My Life Publications Online Local Community News for New Jersey Thu, 16 Jan 2020 21:51:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 State of the Township Address 2020 Thu, 16 Jan 2020 21:51:05 +0000 State of the Township Address 2020


Council President, members of the Town Council, Municipal employees, friends, relatives and fellow residents of Mount Olive, as I proudly finish my second term as Mayor of this wonderful Township and begin my third term, I once again thank you for the opportunity to report on the 2020 State of the Township of Mount Olive.

Many have asked me what more I hope to accomplish in the upcoming four years. The most important goal is tax stability. For the eighth year in a row, we will be introducing a budget that will include no municipal tax increase for the residents. To accomplish that, we continue to encourage growth while at the same time limit spending.

Notwithstanding the realization of no municipal tax increases for almost a decade, nothing gives me greater pleasure then the renewed pride our residents have for this community. As in past years, I often hear from residents and non-residents alike, how wonderful our facilities are like Turkey Brook and/or our High School, and how much our residents love and enjoy Mount Olive.

It is not enough to simply have great facilities though, we also strive to have great programs for our residents. Our award winning Recreation Department is second to none. Once again, through the use of social media, radio, signs and newspapers, Mount Olive residents are always connected to the happenings in Mount Olive. Our communication efforts and successes are still the envy of all of our surrounding towns.
Beyond the programs that we run, I have instilled in our Town employees the “can do” attitude when it comes to the needs of our residents. Our municipal departments understand that we work for the taxpayers and in many instances have gone above and beyond to resolve individual homeowner issues.

Of course, all of the accomplishments could not have been achieved without the hard work and support of the Governing Body. We work collaboratively as a team in Mount Olive. I would once again like to thank Joe Nicastro for his leadership in 2019 and look forward to working with him again in 2020. I congratulate Joe on his appointment to another term, I believe an unprecedented fifth consecutive term as Council President and thank him and the rest of the Town Council for their support and guidance. While I generally get the credit, the successes are equally shared with and earned by the Town Council. So too, I would be remiss by not highlighting the outstanding work and accomplishments of your Department Heads and employees.



The Administration Department continues to coordinate all aspects of local government and is responsible for the day-to-day operations associated with all municipal activities.


As with any large organization, a significant amount of time was spent on Human Resources, hiring twenty four new employees and processing two retirements.  We will continue to look for dedicated individuals to best serve our Township.  Additionally, a new contract was negotiated with the Mount Olive Township Police Department which will have a savings impact on future budgets.


Legislatively, we supported policies and made changes to our ordinances to reflect the current environment and we will continue to make recommendations as we encounter issues throughout the year.  Our franchise agreement with Altice was recently renewed which we were able to negotiate a senior discount, a $25,000 technology grant and free Wi-Fi at Turkey Brook Park.


Phase I of the Old Flanders Sewer project is near completion, the Gold Mine Hotel was demolished with our eye now on the Blue Bird and we re-negotiated our lease agreement with Centercourt for the continued use of their pool facility.


We are bringing awareness to our 24th District Legislators about the algae blooms at Budd Lake as we seek for assistance from the DOT and DEP, a Sister City was entered into with Mount Olive, North Carolina to enhance our relationship, our council meetings are now live streamed and our website has been updated.   Furthermore, our shared services continue to deliver as our contracting towns show confidence in our services by renewing their contracts and adding additional services.


Over $1.1 million dollars was awarded in grants from Federal, State and County agencies and we will continue to look for additional grant opportunities to help offset our expenditures.  Major projects include the rehabilitation of International Drive, the restoration of the Seward House and Old Baptist Church, and the Turkey Brook Park Extension.


Our office continues to support community events by fostering the relationship with the business who have partnered with us through their generous donations and various sponsorships throughout the year.


Finance Department

The Finance Department, which comprises the finance, collection and assessment divisions exceeded operating expectations in 2019.  Our projected fund balances in all funds are slated to be higher than last year balances, most notably in our main operating budget.


With respect to the tax assessment division, the Township received over $1 million in revenue from $40 million in added assessments and the reverse tax appeal from Toys R Us.  We also settled twenty five County tax board judgments which resulted in no refunds.  For 2020, our property values are expected to grow by $52 million or almost 2%.  Our state audit of the farm qualified Woodland Management Properties  was found to be in 100% compliance with no deficiencies.  We have the lowest number of pending state tax appeals in comparison to similar Morris County towns and are near the top in added assessment revenue increases.


In the collection division, we updated our tax website to include links for all available tax relief programs and also created multiple PDF forms.  We worked closely with the Township Attorney to prepare and hold an assignment tax sale for the Combe Fill property and were responsible for collecting over $110 million in property taxes, water and sewer rents. Our tax collection rate is expected to well exceed 99% which we have been able to do since 2014.  A successful tax sale also resulted in over $310,000 in premiums which will return to the Township in five years pending no lien redemptions.


In the finance division, the 2018 audit was completed for the eleventh year in a row with no audit recommendations, along with no recommendations for the LOSAP, JIF and arbitrage audit.  The best practice checklist was completed satisfactorily to obtain our final allotment of state aid and we met our continuing disclosure requirements.  All non-vested LOSAP accounts were closed resulting in an additional $23,000 to the Township and the services provided by our bank have been renegotiated resulting in an additional $110,000 in interest.   The time and attendance solution was upgraded and we were able to obtain reduced rates from our payroll provider by 18%.  Finally, our archival storage project was completed, reports were prepared using the new FAST online module, we continued to assist with the Old Flanders sewer assessment and the annual water/sewer study was prepared.


Police Department

The prevention of crime, crashes, and negative quality of life issues continue to be the focus of the Mount Olive Police Department. To be successful in those endeavors, we need the support of the community. The police department remains committed to maintaining and building those positive relationships by offering and participating in National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop, Keeping Seniors Safe, Touch a Truck, and Law Enforcement Against Drugs.


The Mount Olive Police Department is a community oriented police department that utilizes data driven technology and intelligence to direct resources.  The Mount Olive Police Department is committed to following nationally recognized best practices and maintaining accreditation through the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.




Department of Public Works

In the Roads Department, a successful year of paving was accomplished by resurfacing over twenty roadways, including phase II of International Drive North.  Drainage improvements were also made to six areas prone to flooding.


The Parks, Building and Grounds Departments addressed the outdated HVAC systems in the municipal building by replacing four units.  Improvements were made by installing three turf baseball infields and a new concrete pad for the event tent at Turkey Brook Park.  Additionally, Lou Nelson and Flanders Park received new playgrounds with ADA accessibility.


In the Water and Sewer Department, engineering plans continue for the installation of water lines in the Pershing Estates Development, the old sewer filtration system at the Cloverhill sewer treatment plant was replaced along with a newly expanded treatment plant office and support was provided for the Old Flanders Sewer project.


The Sanitation Department continued with another successful town wide large item cleanup and will be expanding its services to the Morris Chase Development adding an additional one hundred and eighty properties.  The shared service contract with Chester for sanitation pick up was also renewed generating over $40,000 in gross revenue.


The Fleet Department continues to handle all maintenance issues for township owned vehicles and assists with Fire and EMS vehicle maintenance and up fits as needed.  This new service to our volunteer departments was provided as an option to save money and to streamline the maintenance of their vehicles.  The Fleet Department has also continued to organize and carry out the township auctions of vehicles, equipment, Police surplus, and obsolete IT equipment to maximize return on investment for the township.


Recreation Department

The Recreation Department held sixteen special events in 2019 with more than seventy thousand attendees, four hundred and thirty one business sponsors and over one hundred and thirty volunteers. Five new events debuted, including Mardi Gras, Seas the Day, Pirate Day, Oktoberfest and Bonfire Boutique.   Bubble Palooza 5K Fun Run & Walk won the Morris County Park Alliance Award for Outstanding Program. Other favorite events included Movie Nights, Touch a Truck, Chili Brewfest, Cabin Fever Reliever, Fairy & Pirate Festival, Raiders of the Lost Park Mud Run, Mt. Olive Week Carnival, and the annual Food Trucks & Fireworks.


During the school year, forty nine programs for our youth and adults were held with over two thousand participants.  Four summer camp programs were also held which over six hundred children participated.


Between our three aquatic venues, Budd Lake Beach, Pirates’ Cove and the Mt. Olive Pool, we had over forty one thousand visitors this summer!


The Recreation Department revamped their on-line registration program, Community Pass, to be easier to navigate and Visa credit cards can now be accepted, in addition to MasterCard and Discover.

Instagram and social media videos were added to the marketing plans for events. E-newsletters are sent weekly to over eight thousand people.


Health Department

The Health Department submitted their application for National Public Health Accreditation.  National Accreditation validates a local health department’s commitment to quality improvement, performance management, accountability, transparency, and capacity to deliver the Ten Essential Public Health Services.  In this effort, the Department convened a group of approximately thirty local public health, healthcare, non-profit, religious, business, hospital, and government officials to form the Mount Olive Health Improvement Coalition in order to complete a community health assessment and begin creating a community health improvement plan.  They will complete the improvement plan and start implementing improvement strategies in early 2020.


The Senior Transportation program continues to grow.  Over the past year staff made over two thousand trips taking our seniors to their medical appointments.  This is more than in any previous year and is a 48% increase over last year.  They also delivered over twenty five hundred meals to homebound, low-income seniors.  Overall, the program saw close to six thousand passengers this past year.


The Health Department continues to coordinate the Township’s annual holiday gift program; again this year they distributed gifts to fifty children for twenty two Mt. Olive families.  This program is only possible because of the generous donations of our residents and local businesses and churches.


The Health Department began providing public health services to Mine Hill this year.  They also continue providing services to Wharton, Dover, Mt. Arlington and Netcong.  Through shared services agreements and fees the Department collects, approximately $500,000 was generated.


The Health Director received the NJ Local Boards of Health Association’s annual Meritorious Service Award for outstanding contribution to public health and the Deputy Director was appointed to the Public Health Licensing Board by the Commissioner of the NJ Department of Health.


IT Department

Mount Olive Township scored higher than average during an overall external network assessment and penetration test conducted by an independent cyber-security company. The testing assessed the security posture of our routers, firewalls, and other security appliances that filter malicious traffic from the internet. The network was evaluated in the same manner that a malicious outside attacker would. The company could not penetrate our firewalls, which demonstrated our network security effectiveness.


The IT department has broadened security awareness to all employees with interactive training, educational courses, and email security guidelines and best practices. Simulated phishing cyberattacks under the guidance of Morris County JIF’s Cyber Risk Management Program were conducted to strengthen email security awareness for all employees. Once the simulations were complete, training courses on how to avoid phishing attempts were developed.

The IT department proactively monitors over two hundred eighty users and groups and over one hundred twenty devices, which includes workstations, servers and tablets. All township data is securely backed up daily and stored in two different cloud locations in the event of a true disaster.


Planning Department

The Planning Department’s key accomplishments for the year included the preparation of an “Area in Need of Redevelopment” study and “Redevelopment Plan” adopted by the Planning Board and the drafting of a new overlay zone district ordinance adopted by the Township Council to establish a potential development on the one hundred acre former Combe Fill North landfill.  The Department also prepared an ordinance to rezone six vacant acres along Rt. 46 in Budd Lake from R-6 residential zoning to a C-1 commercial designation thus implementing a recommendation in the Master Plan Reexamination Report.   The Township Planner assisted the Planning Board in reviewing a number of new development applications approved during the past year including a new Wawa on Rt. 206; Three T’s, a restoration and expansion of long term empty office building for new roofing company; a new Boat House restaurant and apartment to replace existing dilapidated building on Sand Shore Road; Fratelli Beretta’s 33,000 sq. ft. addition to their existing facility in the International Trade Zone; 700 International Drive, a new 63,440 sq. ft. bldg.; Revolution Fitness, a new personal training studio on Rt. 206, a new clubhouse building and in ground pool in Village Green; and a new digital billboard on Rt. 206. The Department has begun the initial review process for a proposed 700 unit residential development to be located in the FTZ-4 district zone which will include one hundred affordable units counted towards the Township’s affordable housing obligation.


In addition, the Department continued to work with various property owners towards creating a new Highlands Redevelopment District to include vacant land in the Light Industrial zone located at westerly end of Sand Shore Road and properties on the southerly side of Rt. 46 including the Mt. Olive Parkade shopping center to facilitate new development within the Highlands Preservation Area. The Department has implemented the Township’s new regulations to register vacant and abandoned buildings and collect fees to ensure compliance with municipal property maintenance code.   The Township Planner has and continues to work with the Open Space Committee and Land Conservancy in creating an updated open space plan.  Finally, the Department issued three hundred twenty five Zoning Permits and processed three hundred seventy five OPRA requests.


Construction Department

During the past year, the Building Department has collected over $500,000, issuing over fourteen hundred construction permits and over one thousand certificates of occupancy.


The department conducted over five thousand inspections and will continue to bring the best possible service to the residents, business owners and contractors of Mount Olive.


Fire Prevention

The Fire Marshal’s Office enforces fire safety regulations to every commercial building and business in the Township, along with providing a shared services to Chester Borough, Hackettstown and Allamuchy.  Over eighteen hundred businesses are inspected annually generating over $150,000 dollars in annual revenue.  New software was also implemented making inspections easier and more efficient for our Fire Inspectors working in the field.



This is only a snap shot of the many achievements and accomplishments our Township Departments and employees have achieved this past year.  I will continue to strive to make Mount Olive Township the best place to live, work and raise a family.  I consider every member of the community a family member.  The pride that you have shown me, the dedication for our community and the support that we have for one another is over whelming.


I know there are still many things upon which we need to improve and promise to do my best to accomplish and make as my priority in the New Year.  I look forward to and ask for the resident’s support for many years to come.  In closing, I would like to thank the Township Council, our Business Administrator and all of our Department Heads and municipal employees for a job well done in 2019.  May the New Year bring you good health, happiness and prosperity.


With Gratitude and Appreciation,


Rob Greenbaum

Mayor, Mount Olive Township

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VFW Post 2519’s Stories Now Available at Denville Library Tue, 14 Jan 2020 22:05:03 +0000 On Dec. 12, Bruce Patterson, along with Megan Roche, presented a local history book to the Denville Public Library. Roche was contracted by the Denville VFW Post to organize each member’s history and record of service. Each veteran has his own two page spread in the book, complete with information on medals and awards, photos, and stories of their service. The book begins with World War II Veterans and ends with many who are currently serving. The book is available to be checked out at the Denville Public Library. The project took about a year and a half. The book is titled “Denville’s Heroes: Post 2519’s Stories of War”. 


“As someone who has a passion for veterans and those who serve our country, I was really excited to get to have the opportunity to sit down with some of our nations heroes and write about their experiences during times of war and peace. I truly hope that with this book, none of their stories will ever be forgotten.” Roche said. 

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Sheriff Gannon Receives Major International Police Award for Hope One Tue, 14 Jan 2020 22:01:48 +0000    Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and founding partners in the Hope One mobile substance use recovery program received an esteemed award for their public-private venture from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest professional association of police leaders in the world.

   On behalf of Hope One, Sheriff Gannon accepted the 2019 IACP/Security Industry Association Michael Shanahan Leadership in Public/Private Cooperation Award at the IACP’s Annual Banquet in Chicago, Illinois.

   “Hope One was based on a simple concept of treatment providers and specialists bringing critical recovery and resource services directly to people who may be too exhausted, frightened or overwhelmed by addiction to seek help on their own. Hope One, with its steadfast, compassionate team, has saved lives and is committed to keep doing so,” Sheriff Gannon said.

   The Morris County Sheriff’s Office and its Hope One partners – the Rockaway-based Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success (CARES), Daytop New Jersey, Prevention is Key (PIK) and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris – are the collective recipients of the award named in honor of retired University of Washington Police Department Chief Michael Shanahan.

   The non-profit Family Promise of Morris County, which specializes in finding emergency and permanent housing for homeless individuals and families, came aboard Hope One after its launch to make sure clients had essential toiletries and assistance in finding housing.   

      The award bestowed by the Security Industry Association and IACP, a global organization that prepares the next generation for the future of law enforcement, recognizes outstanding achievements in the development and implementation of public/private partnerships to promote public safety.

   Sheriff Gannon was joined at the IACP Annual Banquet – the culmination of the 2019 IACP Annual Conference and Exposition – by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Law Enforcement Undersheriff Mark Spitzer, Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano, the coordinator of Hope One, and Madine Despeine-Udoh, the Director of Self Help, Advocacy and Education for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris.

   Corporal Valvano and Director Despeine-Udoh are core Hope One professionals, along with Kelly LaBar, a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist from CARES.  

   Recognizing that opioid overdose deaths were reaching dire levels, Sheriff Gannon in January 2017 brought together law enforcement, substance use and mental health specialists for a solution.

   The result, after just three months of planning and the formation of a partnership between law enforcement and non-profit agencies, was the launch of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Hope One program on April 3, 2017.

    Hope One is a mobile substance use recovery and resource outreach vehicle that was retrofitted out of a defunct SWAT vehicle.  With $15,000 from drug forfeiture funds, the vehicle was stripped of all law enforcement markings and painted white and purple, a color symbolizing recovery.  Its license plates read: “Hope One.”

    Hope One travels at least twice a week, and often on weekends, to locations in Morris County that are known for opioid overdoses, homeless encampments, community soup kitchens, and areas where at-risk populations are known to congregate.

   With the help of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and the Hope One staff, the city of Newark and counties of Burlington, Atlantic, Cape May and Monmouth have replicated Hope One and are on the road.

   With a stigma-free approach and toiletries, snacks and beverages to put visitors at ease, the Hope One staff from the start has made a new contact every 10.8 minutes. Individuals who request Narcan training aboard Hope One are given a free Narcan kit to take home, and 38 people have returned the used kits to Hope One after using the Narcan to reverse an overdose.

   “Hope One, led by Sheriff Jim Gannon and his team, is the best example of a best practice between criminal justice and the substance use disorders treatment and recovery communities,” said James Curtin, Chief Executive Officer of Daytop New Jersey.

   “Daytop New Jersey is grateful to play a part in this tremendously effective effort to get persons desperately needing treatment – as opposed to incarceration – connected to life-saving treatment,” Mr. Curtin said.

   CARES, a project of the non-profit Prevention Is Key (PIK), has provided the critical expertise of Peer Recovery Specialists and its access to treatment providers to greatly bolster the success of Hope One. As has the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris since many people struggling with substance use disorders have a co-occurring mental health disorder.

   “Hope One, under Sheriff Gannon’s leadership, has provided life-saving and life-changing services to the Morris County community. We are honored at the Mental Health Association to be a part of it,” said Robert Davison, the Association’s Chief Executive Officer.

   Melody Runyon, Associate Director of PIK, said she sensed from the start that Hope One would be impactful.

   “Prevention is Key and CARES are thrilled with the recognition by the International Association of Chiefs of Police of both the Hope One project and its collaborative partners,” Associate Director Runyon said.

   “From the early planning days, when key stakeholders gathered at CARES to bring Hope One to life, we knew it would be something special.  Hope One began as an admirable vision to change the way we help people in Morris County,” Associate Director Runyon said.

   “We wanted to bring services directly to those most in need and to reduce the stigma associated with the disease of addiction and mental health disorders.  I believe Hope One has surpassed what any of us had envisioned both within Morris County and the state of New Jersey,” she said.

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My Rainbows Place of Denville Guides Children Through Life’s Toughest Times Tue, 14 Jan 2020 21:59:27 +0000 By Steve Sears

My Rainbows Place of Denville, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, is a strong support forum especially for children to help them defeat or lessen the emotional scars that surface when facing tough times in their lives, such as a parental divorce or death, deployment, or any other extremely challenging scenario.

The program was founded as Rainbows for Children by the late Suzy Yehl Marta in 1983, who during a first marriage divorce was approached by her children and asked if there was a place or group for kids like adults had to talk about their feelings during traumatic times. Marta found none, and from her dining room table created Rainbows for All Children. The home office is located in Evanston, Ill. 

My Rainbows Place itself serves Denville, Boonton, Parsippany, Rockaway and Dover. There are other sites that serve other towns.

“What we do best is to allow children to share their feelings, when they are ready to,” says Wendy Spector, co-coordinator along with Diane Thormann. “They meet other children who have had the same life experiences. They provide peer support for each other.”

The group currently has six facilitators, which include Thormann and Spector. The group is looking for one or two new facilitators, and the individual or individuals must  take a training program on the computer, set up by headquarters. “(There is) No particular background except liking children, being reliable, able to listen without interrupting,” says Spector. She then adds, “You must be committed to the children.”

Two nine-week programs are held in the winter and fall, each culminating with a “Yes, I Can!” party. The next program kicks off on January 28, 2020, and Spector also would like to do a third. “We may do another nine weeks from May to June.” In addition to getting the word out via the website, My Rainbows Place also does mailings to schools and guidance counselors, and libraries. There is currently a list of parents to be contacted for the valuable January 28 – March 24 sessions. 

“Yeah, it really is,” says Spector of My Rainbows Place as being valuable. “Kids will sometimes say that their parents are arguing – even arguing on the phones the kids hear it. I think parents forget that the children are there and are listening. We have a parent group, also.”

While it’s true that the majority of the My Rainbows Place program focus is on children (SunBeams – ages 3 and 4; Rainbows – kindergarten to 8th grade; Spectrum – adolescents, 9th to 12th grade; Alumni – for those who wish to reenroll) there are programs for college age and up adults (Kaleidoscope) and single parents and stepparents (Prism). “It does help,” says Spector. “We’re one of the few groups that actually offers a place for the parents to gather and meet, and we have a facilitator who is very good with that group. They (the parents) also learn from each other.”

The key challenge is getting the word out. “Our new web-site is helping,” says Spector. “We’ve been at Saint Francis (Residential Community) for about 10 years,” she adds, “and we were at the United Methodist Church in Mount Tabor at least 10 years before that, so we have a lot of experience working with children. We’re just really, really fortunate that Saint Francis gave us the rooms that we can use.” 

My Rainbows Place is located at the Saint Francis Residential Community, 122 Diamond Spring Road, Denville. Monetary donations are welcome (all donations are tax deductible), and as previously mentioned, new facilitators are being sought. If there are parents who feel a child may benefit from the program, they can visit for more information, or contact Wendy Spector at (973) 625-3352 or Diane Thormann, (973) 627-2134.

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Project Help: A Key to Helping New Jersey’s Veterans on the Homefront Tue, 14 Jan 2020 21:56:44 +0000 By: Megan Roche


For Sandy Mitchell, beginning Project Help in 2016 was one of those lightbulb-going-off moments. After losing her husband to suicide after he came back from the Vietnam War, she picked up the pieces for her children. She attended school in the evenings and worked a full time job to support her family. She found that she loved helping others, but was never truly satisfied.


“I started this by myself and was determined that no matter what, this was going to be successful. I wanted to accomplish our mission, no matter what it took. My husband got out after 11 years in the military and when I lost him to suicide, I had three kids. It was also a real learning point for me, dealing with a tragedy. From losing him, I really had to make a decision of where my life was going to go. I could either pick up the pieces and move forward and create a life for myself and my kids or I was going to become a victim and be a complete and utter failure in my life. I really recreated my life after losing him,” Mitchell said. 


With many stints with other non-profits and through starting some of her own, her true passion in life was unlocked when she created Project Help. Project Help is designed to help veterans in need. Mitchell helps connect veterans to all sorts of organizations who can help with lawyers, mental and physical health issues, housing, and more. Project Help also offers financial assistance to New Jersey veterans who qualify. 


“I am supposed to do this because of what happened in my life. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I have made tons and tons of contacts. I have grand visions of things to come and I am really excited about the organization. I have a good group of people who I work with and I think that we are all on the same track that we want to help veterans get through some of their darkest days and prevent as much tragedy in their lives as we can,” Mitchell said. 


Project Help recently launched their Mobile Closet initiative. The mobile closet serves as a resource to veterans and their families. The converted school bus drives around the area and finds itself mainly outside colleges and career fairs to offer free interview clothing and career advice to local veterans. The bus also houses computers and printers for creating and printing resumes. The bus was unveiled in late 2019. 


“It’s been an amazing ride right now. We have people calling left and right who want to volunteer or get involved. After launching the bus, it really became a launch pad for us. We have been getting a good bit of recognition lately, and it’s been really good for us,” Mitchell shared. 


In addition to their mobile closet, they also host many fundraising events throughout the year. In December, the team works to collect Christmas cards for veterans and toys for children of veteran families. Many people comment on Project Help’s website about what the organization has meant to them.


Project Help has been a huge blessing for me, after going through a couple of challenging years of losing everything and having no place to live. When I finally got my apartment, Project Help paid one month’s rent for me. Not only was PH ready to help but Sandy put me in touch with people/organizations ready to help a Veteran in need. I’m so grateful for PH helping me at a pivotal, intricate time. Especially during the time when many of the larger organizations declined to help. Something that I will never forget about Project Help is that Sandy got to know me personally and she was able to connect me with amazing people who were eager to help me and go far beyond the call of duty. As a Veteran, it is important for me to know that Project Help is supported and able to continue their work, because they truly have a heart to help Veterans. Sandy, thank you times a million!” Rita, an Army veteran, posted on their website. 


Mitchell’s work has become fulfilling for her in the best of ways. She is there for veterans, whether they need someone to vent to or by helping those veterans navigate problems in their life, she feels that she still has much to offer to these men and women who give their lives to defend our freedoms.


“Life is full of choices and you have to decide where you want it to go and what you want to do. I like to help these veterans come up with a plan for their lives. If you help one person, you have done good, and there is always more good to be done in this world,” Mitchell said.  


Project Help is always actively seeking new volunteers to join their expanding team. Volunteers can give as much of their time as they wish by helping out at fundraisers, handing out marketing materials, placing phone calls, updating data spreadsheets, and keeping their mobile closet clean and ready to go. 


In 2018, our target goal for volunteers was 50.  Since most have limited time and experience, our need is more than if we pre-qualified volunteers.  Our best volunteers, often move on to joining a committee and some actually become board of director members,” Mitchell said.


The future of Project Help is bright. They have recently expanded their organization to Florida, and are hoping to add additional branches in New York and Pennsylvania in 2020. For more information on Project Help or to learn how to become a volunteer or donor, visit

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Norman Dean Home for Services are Ready When Your Family Needs Them Tue, 14 Jan 2020 21:52:51 +0000 By Steve Sears

Norman Dean and his wife, Carolyn, opened in 1957 not just a funeral home, but a special place for those who are mourning a beloved family member be comforted in a place that could be (and is) a ‘home.’”

62 years later, son and co-owner Tom Dean, as well as fellow co-owner David Milne, still echo and live that past and assure that same care, love, and respect reign today for folks in Denville, Rockaway, Parsippany, Mountain Lakes, Boonton, Morris Plains, and the surrounding area who come with their needs to Norman Dean Home for Services. 

“Dad always wanted it to be an atmosphere where people could feel comfortable coming in like it was their own home,” says Dean, “because back in the early 1900s, everything was done in someone’s home. My dad was all about service – hence the name Norman Dean Home for Services. It wasn’t about selling products; it was helping families go from the loss to the burial and moving on from there.”

Care, comfort, understanding, and guidance at a critical time, and the knowledge that there are no cookie-cutter funerals. “Guidance is extremely important because people don’t know what they want, they have no idea,” says Dean. “They just go by what they’ve seen, and find out later and say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s talk about this before you actually say that’s what we’re going to do.” Let’s find out what the family wants. With one family you could have two or three different ideas. So that’s when we have to sit down and explain things to people and let them know what they can do.”

Dean then alludes to the key thing. “It’s about family. We all create relationships with the families. It’s about trust, and how they can trust us. A lot of times we create relationships with them that last for years.”

Milne has grown up in and is now a partner in the business. As Dean in 1986 took over from his parents, he as he retires has passed the baton to Milne, knowing the Norman Dean Home for Services is in excellent hands. “I learned when I came here that a lot of the stuff that I learned in the school – meaning merchandising – kind of went out the window, and I was kind of happy about that,” affirms Milne. “Like Tom said, it’s not about products but caring for people. Once I learned that, I felt immediately comfortable that I was in the right place.”

“David and I,” says Dean, “share the same values that my parents and I had and have, so it was important that we do this (the partnership) correctly. It took a year and a half, but it was good for David, it was good for me, and it was extremely good for the community because it keeps the same atmosphere. This isn’t just a business; we are part of the community. We go out, we give talks, we give advice, we have people stop in and talk to us about pre-arrangements, and we understand the laws because that’s our industry.” 

Dean also relates an example of the special Norman Dean Home for Services personal touch. “We bring ideas to the families. Making things personal; doing things that they don’t think they’d be allowed to do or ever would’ve thought of. We’ve always been focused on what the family’s needs are, and it’s been expanded to a little more about celebrating that person’s life by introducing into the funeral home itself parts of what that person did in their life.” One example was a woman who died many years ago, the family commenting constantly about her love of baking. Milne approached a friend who owned a store and borrowed a brand-new oven, placed it next to the casket in the funeral home, collected all the recipes the family agreed to share, “and people walked in and there it was,” says Dean. “These represent what that person meant to the family, and it doesn’t cost anything. It’s free.” And it’s the difference. “My employees are into listening to what the family tells about the deceased. They go out of their way to make it special so that all of their friends and relatives look at it and say, ‘Wow! That’s amazing.’”

“We celebrate and give nothing but 100% service and guidance to the family.” 

Norman Dean Home for Services is located at 16 Righter Avenue in Denville, and can be reached by calling (973) 627-1880, or via email at Visit for more information.


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Music With Friends to Launch in New Jersey at NJPAC:  Private Concert Experiences Offer Philanthropic Component Tue, 14 Jan 2020 21:50:26 +0000 Music With Friends (MWF) NJ, a new music and concert experience, is slated to launch in Spring/Summer 2020 at the 511-seat Victoria Theater at NJPAC in revitalized downtown Newark.  

The new membership-only private concert series will be the area’s first-of-its kind to offer an exclusive membership concert club experience.  MWF-NJ will feature great performances and private receptions at the small, intimate theater with legendary performers who typically play in considerably larger venues. MWF sister cities have featured Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers, Diana Ross, Earth, Wind & Fire, Tony Bennet, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Aretha Franklin, and Loggins & Messina, to name a few. 

David Stone, a Millburn/Short Hills business owner and resident, came up with the idea of developing a private concert series in 2017 and continued developing the format when he was introduced to Larry Farber, MWF founder, in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Larry started his own successful private concert club in 2006 in Charlotte, and subsequently in Houston.  After we met and became friends, I suggested that I license Larry’s club name, Music With Friends, and adapt my format to his template to ensure greater success using his resources, “commented David Stone.  “It’s as close to a perfect VIP experience as a music lover’s evening can get.”

 “The ability to get away from life for a while, hang with friends and recapture the great feelings we experience within an intimate venue is truly awesome!” stated David Bell, Music With Friends NJ Club Director.  Bell comes to MWF-NJ, collaborating with Stone, after spending five years as the co-founder and General Manager of YB Fitness – a nationally recognized, full-service health club in Short Hills, New Jersey.

MWF-NJ Philanthropic Component

The Music With Friends NJ annual membership cost, covering three private concerts per year, is a one-time only initiation/seat fee of $875 and recurring annual membership dues of $1800. Each member takes the same seat for each concert event.  Dues will support up to five nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations that are selected by polling the members and identifying the charity with the most votes. 


“The concert clubs’ charitable component is an important aspect of our business model,” says club owner David Stone.”  In addition to donating a significant portion of the net revenue from annual memberships to nonprofit organizations, MWF-NJ will be asking artists to donate all or part of their performance fees to charitable causes that are meaningful to them. In addition to donating revenue and/or artist fees to charity, a section of the theater will be reserved to provide seats to regional nonprofits to help raise additional funds. 


The MWF-NJ club experience is open to a maximum of 450 members and includes a pre-show networking event with other members, featuring open bar service, upscale dinner stations, and hors d’œuvres, followed by post-concert dessert.  The entire evenings activities and convenient underground parking are included with annual membership dues. 

Background on David Stone

Stone has produced his own philanthropic rock & roll concert series since 2009, originally with New York radio personality Pete Fornatale until Pete’s death in 2012.  Stone also manages Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Richie Furay, founding member of Buffalo Springfield & Poco.  Stone has been committed to serving New Jersey residents with his wife & business partner, Nancy, through their retail shops in downtown Millburn, Nancy And David Fine Jewels, and a second shop, STYLE by Nancy And David at Footnotes. They reside in Short Hills and have been NJ residents since 1984.  The Stones donated the street clock that stands at a busy intersection in the downtown area to the township of Millburn in 2005. “We believe in giving back to the community we serve and have done so through our local businesses and ongoing concert series through the years,” says David Stone.


Inquiries for Music With Friends NJ personal club membership or corporate sponsorship can be made by emailing, or by calling 973-671-8849.  For more information, please visit


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There’s “Nothing Ordinary About Mary” and The Mary K. Sheeran Team Tue, 14 Jan 2020 21:48:12 +0000 Photo credit: Genevieve Sheeran

By Steve Sears

Mary K. Sheeran of the Mary K. Sheeran Team, a full-service real estate agency, is honest and upfront: She couldn’t do it alone.

“It” is all the top notch and necessary services under the Mary K. Sheeran Team umbrella. “We have a very, very special ingredient here,” Sheeran states. “We really have a high priority on our clients and a certain behavior and care for them. You have to operate a certain way to really make it a good mix. It’s really a team effort. It’s led by myself, but the kind of the service we bring to the table now I could never do by myself. The important part, too,” she continues with emphasis, “is really giving each and every client – and I’m very proud of this – really giving them a full-service agency, a full array of services. When they hire us, they’re really getting a lot for their money.”

For the Mary K. Sheeran Team, located at 333 Route 46 West, Ste. 103, Mountain Lakes (201-412-9155,, clients come from the nearby northern New Jersey area, in addition to Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. And, although her team does occasionally list properties outside the area, Denville and the Morris County area is what they specialize in because they know it so well. It’s the area Sheeran calls home – and ‘home’ to her is the key word. “It (a home) is the most important place to almost any individual. Because a home – not a house – a home is filled with love.”

“The ‘home’ is the heart of the person.”

Sheeran, a Denville resident, and her team go above and beyond in care and service, to which a client once said, there’s “nothing ordinary about Mary.” Nor her crew, whom Sheeran lauds. “We have built a team that’s not just a group of salespeople. It’s a family team,” Sheeran says. Her husband Michael, who had a 30- year career in Manhattan as a contractor, is now retired from that career, and his contribution is very instrumental. “He helps many sellers and buyers as we go through the home inspection process; he helps give them additional understanding of what’s going on in the house, or what may be the concerns he’s able to help them appreciate that and help them find good resources and work through it.” Then there’s daughter Genevieve, who handles marketing, including social media, a very important tool when you’re selling properties (“it gives all of our sellers maximum exposure,” says Sheeran). Son John, who joined the Sheeran team two years ago, was a Manhattan-based financial planner and now is a big part of the sales team and community, assisting Sheeran on listing clients and buyers. Sheeran also mentions Connor Ebersol, who is a buyer’s agent and has been key in the rental service area and has developed and employs a very nice system for screening prospective tenants and working with landlords to ensure good matches. Sharon Donaldson, Sheeran’s Administrative Assistant, maintains database information such as anniversary dates and more, and also is in charge of the annual Client Appreciation Event, and Sara Leskovar, who is transaction coordinator, oversees transactions from beginning to end.

Sheeran herself has a Home Staging Certification. It’s all part of her makeup to never stop learning and improving herself – and it’s to the customer’s benefit. “I just always wanted to be able to offer my clients the most services possible that I could,” she says. “Back in 2009, 2010 and 2011, it was very difficult to sell a house. It was a buyer’s market, so I just tried and was always looking for ways to educate myself and improve myself in providing services to my clients. The Staging Certification enabled me to give the best advice I could give to any given client.” 

Sheeran and her team give back to community as well. They recently donated funds to a brand-new playground in Denville, and they contribute to just about every event that takes place in town, like Pink Witches Night, the Food Truck Festival, and different other functions. “We kind of keep it central to our community.”

For Sheeran, it’s about client satisfaction – through her team. “It makes me really happy when people say at the end of a transaction, ‘Mary, thank you so much. Your team and you were wonderful.’ Two years ago, it was still, ‘Thank you, Mary.’ People are really appreciating what the other members bring to the team, what they bring to the table, and that really makes me happy.”


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Faith Kitchen Feeds the Souls of the Needy Tue, 14 Jan 2020 21:45:28 +0000 By: Megan Roche


On East Blackwell Street in Dover, you’ll find a warm meal and a side of hope with a visit to Faith Kitchen. Located at 123 E. Blackwell Street (Trinity Lutheran Church), there is always a warm meal at lunchtime from 11:30-12:30 and positivity to be found for all in the community.


Faith Kitchen was started back in 1983. In 2005, it became its own 501c3 charity and still operates upstairs inside of Trinity Church. They serve a nice lunch 6 days a week to anyone in need, no questions asked. The line forms at their door by mid-to-late morning in anticipation of doors opening at 11:30 a.m.  No matter what the weather is, people are out there waiting. Those who come are hungry, tired, cold and wet. The outside elements wear them down. Some standing on the line outside the door have waited tirelessly because this will be the only meal they’ll eat today.


Currently the kitchen is fully covered when it comes to groups or community organizations who want to serve meals, but the team can always use donations or benefit from fundraisers. 


According to Executive Director of Faith Kitchen, Joanne Bleecker, “We have groups that come in each day to serve. They bring food, cook, serve and clean up. Since we do have a regular volunteering schedule of faith groups that serve here, we are blessed that we do not need to seek out individual volunteers for cooking and serving. What we need is volunteers to run paper drives for us. Any item collected helps to save us money and goes a long way in helping us feed those in need.” 


After Faith Kitchen closes down for the day at 12:30 p.m., Edna’s Haven, a program of the Mental Health Association of Morris and Essex counties opens upstairs from 12:30-4:00 p.m. Edna’s Haven helps people get referrals for services. Once a month, the Zufall Mobile Medical Van also visits Faith Kitchen to help those on a limited income receive access to the medical care they need. 


Bleecker, who has served as executive director for Faith Kitchen for 4 years, worked in corporate America in computer science. She has been a CIO and COO for midsize multi million-dollar companies. However, when she took over at Faith Kitchen, she discovered something close to her heart. 


“The most rewarding part is making a big difference in someone’s day. It’s a joy and a blessing to get to know the people that come through our doors. Everyone has a life story.  Listening to their stories, struggles and triumphs are critical in truly understanding their challenges. Empathy is always the first step toward developing a deeper, sincere desire to help. I am amazed every day by their resilient spirit.” Bleecker said. 


While the kitchen is about community, that’s what also stemmed from the organizations need for a new logo. Wanting to get the community involved in its creation, they reached out to County College of Morris’ Art and Design department.


We worked with Professor Yvonne Bandy, M.A., M.S., Associate Professor, Liberal Arts Division, Art & Design Dept. at CCM.  We received 17 entries from her students and chose the design created by 21 year old student, Sebastian Torres. We asked for both a black and white entry as well as 2-color to be used for a future t-shirt fundraiser and other media uses.  We felt it was a great opportunity to get local college-level art students involved in a charitable organization and they were able to design for a ‘client.’  We were so impressed with the creativity and the thought put into this project by these students.” Tammy Roselle, a Faith Kitchen board member said.  


Working at a food kitchen may be taxing for some, but for Bleecker, this is one labor of love, one she personally understands.


At this point in my career, I was drawn to the goodness and importance of nonprofit work. My parents are first generation Americans, and both knew what it was like to be hungry, so this cause is personally important to me. They taught me the true value of a meal, of a kind word and of extending a helping hand. I do my best to fulfill that purpose each day here.” 


To learn more about Faith Kitchen, visit

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Two CCM Trustees Appointed to National Organization Focused on Strengthening Community College Governing Boards Tue, 14 Jan 2020 21:41:02 +0000 Two members of the Board of Trustees at County College of Morris (CCM) have been appointed to serve on committees for the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) to assist with supporting the governing boards of community colleges.

ACCT supports community college boards in their efforts to govern and develop policies that focus on meeting community needs. The ACCT Board of Directors is informed by five committees: the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Finance and Audit Committee, Governance and Bylaws Committee, Member Communications and Education Committee, and Public Policy and Advocacy Committee. The ACCT chair appoints committee members. 

CCM Trustee Vice Chair Jeffery Advokat, of Denville, has been appointed to the ACCT Communications and Education Committee. That committee is responsible for evaluating and making recommendations to strengthen the organization’s links with members, identifying issues that require member input, and evaluating and making recommendations to strengthen ACCT education programs. Most recently, he was a member of the ACCT Public Policy and Advocacy Committee. That committee is charged with reviewing public policy issues and recommending positions. He previously has served on the ACCT Governance and Bylaws Committee, which reviews resolutions related to the governance of ACCT, and amendments to the bylaws and board policies. Advokat also has been interviewed by and served as a speaker for ACCT on the topic of board ethics.

Advokat is a senior partner of Advokat & Rosenberg Esqs. in Morristown and a former Morris County assistant prosecutor. He has served on the Executive Board of the Pingry School PSPA in Short Hills and has experience in the classroom having taught business law at Caldwell College. He earned his J.D. from Hofstra University, his master’s fellowship in government from the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University and his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers. 

CCM Trustee Treasure Paul R. Licitra, of Flanders, immediate past chair of the CCM Board of Trustees, has been appointed to serve on the ACCT Public Policy and Advocacy Committee. That committee is charged with reviewing public policy issues and recommending positions.

Licitra currently is office administrator for Senator Steven Oroho, Assemblyman Parker Space and Assemblyman Hal Wirths, and the Sergeant of Arms for the New Jersey Senate.  He also possesses extensive experience in insurance spanning more than 45 years and covering all aspects of risk management for large domestic and international clients. In the public sector, he was mayor of Mount Olive from 2000-04, after serving eight years on the Township Council. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University, where he also taught as an adjunct professor in the Tobin College of Business. 

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