Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance grows and looks to expand programs

What are young people facing in today’s society?

Let’s start here.

Statistics show last year, 43% of all adults smoked marijuana, and 29% of all young people also smoked it.  This reflects a surge of 11% from previous years. There are presently 19 states, including New Jersey and New York, that have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Polls show there is now more public acceptance of marijuana use than ever before. Yet more young people are using psychedelic drugs than ever before, and 32% of all young adults have also been on a binge-drinking bender sometime during their young lives.

Seven years ago, in an effort to create an environment that promotes wellness for the youth, parents and residents of Lyndhurst, as well as to offer the tools needed to be free of the misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, the Township of Lyndhurst created the Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance, a grassroots partnership with the town’s lawmakers, community members, law enforcement, educators and youth.

The alliance then became a part of the Bergen County Municipal Alliances, so the township would have access to important county grants and other resources that would assist Lyndhurst in achieving these life-saving goals.

To coordinate the delivery of all of the various impactful programs that the Alliance was planning, as well as to coordinate the financial administration of this new Municipal Alliance, Commissioner John Montillo (then the police commissioner), the Board of Commissioners and others asked Joseph Shinnick, a former Board of Education trustee, Boy Scout leader, PTA president, Sacred Heart Church lector, Knight of Columbus and co-organizer of Lyndhurst’s very first “Health, Safety & Wellness Fair,” to manage the Alliance’s programs and serve as its coordinator, after it had gone dormant.

Shinnick has since paired with Det. Lt. Vin Auteri, the Lyndhurst Police Department’s Supervisor of Criminal Investigations and Public Information Office, and under the direction of Mayor Robert B. Giangeruso and Police Chief Richard Jarvis, they have worked with a committee of dedicated township residents, stakeholders and township employees, who have worked in various community roles over the years.

Members include the mayor’s administrative assistant Amy Jarvis, Yolanda Garcia, owner of Levy’s Pharmacy, Lyndhurst Police Department Community Policing Coordinator Lt. Paul Haggerty, Lyndhurst Police Department Schools Resource Officer Sgt. Steve Passamano, Lyndhurst Superintendent of Schools Joseph DeCorso, Lyndhurst High School Principal Laura Vuono, Lyndhurst High School Child Study Team Counselor Jill Tozduman and parents Megan Crispina, a chemist, and former Board of Education Trustee Sheri Jarvis.

Recently, Shinnick wanted to further strengthen the membership of the Alliance Committee, so he recruited many dedicated townspeople he had worked with in various community roles over the years, and who have all been vital community-minded people throughout Lyndhurst.

The newest members include Lyndhurst Commissioner of Tax and Finance Louis DeMarco, President of the Parent-Teachers Council Barbara Burns, school district worker Tara Castellito, former Lyndhurst Board of Education trustees Ron Grillo and Jim Hooper, current Vice-President of the Lyndhurst Board of Education Erin Keefe, Sacred Heart Church Finance Committee Member Joe Kollar, Boy Scout Troop & Venture Crew 86 Leader former Naval Officer Bill Stehn and former Commander of the American Legion and Veterans Alliance Representative Tom Witt.

The committee have been further enhanced with the additions of the Bergen County Commissioner Steve Tanelli, President of the Lyndhurst High School student club,“Kindness in Motion”, the very community-minded high school senior Caila Barreiros and the district’s school counselor and anti-bullying specialist Susan Leidemer.

Auteri says the alliance is dedicated to providing young people all the resources possible to avoid the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse — but soon, it will be even more than just those dangers.

“Under the dedicated guidance of Joseph Shinnick, the Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance Committee works very hard to offer support, and to create many effective anti-drug and anti-alcohol programs and activities for the youth and residents of Lyndhurst,” Auteri said. “Moving forward, the alliance will also broaden its focus to include such issues relevant to mental health and youth bullying as well.”

During these past seven years, working with both Christine Hill and Eileen McGinnis, the administrators of the Bergen County Department of Health Services, which offers the Lyndhurst annual program grants and other needed support, the alliance has already garnered many impressive achievements and much-needed benefits for the youth, parents and residents with many impactful programs, such as the Junior Police Academy, Sticker Stock, Hidden in Plain Sight, the High School Athletes Outreach Program, Red Ribbon Week, Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, K-9 Sweep Demonstrations, the “Not Even Once” Comprehensive Drug Awareness Program, Strengthening Families Program, the distribution of 250 “Healthy Life” Coloring Books to the town’s third-graders, the school district nurses’ Narcan training sessions, a town-wide marijuana shop ban, the first-ever Lyndhurst Mental Health Workshop, and most recently, National Night Out, the Arrive Alive Tour, the Truth Over Trend Speaker’s Program, the purchase of Fatal Vision Goggles and the well-attended Black Poster Project.

The alliance is also in the process of creating an on-going anti-drug and mental health speakers’ forum for all parents and residents of Lyndhurst, while partnering with the town’s community organizations for fundraising and future program partnership opportunities, all while working closely with the Lyndhurst Police Department.

“I’m so proud of what the alliance, partnering with the Lyndhurst Police Department, has already done for the youth and residents of our town regarding substance and alcohol abuse, and I’m very excited for the future achievements of the alliance,” Police Chief Richard L. Jarvis Jr., said.

The mayor, meanwhile, is equally proud.

“The Lyndhurst Municipal Alliance will continue to achieve these very important life-saving goals through the delivery of many effective wellness programs for the youth, parents and residents of Lyndhurst,” Giangeruso said.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.