gretchen rell selfieGretchen Rell with a bird she called “Monty” in a selfie posted on her Facebook page in January. (Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03A volunteer animal rescuer who stockpiled hundreds of dead birds and other animals in her mother’s Little Silver home was sentenced to five years probation, the Monmouth County Prosecutor announced Friday.

Gretchen Rell, 56, an Ocean Township resident,  had previously admitted to neglecting the birds and being responsible for their deaths.

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091414 shrwsbry gdn feast3Community gardeners celebrating their harvest at the garden, located adjacent to Borough Hall. Below, Pam MacNeill and Maureen Collins in the gazebo. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


091414 shrwsbry gdn feastSipping wine amid tables festooned with bouquets of flowers, the Shrewsbury community gardener’s celebrated the end of the growing season with a potluck dinner recently.

In the gazebo, a table laden with casseroles and salads made from this year’s harvest looked like a picture from a home and garden magazine.

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DCIM100GOPRORed Bank Regional senior Samantha Sidun of Little Silver (left) is pictured in Ghana with her Global Leadership Adventures mentor Ashley Randall and fellow volunteer Lindsay Harris, at the foot of the compost toilet they constructed to improve the health and environment of the local people.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

For two weeks in July, Red Bank Regional High School senior Samantha “Sam” Sidun of Little Silver worked with fellow American teenagers to construct compost toilets in the agricultural village of Dzita in Ghana. She was inspired to join the Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) group after hearing about the program from a friend at RBR who had joined the program last year. But as Sam explains, she was also drawn to the idea of actually doing something to promote world health. Sam financed the trip in part from money she raised over two years in babysitting and a summer job at a local beach club.

For the two week trip, a group of 18 teenagers were divided into two groups, each tasked to construct a compost toilet. In their downtime, they were able to learn about the Ghanaianculture and government and meet the locals at a soccer tournament or the local swimming lake. Many things strongly impressed Sam, like the symbols in everyone’s homes to ward off evil spirits, juxtaposed with Christian Church services which were five hours long.

“The point of the mission was healthcare and sustainability,” Sam explains. “Many households do not have sanitary systems, and as a result, dysentery kills more children than AIDS and malaria.”

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091414 oceanic libraryRumson’s Oceanic library, a former post office, needs a new roof. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


091414  raise the roofThe Seabright Lawn Tennis and Cricket Club in Rumson provided a verdant backdrop for the Oceanic Library’s Raise the Roof campaign Saturday night. A cocktail party with hors d’oeurves lured 250 or so attendees to place bids at a silent auction.

The antique building seemed an appropriate setting. Filled with trophies and photos dating back to the 1800s, it is a charming reminder of how an historic building can stand the test of time when cared for properly.

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073114 Shrewsbury garden cukesEileen Olson and Carla Fiscella discuss the day’s bounty in the Shrewsbury Community Garden. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


073114 Shrewsbury garden adaIn its third year, the Shrewsbury Community Garden is a thriving example of team spirit. Inclusive to the point of having two raised beds that are ADA approved with ample room for a wheelchair, this garden is a modern model of neighborly spirit.

In addition to the 83 gardeners who presently share this Eden, there is a PAR – or plant-a-row – garden where extra plants are tended, with the produce donated to Lunch Break in Red Bank.

“It’s fun, because everyone does different things,” said Eileen Olson.

“I go to the pool and give away my produce to my neighbors,” Carla Fiscella added.

They were deep in discussion about the enormous size and bounty of Fiscella’s cucumbers this season.

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aishaCommunity YMCA members Aisha Bhoori of Middletown and Sahar Akbarzai of Old Bridge are coordinating a school supply drive through the YMCA to help give kids in Red Bank and Afghanistan a great start to the new school year.

Press release from The Community YMCA

Now through August 15,  The Community YMCA is hosting a school supply drive to help give kids from as near as Red Bank — and as far away as Afghanistan — a great start to the new school year. The drive is part of the Y’s new national Togetherhood initiative, that encourages Y members to give back and support their neighbors through community service projects.

Y members Sahar Akbarzai of Old Bridge and Aisha Bhoori of Middletown, both recent high school graduates, expressed an interest in a school supply drive, and through Togetherhood, were able to lead the effort. Both have established their own nonprofit organizations — the Hope Foundation of Afghanistan and Dreamers Without Borders, respectively — to provide support to children in war-torn Afghanistan.

Akbarzai, whose family is from Afghanistan, and Bhoori, whose family is from Pakistan, are grateful for the donations of school supplies that will be shared with the Afghan children. “It’s wonderful to see a community come together and donate their time to help another community on the other side of the world,” Akbarzai said.

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gretchen rellGretchen Rell in a 2011 photo on her Facebook page. She described the bird she’s holding as a survivor of a pigeon shoot. (Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03A volunteer animal rescuer who kept hundreds of dead birds and other animals in her mother’s Little Silver home pleaded guilty to animal cruelty Monday, according to

At a hearing in Superior Court in Freehold, Gretchen Rell, 56, an Ocean Township resident, admitted she neglected the birds and was responsible for their deaths.

As part of an agreement with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, a second charge of cruelty contained in an indictment handed down by a grand jury in May was dismissed, the news site reports.

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071214 FH garden SkoeMaster gardener Cindy Skoe in the Fair Haven Community Garden. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


070614 FH garden signAmong the plots in Fair Haven’s community garden is an area with two small signs. One reads “UMW,” and  the other declares that Master Gardeners worked here.

The UMW stands for United Methodist Women, from United Methodist Church on Broad Street in Red Bank. The master gardener is UMW member Cindy Skoe, who along with five other gardeners from the group, is growing vegetables with the intent of sharing half the bounty with Lunch Break in Red Bank.

“They have a program on Tuesdays to drop off produce.” Skoe said, adding, “They are very excited to get whatever one can bring.”

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katz rechnitzGuest of honor Harvey Katz joined Two River Theater founders Joan and Robert Rechnitz, Rabbi Laibel Schapiro, and Chani Schapiro during last week’s tribute dinner for the community nonprofit Hand in Hand.

Press release from Belfer Communications

On Thursday, June 10th, more than 400 people gathered to honor the teen volunteers of Hand in Hand, a community outreach organization that extends a helping hand to special needs children and their families.

The sold-out tribute event at Red Bank’s Two River Theater also honored Phyllis and Harvey Katz of Long Branch. and Louisa and Marc Liechtung of Wayside. New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno commended the volunteers for making the world a better place through selfless dedication to their community.

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AndrewKroonScholarshipwinnersThis year’s winners of the coveted Andrew Kroon Scholarship award are pictured with members of the Andrew Kroon Memorial Scholarship Committee.  Pictured (left to right) are Chris Rumph, Board Vice President, Jocelyn Rojas Hernandez, Diana Escalona Cayetano, Mariela Reyes, Monica Urena, and Board President Carolina Sachs.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

At its year-end reception, Red Bank Regional High School’s school-based youth services program The Source honored individuals who have positively impacted the lives of RBR students during the year. The Source and its affiliates also awarded over $28,000 in scholarships to students.

With an emphasis on the overall optimal health of the students at Red Bank Regional, The Source is a comprehensive program that includes mental health counseling, preventative medical, dental and eye care, employment opportunities and learning support.

RBR Source Director Suzanne Keller recognized RBR math teacher Sunny Lenhard with the “Outstanding Service Award” for recognizing a need in the community, and helping to implement a program to address it.  With Mrs. Lenhard’s assistance, the Source was able to organize a community-based tutoring program to aid students who could not access that help offered at the high school building after school hours.  She, along with five of her colleagues and RBR National Honor Society students, tutored the students two evenings a week.  A second recognition, the Community Partnership Award, was given to Lori Hohenlietner, Executive Director of Horizons Student Enrichment Program, which provided assistance for Mrs. Lenhard’s envisioned tutoring program.  In addition, Horizons, a member of the Source Advisory Board, also contributed toward the Andrew Kroon Memorial Scholarship Fund; which for eight years has helped Hispanic students achieve their dream of attending college.

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hobbymastersThis July, kids can celebrate Christmas at Toymasters in Red Bank.Voted “New Jersey’s Best Toy Store” by New Jersey Monthly magazine, Toymasters is partnering with the borough-based nonprofit Lunch Break to raise funds for underprivileged children.

During the entire month of July, customers can make a donation and in return receive a customized ornament that will be hung on the Lunch Break Holiday Tree in the shop. All proceeds will directly support Lunch Break’s Adopt-A-Family Holiday Gift Program at the close of this year.

Last year, Lunch Break provided over 1,500 children with toys and gifts during the holiday season, a fact that prompted Toymasters owner Denise Zappoli to partner with the community resource, which has been serving neighbors in need since 1983.

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20140617-181947.jpgDesiree Pierce, who lost her lifelong Sea Bright home to Hurricane Sandy, celebrated the completion of its rebuilding by volunteers Tuesday. Pierce, at center above with son Junior, helped Shareefah Taylor of Americorps, one of the volunteer organizations involved in restoring the New Street house, move a cake to the fridge. (Photo by John T. Ward. )


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPress release from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

Recently, several students from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School visited the Schroth School in Ocean Township to participate in art therapy activities and take part in the “Empty Bowls” initiative.

Located in Wanamassa, Schroth School serves students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through twelve, and offers a comprehensive educational program including sensory, mobility, fine motor, social, and thematic language/literary experiences.

Although individual students from Schroth School have visited RFH in the past to demonstrate their artistic procedures and skills — such as painting by mouth — this is the first time that RFH students have participated in artistic endeavors at Schroth.

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njamerBob Wentway (left), vice president of Shrewsbury Hose Company No.1, accepts a check from a representative of New Jersey American Water Company, toward the purchase of two new hose nozzles. In a statement, the company thanked the utility for its support of all Monmouth County volunteer first responders.


sb uae 2 051314sb uae 1 051314A dozen volunteers from the United Arab Emirates, including government worker Tuaiba Aldarmaki, above, are in Sea Bright this week working with Habitat for Humanity to build a new house for a family displaced by Hurricane Sandy.

Under the rubric of an organization called ‘Takatof,’ for “shoulder to shoulder, volunteers have previously helped rebuild homes following disasters in Joplin, Missouri, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Brooklyn.

‘What’s similar between our cultures is hospitality,’ said Lujan Mourad, an official with the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, who noted that strangers have stopped by the job site, at Ocean Avenue and Marius Place, to feed the volunteers. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


gretchen rell selfieGretchen Rell with a bird she called “Monty” in a selfie posted on her Facebook page in January. (Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03A volunteer animal rescuer who kept hundreds of dead birds and other animals in her mother’s Little Silver home was indicted on animal cruelty charges Monday, authorities said.

Gretchen Rell, 56, an Ocean Township, was charged with two counts of third-degree animal cruelty in an indictment handed down by a grand jury in Freehold, according to an an announcement by Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

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girls_on_the_runOn Wednesday evening, April 9, the Little Silver Woman’s Club (111 Church Street) will be the setting for “an inspirational evening,” as the Junior League of Monmouth County hosts a discussion with Molly Barker, founder of the non-profit organization Girls on the Run.

During the 7:30 pm presentation, “Barker will share the powerful message that the only limitations to the achievement of self-worth, contentment, and joy are those we place on ourselves: We must be the change for the change we wish to occur. Barker’s story motivates volunteers, parents and community organizers to innovatively break free of the same-old, same-old; encourages college students to celebrate their gifts, honor their voices, and activate their power in the awaiting world; and gives women and girls the tools to break free from the negative, limiting talk, both internally and externally, and to joyfully and boldly pursue their dreams.”

A transformational physical activity-based positive youth development program for girls in grades 3 through 8, Girls on the Run teaches life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The 10 week long program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k running event, scheduled for June 8 in the Red Bank area. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.

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DawnandandSarahRed Bank Regional student Sarah Vates (left) accepted a Caring Award from RBR guidance counselor Dawn Kaszuba at a March 20 event sponsored by the Monmouth County Guidance Director’s Association. The senior from Holmdel won the award for her work in spearheading Cinderella’s Closet, a nonprofit that provides prom clothes for teens from low income households. 

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

Red Bank Regional High School’s Guidance Director Dawn Kaszuba and her peers look forward each year to a special event held at Brookdale Community College. As President of the Monmouth County Guidance Director’s Association (MCGDA), she has the pleasure of honoring the community service stars in Monmouth County’s high schools. Thirty-four students were so honored on March 20, where a video in their own words signified why each student was selected to receive the MCGDA Caring Award.

The recipients were each chosen by the Guidance Directors in their respective high schools. Kaszuba, who also serves as President of the Monmouth County Guidance Director’s Association, which sponsors the Caring Award, was pleased to present the honor to RBR student Sarah Vates. The senior from Holmdel won the award for her work with Cinderella’s Closet, a charity that provides teenagers with affordable clothing and accessories to attend prom.

Sarah has spearheaded Cinderella’s Closet for several years. Its mission is to bring affordable prom clothes to those who might otherwise not be able to participate in this high school milestone event. She stated in her video, “What makes this activity so special is the look on the girl’s face when she finds that perfect prom dress, or the swagger of the young man when he finds that perfect suit.”

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rb mohawk pond 033014 2rb mohawk pond 033014About a dozen members of Monmouth County sportsmen’s clubs turned out in a cold drizzle to clear debris and phragmites from Red Bank’s Mohawk Pond Sunday morning, in anticipation of this week’s annual restocking of the pond with trout by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Afterward, participants watched a pair of ospreys soar above the pond and a admired a blue heron, right, as it fed a the pond’s western edge. According to the state, the pond is slated to receive a total 960 rainbow and brown trout this season, which opens Saturday at 8 a.m. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


sb st bernard 1 032614Americorps volunteers painting the framework of Desiree Pierce’s home Wednesday to encapsulate any lingering mold. Below, Pierce and daughter, Gigi Burke, have been displaced from their home since Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


sb gigi desiree 032614People who’ve never been through something like Hurricane Sandy don’t understand, says Gigi Burke.

“They don’t understand losing everything,” the 23-year-old Sea Bright resident said. “And then, they don’t understand the process and steps it takes to get back into your home.”

In the 500-plus days since Burke, her two siblings and their mother lost use of their New Street home to the surging Shrewsbury River and Atlantic Ocean, she’s heard “the question” from people who’ve temporarily put her up more than once.

“It was basically, ‘when are you leaving?’ but in a nice way,” she said Wednesday, amid of a flurry of rebuilding activity finally getting underway at her home.

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jay campbell 032014Jay Campbell, center, chats with MONOC paramedics Mike Welsh, left, and Marcelo Aguirre during his visit to the Fair Haven First Aid Squad Thursday night. Below, Campbell poses with his family and the emergency responders who teamed up to save him from cardiac arrest earlier this year.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


jay campbell 032014 2The bug had been making its way through the Campbell residence in Fair Haven when Jay Campbell told his wife he wasn’t feeling well and was heading to bed early that Sunday evening in January.

So a short time later, when Leslie Campbell heard a gurgling sound, she raced to grab the pail she’d used to get her son through the illness. But the instant she reached the bedroom and saw her husband lying with his mouth agape and his eyes rolled upward, she knew something far more terrible than the flu had gotten hold of him.

Minutes later, 59-year-old Jay Campbell was, by the metrics of medicine, dead. But two young cops – responding to an “open-line” call in which the 911 dispatcher could only hear the sound of a woman shouting the name ‘Jay’ – began what became a rapid-response team effort to bring him back to life.

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rb fire 031614Volunteer firefighters on the scene of a yard fire at 62 Washington Street in Red Bank Sunday night. Fire Chief Tommy Welsh tells redbankgreen the fire, reported at around 7:30 p.m., burned a wooden fence, apparently after a discarded cigarette ignited some leaves on the ground. The fire was quickly knocked down, with no damage to the house, Welsh said. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


gretchen rellGretchen Rell in a 2011 photo on her Facebook page. She described the bird she’s holding as a survivor of a pigeon shoot. (Click to enlarge)

HOT-TOPIC_03A volunteer animal rescuer is expected to face animal cruelty charges after authorities found numerous dead birds in a Little Silver home she shared with her parents, reports.

Gretchen Rell, 54, a Mitchell Place resident who also has a home in Ocean Township, will be charged with failure to provide proper care to animals, Monmouth County SPCA Chief Law Enforcement Officer Victor “Buddy” Amato told

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sb elevations 4 060513Sea Bright homes being elevated last June. Officials estimate 80 percent of the town’s homes are still vacant. Below, Chris Wood, flanked by Pete Forlenza and Zack Rosenburg, addresses a gathering in Rumson Tuesday night. (Click to enlarge)


sb rising 022514Sixteen months after the churning Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River met on Sea Bright’s streets in the fury of a hurricane, the borough is still something of a ghost town, said Chris Wood.

Yes, the business district has seen a welcome comeback. “But 80 percent of the homes on the side streets of Sea Bright are still vacant,” said Wood, a co-founder of Sea Bright Rising, a nonprofit that has raised and distributed close to $1.3 million in donated funds to some 300 families and 17 businesses in town since Hurricane Sandy hit.

Now, though, Sea Bright Rising is partnering with another nonprofit born in the aftermath of a hurricane, with the goal of rebuilding as many as 100 homes in Sea Bright, Rumson and Highlands – at no charge to those homeowners.

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mtown fire map 021714Two residential fires less than 24 hours apart kept Middletown volunteer firefighters busy over the weekend. (Click to enlarge)

A pair of house fires in Middletown and a hit-and-run accident of a pedestrian in Sea Bright occurred over the weekend, according to news reports.

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