at the Long Beach Island
Historical Museum, at Engleside and Beach avenues.
Beach Haven historian Jeanette Lloyd will lead the excursion through the major streets of town, narrating historical information about the many different sites. The bus tour has been changed this year to include more stops, a total of 44 sites “that are all gone.”
“You’ll find out what made Beach Haven special, who were the visionary people, workers, business merchants and baymen who made it all possible by visiting their houses and the clubs and hotels where they gathered,” said Lloyd, who is also a trustee of the LBI Historical Association.
Some “very, very old photographs” of Beach Haven landmarks have been blown up into 18-by-24 posters to help tour-goers travel back in time.
“We have 24 of them,” said Lloyd.
The tour will highlight some of the area’s notable locations, from Ostendorff’s Garage and Walsh’s Baseball Grandstand on Bay Avenue to the Public Wharf, Acme Hotel and Morrison’s Restaurant on Dock Road. The Seven Sisters Houses built by Floyd Cranmer will also be highlighted, as well as the Baldwin and Engleside hotels, John Crozier Cottages and the site of the Lucy Evelyn schooner, among others.
The trip is casual, and questions are welcome.
Seating on the Beach Haven School bus is limited to 35 people. Boarding will take place at the Long Beach Island Historical Museum, located at Engleside and Beach avenues in Beach Haven, at 10:15 a.m.
Interested participants must reserve their spot on the bus by purchasing tickets at the LBI Museum prior to the tour. Tickets cost $20 per person.
For more information, call 609-492-0700.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Holy Innocents’ Episopal Church responds to local residents’ request for more local, organic produce

In response to a “community outcry” for fresh, local and organic produce, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church, located at 410 South Atlantic Ave. in Beach Haven, is hosting a Farm Market on the premises every Wednesday, from 9 to 11 a.m., until Sept. 2.
Photo via Beach View Farms
Cucumbers and other fresh produce are
being provided by Beach View Farms.
“Many of the gardeners are not able to produce as much as they would like in the small plot at the Community Garden (at Holy Innocents),” said garden coordinator, Laurie Messler. “In addition, many of the residents of Beach Haven have asked us about providing more local and organic produce. The Community Garden and the Farm Market seem like a perfect fit.”
Beach View Farms in Stafford Township is providing the produce, which includes anything that is being harvested that week. So far, the farmer’s market has included tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, onions, kale, eggs, blackberries, cantaloupe and watermelon.
“The market enriches the community by providing a space for our residents and vacationers to focus on healthy eating and education about local farms,” Messler said. “Many of the people who visit the garden were interested in purchasing organic produce and eager to learn more about a healthier lifestyle.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Love You Long Beach Island is local author, business owner’s ‘heartfelt’ response to Superstorm Sandy

Sandy Gingras’ newest book, I Love You Long Beach Island, which Ray Fisk of Down The Shore Publishing describes as a “prose-poem-prayer with thoughts and feelings stripped down to the most deeply felt elements,” is the epitome of simply gorgeous. The story is a beautiful tribute to some of LBI’s best-loved qualities, with whimsical hand-drawings by the author.
Photo by Jack ReynoldsThe author hosts a signing at How to Live
for another one of her many books.
“Writing this book was very personal for me. But all of my books are personal,” said Gingras, who has also published short stories, poetry, creative nonfiction and novels. “This one is special, though, because LBI is my home. I felt like this book needed to be written. Love needs to be expressed.”
Now a local resident and business owner, Gingras had been visiting the Island since she was just 1 year old. Growing up, she spent her summers with her parents in a rented cottage in Holgate.
“I have a long history here,” she said. “The best parts of my childhood took place here. I think the best parts of me are the LBI parts, the parts born of simplicity and freedom and wild out-to-sea-ness.”
The local author, best known for her charming How to Live gift book series and Beach Haven and Surf City stores, created her latest book in response to Superstorm Sandy. Like many others, Gingras and her family were hard-hit by the hurricane. After riding it out at The Engleside Inn in Beach Haven, and realizing “how fragile it all was, how lucky we were that the eye passed over us, how we all could have easily died, how the whole Island could have been swept away,” she recounted, she and her family fled to Lawrenceville to stay with relatives.
“I started writing then because, when I need to make sense of things, I write,” she said. “I started writing a letter to Long Beach Island, and ‘my old friend’ was the address. The minute I wrote that phrase, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. It all just flowed out of me. And it was a love letter.
“My writing process can best be described as ‘turning myself inside out,’” she added. “I just write what I need to write to make sense of my world, and I doodle all the pictures to accompany the words. It is what I do most naturally.”
After she returned to the Island, the story, which Gingras titled “Love Song for Long Beach Island,” was painted on a piece of plywood and propped up in the window of her emptied-out Beach Haven store, next to bottles of mold spray.
“People came to read it and have their pictures taken next to it. It struck a chord with people,” she said.
The design was made into a card and print, which she sold in her stores. All the proceeds were donated to victims of the storm. Then, one day, she looked at the design and thought, “This could be a book, and I know just the person to publish it,” she remembered.
Fisk also published Gingras’ first book, How To Live on an Island, and seven more as well as a calendar all related to the shore, before the prolific author moved on to various national publishers. The two met “long ago,” when Gingras was working in a used-book store in Surf City.
“We had a great run ... but the storm brought her focus back to LBI, and I was happy when she re-connected last summer and shared her enthusiasm for a heartfelt, poetic, post-Superstorm Sandy book about our Island and everything we almost lost in the storm,” said Fisk. “So, it’s full circle: back home to LBI and back home to her first publisher.
“Sandy’s work shines, even rough works-in-progress,” said Fisk. “She’s also (unlike many) open to tough criticism and hard edits. Her talent makes what seem like very simple books more than just that. She writes and re-writes and scraps ideas and thinks about the value of each sentence and word, as a poet does.”
Although Gingras had never thought of herself as a creative person, she said, her writing began to blossom after she attended her first writing course through the Southern Regional Adult School, when she was 30 years old. She later became a student of Stephen Dunn (one of this writer’s favorite poets), who wrote a short review for another one of her gift books, Reasons To Be Happy At the Beach, which Fisk published not long after Dunn won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
I Love You Long Beach Island is Gingras’ 26th book.
“I’m blessed that other people care to read it, and that it resonates with them,” she said. “I’ve always felt alone in life, on the outside of things, and having people read my books always surprised me – and made me feel less alone. It still does. I’m always touched when people come in my stores or write to me and tell me what my books have meant to them. I feel like they connect with me somehow. And that connection is precious to me.”
Although the story was inspired by Sandy, and the initial draft of the book had a long afterword about the storm, Gingras and Fisk decided they did not want it to be a “storm book.”
“We felt like it was more timeless than that, and we felt that the storm story, although interesting, was not the essence of the book,” Gingras explained. “We wanted it to just stand alone as a love story.
“I hope people feel that I captured the essence of LBI even though I couldn’t get all the sweet individual places and connect with everyone’s personal experiences of the Island,” she added. “I hope they feel that I ‘got’ the Island – the soul of the place, and I hope they recognize themselves in it. Because it’s for all of us.”
Gingras will host a book signing at the Surf City How to Live store, located at 8 North Long Beach Blvd., next to How You Brewin', on Friday, Aug. 7, from 5 to 7 p.m.  A similar event will take place the following Friday, Aug. 14, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Beach Haven How to Live store, located at 7 South Bay Ave., next to Murphy’s Market. Refreshments and live music will be provided.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.