Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Little Egg Harbor resident named country female songwriter of the year at Josie Music Awards in Nashvillle

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Surrounded by just some of her many awards,
Inchierchiera proudly shows off her newest addition.
Standing on the same stage where the Country Music Awards were recently held at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Carmella Inchierchiera, 65, of Little Egg Harbor was named country female songwriter of the year last month at the Josie Music Awards, the largest awards event ever held in Nashville for independent music artists.
The local songwriter has won more than 40 awards throughout her career. Six were for songwriter of the year from various national and global radio stations and associations, including two from Fishing Country Now and Cowgirl Divas Radio also received this year.
“But this was the biggie,” she said. “It just shows that even though you don’t perform you can still get your music out there.”
Influenced by the country music she listened to growing up while her father worked as a truck driver, Inchierchiera began writing poetry at 16 years old that many people told her seemed more like song lyrics. But it wasn’t until 2008, when she contacted Nelson Blanchard for a demo for her song “Mama Can Drive This Big Truck Too,” that her career in songwriting really took off.
“It blew me away,” Inchierchiera said. “I could not believe the vocals and harmonies. I was in tears. Every time I get a demo back from him it’s like Christmas.”
Blanchard began playing in clubs at 10 years old with The Richard Brothers and now performs with Louisiana’s LeRoux. He’s worked with many other big-name artists, including Kenny Rogers, Sammy Kershaw, The Goo Goo Dolls and Britney Spears, to name a few.
Since connecting with Blanchard, Inchierchiera's songs have been performed by well-known artists such as country singer Tareva Henderson, hall of fame fiddler Larry Franklin and “Scooby-Doo” voiceover Scott Innes.
Because Blanchard's expertise has helped Inchierchiera forge many musical relationships, she said she won’t work with anybody else.
“We gelled,” she said. “People call us the power duo.”
The two of them co-wrote “Fallen Heroes 9/11,” which was nominated for the 2012 song of the year by the Independent Country Music Association. While the song resonates with many people across the country, it also has special meaning for Inchierchiera since her husband, Paul, is a certified 9/11 survivor. Paul was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma after working for the New York City Department of Sanitation during the 9/11 attacks.
“They were bringing in debris there, and it was all over the trucks,” Inchierchiera stated.
Although follicular lymphoma is incurable, she said her husband’s cancer thankfully is in remission.
Another one of Inchierchiera’s popular songs, “Just Imagine the Storm,” which focuses on Superstorm Sandy, is dedicated to her late son, Genaro, who helped rescue 12 people as a volunteer in Staten Island during the storm. He passed away a year later while undergoing unrelated heart surgery.
During the aftermath of Sandy, “Just Imagine the Storm” reached No. 1 on the song charts.
Inchierchiera has had a 2½-year run on the Indie Music Network’s country and mainstream charts with a total of 17 songs, 14 of which made the top 10.
But Inchierchiera doesn’t typically make money off her songs. Rather, she does it for the joy it brings to her and other people’s lives as well as the experience she gets from working with so many different people.
“I have no interest in making a profit off my music,” said Inchierchiera. “I don’t believe I’d be as successful as I am if I had done it for money because I would be so wrapped up in money instead of making connections. I just love doing it. Everything inspires me. I do it for my fans, really.”
Inchierchiera has made several charity CDs to help raise funds for the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, among others.
Her advice to others in the songwriting business is “promote, promote, promote.”
“When you think you’re done, start all over. You have to demo up as much as you can as best you can,” she urged, noting it’s much easier to get into the industry now that there are so many opportunities through the Internet that weren’t afforded to her when she was younger.
“Songwriters Two,” her latest CD co-written by Blanchard, will be available for purchase this month on iTunes.
To hear some of her songs, visit
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cat found shot in the head in Manahawkin recuperates in foster home

A young, female cat found barely alive in the wooded area at the end of Stafford Avenue in Manahawkin with a gunshot wound is now recovering in a foster home. A Stafford Veterinary Hospital receptionist is caring for the tan and brown domestic shorthair tiger cat at home and is expected to adopt her in the future.
Dr. Michael Pride, the veterinarian overseeing the cat’s treatment, wants to make sure the home is a good fit before formally adopting her out, though he said things are going well so far.
Photo via Stafford Veterinary Hospital
A vet receptionist is currently fostering the
cat at home and plans to ultimately adopt her.
“Her basic, normal functions are there. So I think she will be a nice cat, just quiet,” Pride said.
The cat, which veterinary staff had named Lucky, was rushed to the hospital on Oct. 12 after Stafford Township Animal Control Officer Kelly Karch responded to a call from a local resident who found the cat shot in the right side of her head, and another that was pronounced dead at the scene, while walking his dog that morning. The surviving cat underwent emergency surgery, and Pride removed bullet fragments from behind her jaw and in her skin. Her lungs also had quite a bit of fluid in them.
“Honestly, I’m not sure how she survived,” Pride said.
The cat is currently on antibiotics and pain killers and is being treated for a wound infection. She’s also being watched closely because she is experiencing some neurological deficits from the trauma.
“She kind of stares off into space, and she’s rather reclusive,” Pride said, adding that “she’s very jumpy” and doesn’t always seem to notice when a person’s there until they’ve touched her.
Though Pride said this type of assault is not common in the area, he noted that BBs have been found unexpectedly in other animals during X-rays. Since they’re not fresh wounds, he said they leave the BBs there.
Pride isn’t optimistic that the perpetrator responsible for the recent shooting will be found. No witnesses have come forward, he said.
“It was a good Samaritan who found them, and unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere past that,” said Pride. “But the good thing is that one of the cats survived and she’s in a home. We’re going to check up on her frequently.”
In the wake of the incident, a concerned citizen has offered a $500 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the shooting. Since then, another citizen has come forward offering an additional $500 reward.
“I just think that it was such a cowardly act that the perpetrator should face pressure and that it will serve to hopefully discourage similar acts,” said Steve Jaffe, a Beach Haven homeowner, who is offering the additional reward. “Hopefully if I join in, others will, too, and at the very least the person responsible will have some sleepless nights.”
Lt. James Vaughn said the Stafford Police Department has no suspects or concrete leads.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

$500 reward offered for information regarding two cats shot in Stafford Township

When Stafford Township Animal Control Officer Kelly Karch responded to a call in Manahawkin Oct. 12 regarding a pair of injured felines, she didn’t expect to find two female cats less than six months old lying on the side of the road with bullet wounds in the side of their heads. The first cat, a black and brown tabby positioned on top of the other, was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other, a tan and brown domestic shorthair tiger, was barely alive.
Photo via Stafford Twp. Police
The cat rests after
emergency surgery.
Karch rushed the struggling survivor to Stafford Veterinary Hospital, where a bullet fragment lodged behind her jaw was surgically removed. The cat’s lungs had quite a bit of fluid in them as well.
“Right now her lungs are clear, she’s breathing great, and she’s eating well. So she’s making a really great recovery in all, considering how we found her,” Karch said Tuesday, Oct. 25.
The surviving cat, which hasn’t been named yet, is expected to need long-term rehabilitation since she’s currently experiencing some vision loss due to possible optical nerve damage. She will be available for foster and/or adoption in the near future, once she’s recuperated enough to be placed in a home. Individuals interested in caring for the cat may call Sue of The Friends of the Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter at 609-709-0470.
“The vet thinks she can live a long, happy life, especially considering she’s so young. So it’s just a matter of seeing how much personality she gets back,” Karch said. “It could take time for her to become trusting of people again.”
A concerned citizen is offering a $500 reward to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for shooting the cats. Individuals with knowledge about the incident should all animal control directly at 609-597-1000, extension 8525.
“It’s just awful. I don’t understand,” said Mary Ensminger, a Friends volunteer, who was devastated to learn about the “brutal attack.” “You always hear that people who torture and kill animals when they’re kids end up being serial killers. So who knows, maybe it was kids, quote, ‘out having fun.’”
Anyone who recognizes the cat’s picture and may have seen her in a particular area of a neighborhood is encouraged to contact authorities so officials have an idea of where she may have come from.
“Obviously Stafford Township is a pretty big jurisdiction. We have Barnegat nearby, which is also a larger township, and Long Beach Island,” said Karch.
The animal control officer was called to the scene in the wooded area of Stafford Avenue off Hilliard Boulevard, a well-traveled roadway, by a local resident who was out walking his dog around 9 that morning.
Neither of the cats had any identification such as a microchip, tag or ear tip, but both were very clean and did not appear to be full outdoor cats, Karch said. The cats were free of fleas, their coats were clean, and their nails weren’t overly grown, which leads authorities to believe somebody had been caring for them at some point.
But Karch said they’re having trouble really evaluating whether or not the surviving cat was partially domesticated or truly feral.
“She’s very skittish, but she’s also been traumatized,” she said.
The shooting is believed to have taken place no more than a day prior to the call, possibly in the middle of the night or early morning, since the deceased cat’s body was found in rigor mortis, which tends to wear off 12 hours after onset.
As of earlier this week, Stafford Township Lt. James Vaughn said the police department had no suspects or concrete tips regarding the incident.
“But the good thing is, it looks like one of the cats is going to survive,” he said.
If police are able to establish who committed the act, he or she could potentially be charged with cruelty to animals.
“That would be the main charge that they could face, but certainly there could be other charges regarding the weapon used and other things along that line,” said Vaughn.
According to state law, cruelty to animals is a disorderly persons offense with a fine from $250 to $1,000 and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.
A ballistics report is still pending.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pickleballers petition to extend playing season, install permanent nets in Beach Haven

Pickleball players filled the room during Beach Haven Council’s monthly town meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 11, to express their enthusiasm for the game in hopes of getting borough officials to establish permanent nets at the town’s new six-court facility. The local group of players has been increasing since the Nelson Avenue skating rink was renovated last summer to accommodate the growing sport. But the facility’s temporary nets are only accessible until Labor Day, when they’re locked away for the off season, members complained.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Pickleball enthusiasts get a chance to play at
at the new courts in 
Beach Haven last July.
Over 2,000 people ranging from teenagers to adults in their 80s and 90s played pickleball at the Nelson Avenue facility this past summer, according to local resident Karl Lombel, a USA Pickleball Association ambassador, who helped get the sport going in town. Although the number of players dwindles during the off season, between 60 and 70 people are still getting together to play at the courts outside borough hall in Long Beach Township, he noted.
Needless to say, the game is very popular. While Beach Haven was the first LBI town to institute pickleball courts, many others have popped up across the Island since then. Local resident Andrea Jones, who presented council with a petition for the permanent nets that included about 100 signatures, noted 2.5 million people are playing pickleball nationally, and 8 million people are expected to be playing the game within two years.
“There’s such an urge to have this for the community,” she stated, noting many people from the mainland come to Beach Haven for pickleball.
Pickleball is a great way for people to get some exercise and create camaraderie with each other, added Lombel. He suggested allowing veterans to play without having to pay the $2 daily or $40 season pass fees, which council adopted this past May.
Photo via Barnegat Light Taxpayers Association
Beach Haven Councilman Don Kakstis
gets into the swing of the game.
Lombel also noted that the game has had a positive impact on local businesses since many people from the area and out of state patronize Beach Haven’s restaurants and shops when they come to play.
Councilman Don Kakstis, who is also an avid pickleball player, said Borough Engineer Frank Little suggested the possibility of installing heavy-duty portable pickleball systems, which would cost roughly $7,600 for all six courts.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we have such an active group of pickleball players in our town. It’s wonderful,” said Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis, who agreed it would be nice to extend the game’s season into the fall and spring.
She suggested revamping one of the tennis courts on Pearl Street for pickleball use, to which a few members of the audience, who also play tennis, expressed disapproval.
“You don’t rob Peter to pay Paul,” said Colleen Lambert, a devoted tennis player. “If we need pickleball courts, we should be building pickleball courts. But don’t take them from the tennis facility.”
She asked council to reconsider using the collected tennis fees to repair the three courts that have been in “terrible, terrible shape” for the past few years. Kakstis noted the tennis courts generated $5,800 above costs last year, though the mayor said they’re “very expensive” to maintain.
Lambert also asked that players have access to the better courts during the off season since they were locked up last year as well.
In other meeting news, council voted to bond $1,083,000 of a $1,138,000 project for various capital improvements in town ranging from road, beach walkway and storm water system upgrades to the acquisition of vehicles and equipment for the public works, beach patrol and police departments. A separate $250,000 bond ordinance for the removal and replacement of a portion of the borough’s existing water main pipe was also adopted.
Ordinances and amendments approved on first reading included the requirement of toilet facilities at construction sites, recommendations from public works regarding walkways and signage for single-family/duplex homes and clarification of penalties pertaining to solid waste and recycling violations.
An ordinance for the implementation of the feral cat Trap Neuter Return program, which council never formally adopted despite Stafford Township Animal Control and The Friends of the Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter’s ongoing efforts in the borough, was also approved on introduction.
“It’s exciting because it’ll be the first ordinance on record in the area to really help protect these cats, even though this has been going on for years,” said Kelly Karch, Stafford Animal Control officer.
A Friends volunteer invited audience members to get involved with the program as well as fostering.
Taggart Davis and Council President Jim White encouraged residents to vote in favor of a referendum for a Green Acres tax that will be on the November ballot. If approved, the tax would help the town improve its parks and save money for future projects such as purchasing the old Coast Guard station, which borough employees have been operating out of since Superstorm Sandy.
Local resident Susan Green, who lives across the street from the station, thanked council for making some repairs to the building after she and her husband, Bill, expressed concern about its appearance at a previous town meeting.
In reference to a public request to better include seasonal residents in town matters, raised at a prior “Meet the Candidates” event, Kakstis suggested the council contenders consider supporting holding town hall meetings specifically for these homeowners to meet with council members in the summertime.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Incumbent president, director of local library running for Beach Haven School Board seats

The candidates running for the two seats available on the Beach Haven School Board are incumbent President Irene Hughes and Jean Frazier, who has been the director of the Beach Haven Public Library since 2010.
Photo via News 12
The school is governed by a five-member board. 
Hughes, who is up for reelection, was elected to the board in November 2013. She was unanimously voted to be the new president in 2015 after former, long-time President Mary Louise Bellingeri decided not to run for reelection after serving 20 years.
“My goals continue to be the same as the board I have been lucky enough to sit with: to provide the children of Beach Haven an excellent education they deserve, that the community can be proud of, in a manner fiscally responsible to the taxpayers,” Hughes stated.
She said she would be happy to remain president of the board.
“It has been an honor to serve this sitting board as president. If the next board were to elect me to that role, then, yes, I would gladly fill that role,” said Hughes.
A former elementary school librarian in Bucks County, Pa., for more than 25 years, Frazier said she is eager to bring her “life experiences to benefit the children and taxpayers of our town” as a candidate for the local school board.
“My goals for the Beach Haven School include improving the library education program and school library facilities,” she said. “Also I wish to help provide the best overall efficient education for our students while taking into account budgetary requirements. Our taxpayers deserve to have the best for their students at a reasonable, obtainable cost.”
Frazier has also been an active member of the Beach Haven Community Arts Program for many years, often volunteering at the concerts in the park. She is currently vice president of the organization.
Current school board member Kathy Kelly is not running for reelection. Members Carol Labin, Meredith O’Donnell and Jen Tomlinson are still within their terms.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Five candidates contending for three open seats on Beach Haven Council

Incumbent Beach Haven Council members Charles Maschal and Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis joined three other contenders — Ralph Skorge, Dan Allen and Tom Lynch — vying for the three seats on the council during a “Meet the Candidates” forum held at the firehouse Saturday morning.
Photo by Marjorie Amon
The contenders field questions from the
audience during a 'Meet the Candidates' forum.
The event, hosted by the local taxpayers association, gave residents a chance to ask questions and get familiar with the candidates, who are looking to lead Beach Haven into the future. Concerns raised by the public ranged from the revitalization of the business and maritime districts, the viability of the Beach Haven School and the vision for the new borough hall and the Surflight Theatre complex to flooding, beach replenishment and tax issues.
Let’s Meet The Candidates
Maschal has been a council member since 2010, when the local government changed from a three-member board of commissioners to a five-member borough council. He served as council’s first mayor and was also mayor when Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012.
He moved to the borough in 1974, and his two children attended the Beach Haven School and Southern Regional School District. He managed an executive search firm and recruited high-level executives from 1968 to 2002, and also founded the National Association of Executive Recruiters.
Maschal served on the board of the U.S. Optimist Dinghy Association and was the executive director from 2002 to 2008. In 2000 he received the U.S. Sailing John H. Gardner Jr. Service Award. He also created the U.S. Optimist national team, of which more than 20 sailors have participated in the Olympics.
Taggart Davis is the current mayor of Beach Haven and has served on council for six years. Though she noted Saturday that there’s much she does on council that she’s proud of, she mentioned just a few of the major achievements she’s helped accomplish in town. She reminded the public that she was there during Sandy, working with the town and state to help repair Beach Haven, which, she noted, suffered the most damage on LBI. She’s also helped get beach replenishment off the ground and finished, and has been instrumental with dune planting as well as ongoing efforts with the state’s Council on Affordable Housing.
Skorge has been a local homeowner for about 20 years and a full-time resident with his wife for six years, during which time he said they’ve faced “Sandy, water meters, flooding and rising taxes.”
“And that’s why I’m sitting up here today,” he told the public on Saturday.
Skorge believes his collaborating and listening skills, which he acquired through his past experience as managing partner and creative director of Leach+Skorge, one of the largest healthcare advertising agencies in the world, will allow him to better develop people’s ideas to help further the town.
“I believe I can pull the council together and work as a team player,” he said, noting that he is also very fiscally conscious, “like any other businessman would be.”
Allen, the son of former town Commissioner George Allen, has been a local resident since he was 15 years old.
Going forward post-Sandy, he said, council needs to shift its focus back to making decisions “based on what we really need, not what we want.” He suggested slowing down spending and being more mindful about rising taxes.
He is the only candidate still working in and raising his family in Beach Haven.
“These two facts alone force me to make decisions based on the fact that I want to be able to afford to continue to live here and hopefully give my kids the chance to live here as well,” he stated.
Lynch has more than 40 years of experience in business management at companies such as Automatic Data Processing and General Telephone. For the past 20 years he’s acted as vice president of BDP International, where he retired in 2012. He’s been a local taxpayer with his wife for 20 years and a full-time resident for six years. He’s currently serving his sixth year as a member of the land use board and has worked as a beach badge checker the past three summers.
“I vote here, I pay taxes here and I live here,” he said, noting decreasing “unnecessary spending” and taxes are of paramount importance to him. “I am a business professional, not a politician.”
Lynch also ran for council in 2014.
Current Councilman Robert Keeler’s term ends this year, though he has decided not to rerun. Council President Jim White and Councilman Don Kakstis will be up for re-election in 2018.
Members are elected to council on an at-large basis in nonpartisan elections, with either two or three seats up for vote in even-numbered years as part of the November general election in a three-year cycle.
During a reorganization meeting in January, one member will be selected as mayor and another as council president, each serving one-year terms in those positions.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Construction of Beach Haven’s new municipal building gets a ceremonious start

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Council members and project officials break
ground at the site of the new municipal building.
Wearing hard hats and wielding a large, golden shovel, Beach Haven Council members dug into the dirt at the construction site of the new borough hall on Engleside Avenue during the groundbreaking ceremony held early Friday morning, Oct. 7. The ritual, attended by project officials, borough employees and local residents, was especially momentous for the town considering the former building, which was in existence for over 50 years before being demolished last fall, had remained vacant since it was ruined by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“In a year we might be in this building. That’s the goal,” Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis announced as she lifted the shovel.
After the former building was taken down and new pilings were installed, construction of the new building was brought to a halt this past May, when initial project bids came in at least $1.5 million over budget. The lowest bid received in the spring was $7.2 million, according to Richard Crane, borough manager.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
The project blueprint is displayed along with
the shovel and hard hats for the ceremony.
By changing the scope and design of the project through eliminating the renovation of the police department and filtration buildings as well as moving all departments to the new borough hall, the costs were reduced by about $2 million, said architect Ronald Sebring.
The borough awarded a $5.7 million contract to Santorini Construction Inc. of Neptune last month, after the project went out for rebid in August. Santorini President John Scheidt said he expects to begin mobilizing crews this week with an anticipated completion date of late July 2017, weather permitting. Initial onsite work will include excavation as well as pile caps and concrete work.
“We’re very, very happy to have them doing the construction, and we know that they’re going to do a wonderful job,” said Taggart Davis.
Borough operations will continue to be conducted at the Emergency Operations Center at the old Coast Guard station on Pelham Avenue until the new building is ready to be occupied.
Though council had initially considered other options for the project, the members ultimately decided that constructing a new building at the current site would be the most cost-effective plan. To help fund the related costs, the borough has received $5 million in federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds through the state Economic Development Authority.
“This is just another example of a great project that we hope helps not only the Beach Haven municipal complex, but also all the businesses and surrounding citizens, to protect them in the event of another storm,” stated Bruce Ciallella, EDA office of recovery managing director.
The EDA was tasked with helping the state’s small businesses and communities post-Sandy, and has provided over $200 million to 1,300 small businesses and municipalities, Ciallella said.
Upon completion of Beach Haven’s new municipal building, 25 percent, or $1.25 million, of the loan will be forgiven. The remaining cost will be financed as a 30-year, low-interest loan.
Amidst thanking the many people involved with the project, the mayor led a moment of silence for those in Florida, Haiti and the Bahamas who are facing hardships caused by Hurricane Matthew.
“We certainly understand and sympathize with their huge misfortune this week,” Taggart Davis said. “Let us hope that, should they need to, their communities show the same unity ours has to rally together, to rebuild and repair for the future.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Single-lane traffic on Route 72 bridge thorofares to remain until spring

Photo by Jack Reynolds
Construction crews begin to reduce traffic to
single lanes on the Causeway Bridge thorofares.
Starting Monday, Oct. 10, the East and West Thorofare bridges on the Route 72 Causeway Bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction. The single-lane pattern will start just west of the West Thorofare Bridge and end just east of the East Thorofare Bridge on Long Beach Island.
This new traffic pattern will remain until springtime to permit the removal and replacement of the existing bridge deck joints on the south side of the bridges as well as a new bridge deck pavement overlay to enhance the riding surface for motorists, state Department of Transportation officials said.
Schiavone Construction Co. will shift traffic to the newly reconstructed north side of both thorofare bridges between 7 a.m. Monday through 5:30 a.m. the following day, DOT officials said. This new traffic pattern is expected to stay in place until mid-winter, when traffic will be shifted to the south side to enable the deck overlay to be installed on the north side.
A daily shuttle service will continue to be offered to pedestrians commuting over the newly constructed Causeway Bridge until the existing Causeway Bridge is rehabilitated and its bridge sidewalk is reopened and accessible to pedestrians by summer 2020.
Work on the $350 million Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge project, which began in 2013, is anticipated to carry through 2020. The exact scheduling of the labor is dependent upon weather and other influences.
The 3-mile-long Causeway connects Stafford on the mainland with Ship Bottom on LBI. As part of the plan, a new bridge has been constructed parallel to the existing one over Manahawkin Bay, offering the security of a redundant route on or off the Island. The new bridge is 2,400 feet long with a vertical clearance of 55 feet over Manahawkin Bay. It presently has two lanes in each direction while the original Causeway Bridge is being rehabilitated. It will serve as the bridge for eastbound traffic when the project is finished.
For more information, visit
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blue Water Café, Stefano’s and The Chicken or the Egg cook up grand-prize-winning soup at Chowderfest

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Thousands of people crowd the tents to
sample soup during the Cook-Off Classic.
While last year’s Chowderfest was a complete washout after being canceled due to Hurricane Joaquin, a bit of gloomy weather didn’t stop chowder enthusiasts young and old from tramping through the muddy Taylor Avenue ball field at Bay Village in Beach Haven to chow down on delicious, hot soup during the Cook-Off Classic on Sunday. Thousands of festival-goers indulged in all-you-can-eat samples from 16 local restaurants vying for first place in the red (Manhattan) and white (New England) clam chowder categories along with the first-ever creative seafood category.
The Blue Water Café and La Bamba Mexican Restaurant, two competitors in the new category, were both named chowder cook-off champions.
Blue Water of Haven Beach took the category’s grand prize for its lobster bisque, a staple that has been on the restaurant’s menu for the past five years. Chef/owner Steve DiPietro whipped up 150 gallons of the flavorful soup, featuring tender Maine lobster meat, for festival tasters to try that day.
“The recipe’s not really a secret. It’s heavy cream and a lot of lobster, basically,” he told The SandPaper between serving up samples to chowder-hungry individuals.
This was the café’s first time participating in Chowderfest, though Stefano’s Restaurant, which is owned by the same family, has won the festival’s red and white categories multiple times and has also been named world champion of New England chowder at the international Great Chowder Cook-Off in Rhode Island.
Stefano’s, located in North Beach Haven, was named the Manhattan Chowder grand prize winner on Sunday. First runner-up went to Lefty’s Restaurant and Tavern followed by second runner-up Black Whale Bar and Fish House, which also won a booth award for best shore motif. Shore Fire Grille took third runner-up in the red category.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Festival-goers get their fill and then some
of New England white) clam chowder.

La Bamba, another Chowderfest first-timer, was named second runner-up in the creative seafood category as well as rookie of the year for its chipotle clam-ato. The spicy soup, 186 gallons made with clams, sea bass and crabmeat along with a touch of chipotle for a south of the border bite, was concocted just for Chowderfest. Chef/owner Valentine Madrid, who began preparing authentic Mexican dishes with family after spending many years as an Italian chef, said the Brant Beach- and Manahawkin-based Mexican restaurants’ menus “focus more on seafood than tacos and burritos.”
Other creative category winners include first runner-up Buckalew’s Restaurant and Tavern for its rich and creamy she-crab soup, a popular menu item for more than 15 years. Citing a want to continue to add more interest to the festival, chef/owner Allan Menegus said he helped create Chowderfest’s new category, which he entered in support as well as to give the restaurant’s culinary staff a chance to create something opposed to just preparing menu orders.
“Plus, shucking clams gets a little old,” Menegus said, noting the restaurant has competed in and won the red and white categories in previous years.
Cuisine on the Green at Atlantis’ scallop bisque, named third runner-up in the creative category, was prepared by the culinary arts school/restaurant’s students. The inspired chefs concocted 230 gallons of Cuisine’s house soup, which Ian Smith, executive chef and instructor, said was enough to serve 25,000 samples. Dedicated to creating and serving fresh, local fare, the recipe was chock full of vegetables to make up for artificial fillers, Smith explained. He said the soup will be gluten-free by next year.
After winning first and second runner-up at previous Chowderfests, The Chicken or the Egg’s creamy New England chowder topped with hot sauce was named the grand prize winner in the white category, a feat The Chegg had been after for some time. The Island restaurant favorite, known for its juicy chicken wings and signature hot sauces, also received most enthusiastic in the best booth winners.
Halfway through the festival on Sunday, husband and wife David and Pat Duleba of Maplewood, who had been planning to attend for the past three years after vacationing on the Island for quite some time, both told The SandPaper that The Chegg’s chowder was the best they had ever had. Though David Duleba used to make his own Manhattan clam chowder, he said he had stopped most likely because his wife prefers New England. Neither of them at that time had selected their favorite red chowder.
First runner-up in the white category went to Howard’s Restaurant, followed by second runner-up Country Kettle Chowda, which also won a booth award for best interpretation of the theme. Mud City Crab House took third runner-up as well as most creative booth.
Other festival competitors included Sea Oaks Country Club, The Shack, Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club and Southern Smoke Foods.
The delicious chowder and talented culinary artists, however, weren’t the only ones being praised at Chowderfest. Members of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event, also thanked the Beach Haven Police Department, Ocean County Sheriff’s Department, New Jersey State Police and Homeland Security for their presence that day.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cedar Run resident arrested after admitting to wearing ‘clear, plastic dry cleaning bag’ on the beach

Photo via Beach Haven Police
A couple of women took a photo of the
culprit and informed police of the lewd act.

Stephen Wojciehowski, 59, of Cedar Run was arrested for lewdness last week, after multiple people reported seeing him at the Ocean Street beach in Beach Haven for a couple of days “wearing a homemade, clear plastic wrap bikini, where his genitals were clearly exposed and observed by the public, on the public beach,” according to borough police.
Det. Joseph Boehler, who made the arrest, said officers were first notified of the situation by a couple of women who had snapped photographs of the offender laying on the beach. While the police department asked the public for help identifying the man in the photos via a Facebook post, one of the women who had first reported the incident notified police that he was again on the beach a few days later.
Sgt. Sean McCaffrey approached Wojciehowski on the beach, though the beach-goer “didn’t admit to anything,” Boehler said. The following day the mainland resident voluntarily came to the station, where he admitted to the crime.
“He admitted that it was him and that he used a clear, plastic dry cleaning bag,” said Det. Sgt. Jim Markoski, noting the incident was a “very rare” occurrence for the department.
According to Markoski, Wojciehowski was required to appear in court this past Monday, but his lawyer, Curtis Dowell of Brant Beach, has postponed the appearance to Nov. 7.
Wojciehowski could not be reached for comment.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

LGBTQ Intergenerational Group seeks to broaden diversity, perspective of its participants

Photo via Google
The group invites LGBTQ individuals
as well as their family and friends.
Members of the LGBTQ Intergenerational Group that meets at Stockton University’s Manahawkin Instructional Site in Stafford Township are hoping to draw more participants, especially younger individuals. The group, hosted by Stockton’s Center on Successful Aging the second Thursday of every month, from 10 a.m. to noon, is typically attended by three to four couples in their mid-50s to early 70s. While they find comfort in connecting with other like-minded individuals their own age, most of them said they want the group to include a more diverse age range. So far, the group doesn’t consist of enough different generations, which the members believe would help broaden their perspective.
“We know there’s a need in this area (for this type of group) because there’s nothing else here, but we don’t seem to be drawing what we need,” said Gina Maguire, SCOSA program assistant, who noted there are more opportunities available in northern Ocean County and beyond.
The current participants, most of whom declined to provide their identities due to fear of discrimination, said they’d like to share some of their wisdom with younger folk about growing up as an LGBTQ individual in a less accepting time.
Group member Earl Lewis, 64, of Little Egg Harbor, who was recently elected as treasurer for the board of trustees at the senior living community where he resides as an openly gay man, said he was fired from his job at a museum in New York in the late 1990s due to his “inappropriate lifestyle.” Since then, he said, he’s decided to live life as “an open book.”
“I think our life experiences have taught us to either guard our private lives, or, in my case, I have kind of an ‘f-you’ attitude,” he said. “If you don’t like who I am, that’s fine; you don’t have to. But you’re going to know me as I truly am. It’s only a part of who I am, but you’re going to know the whole picture.
“You have no idea how painful it is to be fired for something you have no control over and has no bearing on your ability to do your job. So I wasn’t going to waste my time,” he added.
Other attendees of the group, who had faced similar issues at work, said there are big differences in how older gay people handle these issues compared to younger gay people since the culture has become much more accepted by newer generations. But the younger generations didn’t fight the fight, the members said. They don’t share the history.
Ocean County itself has a history of prejudice, one member noted, referring to the “Freeheld” saga, when Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office police lieutenant Laurel Hester was denied by the Ocean County Board of Freeholders the right to transfer her pension benefits to her domestic partner after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2005.
The history of gay rights in New Jersey and across the nation has been a hot topic of discussion at the group's recent meetings. Last week, the members shared their concerns about the upcoming national election and how it could impact the progress of the LGBTQ community as a whole. While most of the members believe they haven’t faced any oppression in the local region, some of them said they’d be wary of putting up a gay flag on their lawn, especially considering the area’s largely conservative outlook.
But the group isn’t just about sharing war stories or discussing politics. It’s also a great place for LGBTQ individuals to talk about new books and movies surrounding the culture as well as to share educational information.
Edith Giberson, who initially started the group in February as part of her master’s degree program in social work at Monmouth University to help further human rights and social justice in the area, noted there are many gaps in LGBTQ healthcare. For instance, she said, the closest assisted-living facilities geared toward LGBTQ individuals are in Philadelphia and the Bronx.
“There’s a lottery to get in, and it’s really difficult. And neither of them are in New Jersey,” noted Maguire, who added that, according to a recent Monmouth University study, many doctor’s offices claim not to have any LGBTQ patients or say they simply treat everybody the same.
“But it’s different,” Maguire stated. “It’s not the same. It’s like being colorblind. It doesn’t work like that. People have been treated poorly because they have a partner instead of a husband or wife. There really is a disparity in care.”
Mostly, however, the members of the group are just looking to share a safe place with other LGBTQ individuals. It’s always safer to talk within “your own community” than to be spouting those thoughts and feelings to a straight audience, one member said. Plus there’s a sense of camaraderie. Some of the members grab lunch together after the meetings or meet up for other outside occasions.
To make it easier for other people to attend, the group expects to hold Saturday meetings in the winter, when the new Bay Avenue Community Center opens in town. LGBTQ individuals and their families and friends are invited to attend.
For more information about the group, visit
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Beach Haven School’s new superintendent getting students involved with local library, knitting

Carl Krushinski, the new superintendent of the Beach Haven School, which opened for its first day of the new school year last Wednesday, is focused on more than just the students’ day-to-day classroom education. He hopes to help foster the district’s already tight-knit bond by getting the children involved in more community-focused projects and outings such as having the students take regular trips to the Beach Haven Public Library.
When Krushinski started as superintendent in July, he was offered an opportunity to be a part of the local library committee, which he said has given him insight into some of the other aspects of town, including the need for the students to become more involved with the facility.
Photo via Google
Beach Haven School students will get to interact
with the library's knitting group in the future.
“Over the last three years the prior superintendent didn’t really let the students go to the public library, so one thing that I decided to do this year is give some of the grades actual library time to get a library card and check out books and be a part of all that,” Krushinski stated.
Students in kindergarten through third grade will get to spend time at the library during the regular school day at least once a month, he noted.
Krushinski is also acting with the school board to help restore the school’s own library, which he said used to be more extensive before it was “dismantled a bit” during the last few years. The school board and library committee will be working together over the next three years to rebuild the collection of books.
The superintendent hopes to also join forces with the public library’s local knitting group to encourage more of a connection between the students and the community’s older citizens. An avid knitter himself, Krushinski said the art form is great for improving hand-eye coordination as well as to practice counting. He said he learned how to knit many years ago while working at an elementary school in Plumstead Township, where it was taught to help students with ADHD.
“We found that when they knit, it helps them to focus and keep their hands busy, which I thought was a great idea,” Krushinski stated. “Over the years I’ve wanted to make this more available to students that have never had the opportunity. So now with this local club right down the road, I think we can get something going.
“The way I look at Beach Haven, the community stands behind its school 100 percent. But there’s very little opportunity for people that don’t have children in school anymore to participate. So this, I think, will be a great connection between the kids and some older adults,” he added.
Down the line, Krushinski would like to get the students involved in knitting projects that can be donated to the hospital or a homeless shelter to help cultivate stewardship among the children.
“I think there’s a lot of potential down the road for that,” he said. “It’s a great skill because it’s something the students can do whenever they have some down time, so it gets them away from electronics.”
In the meantime, Krushinski said he is concentrating on moving through the school year and making recommendations as needed. He hopes to maintain a “really positive interaction” with the students and their families as well as the overall community.
“It’s been great so far,” he said. “Everyone has been very informative and helpful. We had a great first day from beginning to end, and everything went extremely well. It’s just one big family.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.