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Category: News

Band of Brothers

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

On Sept. 11, 2001, a young boy stared out a 5th-grade classroom window in St. Stephen’s School, watching the smoke rise above what had been the World Trade Center. That boy, now a young man, grew up to become a member of the Kearny Fire Department. And in addition to serving his hometown, he is serving his country — as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Next week, he’ll leave both the town and the country, headed for Afghanistan on a deployment that will last anywhere from six months to a year.

But no matter how long he’s gone, he will be held in the hearts of two families — his immediate family and the one called the KFD.

Firefighter Mark Isabella Jr., 24 years old and Kearny born and raised, has been a member of the department for just 13 months, but that has been enough time for him to earn the respect of those we call The Bravest.

Last Friday, every firefighter from every company who serves on the same shift as Isabella gathered at KFD headquarters on Midland Ave. to honor him in advance of his deployment. (The only ones missing were those at the South Kearny firehouse, who had to remain down at their frontier post.)

The informal ceremony included the placing of a Blue Service Star flag decal on Engine 1, Isabella’s rig. The symbol, indicating that a member of one’s family is on active military duty, will remain on the vehicle until the firefighter comes home.

Isabella’s parents, Florence and Mark Sr., were guests at the gathering.

“As a father, I am very proud of his accomplishments,” said Mark Sr., noting that among these was Mark Jr.’s serving as a squad leader throughout his Marine Corps training at Parris Island.

The Isabellas also had words of appreciation for the KFD. “As the parents, we are truly honored and grateful for the support we are receiving from the Kearny Fire Department,” Mark Sr. said, adding, “They’re a great bunch of guys.”

Capt. Dave Kealy from Station 1 on Davis Ave., where FF Isabella is assigned, described him as “a great asset, hardworking and very enthusiastic.”

“We’re going to be real sorry to see him go, but we’re looking forward to getting him back in six to 12 months,” the captain said.

This will be the first deployment for Isabella, who has served in the Marine Corps Reserve for 4 1/2 years. He noted that he joined the Corps for the same reasons he joined the KFD: “To help people, to give something back.”

As a boy growing up, being a fireman was “a dream job,” he said. And then he made it a reality.

“I’m proud and honored,” he told us, “to have both of the best jobs in the world: a U.S. Marine and a firefighter.”

As we were leaving the farewell ceremony, Isabella’s mom, Florence, took us aside. She wanted to say something that her emotions hadn’t allowed her to express aloud in front of everyone, including her son.

“I want him to know that his mother is extremely proud of him,” she said, “and that I will miss him more than he will know.”

Health Center to open Dec.

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent

HARRISON – 

It was supposed to happen April 1 but now the sponsors are predicting that the long anticipated Harrison Health Center will open no later than year’s end.

Under a plan initially pitched by the late Mayor Raymond McDonough, the North Hudson Community Action Corp. (NHCAC) will be operating a “Federally Qualified Health Center,” providing primary and preventive care to low income patients from leased space at the Town Hall Annex on Harrison Ave.

To that end, Harrison advertised for bids to reconfigure the 3,580 square feet of space at the annex – that will be leased to the NHCAC for $24,000 a year – to accommodate what will be four examination rooms, offices for a physician and nurse and/ or nurse practitioner, a waiting room, utility rooms and bathrooms.

But the bids came in well above the funds budgeted – in excess of $500,000 – partly triggered by including displacement of a former basement bank vault as part of the job specifications, an expensive proposition.

After conferring with RSC Architects, which is designing the project, Harrison assigned municipal public works personnel to dismantle the vault to make way for office space and thereby drive down a big portion of the cost.

Then, last November, the town solicited a new round of bids, drawing prices from six contractors: Edge Property Maintenance, $379,640; LaRocca Inc., $331,000; Pal- Pro Builders, $344,000; SHD Construction, $319,000; V&K Construction Co., $417,000; and Salazar & Associates, $338,417.

After conferring with Harrison officials last week, NHCAC President Joan Quigley told The Observer that, “SHD Construction [of Monroe Township] has agreed to maintain the bid they offered months ago, so now only a Harrison [Town] Council resolution is necessary to complete the preconstruction process. That is expected to happen next Tuesday [April 14] evening.

“The SHD bid was for $319,000. The freeholders made $151,000 available in CDBG funds and the Town of Harrison had put aside $150,000. NHCAC will make up the difference and pay for essential equipment to get us started.”

So, Quigley said, NHCAC will have to come up with the $18,000 to make up the gap, plus an estimated $40,000 that it will need for equipment such as patient beds, examination tables and x-ray machines.

“After the site opens, it usually takes several months to obtain clearance from Medicare, then Medicaid, to begin accepting reimbursement,” Quigley continued. “So it will be some time before NHCAC is able to cover its costs, but we are so eager to serve patients from Harrison and West Hudson, that we will make that sacrifice. We are only sorry that the process took so much longer than originally planned, but since the contractor expects to complete the job within six months, we hope to open no later than December.”

Quigley said it typically takes 90 days for Medicare to sign off on approving reimbursement to a newly opened FQHC “and then, once that happens, Medicaid follows.”

Based on trends experienced at NHCAC’s other primary care facilities, most of the patients anticipated in Harrison “will have Medicaid insurance or none at all,” Quigley said. “Obamacare has increased our Medicaid population [at other sites] by 20% and has reduced our charity care by the same amount.”

Until Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement starts to come in at Harrison, the NHCAC figures that, “we will lose close to $100,000 in the first four to six months of operation in Harrison,” Quigley said. Nonetheless, the agency is resolved to go forward.

Quigley said the NHCAC will absorb the cost of all personnel assigned to the Harrison facility, although how many there will be has yet to be determined. That, she said, will depend on “the number of hours” it will be open and the volume of patients.

As of now, the Harrison Health Center will be open weekdays and will be staffed by at least “one full-time physician and two or three support people,” she said.

The Harrison facility will offer primary care to adults and children but no surgical procedures, cardiology care, mental health or emergency services will be available, Quigley said. Appointments will be encouraged but walk-ins will be accepted.

“As a Patient Centered Medical Home, the Harrison Health Center will be under federal supervision and we will be accredited by the Joint Commission [essential for Medicaid reimbursement],” she said.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says that a PCMH “is accountable for meeting the large majority of each patient’s health care needs, including prevention and wellness, acute and chronic care,” and may involve counseling by “pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers, educators” and the like.

It is hoped that providing access to the Harrison facility will cut down on patient visits to already overburdened area hospitals and offer patients shorter waiting times and enhanced care.

Township losing faithful civil servant

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

LYNDHURST – 

When she was appointed Township Clerk, her office was still in the Municipal Building, computers were just starting to take hold and New Jersey had just adopted the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) six months prior.

Since then, there’s been a few tons of paperwork that have passed under the watchful eyes of Helen Polito, who is now getting ready to call it a day.

Polito is set to retire May 31 after nearly 13 years as municipal clerk and a month shy of 29 years of service with the township.

A lifelong Lyndhurst resident who went to Washington Grammar School and graduated from Lyndhurst High School in 1972, Polito enrolled in Montclair State University as a home economics major but left after a year to test the job market.

She worked for several private companies in clerical and accounts payable positions before getting married. She and her husband Stephen will mark their 40-year anniversary in October.

“I had my first daughter Marie and I became a fulltime mom in 1978,” Polito said. “In 1981, I had my second daughter Michelle and when she was in kindergarten, I was hired by the then-Commissioner Lou Stellato as a part-time clerk in the Public Works Department in 1986.”

In 1993, the then-DPW Commissioner Paul Haggerty designated her for elevation to full-time clerk.

And, in 2000, when the then-Township Clerk Josephine Oleske made known her plans to leave the job in two years, Polito was transferred to the Township Clerk’s office to serve as a secretary/clerk and, eventually registered for courses at Rutgers University required for certification as a registered municipal clerk in New Jersey.

Typically, it can take a few years to complete the course work but Polito signed up to take a full load of five classes and completed all of them successfully in just a year.

Effective July 1, 2002, she was appointed to a 3-year term as Acting Township Clerk and in October 2002, after receiving her state certification papers, her title became permanent. She acquired tenure in the job after she was reappointed.

“And now I’m retiring,” Polito said, during a recent interview with The Observer. “It was time. Different things came about in my life and now I can enjoy my grandchildren: Stephen, 4; Evan, who will be 3 in July; Avery, 10 months; and newborn Michael.”

In recent years, the job’s demands have mounted while the office has had fewer personnel to meet them.

“The state’s requirements are a lot more stringent,” Polito said. “There are more reports we have to provide and, incidentally, tons more OPRA requests – that’s become a job in itself.”

Asked to account for the uptick, Polito suggested that, “people want to know more about their government, especially because of hard times they want to know where their money is being spent.” And, she noted, some of the OPRA filings are from for-profit groups engaged in research projects.

“A good quarter of my day,” she added, is spent just handling OPRA business.

Another reporting chore triggered by state policy changes is the mandated annual online filing of financial disclosure forms by local government officers, “and we’ll be starting to file liquor license applications through the internet next,” Polito said.

When the state began phasing in electronic maintenance and reporting of municipal data entries, Polito – whose office serves as custodian of township records – arranged for a private firm to begin scanning municipal documents in August 2007.

That was – and continues to be – a huge undertaking, as witnessed by the 20,395 resolutions and 2,911 ordinances adopted by the township Board of Commissioners since 1917, Lyndhurst’s date of incorporation, Polito said.

Between 1852 and 1917, the area was known as Union Township and Polito has some archives, including government minutes books dating from the 1800s that are too fragile to be scanned.

“I’ve learned a lot of Lyndhurst history here,” Polito said. “It’s fascinating to hear how these laws come on the books. That’s what keeps you involved.”

Preparing for and closing down elections was also part of Polito’s domain, although the load lightened a bit after 2008 when the township was relieved of the Board of Education balloting.

On the other hand, the starting time for municipal elections was advanced, from 7 to 6 a.m., to favor voters going to work, which meant, “that brought me into the office at 4:30 [a.m.]” to receive the voter registration books and signs for polling stations from the county which, in turn, had to be delivered to the polls.

Polito recalls one election when the public schools used as polling stations were discovered to be locked “so I had to wake up [BOE business administrator] Dave DiPisa, but they were open on time.”

In the months leading up to November 2012, Polito and her small staff were busy with yet another task – packing – after the township administration opted to move the cramped Clerk’s Office to larger quarters in the Municipal Annex on Stuyvesant Ave. and to allow Rep. Bill Pascrell’s staff to occupy the clerk’s office space, space which was then redecorated.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Polito said. “I’ll miss being with the people here and helping the residents and my co-workers. After all, we’re the face of municipal government and we try to be hospitable and cordial as much as we can.”

No question she has been every bit of that, said former Commissioner Brian Haggerty, whose eight years in office overlapped Polito’s tenure. “Helen is one of the sweetest, kindest people I could work with and it was a delight to deal with her and her staff,” he said. “She helped make everyone’s life much better.”

Polito, who is expected to be replaced by Deputy Clerk Angela White, is in line for an annual pension of $42,815, according to the state Div. of Pensions & Benefits.

Shields gala upcoming

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NORTH ARLINGTON –

The North Arlington Knights of Columbus, Queen of Peace Council 3428, holds its 21st annual Shields Awards dinner Saturday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the Columbian Club hall, 194 River Road.

Tickets are $30; $10 for youngsters ages 6 to 12. To purchase tickets, call 201- 463-2151. Grand Knight Bill Mackey is chairman of this year’s gala which is being catered by Slice of North Arlington.

“We normally draw between 120 and 140 people to the affair,” Mackey said.

Guests are asked to consider donating non-perishable, unexpired food items for the Council’s “Food for Families” project. During the past two years, the project collected 2,000 pounds of food, all of which was donated to the Queen of Peace Food Pantry, according to Mackey.

The 2015 honorees, who – as Mackey put it – are being feted “for wanting to make a difference in their community,” are: Barbara Arena, Public School Teacher of the Year; Patricia Cordero and Kathleen Petrocelli, Parochial School Teachers of the Year; Agostino Feola Jr., Police Officer of the Year; Jack Fladung, Firefighter of the Year; Danielle Chiaro, CCD Teacher of the Year; Betsy Trunzo, Senior Citizen of the Year; Michelle Carvalho, EMT of the Year; Mary Swedeski Biro, Veteran of the Year; and Anthony Blanco, Citizen of the Year.

Barbara Arena is a 30- year teacher in the North Arlington public school system, including 20 years as a first-grade instructor at Roosevelt School where she implemented a garden project, used as a hands-on learning experience for her students. She has also been a volunteer, with her students, for “Alex’s Lemonade,” which raises money for children’s cancer research. She and her husband Anthony, a retired teacher, have raised twin daughters Gabrielle and Shari Ann, who graduated from the Universities of Delaware and Susquehanna, respectively, in 2014.

Patricia Cordero, an East Orange native and a Jersey City State College alumna, has served as a devoted middle school educator with a specialty in math. She has emphasized the development of faith and character in her students by combining her own Catholic faith, compassion and a belief in high expectations to ensure they strive for success. She also volunteers as a CCD teacher at Our Lady of the Valley Church and with the Wayne Little League. She and her husband Bob are the proud parents of a son Bobby.

Kathleen Petrocelli, born in Jersey City, where she graduated from St. Peter’s College, now lives in Kearny with her husband Vincent. They are the proud parents of Daniel and Maureen. She has taught for the past 27 years at Queen of Peace Elementary School where she has sought to build positive relationships with her students grounded in respect and trust and has encouraged them to follow in the teachings of Jesus. She has, in the past, volunteered for HANDS, a local organization that cares for the special needs community.

Shields_2

 

Agostino Feola Jr. credits his mother Julie and father Agostino Sr. and his uncle with stressing the sense of community and serving and protecting it. After graduating from Don Bosco Technical High School and Passaic Community College, he entered the Paterson Police Academy in 2003 and became a patrol officer. In 2010 he joined the North Arlington Police Department and has received the Excellent Police Duty Award, DWI Top Gun, MADD Award, Honorable Service Award and Lifesaving Award, and was promoted to detective. He and his wife Tara are the proud parents of Justin, Agostino Jr. and Gianna.

Jack Fladung, a Weehawken High School alumnus, moved to North Arlington from his native Secaucus in 1963 with his wife Roseann Lamberti. For 35 years, he was self-employed as a Thumann’s distributor. In 1965, he joined the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department as a reserve and, a year later, became a regular member. On March 7, 1981, he was part of the crew who rescued an elderly tenant from a fire at 220 Gold St. for which he received a lifesaving award. He has served in various ranks including chief of the department. His son John Vincent is also a firefighter. Jack is now a borough crossing guard at Prospect Ave. and Hedden Terrace. He and his wife also have a daughter Laura Louise and four grandchildren, Glenn, Marina, Rachel and Jonathan.

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Danielle Chiaro, raised in Jersey City, moved to North Arlington a decade ago. She has a B.A. in English literature, a minor in women’s history, a master’s degree in education with a concentration in literacy and holds an educational specialist degree in curriculum and instruction. As a volunteer catechist, she shares Catholic lessons of love, justice, charity, caring and compassion with her fifth-grade CCD students and, at the same time, aspires to enable her students to become independent thinkers who can improve the world. She is devoted to her husband Aquilino and her daughter Gloria.

Betsy Trunzo, an alumna of Barringer High School, Newark, has lived in North Arlington since 1969. After working 36 years for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of N.J. and five years for the Archdiocese of Newark, she retired to care for her elderly mother. After her mother’s passing, she was a medical receptionist for five years. At Queen of Peace Church, she is a Eucharistic minister, lector and a member of the parish Life Committee and works at the rectory once a month. She is treasurer of the Rosary Society for which she organizes a fundraising casino trip. For the past 20 years, she has administered Communion to the sick at Clara Maass Medical Center. She is secretary of the Queen of Peace Ladies Bowling League. She has served on the borough Board of Health and Shade Tree Commission.

Michelle Carvalho joined the North Arlington Volunteer Emergency Squad in October 2010. After attending the Bergen County EMS training center, she became certified as an EMT in June 2011. With NAVES, she has served on the executive board, vice president, Saturday day crew chief and a member of the interview committee. She also helps train new members. She has volunteered thousands of hours of service to the borough and is ready to take on additional tours of duty at special events, meetings and snow watches.

Mary Swedeski Biro attended Queen of Peace Elementary and High School where she played softball and basketball. After working in the private sector, she joined the Army and was assigned to the operation and maintenance of vehicles and aircraft. She volunteered to serve in Kuwait in 1996 and received an Army Achievement Medal for outstanding performance under very stressful circumstances. After her honorable discharge in 2002, she became lead line service technician at Teterboro Airport. In North Arlington, she is chaplain of the VFW and is junior vice commander of the American Legion. She is also a faith formation teacher in Verona. She and her husband Joe live in Bloomfield with their children Joseph, 6, and Loretta, 2.

Anthony Blanco, 84, moved in 1945 with his family from Newark to North Arlington where he graduated from North Arlington High School. After getting his teaching degree from Montclair State Teachers College, he began his career in February 1995, teaching history at NAHS where he served as baseball coach, vice principal and principal. He also served in the Army. Eventually, he became the borough’s superintendent of schools before retiring in 1991. Since then, he has served as president of the Lions Club and is now in his third term as a member of the North Arlington Board of Education. Currently, he is the mayor’s representative on the Public Library Board of Trustees. He is married to Aidee and is the proud father of Paul and Philip.

– Ron Leir  

2% annual raises for cops for 3 years

EAST NEWARK –

Borough police salaries are going up a bit but some of the increase will be offset by cops having to contribute, to some extent, toward the cost of their health benefits.

That’s the mixed news contained in a new labor contract between the borough and the East Newark branch of the Harrison Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Local 22 which runs from Jan. 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2016.

The agreement, which has been ratified by the PBA and approved April 8 by the borough governing body, calls for 2% pay raises for 2014, 2015 and 2016. Borough police had been working under their old contract which expired Dec. 31, 2013.

Police Chief Anthony Monteiro said that members of the ENPD should be receiving their retroactive pay sometime in May.

Under a two-tier pay system the borough implemented in the last PBA contract, police employees hired prior to May 1, 2012, get one set of salaries and those “newbies” hired after May 1, 2012, get another. Both are based on rank and file cops achieving maximum pay after 10 steps.

So factoring in the 2% increase each of the three years of the new contract, the salary guide for cops on the payroll before May 1, 2012, shows, as an example, that the annual base pay for a cop on the third step will rise from the current $50,119 to $53,187 over the life of the contract; annual base pay for a cop on the seventh step will go from the current $67,472 to $71,602; and annual base pay for a cop at the 10th or highest step will climb from the current $80,922 to $85,875.

By contrast, the salary guide for cops hired after May 1, 2012, indicates that annual base pay for a cop on the third step going from the current $33,000 to $35,020 over the life of the contract; annual base pay for a cop on the seventh step, from the current $55,000 to $58,366; and annual base pay for a cop on the 10th step, from the current $70,000 to $74,285.

For those superior officers hired after May 1, 2012, sergeants will see their annual base pay increase from the current $82,980 to $88,059; lieutenants, from $89,618 to $95,103; and captains, from $95,426 to $101,267.

For those superiors hired prior to May 1, 2012, sergeants’ pay will go from $73,458 to $76,426; lieutenants, from $80,228 to $83,469; and captains, from $86,153 to $89,634.

Currently, the ENPD has no rank filled that’s higher than sergeant, except for chief.

Those cops eligible for health insurance coverage, provided through Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.J., are required by contract “to pay 30% of all usual and customary charges after the deductible is met up to a maximum out-of-pocket cost (including deductible) of $4,000 for individual and $8,000 for family coverage, each calendar year. Out-of- network deductibles shall be $1,000 for single coverage and $2,000 for non-single coverage, per calendar year.”

The borough is obliged “to reimburse bargaining unit employees for any costs incurred pursuant to the 30% requirement … [but] the [borough] is not obligated, however, to reimburse the employee for the first $500 of the $1,000 single or the first $1,000 of the $2,000 non-single deductible, whichever is applicable.”

Cops hired after May 1, 2012, are eligible for single benefits only.

– Ron Leir 

Prison term for protecting prostitution

A township man who was employed as a Jersey City fire inspector has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for accepting bribes in return for providing certificates of occupancy to two Hudson County prostitution operations.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said Phillip Procaccino, 56, of Belleville, had admitted that, in October 2013, he accepted $2,500 in exchange for his official assistance in obtaining an occupancy certificate for a massage parlor that was a cover for prostitution.

In addition, Procaccino offered to provide advance notice of inspections so the owner and employees could hide evidence of illegal activity, Fishman’s office reported. Procaccino also agreed to take 10% of future profits from a separate prostitution business in return for both a certificate of occupancy and “one day’s advance notice of any police activity targeting the business.” Both businesses were located in Jersey City.

Procaccino, who had pleaded guilty to one count of extortion, was sentenced April 7 by U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court.

Following the prison term, he is to serve one year of supervised release.

– Karen Zautyk 

Arthritis exercise

Job Haines Home, 250 Bloomfield Ave., Bloomfield, invites the community to join its Arthritis Foundation Exercise program Wednesday, April 15, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. This free program runs seven consecutive weeks and uses gentle activities to help those who have joint, and/or muscle problems achieve improved joint mobility, muscle strength and increase overall stamina.

The program is designed to heighten participants’ awareness of arthritis exercise principles, joint protection principles and relaxation techniques and to provide methods for incorporating these self-care skills into the home environment.

The class will be taught by a certified instructor and conducted in accordance with the guidelines established by the National Arthritis Foundation.

To R.S.V.P., call Danyette Randolph at 973-743-0792, ext. 119. For more information, www.job-haines.org.

around town

Belleville 

Sons of the American Legion host an “all you can eat” breakfast on the second Sunday of each month at American Legion Post 105, 621 Washington Ave., 8 a.m. to noon. A $7 donation is requested. Proceeds will be used for building improvements at the post hall.

Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., holds a “Let’s Make Music” program, open to grade 5 and under, Saturday, April 18, at 3 p.m.

Bloomfield 

Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., hosts these events:

  • Union City Chamber Players perform Saturday, April 18, at 2 p.m. The program includes Beethoven’s “Spring Sonata,” Romantic French and Italian songs by Massenet, Faure and more.
  • Book Club meets Monday,  May 4, 6:45 to 7:45 p.m., to discuss “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. For more information or for help in locating a copy of the selection, call the reference desk at 973- 566-6200, ext. 219 or 220.
  • During National Library  Week, April 13-18, borrowers can clear fines on overdue books by helping the local food bank. For every dollar in overdue fines, donate a non-perishable boxed or canned food item whose expiration date is still valid. Delinquent borrowers  cannot use food to satisfy lost materials or to pay for fines from other libraries. Food will be donated to the Church on the Green’s food pantry.

Harrison 

American Legion Post 282, 8 Patterson St., hosts these events:

  • Police and Firemen awards  will be presented Saturday, April 25, at 4 p.m.
  • Karaoke is every first Friday of the month at 7 p.m.

Kearny 

The Salvation Army, 443 Chestnut St., offers computer classes Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $30 per 12 hours of instruction. For more information, call the office at 201-991-1115 or Pete at 201-889-1352.

Kearny Lions Club hosts  a brotherhood luncheon Wednesday, April 22, at noon, at the Salvation Army, 443 Chestnut St. For more information, call Joann at 201-998-3018.

Friends of the Kearny Public  Library host “A Night of Magic” fundraiser Friday, April 24, 7 to 11 p.m., at Michael’s Riverside Italian Restaurant, 528 River Road, Lyndhurst. Proceeds benefit the library.

The $50 admission includes appetizers, a full buffet dinner, and dessert.

To secure a seat or to make a donation to the Friends of the Kearny Public Library, mail a check to Friends of the Kearny Public Library, 759 Kearny Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032. For more in formation, call Jennifer Cullen at 201-991-6612 by April 20.

The library invites beginning and challenged readers, ages 5 to 12, to spend some time reading to Fosse, a registered therapy dog, Wednesday, April 22, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Each session will last 10 minutes and will only be open to a limited number of children. Call the library at 201-998-2666 to reserve a spot.

Kearny UNICO sponsors a  Flapjack Fundraiser Saturday, May 2, 8 to 10 a.m., at Applebee’s, 175 Passaic Ave. Breakfast includes pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs and a beverage. Tickets are $10. To purchase tickets, contact Judy at 201-991-5812. Proceeds benefit the chapter’s scholarship fund and other charities.

First Baptist Church of Arlington, 650 Kearny Ave., holds  a free clothing give away Saturday, April 25, 9 a.m. to noon. (Raindate is May 9).

The Woman’s Club of Arlington hosts a spring tea luncheon with award-winning mystery author Eleanor Kuhns Sunday,  April 19, 1 to 4 p.m., at Courtyard Marriott, 1 Polito Ave., Lyndhurst. Autographed books will be available for sale. The event includes a 50/50 drawing and gift basket raffles. Part of the proceeds will go to local organizations for scholarships and the rest to NAMI NJ, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

To attend, send a check for $35, payable to the Woman’s Club of Arlington, to: Julie McCarthy, 25 Columbia Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032.

Lyndhurst 

The Lyndhurst Health De partment, 601 Riverside Ave., hosts these programs:

  • A Clara Maass Breakfast  Seminar, “Forget Me Not: an Alzheimer’s Discussion,” will  be held Friday, May 8, at 10:30 a.m.
  • A free skin cancer screening is set for Monday, May 11, at 9:30 a.m. This screening is open to all Lyndhurst residents aged 18 and over.

Call 201-804-2500 to register for these programs.

Lyndhurst Knights of  Columbus host “A Taste of Poland” Saturday, April 18, at 2 p.m., at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. Admission is $15. For tickets, call Steve Cortes at 201-657-0800 or Nick Garafalo at 201-893-2849.

Lyndhurst Girl Scouts, Lyndhurst Girls Association and the Township will honor Libbie Lindsay for her 88 years of service and leadership in the Lyndhurst Girl Scouts Saturday, April 25, at 11 a.m. (rain or shine), at the Girl Scout meeting house, 238 Livingston Ave. For more information, email teresa.casadonte@ gmail.com.

Area residents are invited to check out the dusty trunks in their attics and bring their treasures to be appraised at the Lyndhurst Historical Society’s Antiques Roadshow-Style Appraisal Fair Saturday, May 2, noon to 5 p.m., at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave.

Advance registration is required by April 22. The $15 admission includes the appraisal of two items only. For more information and/or reservations, call Lois Hussey at 201-935-7575 or email info lyndhursthistoricalsociety.org. Checks, payable to Lyndhurst Historical Society, P.O. Box 135,  Lyndhurst, N.J. 07071, must be received no later than May 1.

N.J. Sports and Exposition Authority (which recently absorbed the N.J. Meadowlands Commission) sponsors these events:

  • The Art Safari: An Interactive Exploration of the World Around Us, open  to teens and adults, is set for these Saturdays: April 18 and 25, and May 2, 2 to 4 p.m., at the Meadowlands Environment Center, DeKorte Park.  Participants will learn how to use the traditional mediums of graphite and charcoal in an interactive way. Pre-registration is required. To register, visit www.njmeadowlands.gov and click on “Events.”

The $35 cost ($30 for MEC members) includes all three sessions and supplies.

  • Free Birding for Beginners  class is set for Sunday, April 19, 1 to 3 p.m., at the MEC, De – Korte Park.
  • Free Third-Tuesday-of-the-  Month Nature Walk, co-sponsored by the Bergen County Audubon Society, takes place Tuesday, April 21, 10 a.m. to noon, at Harrier Meadow bird walk in North Arlington. The group meets outside the MEC and carpools to the site.
  • An Earth Day Walk is set  for Wednesday, April 22, 10 a.m. to noon, in DeKorte Park. The  walk starts outside the MEC.

To register for the birding class and nature walks, contact Don Torino of the BCAS  at 201-230-4983 or go to www.njmeadowlands.gov and click on “Events.”

Mary Lou Mullins’ monthly bus trip to Resorts Casino in Atlantic City is set for Sunday, April 26. Cost is $30 and cash return is $30. For reservations and more information, call Mary Lou at 201-933-2186. The

Humane Society of Bergen County, 221-223 Stuyvesant Ave., will elect officers at its annual general meeting April 28 at 7 p.m. The public may attend. The society will also present its annual report and show the animals it shelters. Refreshments will be served. For more information, stop by or call 201-896-9300.

North Arlington 

The Senior Harmony Club sponsors a trip to Resorts Casino in Atlantic City Tuesday, May 12. Cost is $25. Non-members are welcome. Call Florence at 201-991-3173 for reservations or more information.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, offers these activities:

  • Celebrate the library’s 75th  anniversary Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event includes music, giveaways, refreshments and activities for children.
  • A craft program, sponsored by the Woman’s Club, is set for Tuesday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. This program is open to grades K to 5. Registration  is required. To register, visit http://northarlington.bccls. org/children.html.
  • The Origami Club, open  to grades 4 and up, meets on Friday, April 24, at 3:30 p.m.
  • National Poetry Month  Celebration, open to all ages, is set for Saturday, April 25, at 11 a.m. Read your own work, listen and appreciate poetry.

For more information on library programs, call 201-955- 5640.

Nutley 

Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, presents these  programs:

  • Twinkle Star Dance Class,  open to children from 15 months old to 6, takes place Monday, April 20, at 10:30 a.m. Registration is required.
  • Friends of the Library hold  a book sale, April 23 to 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come out and stock up on hardcover books, paperbacks, CDs and DVDs at this semi-annual sale. Donations are welcome April 20 to 22.
  • Cook with a Book, open  to grades 4 to 6, meets Friday, April 24, at 3:30 p.m. Each month the group discusses a selected book and “cooks-up” something fun to eat. Selected books can be picked up and borrowed at the circulation desk. Read the book prior to the meeting. Registration is required.
  • Paw Day, story times,  crafts and reading to dogs is set for Saturday, April 25, at 1:30 p.m.

For more information or to register for programs, call the library at 973-667-0405.

The Women’s Auxiliary of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel  Church, sponsors a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in  Middletown, N.Y., Thursday, May 14, leaving by bus from the church, 120 Prospect St., at 9:30 a.m. The day includes Mass, a hot lunch, a tour of the shrine, free time to visit the gift shop, private meditation, visiting outdoor shrines or relaxing. The $40 cost includes lunch and transportation. The group departs from the shrine at about 3:30 p.m. For more information or for reservations, call Linda at 973-661-0090.

Pet Valu opens in Lyndhurst

Pet Valu opened its doors Saturday in Lyndhurst. Here are images from the store’s Grand Opening.

Eagle Scout eyes new mission

Photo courtesy Stephen Koziel
Stephen Koziel at Eagle Scout Award ceremony, fl anked (at l.) by Joel Lieberman, Northern N.J. Council
training director; and Steve’s dad Keith Koziel.

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

In June, senior Steve Koziel will graduate from Kearny High School and, like most of his peers, move on to college – in his case, the University of Illinois.

But Koziel – with four AP courses (in biology, statistics, Spanish and English) and ranked seventh in a class of 400 – is focused on an even bigger goal.

As a wheelchair athlete, he’s got his sights set on training for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where – if he qualifies – he’ll compete with the best in the world.

In a potential run-up to the main event, Koziel will be participating this summer as a member of the national Paralympic Junior Team USA July 1-8 in Stadskanaal, Netherlands.

Faced with the dual pressures of athletics and academics, you’d think the 12th-grader would have enough on his plate.

Guess again.

Aside from participating in indoor and outdoor cross-country events as a member of the KHS track-and-field team, every Thursday he travels to Westfield to practice with the Children’s Lightning Wheels Sports Club, based at the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside.

“I didn’t learn about the Lightning Wheels until I joined scouting (Boy Scouts Troop 2, sponsored by the Lincoln School Booster Club) seven years ago,” Koziel said. “I’ve been a member of the club since 2009.”

Koziel said the club, which provides athletic opportunities for individuals with disabilities, has about a dozen active members ranging in age from 5 to 22, mostly from New Jersey with some from eastern Pennsylvania, and competes in regional meets held mostly in Union County and South Brunswick.

Over the years, five club members have gone on to participate in Paralympics events overseas: Sydney in 2000; Athens in 2004; Bejing in 2008; and London in 2012. Koziel himself has competed in London and Puerto Rico.

In 2012, the club’s coaches pitched an application, with a promotional video about the club, to the U.S. Olympic Committee for a grant to help offset the cost of training equipment and travel expenses but didn’t get it.

The next year, Koziel decided to take on the grant challenge as a project to attain his Eagle Scout rank, the highest distinction in scouting.

“I noticed that we didn’t have that many athletes in our club,” he said, and that struck him as worrisome, given that in the northeast region alone, from the Boston area to Virginia, “there are maybe 300 people, including coaches and judges,” participating in competitions for the disabled.

 

Photo courtesy Stephen Koziel Stephen Koziel (c.) and Troop 2 Scoutmaster Paul Lopes (standing, in dark suit) with fellow scouts, scoutleaders and well-wishers at Eagle ceremony.

Above: Photo courtesy Stephen Koziel Stephen Koziel (c.) and Troop 2 Scoutmaster Paul Lopes (standing, in dark suit) with fellow scouts, scoutleaders and well-wishers at Eagle ceremony. Top Photo: Photo courtesy Stephen Koziel Stephen Koziel at Eagle Scout Award ceremony, flanked (at l.) by Joel Lieberman, Northern N.J. Council training director; and Steve’s dad Keith Koziel.

 

 

“Our club will be hosting the Nationals Junior Disabilities Championships July 18-24 in Union County parks with events in swimming, archery, power lifting, track and field, pentathlon and road racing and we’re expecting 350 athletes from all over the U.S., of which the northeast region accounts for one quarter to one half that number,” he said.

So, Koziel resolved to put together a new video that would be designed “like a P.A. announcement to show what opportunities are out there” for disabled athletes.

He enlisted the aid of a professional voice-over artist to narrate the video and filmed the club’s athletes in competition, along with several supportive friends swimming and doing other activities.

It wasn’t easy. Since the club’s season ran from February to July and its members practiced only once a week, filming proceeded slowly. It took a year and a half to wrap.

“We wound up with a 6-minute video and we sent copies to the doctors in the Children’s Specialized Hospital network which has 13 locations around the state and one to each special needs child,” Koziel said.

The club’s new bid for the Olympic Committee aid was, unfortunately, unsuccessful, he said, but the club did manage to get five new recruits. And he became an Eagle Scout.

“Through scouting,” Koziel said, “I’ve bettered myself as a person and athlete. Together, they’ve made me well-rounded.” He has learned to accept the premise that, “I’ve got to do the thing I really love.”

At the same time, the soon-to-be KHS alum draws on the “comradery” from his school teammates. “It’s part of the legacy I’m leaving here – Kearny is definitely a success story. The coaches and I have a mutual respect for each other. We each give something to the other: we can work together.”

What’s more, he said, “There’s a misconception people have about disability that the focus is on what you can’t do but we’re trying to break down that barrier and show what we can do. But parathletes have to work 120% to prove it. That shouldn’t have to happen and that hasn’t happened here in Kearny, either in athletics or in scouts. They both accept me as I am.

“And I don’t think I’d be here today without the help of my friends and family,” he added.