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Reilly feted as Civil Lawyer of the Year

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The Hudson County Bar Association Civil Practice Committee has named Kathleen M. Reilly of Brady, Brady & Reilly as the Civil Lawyer of the Year for 2014.

The award, presented at the Bar Association Practice Awards Dinner, was bestowed on Reilly in recognition of her distinguished service in the practice of civil law. Attending were members of her firm, the judiciary and her family as well as fellow members of the trial bar.

A certified civil trial lawyer, Reilly heads the firm of Brady, Brady & Reilly in Kearny. A graduate of Rosemont College and Seton Hall University School of Law, she has been practicing litigation in the State and Federal Courts of New Jersey since 1983. She specializes in serious personal injury and death claims, including, but not limited to, automobile negligence, dangerous products, premises liability, liquor liability, dog bites and slip/trip and falls.

Reilly has had multiple jury verdicts in excess of $1 million and has settled millions of dollars in personal injury cases on behalf of her injured clients.

In announcing the award, the law firm noted: “Representing the injured, disabled and bereaved is a serious responsibility, and Reilly shoulders this mission with unwavering compassion. Known for her sympathetic and caring nature, many are surprised to witness her feistiness and ferocity in the courtroom. She is both fearless and vigorous in pursuit of a claim on behalf of a client. Her experience, dedication and meticulous preparation have translated into financial awards and justice for the firm’s satisfied clients.”

Celebrate Mardi Gras at Applebee’s in N.J.

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar locations in New Jersey invite guests to let the good times roll with a variety of food and beverage specials to celebrate Mardi Gras.

From now until Feb. 22, Applebee’s will offer diners a taste of The Big Easy in their neighborhood by featuring its Bourbon St.- inspired dishes and specialty cocktails including:

• Bourbon St. Chicken &  Shrimp – Cajun-seasoned chicken breast grilled and served on a sizzling skillet with blackened seasoned shrimp, garlic and thyme.

• Bourbon St. Steak – A  juicy, tender 9 oz. steak jazzed up with Cajun spices. • Shoo Fly Punch – Jim  Beam with ginger and lime soda over crushed ice.

• Southern Jack-hattan  – Jack Daniels, peach schnapps and sweet vermouth.

Mardi Gras specials are available at 100 Applebee’s locations owned and operated by Doherty Enterprises.

In New Jersey, Applebee’s is located in Brick, Bridgewater, Butler, Clifton, East Hanover, Edison, Flemington, Garfield, Hackensack, Hackettstown, Hillsborough, Howell, Jersey City, Jersey Gardens, Kearny, Lacey, Manahawkin, Manalapan, Manchester, Middletown, Milltown, Mt. Olive, Newark, Newton, North Bergen, Northvale, Ocean, Paramus, Parsippany, Phillipsburg, Piscataway, Rockaway, Tinton Falls, Toms River, Totowa, Union, Wall and Woodbridge.

Ex-employee stole nearly 9G, cops say

A woman who had worked for a Nutley physician has been accused of stealing several thousands of dollars from her former employer, according to Nutley PD.

Sonia Marinas, 56, of Haledon, faces charges of forgery and theft by deception. She was arrested Feb. 10 at headquarters where she was booked and later released pending a court appearance.

Police said the doctor called for assistance on Oct. 22, 2014, after having discovered that close to $9,000 was missing from her business account. Subsequent investigation and the successful subpoenaing of bank records led police to conclude that Marinas was a prime suspect in the case.

Nutley Police Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari said that investigators determined that during the four months she worked for the doctor, Marinas had access to her employer’s checking account and that Marinas allegedly forged the doctor’s name on those checks to pay some of her own bills.

According to Montanari, close to 20 transactions involving those forged checks were made during the four-month period.

About two months after Marinas left the doctor’s employ, the doctor came upon the discrepancy in her account, Montanari said.

Montanari credited Nutley Police Det. Thomas Perrota, in particular, for his investigative work on the case. A 17-year veteran, Perrota is assigned to most of the department’s fraud investigations.

• • •

In other incidents logged Feb. 7 to 13, Nutley PD responded to 24 motor vehicle accidents, 43 medical calls, 11 disputes, 10 suspicious incidents and these matters:

Feb. 7 

Police responded to a Warren St. location on a report of juveniles trespassing in the boiler room of an apartment complex. At the location, police said they found Fernando Acosta, 19, of Nutley, in possession of a suspected marijuana cigarette. He was arrested and charged with possession of drugs. He was also processed on an outstanding warrant from Nutley and released pending a court date.

Feb. 8 

Following a head-on collision at Washington Ave. and Centre St., police arrested Jayson Acevedo, 19, of Boca Raton, Fla., and ticketed him for DWI, careless driving, failure to maintain lane, driving while intoxicated underage, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, failure to wear seatbelt and failure to exhibit proof of insurance. He was released to a family member pending a court appearance.

• • •

Police responded to a Franklin Ave. pharmacy whose manager had reported a theft and arrested Angela Cacchio, 46, of Newark, in the store parking lot. Police said Cacchio admitted taking shampoo and conditioner without paying. She was charged with shoplifting $242.76 in merchandise and released pending a court date.

• • •

Police issued notices of violation for failing to shovel their sidewalks within a 36- hour grace period to the owners of four homes on Passaic Ave. and Harrison, Ernest and Essex Sts.

Feb. 9 

While patrolling Centre St., police said they noticed a westbound vehicle that had no front license plate and pulled over the driver, Muevz Vincent II, 22, of Livingston, who, they said, had an active warrant from Rochelle Park. He was ticketed for failure to display front plate and, after posting bail, was released pending court dates on each matter.

• • •

The victim of what police described as an ID theft told police they received a call from someone identifying themselves as “Brandon” from PayPal credit security asking them to verify a PayPal credit card account opened under their name. The victim told police they’d never authorized the transaction.

Feb. 10 

The owner of a Franklin Ave. business reported receiving a possible fraudulent $100 bill although the owner couldn’t remember the circumstances under which the bill came into their possession. Police took the bill as evidence.

• • •

Another ID theft victim told police that someone had opened two Verizon accounts under their name without authorization. The victim said they learned this had happened after they’d planned to upgrade their cellular phone and found an outstanding balance of $1,000.

Feb. 11

An elderly resident’s son called police to report a phone scam. The son told police his father had received a call from a “Mark Collins,” with a heavy Jamaican accent, claiming to be with Publisher’s Clearing House, and asked his father to go to the nearest CVS and buy numerous $500 Vanilla Pack refillable gift cards, then return home and wait for someone who would pick up the gift cards and give him a larger sum of money in exchange. Police said they tried calling Collins but the number was out of service.

Feb. 12 

Police responded to a Lovel Court location on a report about solicitors wearing construction vests. At the location, police found two men fitting that description who identified themselves as IMP Marketing sales representatives. Police said one of the pair, Ronald McDaniel, 28, of Belleville, had six active warrants: three from Belleville and one apiece from North Arlington, Edison and Atlantic City. He was turned over to Edison PD.

– Ron Leir 

Obituaries

Chester C. Conklin 

Chester C. Conklin died Feb. 8 at Clara Maass Medical Center. He was 73.

Born in Newark, he lived in Kearny before moving to Belleville in 1981.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at St. Mary’s Church in Nutley, followed by burial in Arlington Cemetery in Kearny. (www.armitagewiggins.com)

Chester was a member of Teamsters Local 641 and drove a truck for many years for L.J. Kennedy and Preston Trucking.

Husband of Carolyn (nee Young), he is also survived by his children and their spouses Michael S. Conklin, Jeff Conklin (Caroline) and Donna L. Conklin (Joe Besterci), his grandchildren Eric, Hailey, Mackenzie and Amanda, and his best pal Casey.

Mary Corner

Mary Corner (nee Quigley) died peacefully on Feb. 10 at The Shorrock Gardens in Brick. She was 87.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, she lived many years in Kearny before retiring to Brick.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral Mass was held at Our Lady of Sorrows, Kearny, followed by burial in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington. (www.armitagewiggins.com)

Mary and her late husband John Corner owned and ran Matson’s Tavern in Kearny for many years. She loved her family, friends, heritage and Our Lady of Sorrows.

She is survived by her daughter and son Ann Marie Deichman (Daniel Sr.) and John Corner (Carolyn), her grandchildren Daniel (Jessica) and Jeremy (Natalia) and great-grandchildren Madilyn Rose, Daniel Marc, Lilyahna and Luke Jeremy.

Julia T. Dunaj 

Julia T. Dunaj (nee Agentowicz), of North Arlington, died peacefully on Feb. 8. She was 95.

Funeral arrangements were under the direction of the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, Harrison. Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery. For information, or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfh.com.

Born and raised in Eynon, Pa., she lived in North Arlington for the past 57 years. Julia worked as a product scheduler for RCA in Harrison for many years, retiring to raise her two children. She was a parishioner of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church and a member of Rosary Altar Society, a member of the Senior Harmony Club of North Arlington, and a charter member and treasurer of the Young Women’s Club of Harrison. She was also the Financial Secretary of Lodge 3187 of the Polish National Alliance (PNA) District 5 and took part in many activities as well as being involved in multiple PNA committees.

Predeceased by her husband, Stanley J. Dunaj, Julia is survived by her loving children Patricia A. and Stanley M. Dunaj, her dear sister Jean A. Kozmor, her sisters-in-law Ann Dunaj and Bernadine Janusz as well as loving nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests Mass intentions to be offered from Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, Harrison or Queen of Peace Church, North Arlington, or a donation to a charity of choice would be appreciated in care of the funeral home in loving memory of Julia.

Rafael Anthony Egoavil 

Rafael Anthony “Tony” Egoavil, of Buffalo, N.Y., formerly of Newark, entered into eternal rest on Feb. 6. He was 42.

Funeral arrangements were under the direction of the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison. A funeral service was held at the funeral home. His cremation was private. For information, or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfh.com.

Born and raised in Newark, he lived most his life there before moving to Buffalo in 2004. Rafael worked for Ford Motor Company for more than 20 years, first in Edison and most recently in Buffalo, N.Y.

He was a second generation employee as his father Rafael also worked for the Ford Motor Company. He was a member of the UAW Ford Local 897 in Buffalo, N.Y. An avid baseball fan, his favorite team was the N.Y. Mets. In his free time, Tony also enjoyed video games and graphic novels.

Tony is survived by his beloved mother Juanita, loving children Ashley Nicole and Ryan Matthew, dear brother Chris and his wife Heather, cherished niece and goddaughter Olivia and nephew Connor, godson Logan Gonzalez and the mother of his children Lydia Ivette Toyens. He was predeceased by his father Rafael (2014) and his sister Marisol (1982).

Hedwig A. Kasper 

Hedwig A. “Gladys” Kasper (nee Rudnicki), 90, a lifelong resident of Harrison, died Feb. 11 at the Alaris Healthcare Center on Bergen Ave. in Kearny.

She worked as a secretary for the RCA Corporation in Harrison for many years before retiring 25 years ago.

She was the beloved wife of the late John and is survived by her nieces and nephews.

The funeral was from the Parow Funeral Home, 185 Ridge Road, North Arlington, on Saturday, Feb. 14, with a funeral Mass at Our Lady Czestochowa Church, Harrison. Interment followed in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Dominick F. Krusznis 

Dominick “Yakie” F. Krusznis Jr., of Berkeley Township, formerly of Harrison, entered into eternal rest on Feb. 2. He was 81.

Funeral arrangements were under the direction of the Mulligan Funeral Home, 331 Cleveland Ave., Harrison. A funeral Mass was held at Holy Cross Church, Harrison. Interment was in Holy Cross Cemetery. For information, or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.mulliganfh.com.

Born in Jersey City, Dominick was raised and lived in Harrison before moving to Berkeley Township in 2013. He worked for Driver Harris/ Harrison Alloy for many years, retiring in 1997. Prior to that, he worked as a truck driver for Leo Keller Corporation from 1952 to 1988. He also worked for the Harrison Post Office, where he began his employment as a young man. He served his country in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1962 and was honorably discharged.

Dominick graduated from Harrison High School in 1951. An avid soccer player/fan, he played on the Harrison High School soccer team that won back-to-back state championships in 1949 and 1950. His team had a 53-match winning streak that ended during the 1951 season. Following high school, Dominick continued his dream of becoming a professional soccer player, playing on for the Elizabeth Germans, as well as many other local professional soccer clubs, from 1952 through the late 1970s.

Predeceased by his wife, Ann P. Krusznis (nee Gray) and his son, Dominick W. “Dinny” Krusznis, he is survived by his loving children and their spouses, George Krusznis (Annmarie), Karen Flood (Kevin), David Krusznis (Annette), William “Red” Krusznis (Annie) and Michael Krusznis (Donna). He is also survived by 18 grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to either Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), 26 Broadway, 14th fl., New York, N.Y. 10004 or the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, Okla. 73123-1718 in loving memory of Dominick.

Michael Raefski 

Michael Raefski, 54, died on Feb. 10 at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark.

Arrangements were by the Thiele-Reid Family Funeral Home, 585 Belgrove Drive, Kearny. A funeral service was held at the funeral home, followed by a private cremation. Condolences and memories may be shared at www. thiele-reid.com.

Michael was born in Belleville and was a lifelong resident of North Arlington.

Mr. Raefski was a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Kearny.

He was a carpenter by trade and later worked at Home Depot.

Michael is survived by his brothers Joseph (Nancy), Frank (Mildred), and Richard Raefski and six nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by his brothers James and John Raefski.

Jane Wilma Watson 

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Jane Wilma Watson died Feb. 5.

Arrangements were by the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny. A memorial service was held at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Toms River. To view the entire obituary, please visit www.armitagewiggins.com.

House fire quelled

LYNDHURST – 

Residents of a one-family house on Fourth St. in Lyndhurst were safely evacuated during a fire that broke out in the early morning on Monday, Feb. 16, authorities said.

Police Capt. John Valente said an alarm of fire was received by police at 4:23 a.m. for 425 Fourth St., prompting a response by the Lyndhurst Volunteer Fire Department.

Patrol officers arriving soon after reported heavy smoke coming from the front door and township volunteer firefighters quickly doused the fire which was confined mostly to the basement, Valente said.

Valente said the fire appears to have started from faulty wiring connected to a basement clothes dryer and some flames apparently traveled inside a wall up to a kitchen area.

Firefighters had the fire extinguished and cleanup operations begun within an hour, with assistance from the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department’s F.A.S.T. team while Rutherford provided a pumper to stand-by at Lyndhurst Fire HQ , Valente said.

“Damage to the residence could have been much worse if not for the fact that the intense heat caused a copper water pipe to separate, burst and almost act as a sprinkler, helping to keep the fire at bay prior to Fire Department arrival,” he noted.

As of Monday, Valente said, residents were being temporarily housed with family members.

– Ron Leir 

Report: 2 women arrested, charged with soliciting prostitution at Kearny clinic

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GOOGLE STREET VIEW PHOTO — Two women were arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution at a Kearny health-care clinic located inside 50 Midland Ave., seen above, according to reports.

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY —

In a professional building on Midland Ave., near the Post Office, there used to be a business called the Y&L Health Care Clinic. We say “used to be” because last week it got busted.

Kearny police said it  was a massage parlor operating as a front for prostitution.

At 2:30 p.m., Feb. 9, as the result of an ongoing investigation, KPD Vice detectives went to the premises and arrested 64-year-old Jia Cao and 49-year-old Chunlan Yu, residents of Flushing, Queens.

Both were charged with engaging in prostitution; additionally, Yu was charged with promoting it.

The officers also confiscated approximately $500, believed to be the proceeds from illicit proceedings.

Seeking donations for Brown St. fire victims

The Nutley Department of Public Affairs, working in partnership with the Nutley Music Boosters Association, is seeking donations from the public to assist the victims of a recent fire on Brown St.

Gift cards to clothing stores, food stores, etc., are very helpful.

Also needed are: soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, powder, brushes, combs, blow dryers, hand/body lotion, shaving cream, shavers, socks, (size 10) men’s and women’s gloves — women’s (XLG), men’s (XLG) — hats, scarves, slippers (XLG) women’s and men’s, pocketbooks and wallets.

Items be may be dropped off at the Department of Public Affairs, 149 Chestnut St., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon.

For more information, call 973-284-4976.

Fitness center coming; new housing under review

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By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY –

It may require an extended backstop at Harvey Field to prevent foul balls from whacking cars and/or people and perhaps a buffer of some kind for a residential dog run.

But, in any event, Carlstadt developer Ed Russo will be returning to the Kearny Planning Board March 4 for local approvals to expand his residential project along the north side of Bergen Ave. adjacent to the town’s Harvey Field recreation complex.

Last Wednesday, the board began hearing testimony on Russo’s proposal to demolish two commercial structures at 311-337 Schuyler Ave. and erect two 3-story buildings with 70 rental apartments as part of what the town has designated as an area in need of redevelopment.

It will reconvene next month to hear more about Russo’s expanded project but in the meantime, it voted to approve the developer’s application for a subdivision and amendment to the site plan for the first phase of his residential project – six buildings – on the south side of Bergen Ave. to accommodate a clubhouse and fenced-in dog run on the site of what had been projected as a retail pad.

In other business, the board also sanctioned a site plan and variance application submitted by Kearny Holding VF LLC/Fitness Intl. LLC to convert the old Pathmark supermarket at 175 Passaic Ave. to an LA Fitness facility.

Kearny attorney Gary Bennett, representing Fitness Intl., told the board that his client has negotiated a long-term lease with the property owner, Vornado Realty Trust of New York, to occupy the 58,000 square feet former supermarket building with no change to the structure’s footprint.

James O’Sullivan, director of development for Fitness Intl., said that the company has 650 locations in the U.S. and Canada and of those, he developed 60 in the past decade.

O’Sullivan said the building will be equipped with a kids’ club, locker rooms with bathrooms and showers, a spa, a 3-lane lap pool, basketball/ volleyball court and studios for cardio, yoga and cycling workouts.

Chances of putting in a juice bar are “50/50” at this stage in the development process, O’Sullivan said.

The facility will be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week, he said.

 

 

by Ron Leir Ed Russo outlines his residential project at Planning Board meeting.

by Ron Leir
Ed Russo outlines his residential project at Planning Board meeting.

Plans call for the exterior masonry to be refurbished and repainted with an “earth-tone” color and “additional glass and light,” removal of the former supermarket’s loading docks, installation of brick pavers and bike racks near the front entrance and landscaping with 400 new plants anticipated, he said.

It will probably take a few months to file for building permits and, once granted, “five to six months to construct,” according to O’Sullivan. “The goal is to get this club open this year.”

Once construction starts, the company will open a “pre-sales office” to solicit memberships, he said.

Down the road, O’Sullivan said, the Kearny facility figures to employ more than 75 fulland part-time workers, with job opportunities for local residents.

As for the Bergen Ave. development, Russo told the board he expected to “be 100% complete” with his first phase which he calls Vermella Crossing – 150 rental apartments spread over six buildings – by October 2015.

Assuming favorable action by the board on his proposed expansion, Russo said his hope was to begin construction on that project by “sometime in 2016.”

Monthly rentals are projected at the “mid- $1,600s” for his one-bedroom apartments and in the range of “$2,200 to $2,400” for the two-bedroom units, Russo said. He has no plans to switch to “for sale” units.

Several board members, noting the proximity of the 2.2-acre development site to Harvey Field, wondered whether residents and/or their property might be in harm’s way from foul balls hit by batters during baseball season and that concern triggered discussion about the town doing some adjustments to the baseball field backstop which adjoins the targeted development site. No final plan was agreed to last week.

Asked about concerns raised by the Kearny Fire Department about access to hydrants and the ability of fire trucks to maneuver around the proposed residential buildings, Doug Bartels, an engineer and vice president with Russo Development, said that interior stairwells in each building would be equipped with standpipes and that fire rigs – and garbage trucks – should have enough room “to circulate around both buildings.”

Two board members – Chairman Fred Esteves and Councilman Jonathan Giordano – worried that tenants exiting either of the two proposed driveways from the site would have a tough time negotiating the flow of westbound traffic along Bergen Ave., which tends to stack up at the light at Schuyler Ave.

“There’s no way people are going to be crossing those driveways,” Esteves said. “No one’s going to give them a chance.”

Russo vice president Christopher Minks, the attorney representing the developer at the board hearing, said that the company may be “open to discussion on the more westerly of the two driveways” on possibly restricting the direction of traffic flow to oneway out only. “We’ll be looking at all options,” he said.

Legion seeks new members

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By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – ­

Last August, The Observer carried our feature story on the 95th anniversary of American Legion Post 99 of Kearny. At the time, Post Commander Keith McMillan spoke about a problem most veterans’ organizations are facing: diminishing membership.

Over the past decade, Post 99 has lost more than 100 members, primarily due, sadly, to the loss of the World War II generation.

“We’re trying to communicate with the new generation of veterans,” McMillan told us. Next week, the Post hopes, that communication will take a leap forward.

And, although the younger generation is one focus, so too are older veterans.

Those who served during Korea or Vietnam — or WWII — also need support and, often, information about and help with the benefits to which they are entitled.

On p. 8 of today’s paper, you will find an ad from the Joseph E. Frobisher Jr. Post 99 inviting non-member veterans to its monthly meeting, to be held at Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the Legion headquarters, 314 Belgrove Dr.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m., “but come early, around 6 o’clock,” McMillan suggested.  “We’ll have refreshments before and afterward.” As the ad notes, anyone who has served honorably in the U.S. armed services, stateside or overseas, during WWII, Korea, Vietnam or were enlisted during any conflict, including Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, is eligible for Legion membership.

There will be open enrollment, but don’t think you will be pressured to join.

This is basically an invitation to stop by and meet some members and learn what the Legion is all about.

“I want them to feel welcome,” McMillan said. “I don’t want anyone to feel obligated. There’s no commitment. This will just be a great opportunity to network and learn for themselves about the benefits and support we can offer to people in the military.”

For example, McMillan said Post 99 is in the process of organizing a career-counseling program. “We are currently working with some companies that would like to donate their time to help with resumes,” he said.

There is also the Kearny VOICE (Veterans Outreach Information Community & Education) project, which provides veterans and their families with information and assistance (clarifying eligibility, assisting with paperwork, etc.) regarding benefits, claims, job training, education and counseling — including referrals for counseling for vets suffering from PTSD.

Kearny VOICE was formed in partnership with the local VFW and Marine Corps League. Post 99, McMillan noted, “has a good rapport” with those groups, “and we’re working more together now.”

“And even though I would like people to join my post,” he said with a smile, “I would not be upset if they chose to join any one of the three.”

McMillan is also hoping to make the Post 99 building more welcoming, including eventually opening it to vets’ service/therapy dogs. He’d also like to see its doors open more often, “so someone could just stop by for a cup of coffee.”

The Legion “has been involved in the community, but I’d like it to be more involved,” he said, adding that Post 99 “is fortunate enough to have the full support of Kearny’s mayor and Council.”

The Post is planning future open-enrollment programs for its Women’s Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.

While young vets, especially those fresh out of the service, have many concerns, such as finding a job or starting a family, McMillan hopes they will realize that American Legion membership can offer both help with their futures and a connection with a shared history.

“I want them to know how the many generations before us have given us the foundation to keep a good organization going,” the commander said.

“Now, people coming home from service have a different set of concerns, but we have a common bond: We served.

“This is an opportunity to belong to an organization where you share that common bond. You can help build on the foundation they gave us and enable us to carry on.”

Teens for Jeans big hit

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

The suggestion came from English teacher Kathy Williams but once it was out there, it didn’t take long for the kids from Lincoln Middle School to jump into it.

Led by the school’s Student Council, the seventh- and eighth-graders are joining 10,000 schools worldwide in a venture co-sponsored by global retailer Aeropostale and youth volunteer organization DoSomething.org, with “Teens for Jeans,” to collect used jeans for homeless teens.

According to the sponsors, they have collected more than 4 million pairs of jeans just in the past several years.

“In 2012, when I was Student Council adviser at Franklin School, we participated in Teens for Jeans and at that time, we came in among the top five donors nationwide with 4,600 pairs of jeans collected,” Williams said.

This year, she said, Lincoln School hopes to surpass that achievement but it’s going to take some doing since as of last week, the total raised was 400 pairs.

But the students remain undeterred.

John Camac, president of the Student Council, has taken the initiative by emailing the principals of Franklin, Washington and Schuyler elementary schools and asking them to join in the enterprise and Williams has extended the collection deadline to Thursday, Feb. 12.

As an incentive, Teens for Jeans offers the school that hauls in the most jeans an opportunity to win a $5,000 grant and a free concert by The Vamps, a British pop band.

The program is pushing jeans as a valued clothing item for their durability and for providing “a sense of normalcy” among those teens whose lives have been disrupted. The sponsors say that kids under 18 “account for 39% of the homeless population.”

“Get involved,” urges a flier circulated by Lincoln students to their peers. “Clean out those closets and dresser drawers. Pack up those jeans that don’t fit you anymore. We’ll collect all sizes and colors.”

Several Student Council members offered their take on the project.

Brianne O’Callaghan said she’s enthused about participating because, “it’s nice to actually get to help people, to give something to people who are on the streets all day.” She said she’s observed homeless – not in Kearny – but elsewhere in New Jersey and “it’s sad to see that.”

And, “even if you don’t actually see homeless people,” said John Millar, “it’s still good to know you’ve made a difference in their lives – whether it’s five or 5,000.”

Anthony Bianchini took heart in noting that the pants drive “is a great way to help others without spending a lot of money.” And Cedric Briones said: “It’s been wonderful to see kids come together for this program.”

For Council Treasurer Justin Jablonski, learning that it’s not just adults that are suffering was a revelation. “I didn’t realize that kids our age are also out there and that it’s not just a bad streak of luck,” he said. “That’s depressing.”

Bianchini said this project has inspired him to take on a community service project, “Help Serve Vets,” through his home parish at St. Stephen’s. This summer, he plans to visit an area V.A. facility to visit and extend a helping hand to hospitalized servicemen and women.

Teens for Jeans is an application of this year’s Student Council theme, “Community and Me,” Williams said. “We’ve written letters to veterans and decorated Operation Goody Bags distributed to emergency first responders and veterans.”

When all the jeans are accounted for locally, Williams said they’ll be tied up and bundled and transported in teachers’ cars and/or school bus to the Aeropostale outlet in Morristown for distribution by volunteers to the homeless.