October 17, 2012

When it comes to talking to children about sex, waiting until they reach puberty is waiting too long. The chats need to begin in elementary school, according to Elizabeth Schroeder, the executive director of Answer, the national organization dedicated to providing sexuality education for young people.

This approach is a principal element of Answer’s five-year strategic plan, Ms. Schroeder said in a talk last week at the organization’s annual fall fundraising breakfast. Representative Rush Holt and Senators Shirley Turner and Barbara Buono were among those attending the event at Jasna Polana. Also on hand was Princeton resident Susie Wilson, who served 23 years on the Network for Family Life, Answer’s predecessor, and is now its advisor. Answer is based in New Brunswick.

“As you’ve heard me and others doing this work say, starting sexuality education in the teen years is far too little, too late,” Ms. Schroeder said. “… early childhood sexuality education, like early childhood education, establishes the invaluable foundation on which we adults can all continue to build so that the more explicit sex education that is provided in the teen years and beyond doesn’t feel like it is coming out of left field.”

Ms. Schroeder’s talk followed a presentation by nine members of Answer’s “teen staff” about how withholding information about sex can negatively affect their lives. “I asked my parents what ‘gay’ meant, and they told me it was a sin,” said one. “We need you, the people we trust the most, to be open and honest with us,” said another.

A serious challenge faces Answer this year, according to Ms. Schroeder. “It’s about a formerly stealth, and now quite open, campaign against sexuality education in this country,” she said. “It’s about the calculated, non-stop attacks on the work we do, attacks that are right there with the attacks on women’s health and rights, that have grown stronger and more vociferous in nature over the past few years in particular. It’s about a focused, determined effort to keep young people in the dark, to justify misleading and lying to teens as keeping them ‘innocent’ about the more adult issues people face in today’s world with regard to sexuality.”

Citing the “abstinence until marriage” approach being implemented in some New Jersey public schools, Ms. Schroeder praised a local organization. “Why don’t adults in these school districts care that their children are being lied to?” she asked. “Why are we letting misinformation be provided, when we have wonderful organizations right here in New Jersey — HiTOPS being one of them — that work with schools to provide high quality sexuality education?”

Sexuality education is about more than preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Young girls in particular are made to feel worthless for having sexual feelings in the first place, Ms. Schroeder said. “What is the impact of that? Research shows that the worse a person feels about her or himself, the poorer the decisions they tend to make about sexuality.”

Answer wants to shift the way parents and others throughout the country see sexuality education. “People are ignorant about sexuality education. Ignorance breeds fear; fear knows no bounds,” Ms. Schroeder said. Advocating young people’s need for age-appropriate sexuality information in schools and at home is the focus of the organization’s nationwide campaign to get across the message that sexuality is as important as any other social issue. “Does a young person stop going through puberty just because he is homeless? Does a parent living below the poverty line not need to talk with her children about sexuality?” she asked.

Answer has made progress over the past few decades, but there is much work left to be done, according to Susie Wilson, whose pioneering work at Rutgers University formed the foundation for what Answer is today. “There have been real advances. Certainly New Jersey, since we were the second state in the nation to do this, got a head start on everybody,” she said after the program. “But we still don’t treat this as a subject equal with all the other subjects in school. It’s still on the periphery, because it’s not tested. Health and sexuality education don’t ever get tested. That’s very important. I don’t think we can get parity on this until we test on it.”

Resistance to educating young children about sexuality centers around the belief that it will encourage them to have sex, Ms. Wilson believes. “But look at Penn State,” she said, referring to the recent conviction of the University’s retired football coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period. “What happened there is that these kids didn’t know [how to recognize] what was going on, because they weren’t taught it earlier.”


REACHING OUT: “I like talking with people, spending time with them, listening to their stories, and I like to help them. I especially enjoy being with senior citizens. They have a history.” April McElroy, a mainstay at the Princeton Senior Resource Center, plans to retire at the end of October.

“It is hard to imagine the Senior Resource Center without April’s smiling face. She always has that smile, and in addition, a little air of mischief. She’s our cheerleader!”

Princeton Senior Resource Center volunteer and former president of the Board of Trustees Barbara Purnell is not alone in her assessment of April McElroy’s contribution to this important organization. Those who have known and worked with April McElroy at the Princeton Senior Resource Center (PRSC) all emphasize how much she will be missed when she retires at the end of October.

After 31 years as office assistant — although that title does not begin to describe or encompass her myriad responsibilities and contributions — Ms. McElroy has decided to explore new possibilities and opportunities.

“The time is right,” she explains. “I’m at a point now when I can pursue other avenues, and there are enough people to run the center very well. There are many opportunities out there. I have a lot of interests. I love to travel; I love antiques. I’m looking forward to discovering all kinds of new adventures.”

Customary Post

No consolation, though, for all those who will miss her at her customary post at PSRC.

The desire to be of service and help others was instilled in April from her earliest years. Born in Princeton in 1944, she was the second child of Willie and Barbara Hill. Older brother Billy, twin sisters Michael and Johnnie, and youngest sister Denise completed the family.

April attended Princeton Nursery School, Nassau Street Elementary School, John Witherspoon Junior High School (now the site of the Waxwood apartments on Quarry Street), and Princeton High School. She enjoyed playing with friends in the neighborhood. “We played outside, rode bikes, jumped rope, and played sports,” she remembers. “At that time, we could play in the recreation area, a big field, where the Community Park School is now located. We played there all the time. We also liked to ice skate on Lake Carnegie and Baker Rink at the University — that is until I fell and hit my head. Then, it wasn’t as much fun!”

Ms. McElroy’s friend of more than 50 years, Penney Edwards-Carter, former Borough Council Clerk, recalls those childhood days in the John Witherspoon neighborhood and the sense of community that existed. “I grew up with April’s twin sisters, Michael and Johnnie, and we were in and out of April’s house all the time. Their mother and my mother were friends too. Everyone knew each other then, and we had good times.”

Arts and Crafts

Music was also important to the Hill family. April went to Sunday School at the First Baptist Church, and later sang in the church choir. “I preferred to sing in a chorus than alone,” she says, “but in first grade I did sing a duet with a classmate. We all sang in the family. My brother Billy went on to establish the Billy Hill Band, and he still sings professionally. Michael and Johnnie are accomplished singers as well as champion athletes.”

Family was very important to April, and it was a blow when her father died when she was seven. “My mother then worked as a domestic, and my grandmother Wilma helped raise us. I enjoyed being with the family. I liked it on rainy days, when my mother would spread newspapers on the table, and my sisters and I would paint and do arts and crafts. Sometimes, too, we went on family vacations to see relatives in South Carolina.

“I really admired my grandmother. She was a stately woman; she always dressed nicely. I liked it when she did my hair, and we would name the Books of the Bible.”

Although Nassau Street School was integrated, there were still difficulties for African-American children in the 1950s. When April’s fourth grade class planned a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, April had reason to expect to be chosen for a leading role because of her excellent singing voice. “I tried out for the lead, and many in the class thought I would get it. But I didn’t. The teacher told me I couldn’t be the lead because I was ‘colored.’”

April faced other challenges in school as well. “I had a reading problem. Because I didn’t read correctly, it was always hard for me, and I also didn’t test well. I’d always have anxiety because I knew there would be reading. I didn’t realize I was dyslexic until years later, when I was at PSRC.”

She did have a favorite teacher, however. “I really liked and admired Miss Stecchini, my high school English teacher. She was a good teacher, and I liked her a lot. Many years later, she was in Merwick and bed-ridden, and I went to see her. It was a good visit, and she remembered me.”

“Imperial Debs”

Visually adept, April was very good in art and drawing, and enjoyed that opportunity in school. She also played field hockey and basketball, and sang in the choir. Often, after school and on weekends, she had jobs baby-sitting.

When April was in high school, she and her sisters, Michael and Johnnie established and performed in “The Imperial Debs”, a precision drill team. “This was fun, and they appointed me captain,” says Ms. McElroy. “We performed in a lot of parades and entered competitions in Princeton and elsewhere. We even went to Boston to compete, and we beat the Cavaliers, the long-time champions.”

After graduating from high school in 1963, April made an effort to audit a variety of courses in college in the area. “I was interested in continuing to learn,” she explains, “and also, it didn’t involve taking a test, which relieved my anxiety.”

She also worked for the Acme Market in the Princeton Shopping Center, and as she reports, “I was the first black cashier at Acme.”

In addition, while at Acme, she found an opportunity to take computer classes, which was to make a difference in her life. “When I had the computer instruction, I found a niche I was comfortable with. It gave me a lot of confidence. It made me see that I was smarter than I realized.”

This computer experience later led to a position with the Mathematica Company on Alexander Road. “I worked with computers in the research department and did surveys. It was an excellent experience.”

Two Daughters

Another opportunity she was happy to accept was a position at Jet Magazine in New York City. “I worked with Mrs. John H. Johnson (who also published Ebony). “I commuted to New York, and this was an exciting time.”

Previously, in 1964, April was married to Lawson McElroy, who was from Pennington, and also had been director of the Imperial Debs. Eventually, they had two daughters, DeLaine and Dellice. In fact, prior to her marriage, April had briefly considered another career. “I really thought of becoming a race car driver! I loved to drive, and I used to race on the back roads with my cousins.”

The arrival of DeLaine, however, nipped that career in the bud, and as Ms. McElroy says, jokingly, “My daughter kept me from having a career as a race car driver!”

As it turned out, Ms. McElroy wore many hats over a series of years: working at Acme, Jet, Mathematica, also a stint at the Princeton Consignment Shop (“I love vintage clothes. I really enjoyed that experience”), Princeton Furs By Marvin on Witherspoon Street, Landau, modeling for the Soroptomist Club for 15 years and a member for three years. And she balanced much of this as a single mother after a divorce in the 1970s.

In 1981, she turned to what always had seemed her calling: helping others and making a difference in their lives.

“My mother always wanted to help people, and she set this example for us,” points out Ms. McElroy.

The Senior Resource Center’s first location was at Spruce Circle, she notes. “It had been founded by Jocelyn Helm and Karin Slaby, and in the beginning, there were just three of us: Jocelyn, Sue Tillett, and myself, and a few volunteers. For 15 years, I ran the Senior Resource Rummage Sale at Spruce Circle, and it was wonderful.

Special Events

“I was also in charge of special events and coordinated a lot of programs, including the Landau Picnic, the Salvation Army camp, the Princeton Nursery School Christmas program, and the Housing Authority of the Borough of Princeton’s government food distribution program in the community. I also had discussions with former Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed about the PSRC.

“I don’t have a college degree,” she continues. “My PhD is people. l have always spent a lot of time with people, and later, in my work at PSRC, I have found that in talking with people when they come in, spending time with them, they feel welcome and comfortable. You know, you don’t have to know someone to say hello.”

In 1994, Ms. McElroy moved to PSRC’s new location in the Suzanne Patterson Building adjacent to Borough Hall. Her responsibilities grew as the program grew, and she was involved in a series of new initiatives.

“I worked with Jan Marmor, who was the second director of PSRC, and I continued a monthly senior theme newsletter and a monthly calender that had been established. For 25 years, I have maintained the data base mailing list for 3300 recipients in the community and beyond.

“In my earlier years, I was a guide, a group leader for senior trips to Colonial Williamsburg and to upstate New York, among other places. Now, we are doing day trips to the Philadelphia Flower Show, to the theater, etc. These are very popular.”

At one point during her tenure at PSRC, Ms. McElroy also served as office assistant at Elm Court, part of the Princeton Community Affordable Housing program for seniors. “I worked with Libby Ranney, the office manager, and met a lot of people there,” she recalls. “I had an open door policy and said, ‘Come on in and talk’. I tried to let people know how important it is to talk with one another, no matter who they are. A woman I got to know there had had a bout with cancer, and we talked a lot. She got better, and then unfortunately it came back later, and she was on hospice. I went to see her, and it was a moving experience for me.”

Inviting Presence

Making a difference has been a big part of Ms. McElroy’s work. Princeton resident Rhona Porter, formerly the social worker at Elm Court, comments on Ms. McElroy’s unique ability to draw people out and make them comfortable.

“April was a delight to work with, and the residents all loved her extroverted personality. She was the first person people saw when they came into the office. She was always a warm, inviting presence.”

Current PSRC executive director Susan Hoskins LCSW echoes that view of Ms. McElroy’s contribution and character. “April’s title is office assistant, but her true gift is connecting with people of all kinds. She has welcomed so many people to PRSC, and they tell us that is why they come in. She is the personality that greets people when they come into the Suzanne Patterson Building that makes us the friendly, welcoming place to be in Princeton. She will approach anyone and start a conversation, quickly finding some interesting fact that she zooms in on, making a connection for why they must start coming to PSRC.

“April has an uncanny ability to know who is hurting, and she’ll come stand by my desk and say ‘You must come talk to this person NOW.’ I’ve learned to put down what I am doing because she is always right. I’ve learned to stop being surprised when a person says they are volunteering or coming in to a class because April told them they had to (she doesn’t accept a no answer). April believes deeply in what PSRC is all about, and she will be the first to tell others how we change lives. Over the 10 years I have known her, we have become good friends, and I expect that to continue going forward. I think she is very special.”

Anything and Everything

Adds Penney Edwards-Carter: “I believe April has done anything and everything she possibly can to help make life better for senior citizens.”

Ms. McElroy’s efforts to help those in the community have also extended to acting as chair of the Borough’s Affordable Housing program, and for the the past 25 years, serving on the Board of Elections.

Outreach has clearly been a major part of her modus operandi. “I have done a lot of outreach, including going to people’s homes to see if they need assistance. People often need help in our community. Also, I am always pulling someone into PSRC. This is important. I see situations all the time where seniors may be lonely and are not aware of all the opportunities we have here, or they are hesitant to come in and participate. They might be immigrants and not know what we offer. I see them become happier when they are involved.

“PSRC is helpful in so many ways,” she continues. “It provides opportunities for physical and mental activities and stimulation, including a lot of special seminars and classes. The number of programs has really grown over time. We also provide a lot of informational and referral material.”

Ms. McElroy has also become a photographer of note, carefully recording events and activities at PSRC on film or digitally. As one PSRC member notes: “April is a wonderful photographer. She captures the spirit of the occasion of all the events and parties, and then shares the photos with all of us.”

New Direction

Now that she is on the verge of a new direction in her life, Ms. McElroy looks forward both to changes and also to continuity. While enjoying many of the opportunities that living in Princeton brings to residents, she notes a certain loss of communal mindfulness that existed in the Princeton of her past.

“I observe what is going on around me. I think it is important to be aware of this. One of the biggest changes is in housing, all the big houses being built. And the traffic congestion. Some people can’t afford to live here anymore. There are also so many changes with the stores and the turnovers. We’ve lost a sense of continuity and community.”

On the other hand, Princeton offers so much. It is intriguing to Ms. McElroy that one may encounter any number of engaging individuals at any time. “In Princeton, you never know who you will be talking to. I like talking to interesting people, people who I may not even know, or listening to a debate. I’m getting information from that person or that event. I like what I get from this, and it is something I can incorporate into my own person.”

Ms. McElroy seems able to look back and ahead at the same time, remembering past moments, and looking forward to future opportunities, “My proudest achievement is being able to help people and sharing information, and this includes with young people as well as seniors. To be successful in life, you must have kindness and understanding.

“There have been challenges, of course,” she acknowledges. “Accepting constructive criticism has been a big part of my moving forward. And I’ve had guardian angels along the way. I like to be able to give back to others. No matter what I do in the future, whatever adventures I encounter, I want to continue to be a person who reaches out to connect with people and to help them.”


If you’re old enough to have American roadside memories, you may read this row of signs from last weekend’s Friends of the Princeton Public Library Book Sale this way: Book Sale/Saturday/Prices Low/Sure to Save/Burma-Shave. In fact, this table of History and Americana is being browsed during the Saturday afternoon calm following Friday’s tumultuous opening. Co-chairs Sherri Garber and Eve Niedergang report that this year’s sale broke last year’s record. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

October 10, 2012

CELEBRATING 15 YEARS: The Princeton Charter School community gathered on Monday to ­celebrate the school’s 15th anniversary.

It all began 15 years ago with 72 children, about a dozen-and-half determined parents, and a meager one-and-one-half floors of space. Now the Princeton Charter School (PCS) is recognized as “one of the best schools in the state of New Jersey,” according to Assistant Commissioner of Education Evo Popoff, who spoke on Monday at a celebration of the school’s anniversary.

The parents who signed the original charter application and are referred to by PCS’ers as the “founders,” were cited for their vision and tenacity more than once during the program. “This is the most democratic form of education we have in this country,” noted Mr. Popoff. “It’s based on a parent’s decision.” He praised the over 5,000 current charter schools across the country for “creating opportunities for innovation,” and pointed to the fact that PCS was open on Monday, when other schools were closed for Columbus Day, as evidence of PCS’s rigorous philosophy of education.

“The founders said, ‘we are going to focus on students,” said Mr. Popoff. The result, he added, is that PCS isn’t “pulled back by the things that often pull back schools across the state.”

The original mission of Princeton Charter School was premised on the belief that a “thorough and efficient education is best accomplished through a rigorous curriculum that requires mastery of core knowledge and skills.”

Unlike non-charter public schools, PCS, which is now a kindergarten through eighth grade school with 350 students, must acquire and renovate its facilities within its operating budget. In 2010, the school, without using any taxpayer money, opened an environmentally-friendly, 17,000 square foot multi-use facility that houses a black-box theater, a gymnasium, and an art studio. Before the school received any public funding, the costs for student outreach and teacher recruitment were funded solely by an association of Friends of PCS. The first phase of the renovations of the facility at 575 Ewing Street (now 100 Bunn Drive) was donated to the school by Friends of PCS, and they have continued to provide major funding and support for both events and facilities.

In his comments on Monday, physical and health education teacher Mark Papp recounted the dramatic evolution of the school’s facilities. After his job interview with Head of School Charles Marsee and board member Herman Tull 12 years ago, Mr. Papp asked where the school’s gym was. “Herman Tull was laughing so hard he almost fell on the floor,” said Mr. Papp. Mr. Marsee informed him that there was no gym, but on a tour of the school’s modest facilities later that day, Mr. Papp noted that there already was a science lab. “‘These people care about education,’” he recalled thinking.

This ability to make do with a limited amount of resources has also characterized PCS faculty. Another speaker on Monday, science teacher Mark Schlawin, described teachers who taught four and five classes a term; proctored study halls; and substituted for one another when necessary. “The test scores began high and have been climbing ever since,” he said of the award-winning school.

A video, “Founding Principals, Founding Principles of the Princeton Charter School,” can be seen on YouTube.

For more information on the Princeton Charter School, visit http://pcs.k12.nj.us/.


Springboard, an after school tutoring and homework help center once housed in the Princeton Public Library, has moved. Its new location is room C-104 at the Walnut Lane entrance of John Witherspoon Middle School.

“For the last five years or so, the library has been underwriting the cost of Springboard, but many of those sources have dried up,” said Executive Director Leslie Burger. Springboard usage statistics, she added, were not encouraging. She expressed delight, however, in the fact that the “Princeton Public Schools found a new home for Springboard.”

“The quality program that you have come to expect and rely on will be the same,” Springboard spokeswoman Joyce Turner reported in a letter to the community announcing Springboard’s new location. The free drop-in program, which does not require appointments, will continue every Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. when the Princeton Public Schools are open.

In the meantime, the library has created other on-site after-school options, including a new tutoring program, for youngsters. These include a chess club, a Mac lab where students work on collaborative projects, and the addition of laptops to the third-floor teen area. All of these activities, said Ms. Burger, are either subsidized by outside funds, and/or staffed by volunteers.

More traditional after-school homework help from adult community volunteers and college level students is also now available at the library from 4 to 6 p.m. every Monday through Thursday when Princeton Public Schools are in session. Students in all grades from all Princeton schools are welcome, and, like Springboard, registration is not required.

In the past, Springboard estimated that it helped between 10 and 35 students per day. In 2000, the American Library Association honored Springboard with an award for excellence in after-school programming for young adults.

“For over 20 years we loved working with the library,” said Ms. Turner. “The collaboration was just wonderful; the library provided books, and Springboard provided instruction.

“It won’t be the same,” Ms. Turner added. “We’ve sent a letter to the youth services staff at the library, telling them how much we’ll miss them.” The new middle school location now being used was felt to provide the “best balance” for students in all grades.

Ms. Turner said that she was grateful for continued support from the F.I.S.H. Foundation, to staff who took a pay cut, and to the school district for offering a space. “We’re not going to let the program die. Many of the kids who come in have special education needs and come from low-income families.”


A NEW BREW: Eric Nutt, left, and Tom Stevenson, both of Triumph Brewing Company, are ready to dispense the Black Squirrel Ale that brewmaster Stevenson has concocted after a suggestion from Steve Omiecinski, co-owner of Princeton Black Squirrel Company. The brew will be on tap Monday, October 15 starting at 6 p.m.

At Communiversity last spring, Steve Omiecinski, co-owner of Princeton Black Squirrel Company, ran into Tom Stevenson, the brewmaster for Triumph Brewing Company on Nassau Street. The talk, about business, inevitably turned to beer.

“I said to Tom, ‘Wouldn’t it be kind of neat if we had a black squirrel beer?’, Mr. Omiecinski recalls. “He started scratching his chin. I think he was building a recipe on the spot.”

A few months later, Eric M. Nutt, Triumph’s sales and public relations manager, called Mr. Omiecinski to say Mr. Stevenson had come up with a brew. The result, Black Squirrel Ale, will debut at a barrel-tapping, to which the public is invited, on Monday, October 15 starting at 6 p.m. The nutty brew will remain available at Triumph for the next two or three weeks.

Mr. Omiecinski and his wife Mimi, who owns Princeton Tour Company, founded Princeton Black Squirrel Company two years ago with partner Rob Green, to promote all things Princeton and encourage collaborations
between businesses, residents, Princeton University, and community organizations. The name refers to the town’s unique population of black squirrels, which legend has it were imported to Princeton by 19th century philanthropist Moses Taylor Pyne.

“The company’s message is increasingly well understood,” says Mr. Omiecinski, whose day job is running the North American marketing organization for Terumo, a Japanese medical device firm. “I think everything about the Black Squirrel brand is celebrating everything about this town, and how businesses and the University and the residents can all contribute to making this a better place.”

Black Squirrel donates a portion of its profits to the Princeton Public Library. The company sells its mugs, tee-shirts, and decals at Landau on Nassau Street and Luxaby Baby and Child in Palmer Square. “We’re exploring other opportunities to partner with other small businesses,” Mr. Omiecinski says. “The idea is to have ways to promote and
celebrate the town.”

Mr. Omiecinski, Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Nutt are hoping to attract a sizable crowd to the barrel-tasting. Describing the brew, Mr. Stevenson said, “The beer is basically a Porter, or dark brown ale. It’s brewed with American-grown chestnuts, and will have some hazelnut flavor. Between the two, we hope it’s nutty enough to be appealing to a squirrel.”

All joking aside, this is Mr. Stevenson’s first venture into making a nutty beer. At Triumph, he has created more than 100 different styles of beer. “They can be trying to emulate an existing style, or revive an old one,” says Mr. Nutt. “Some have legitimate stylistic roots. Others are made up.”

Bar patrons who show up at the barrel-tapping wearing Princeton Black Squirrel apparel will get their first Black Squirrel Ale for free, courtesy of Triumph. Mr. Omiecinski says he is waiting until the barrel-tapping to get his first taste of the brew. “I’m refraining until then,” he says. “I want to be surprised.”


Witherspoon Grill’s Fourth Annual Harvest & Music Festival for Trenton Area Soup Kitchen prevailed Sunday in spite of the chilly turn taken by the weather.

October 3, 2012

SAFE HOUSE: Crawford House in Skillman provides shelter and treatment to women in the early stages of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The organization will honor several local businesses that have employed residents at its annual Harvest Dinner on Thursday, October 18.

Erin was a student and a part-time lifeguard when she became addicted to alcohol, and then heroin. Last year, the Wayne native made a decision which she says changed her life. She came to Crawford House, the 34-year-old residential treatment center in Skillman for women in the early stages of recovery.

“I felt really safe while I was there,” says Erin, 23, who declined to provide her last name. “I felt like I could open up and just work on my issues, without the influence of the drug world. I could get honest about everything that went on in my life and get it all out in the open. And I could get a job, which taught me a lot of responsibility.”

A year later, Erin still holds the position that has been key to her successful recovery. She is a cashier and floor-worker at Smith’s Ace Hardware in Princeton Shopping Center, one of several local businesses that have hired Crawford House residents who are in the process of recovering. The organization will honor the hardware store along with McCaffrey’s Market, Jordan’s Stationery and Gifts, and Chez Alice of Princeton; Chartwell’s Dining Services and the Red Oak Diner of Montgomery; and Wendy’s, Shop-Rite, and Nelson’s Corner Pizza of Hillsborough; at its annual benefit on October 18, to be held at the Marriott at Forrestal.

“We try to honor someone from the community every year who is a good partner of ours,” says Crawford House Executive Director Linda M. Leyhane. “This year we decided on small businesses in the community, which have been so helpful to us. There are a lot more businesses that choose not to be recognized, for whatever reason.”

The women who come to Crawford House are unemployed, uninsured, homeless, or indigent. They go through a 12-step recovery program based on the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. They have individual and group counseling sessions, and get training in independent living skills. They don’t pay for Crawford House’s services. Funding comes from a variety of sources including the United Way of Northern New Jersey, the Mercer, Somerset, and Middlesex boards of chosen freeholders, foundations, corporations, and individual donors.

“These are women who might have started using drugs at age eight or nine,” says Ms. Leyhane. “They come from families in which drug use is part of their background, their culture. They have usually had multiple treatment failures in the past. It’s not rehabilitation, it’s habilitation. They don’t have the skills that you and I take for granted, like doing laundry, changing sheets, boiling water. We start will all kinds of life skill training.”

With addiction often comes a social aspect. “It’s a very isolating disease,” Ms. Leyhane continues. “You don’t know how to interact socially. If you started using young, you’ve missed out.”

There are about 180 halfway house beds in New Jersey, 22 of which are at Crawford House. Women are referred to the program from rehabilitation and detox centers, physicians, the Intensive Supervisory Program, the New Jersey Substance Abuse Initiative, and the Drug Court Initiative. Crawford House is the only program in the state that also admits clients who refer themselves.

Residents sign up for six months of treatment, but many stay longer. They must be residents of New Jersey, aged 18 or older, free of substance abuse for at least two weeks, and free from communicable diseases like tuberculosis. They must also be employable, because a major part of the Crawford House program is geared to getting and keeping a job. After 30 days of orientation, the women obtain 30 hours a week part-time employment, and contribute a portion of their salary to room and board. The idea is to foster self-worth, economic independence, and self-sufficiency.

“After orientation and two educational groups a day, meetings with a counselor, and attendance at 12-step program meetings in the community, [a resident] develops a good network that will take her out to meetings on her own,” says Ms. Leyhane. “Then she gets a job in the community.”

Lewis Wildman, who owns Jordan’s in Princeton Shopping Center, has been employing Crawford House residents for several years. “Generally speaking, it’s worked out pretty well,” he says. “It’s a great source of employees to be found here, because in general, who is looking for an entry level job in a retail store in Princeton? Nobody. So it’s good for us. Mostly, these are people who are anxious to work. It’s been successful for us and them. I think it’s a terrific program.”

McCaffrey’s Market is another frequent employer of women from Crawford House. “We’re the kind of organization that likes to help out people and give them a second chance, so we do our best,” says Ken Toth, the store’s lead meat merchandiser. “We’ve had quite a few good people from Crawford House. We still have one excellent person who started with us when she was there, and she’s been with us for several years.”

Crawford House teaches residents to fill out job applications and handle themselves in an interview. “It’s how to present yourself, how to dress,” says Ms. Leyhane. “We talk a lot about what takes place in the workplace. Then they go out and get their own positions. That means when they transition out, they have a job, a place to live, and after-care.”

The goal is for clients in treatment to maintain a substance-free lifestyle, learn how to avoid communicable diseases or manage them if already infected, stay employed, have healthy relationships, and transition to independent living.

Success stories vary. “We measure success in a lot of different ways,” Ms. Leyhane says. “If a woman has never worked, has no social security number, and we can get that, then that’s success. If she is reunited with her family, or gets her medical issues attended to, that’s success, too.”

For information about the 2012 Harvest Dinner on October 18, email devdirector@crawfordhouse.org.


“Most people don’t know there’s a lieutenant governor,” said Kim Guadagno at a recent meeting of The Present Day Club. She was referring to the newly-created job she has held since 2010.

“There’s no job description; no salary; and no office,” she reported. “Every day I go to work and do something new and different. The rule is that there are no rules.”

At least two aspects of Ms. Guadagno’s job delight her. One is driving into New Jersey and seeing her name at the bottom of the “Welcome to New Jersey” sign. The other is working for Governor Chris Christie.

“I’m lucky,” she said. “This is a really conservative governor who didn’t want to create more government, add more space, or pay another staff member.” As a result, she and Mr. Christie “looked around the State House” and concluded that Ms. Guadagno should also serve as Secretary of State. In that capacity, she acquired an existing office and has responsibilities related to “culture, arts, history, travel, and tourism.”

“The governor is never wrong,” said Ms. Guadagno, “I do anything the governor tells me to do.” Her job as second-in-command is a “reactive office,” she said, except when Mr. Christie is out of state and she becomes acting governor. She made light of the instance last year when both she and Mr. Christie were out of state at the same time and heavy snow fell in New Jersey. “We’re now very careful to check each other’s schedules,” she noted.

Ms. Guadagno said that she had not followed “your traditional trajectory to public office.” After graduating from American University Law School in 1983, she began her public career as a federal prosecutor, working in Brooklyn for the Organized Crime and Racketeering Strike Force. When she and her husband, Mike, moved to New Jersey, she joined the United States Attorney’s office in Newark, and later went on to serve as assistant attorney general and deputy director of the Division of Criminal Justice. In 2007, Ms. Guadagno became the first female sheriff of Monmouth County. She does not rule out a second term as lieutenant governor if Mr. Christie is reelected. Either way, she plans to return to private practice when her stint in office is over.

“It’s about the next generation,” said Ms. Guadagno in her comments about economic development in New Jersey. She prides herself on having spoken with “thousands of business people” and cutting through “red tape” by freely circulating her email address and cell phone number. Responding to a question about why the governor chose not to participate in the tunnel project known as ARC (Access to the Region’s Core), Ms. Guadagno said that as it was planned, this “train to nowhere” stood to benefit only New York City. “If they stepped up to the table to pick up more of the cost we’d have done it,” she added.

The Present Day Club is a private women’s club established in 1898 as “an intellectual and social center of thought and action among the women of Princeton.” Located at 72 Stockton Street, membership in the club, which is by invitation only, includes a Wednesday luncheon and invited speaker; bridge tournaments; theater trips, guided day trips, and a book club. The facilities and food service are available for private parties and business functions.

For more information call (609) 924-1014 or write to THEPRESENTDAY@aol.com.


In keeping with Superintendent Judy Wilson’s recent advice not take the measure of students and schools with test scores alone, the public schools will present “Healthy State of Mind,” a panel discussion with behavioral health specialists from around the region on Monday, October 8, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Black Box Theater at Princeton High School (PHS).

PHS Principal Gary Snyder will help facilitate the discussion. He will be joined by Trinity Counseling Service Clinical Psychologist Molly Palmer; Rider University Professor Karen Gischlar; Princeton House Counselor Nicole Orro; therapist Julie Neufeld; and Traumatic Loss Coalition coordinator George Scott. PHS Guidance Supervisor Angela Cecil will also be on hand for the program.

The October 8 event is the first in the public schools’ Princeton Balance Speakers Series for 2012-13. Intended primarily for parents of middle- and high school-age children, the talk will provide information and support in promoting good mental health and a sense of balance in the lives of pre-teens and teens as they negotiate life transitions, relationship challenges, and academic and social issues.

“Judy wanted the first program to have something that would acknowledge that we want a sense of balance in our children’s lives,” said public school spokeswoman
Assenka Oksiloff. The Princeton Balance Series was launched last year; it is intended to offer three events each year that “address issues that span all the grades,” Ms. Oksiloff noted.

In addition to working at Trinity Counseling Service, panelist Molly Palmer and her colleague, Melinda Noel, run a leadership class for eighth graders at John Witherspoon Middle School. The focus of the once-a-week meetings, she said, is on “leadership skills, self-esteem, self-awareness, and positive inter-personal skills.”

“My specific part is going to be about transitions and the risk factors that are associated with transitions,” reported Julie Neufeld describing her role in the October 8 discussion. “Some of the transitions that preteens and teens go through are obvious and clear cut, like moving from middle school to high school. Some of them are a little bit more obscure.” More nuanced problems occur, she said, when a student goes from being first in his or her middle school class to something lower than number one in high school. Being moved from a varsity athletic team to a less competitive one can be similarly problematic. “Sometimes a kid’s identity is so centered around being at the top of the class or being a great athlete,” said Ms. Neufeld. A change that they perceive as a kind of demotion can have a negative affect. She plans, she said, to highlight different types of transitions, “and help parents know what kinds of things might cause an increase in insecurity and a decrease in self-esteem.”

Rider University Professor Karen Gischlar specializes in “behavioral principles,” with a particular focus on the hard-to-manage child. Her other areas of interest are school psychology, and behavioral and academic assessment.

The Princeton Balance Speaker program is scheduled for February 13. The topic will be “Leading healthier lives Through Nutrition and Exercise.”


A domestic moment Saturday on the Princeton Battlefield circa 1770-something — if you air-brush out the cars and the phone lines. The occasion was “Colonial Days Revisited,” which featured tours of the Clarke House and the battlefield, a horseshoe challenge for kids, Colonial domestic and Revolutionary War demonstrations, and a children’s scavenger hunt. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

September 26, 2012

NO JUNK FOOD: Pallets of canned foods await delivery in the sprawling warehouse of Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, where director Phyllis Stoolmacher keeps a close eye on nutritional content. The organization will celebrate its 25th anniversary of serving those in need with a party at the warehouse on Friday, October 5. (Photo by Andrew Wilkinson)

It’s Thursday at the Mercer Street Friends’ Food Bank facility in Ewing Township, and the 10,000-square-foot warehouse is bustling with activity. As is customary each week, local charities are loading their trucks with fresh produce, canned vegetables, and packaged foods to feed the hungry of Mercer County.

In one corner of the sprawling space, volunteers repack bulk bags of pasta into smaller, family-size packages. Another group nearby assembles boxes of Parmalat milk, plastic containers of fruit cups, and other foods for the “Send Hunger Packing” boxes that go home with children who get free breakfasts and lunches at school, but might not have access to adequate food over the weekends.

There is significant hunger in Mercer County. Most local residents are unaware of how widespread a problem exists. The statistics are sobering: More than 25,000 here are “food insecure,” meaning they lack consistent access to adequate food. A large proportion of them are children. The Food Bank, which will celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary with a festive fundraiser in the warehouse on October 5, moves about 50,000 pounds of food a week, to some 60 organizations including the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Homefront, the Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, and the Princeton Deliverance Center.

Phyllis Stoolmacher, the Food Bank’s energetic director, knows the numbers by heart. She has been shepherding the program since its inception. “Our role is to garner resources and ensure that hungry people have a steady and reliable source of food,” she says, during a briskly paced tour through the warehouse. “There’s a lot of excess food out there. We secure it and redirect it to other non-profits – shelters, meal sites, day care centers. People just don’t realize the extent of hunger in Mercer County.”

The donations come from the food industry, retail stores, the USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program, the State Food Purchase Program, farmers, and community food drives, among other sources. And Ms. Stoolmacher is picky about what she accepts – no junk food. “We have high standards,” she says. “No soda, no candy, no Ramen noodles. About 50 percent of what we have is fruit and vegetables. It has to be nutritionally sound. We’re the second smallest food bank in the state, but we certainly have the highest standards.”

Ms. Stoolmacher likes to think of the Food Bank as not just a food distribution program, but a hunger prevention program. Through its member organizations, the Food Bank holds nutrition workshops and outreach to make healthy food more available to those in need. The federal program formerly known as food stamps is now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and the Food Bank initiated a SNAP Outreach in 2010. “People might not realize that they qualify for this, and we help them break down barriers,” Ms. Stoolmacher says. “I’m disturbed by the rhetoric of putting a negative view of food programs for the poor. This is not an entitlement program. It enables people to put food on their tables, and the money that is spent in the local community, in local supermarkets, is revenue.”

Middle class people who live in the suburbs are the fastest growing segment of those the organization serves. “Most people understand that hunger is a result of poverty,” Ms. Stoolmacher says. “But they assume that it is an inner city problem. That’s not true. Since the recession, it has spread to the suburbs. People have lost their jobs, and they are just not finding work. We’re seeing more food pantries opening in Hamilton Township than in the city of Trenton. We work with several groups in Princeton. There isn’t a community in Mercer County, or America, that doesn’t have hunger.”

A program of the Trenton-based, Quaker-affiliated Mercer Street Friends, the Food Bank was initially housed in the city’s Rescue Mission. The spacious warehouse in Ewing Township’s West Trenton section is outfitted with refrigeration and freezer areas. It is the logical spot for the gala party that will mark the organization’s twenty-fifth birthday. “We’re a Quaker-based organization, so we’re not going to do this at the Hilton,” Ms. Stoolmacher says. “We wanted to note the anniversary and use it as a way to raise funds and awareness. So what better place than our warehouse?”

Food, wine, music, and a silent auction are part of the festivities. Auction items range from a Michael Graves signed drawing to a week in France, with much in between. Tickets are $75.

“We’re celebrating and we’re thanking our volunteers, because we couldn’t function without them,” Ms. Stoolmacher says. “They do the physical work. They make things happen. And we really believe in engaging the community.”


Township Committeeman Lance Liverman has had his day in court.   In an exclusive interview with Town Topics, Mr. Liverman said that on September 20 he appeared in Hopewell Township Municipal Court and pleaded guilty to charges that included “driving under the influence” (DUI),  and refusing to take a breathalyzer test immediately after he was in an accident last month.

His license has been revoked for seven months, and he is paying several thousand dollars in fines.

The accident occurred around 2 a.m. on August 9 when Mr. Liverman was driving home from a dinner with friends in Philadelphia, and his car hit an 18-wheeler that was parked on the side of Interstate 95 near Scotch Road.  He was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence, driving recklessly, making an unsafe lane change, and refusing to take a breathalyzer test following the accident.

After a September 11 court appearance at which no conclusion was reached, Mr. Liverman had been scheduled to appear in court for a trial on October 9.  Although he planned to plead guilty on September 11, he said, the media frenzy that greeted him when he arrived at the court discouraged him from proceeding.  Sympathetic Hopewell officials, including Municipal Court Judge Charles M. Ouslander, okayed a request from Mr. Liverman and his lawyer, Stephen Krazny, to appear in court on an unannounced date in order to avoid the melee.

Lest he be accused of preferential treatment, Mr. Liverman noted that this accommodation is not an unusual one.  “It’s done all the time,” he said.  “People said, ‘this shouldn’t be’ and felt bad for me.”  As a result, his name did not appear on the docket of cases to be heard on September 20, and “nobody was there” to observe the low-key denouement.

“I admit that I had a few beers,” Mr. Liverman said of the night the accident occurred.  “But I wasn’t drunk.”

While agreeing that it may have been naive of him to refuse to take a breathalyzer test, Mr. Liverman said that his decision at the time had to do with “the way I was approached. I didn’t think it would serve my best interests.”  Although he “hopes that this was not the case,” the fact that Mr. Liverman is black “could have been” a factor in how things played out. “I’ve been asked that question 50 times,” he reported.   Mr. Liverman said that the arresting officer reprimanded him for slouching as he sat, handcuffed, in police headquarters the evening of the accident, and refused to honor a request to lower the charges against Mr. Liverman.  “‘No, I want to see him in court,’” Mr. Liverman quoted the officer as saying.

During the interview, Mr. Liverman expressed “amazement” at the outpouring of support he has received from the Princeton community in the wake of the incident.  “I serve Princeton,” he commented, and along with the support of his family and Princeton Township, he has, and continues to receive, encouraging emails, cards, phone calls, and offers from area residents willing to drive for him.  “I’m very blessed and very fortunate,” he observed.  He also took the opportunity to apologize to the Princeton community “for this unfortunate incident.  I am truly sorry for disappointing anyone,” he said, adding that “as a leader I know that my actions are always amplified.”

Perhaps one of the best outcomes of the experience, Mr. Liverman suggested,  is that he has “already taught someone.”  Just this past Saturday he received a phone call from a motorist who agreed to take a breathalyzer test “because he knew of my case.”

“I haven’t changed any of my views,” said Mr. Liverman, who confirmed that he will remain in the upcoming race for Princeton Council.  “I’m the same guy I’ve been for 19 years.”

Mr. Liverman speaks with pride about his wife, Latonya Kilpatrick Liverman, a patent-holding doctor in the Research and Development arm of Colgate-Palmolive, and his mother, who also resides in Princeton. The Livermans’ three daughters are all in Princeton Public Schools, and include a second grader at Community Park; a seventh grader at John Witherspoon Middle School; and an 11th grader at Princeton High School.  “I’m at every back-to-school night,” Mr. Liverman joked.


Mayoral hopefuls Liz Lempert (D) and Dick Woodbridge (R) were named as a “panel” and given the chance to ask questions in response to four transit-related presentations given on Saturday morning at a Princeton Future meeting.

After the first presentation, a talk billed as a “Planned Projects Status Report of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Central New Jersey Transportation Forum” by Sustainable Jersey Chair Pam Mount, Princeton Future Chair Sheldon Sturgis was quick to point out – not without humor – the virtual absence of questions from the candidates. Not surprisingly, perhaps, each referred to their own achievements and ideas on the topics at hand.

Focusing on local, present-day concerns, Ms. Lempert, who is Township Deputy Mayor, cited recent Township Committee street improvements, and spoke of the difficulties posed by the current Department of Transportation “trial” that limits left-hand turns onto Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street.  Referencing  his long-time history in the area, Mr. Woodbridge, who grew up in Princeton and served as Township mayor, spoke of changes he has witnessed over the years and referred to old friendships with officials like former Borough Mayor Marvin Reed, who was at the meeting.

Looking ahead, however, Mr. Woodbridge picked up what became a recurring theme of the morning: that Princeton is a regional center with broad, metropolitan concerns.  Mr. Woodbridge noted that more than two million people a year visit Princeton.

Neither candidate responded to Ms. Mount’s assertion that she “believes in government, but on a very limited basis.”

Mr. Reed, who is currently chair of the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Regional Planning Board, gave a report on “A Mobility Plan for the New Princeton.”   People who packed the Library’s Community Room for the meeting had a good laugh when Mr. Reed pointed out that consolidation means Borough residents will no longer be able to blame Township residents for whatever is wrong, and, of course, vice-versa.

In his talk, Mr. Reed emphasized the discrepancy in the number of people traveling into Princeton (approximately 25,000) and the number of motorists leaving the area (approximately 6,500) each day.  He also noted that any future development in the area will be “redevelopment,” rather than the creation of large new corporate facilities or groupings of multiple new houses.

On a related note, Consolidation Commission Chair Anton Lahnston averred that it is simply not possible to “build out of congestion.” He also spoke of the “perception in Princeton” that public transportation is “not for us.”

Ralph R. Widner of the Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee delivered a well-received report on “Using a Traffic Database to Fully Frame Problems and Options.”  He suggested that 80 percent of Princeton’s traffic problems “come from outside,” and that focusing on “point to point” transit systems in the community was not the way to go. He reported that statistics being compiled for a local traffic database would “provide a total map of the whole problem,” and cited a need for being proactive and creating a “foreign policy” on traffic that would be in the New Jersey economy’s best interests.

Yan Bennett and Steven Kruse of the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee gave the fourth presentation, “An Ad Hoc Bike Plan for Princeton,” emphasizing the need to reconcile car traffic volume with the number of bicycle riders in the area.  Responding to this last talk, Ms. Lempert, who is a member of the the Joint Pedestrian and Bike Committee and the Traffic Safety Committee, discussed educating the public about bike routes in order to become a “bike-friendly” city.  Mr. Woodbridge described observations he’s made during his routine 13-1/2 mile bike ride around the area.

Princeton Future, which was created in 2009, describes itself as a “diverse, nonpartisan group of volunteers of Princeton Borough, Township and region. .. dedicated to protecting and enhancing our unique community and we share concerns about the directions future growth and development may take.” This most recent meeting gave participants an opportunity to join “break-out sessions” focusing on particular kinds of neighborhoods after the presentations.

 

The Princeton Battlefield Society has filed an appeal in the ongoing battle to prevent the Institute for Advanced Study from building a faculty housing development on land the group maintains was key to the Revolutionary War. The appeal was filed on September 21 in Superior Court, to try and reverse an approval given to the project by the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commisson on August 15.

The Institute had sought a waiver from the Commission because part of the development is in stream corridors, according to the Battlefield Society. But because they lacked a quorum, the Commission could not act on the proposal. They gave default approval, due to a rule that a project gets automatically approved should the Commission be unable to act on it within 45 days.

“We’re questioning the constitutionality of it,” says Jerald Hurwitz, president of the Battlefield Society. “If you don’t have a quorum, it automatically gets approved? How does that work? That means that all somebody needs to do to sabotage a process is simply make sure they can’t be heard within the 45 days. There’s something wrong with that.”

The project, which was approved by the Regional Planning Board last March, would include homes on seven acres, with 14 acres left open for use by the public. The Battlefield Society filed a lawsuit in July appealing the approval. They are preparing an additional lawsuit involving the use of wetlands, maintaining that the project would violate the Clean Water Act.

Additionally, the group filed a complaint in Chancery Court in April, asking for a judicial determination on various site limitations created by a 1992 agreement between the Institute and Princeton Township.

While he doesn’t believe that the recent ruling by the Canal Commission was intended to automatically grant the Institute a waiver, Mr. Hurwitz doesn’t   think the process is fair. “We don’t get our day in court because there is no hearing. How is that? We felt we had to do or say something,” he said. “This is a gray area and I think there are some serious problems with it.”

The Canal Commission has had several vacancies recently, and there have been no recent appointments by Governor Chris Christie. But several new members have been nominated and are awaiting legislative approval.


While the Autumn Equinox may have shifted the seasons Saturday, a summer calm prevails in this Lake Carnegie Sunday afternoon idyll. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

September 19, 2012

FLIGHT OF A FAMILY: Pictured after their resettlement in New York State, the Bauer family is the subject of a documentary by Dan Bauer, to be screened at Princeton Public Library this weekend.

Growing up near Buffalo, New York, Dan Bauer often heard the stories of his family’s harrowing escape from the Nazis. A comfortable Jewish family in 1930’s Vienna, they were forced to leave when Hitler began rounding up Jews and sending them to concentration camps. Mr. Bauer, who is McCarter’s Theatre’s communications director, knew about his grandfather’s time at Buchenwald, and how a family connection managed to get him released. He knew about the family’s eventual relocation to New York. He was aware of who had survived and who had not.

But it wasn’t until his grandmother was approaching her 100th birthday that Mr. Bauer began to feel that her story needed to be told. With the help of family members and friends, the novice filmmaker directed a documentary he called leben um zu sagen (“Live to Tell”), which will be screened Sunday, September 23 at 2 p.m. at Princeton Public Library. A panel discussion will follow the 30-minute showing.

“When my grandmother was 99, my stepmother mentioned to me that someone should get her story on video,” Mr. Bauer said over a cup of tea last week at Infini-T Tea and Spice Souk. “Once I started thinking about it, I knew I wanted to do it properly. I knew I would need a budget and some expertise to put together a project that would be a keepsake.”

Mr. Bauer’s younger brother agreed to help finance the project. Rutgers film student Mary Conlon, daughter of Princeton Public Library librarian Susan Conlon, was hired to do the filming. She was assisted by her father, a former cameraman at New Jersey Network. Mr. Conlon also loaned the equipment.

“I started to look at documentaries,” Mr. Bauer recalled. “I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing. They just weren’t what I wanted. They kind of left me cold.”

Mr. Bauer decided to reach out to Susan Wallner, a friend who used to work for New Jersey Network and now works for PMK Video. “Susan agreed to edit the film,” he said. So because I knew everyone involved, I was able to be a close part of the process. There was a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of integrating family photos into the story. It felt like a true collaboration.”

Beautifully coiffed and elegantly dressed, the subject of the film seems decades younger than her 100 years. Grete Bauer is comfortable in front of the camera, telling her family’s remarkable story of  survival with quiet dignity.

Her grandson chose not to conduct the interviews himself. “I felt it was important to have someone young, who hadn’t heard the stories, asking her the questions,” he said. “I used Emilia LaPenta, who works at McCarter, and it worked well. I think it shows in the softness of my grandmother’s manner and the way she speaks about what happened.”

Mr. Bauer also had Ms. LaPenta interview his father Ulrich and his cousin  Heinz Herling. “I knew my grandmother would tell the story, but I also knew my father and cousin could help put the story in perspective,” he said.

All of the interviews were conducted the weekend of Grete’s centennial birthday gathering, at the Highland Park assisted living facility where she moved from the house in Brocton, New York that was the family’s headquarters for decades. The “talking heads” in the film are interspersed with family photos, some of which Grete was surprised to see when she viewed the film, Mr. Bauer said.

Mr. Bauer visits his grandmother every Sunday. Though the film is finished, he still asks her questions and records her answers. “I’m trying to put something more together for the family, with photos,” he said. “There is so much more to tell.”

The two have always been close. “She lived 45 minutes away from us, and I saw her often,” Mr. Bauer said. “When I was in college, she’d drive over and drop off brownies at my dorm room door. Now that she’s here, I definitely find time to see her every weekend.”

Princeton Public Library’s Susan Conlon is pleased to screen leben, um zu sagen and not just because her daughter was involved in the creation. “I think that Dan has achieved value that will appeal to people on two levels: he has captured this important part of his own family’s story and by sharing it others can find meaning in it; and as a “document” it illustrates and inspires others to take time and steps to preserve these experiences in their families and with people in their lives,” she said.

While Mr. Bauer had written about his family’s experiences in college and graduate school, he never thought of himself as a third generation Holocaust survivor. “A friend recently said to me, ‘Isn’t it interesting that all of your creative work comes from this one subject?’ That really  made me think,” he said.

The screening on September 23 will be followed by a panel discussion between Mr. Bauer, Dr. Paul Winkler of the New Jersey Holocaust Commission on Education, and Susan Hoskins, executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center.

“To me, this is more than a Holocaust story,” Mr. Bauer said. “I want to encourage people to get their family stories. Don’t wait until your grandparent is 100 years old. All senior citizens have a story to tell. I see this as a snapshot, by no means my grandmother’s full life story but of course a very important part of her story.”


Students at John Witherspoon Middle School (JW) caught a break last Thursday when an eighth-period (2:30 p.m.) fire led to the evacuation of the school. Although the fire was quickly contained, students were not allowed to return to the building because of the presence of smoke. Students whose backpacks were inside the building were given a reprieve from homework that evening.

Director of Plant/Operations Gary Weisman said that the fire began as a contractor “was wrapping up a little bit of investigative work on one of the electrical panels. The panel sparked and caused a little bit of a fire.”

“It was something that happened; it’s not necessarily a referendum-related fix,” Mr. Weisman said, referring to the Monday, September 24 election when Princeton residents will go to the polls to decide on a $10.9 referendum slated for infrastructure repairs to school buildings and grounds.

If the school board referendum is passed next Monday, proposed work at JW includes updating the emergency generator circuit; “re-purposing” the old gym into media center; creating new auditorium seating and sound and lighting systems; installing energy-saving window awnings; and air-conditioning the second-floor classrooms.

The most important thing about the Thursday fire, said Mr. Weisman, is that nobody got hurt. The Princeton fire department responded immediately “as always,” and provided fans to quickly rid the building of smoke. The contractor who thought he was “wrapping up” his work for the day ended up staying on site until one a.m., replacing the panel, putting in new parts, and testing the affected circuits. The building reopened the following morning.

New Jersey adopted new fire drill regulations in 2009 and 2010 requiring public schools to hold one fire drill and one security drill during the first 10 days of the start of the school year, and one drill each for every month school is in session.

No one has said how last week’s fire will be counted.


Recent reports have cited a rise in cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in the Princeton area.

A  national report  that came out in July indicated that “whooping cough is causing the worst epidemic seen in the United States in more than 50 years.”

“We had a number of cases of whooping cough in the spring that continued into the early part of the summer,” said pediatrician Louis Tesoro of the Princeton Pediatric Group. “While it seemed to subside when kids went away to camp, some new cases have popped up with the return to school.”

In Princeton, it is estimated that about 20 cases have been reported this year, as opposed to a single case the preceding year.

Once it is diagnosed, a person with whooping cough needs to remain at home until they’ve received an adequate dose (usually five days) of antibiotics.  The infection can last as long a six weeks.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes pertussis as “a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing.”  The coughing can make it hard to breathe, and a deep “whooping” sound is often heard when the patient tries to take a breath.

“There’s little you can do in the midst of the cough,”  Dr. Tesoro noted.  “The best way to prevent pertussis is to make sure that your child is completely vaccinated and to know what’s going on in your community.”  Many pertussis cases go unreported.  “If you know or suspect that your child has pertussis, said Dr. Tesoro, “get treatment as soon as you can.  If an individual is diagnosed with it, their entire family should also seek treatment.”

Very young children, in whom pertussis can cause permanent disability and even death, are of the greatest concern in treating whooping cough. “Older children and adults usually do okay with it, although it can last many weeks until the cough subsides,” Dr. Tesoro said.

“Unfortunately whooping cough begins with the same symptoms as many other respiratory infections: runny nose and other cold symptoms,” said Dr. Tesoro. After about a week, he said, the cough progresses to one that is “spasmodic in nature.” At this point it is not too late to control the spread of the infection. Contagion   occurs  when an infected person sneezes or coughs,  causing tiny droplets containing the bacteria to move easily through the air, from person to person.

The best way to prevent pertussis, say medical experts, is to get vaccinated.  There are vaccines and boosters for infants, children, preteens, teens and adults.   While most children are routinely immunized before entering school, recent reports of unpleasant side effects of vaccinations, have made some adults reluctant to vaccinate their children or give them booster shots. And, a new study recently published in The New England Journal Medicine suggests that “the protective power of the acellular vaccine declines rapidly after the final dose.”

The Library of Medicine, however, says that the DTaP, the vaccine typically given to infants, is safe. They recommend  five DTaP vaccines, usually given to children at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years.  There is evidence that children who are “fully inoculated against whooping cough become more susceptible to the disease as the vaccination wanes over time, contributing to outbreaks.”

Terhune Orchard’s fall festival, which began 36 years ago, featured farm wagon rides, pony rides, pumpkin painting, and scarecrow making for the kids, and sent people home “done with apple-picking now” and maybe with Robert Frost dreams in store: “Magnified apples appear and disappear, / Stem end and blossom end, /And every fleck of russet showing clear.” (Photo by Emily Reeves)

September 12, 2012

“L” IS FOR LITERACY: Congressman Rush Holt (center) was recently named a Literacy Champion in ceremonies at the Princeton Public Library to mark September as Adult Literacy Month in Mercer County. The award was made by (from left): Cheryl Kirton, executive director, and Lew Thurston president of the board of the Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes was also named a Literacy Champion at the ceremony.

Tutors, students and their families, librarians, and honored guests were among those present when Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County (LVMC) held a kick-off event marking September as Adult Literacy Month earlier this week at the Princeton Public Library.

There are over 60,000 Mercer County residents who cannot read above a fifth grade level, reported County Executive Brian Hughes. The inability to fill out a job application, read a newspaper, understand a prescription, or read a bed-time story to children are just a few of the consequences of this “problem for all of us.” Mr. Hughes read the official proclamation naming the month-long initiative and, along with Congressman Rush Holt (D-12), was honored as a “champion of literacy” at the event.

“Our goal is to heighten public awareness and increase the number of people who understand the vital role adult literacy training plays in our county’s well-being,” said an LVMC spokesperson.

LVMC offers free, confidential literacy programs. Former students, some of whom are now tutors themselves, were present at the library program to talk about the remarkable difference that literacy instruction made in their lives. Mr. Hughes also cited the record number of General Education Development (GED) diplomas that were awarded to residents at area correctional facilities this year.

LVMC students come from between 30 and 40 different countries, and range from the newly-arrived to those who have been here for 10 or 15 years or more. With the number of students now exceeding the number of available tutors these days, more tutors are needed. Mr. Holt, who was a tutor himself, described it as “some of the most fulfilling work you can do,” and jokingly took exception to the description of volunteering as “‘something you can do in your down time.’” “You have to be ON to tutor,” he emphasized as the audience laughed appreciatively.

Tutor and former student Eric Little also drew laughs with his description of getting new students to relax. “They’re so scared, you can see it in their eyes,” he said. Mr. Little owned up to being scared himself, since his students have included dentists and other professionals who received more education in their countries of origin than he can claim for himself.

The public is invited to LVMC’s open house at its headquarters on 3535 Quakerbridge Road, Suite 104, in Hamilton Township, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Monday, September 24. The program will include refreshments, tours, door prizes, promotions and, from 1 to 2 p.m. a model tutoring class.

Those interested in tutoring are also encouraged to take advantage of two upcoming tutor training sessions. An evening session begins Monday, October 15, and meets for five weeks from 6 to 9 p.m. A daytime session also begins October 15 and meets for five weeks from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. All classes are held at the offices of Pelletieri and Rabstein, 100 Nassau Park Boulevard, West Windsor. To sign up, call (609) 587-6027.

For more information visit www.MercerLiteracy.org.


Grassroots activists and volunteers representing the consumer advocacy organization Food and Water Watch visited the Princeton Farmers Market last week to talk about the Fracking Waste Ban Bill that is awaiting the governor’s signature. Fracking is a process of natural gas extraction that is employed in deep natural gas well drilling.

The bill passed both houses of the state legislature with strong bipartisan support. If it is enacted, it would would make New Jersey the first state in the nation to prohibit the discharge, disposal, treatment, or storage of fracking waste products.

After vetoing the bill last year, Governor Chris Christie proposed a one-year moratorium on fracking. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand, and proprietary chemicals are injected under high pressure. The pressure fractures the shale and forces open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. Pennsylvania inspectors have found that fluid spills have contaminated some waterways.

The New Jersey bill would specifically ban the treatment, discharge, disposal, or storage of any wastewater, wastewater solids, sludge, drill cuttings or other byproducts of fracking in New Jersey.

Food and Water Watch representatives encouraged those they talked to at the Farmers Market to call Governor Christie and express their support for the pending legislation.

“The response was very positive,” reported organizer Karin Wilkinson afterward. “We got around 60 signatures with promises to make the call.” With more numbers coming in from other public events in the state, Food and Water Watch hopes that at least 1,000 calls will be made to the governor’s office.

Last year, both Township Committee and Borough Council adopted an anti-fracking resolution proposed by the Princeton Environmental Commission (EC).

“Fracking companies aren’t required by law to disclose what’s in their solutions,” said EC Chair Matt Wasserman at the time. “Energy policies don’t have governance … [and] no one is giving us firm answers. I’m going to err on the side of caution … if an opportunity came up where we needed to let our lawmakers know about it, it is something folks here should be concerned about.”

For more information on Food and Water Watch visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org.


RECOVERING RANGE OF MOTION: Instructor Patti Haggerty, left, and Neurac Institute co-owner Jamie Kornbluth, right, demonstrate the gentle exercises offered by the Pink Ribbon Program, which helps breast cancer patients regain their strength and flexibility. The Bunn Drive rehabilitation studio is currently offering the program, just in time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is October.

Breast cancer patients recovering from surgery and follow-up treatments have traditionally been told by their doctors to rest during the healing process. But taking it easy, it turns out, isn’t always the best idea.

More current thinking shows that exercising as soon as possible is the key to reclaiming the range of motion commonly lost after mastectomy or the removal of lymph nodes. The simple act of washing one’s hair, or raising an arm to put dishes away in an overhead cupboard, can be severely compromised by these procedures, leading to feelings of depression and defeat.

It is early intervention — as soon as a doctor gives the green light — that can make the difference, experts say. The Neurac Institute, a local rehabilitation and sports performance center located on Bunn Drive, is now offering workout sessions specially tailored to breast cancer survivors. Known as the Pink Ribbon Program, this rehabilitation system uses Pilates exercises, principally, to help patients regain full range of motion in areas affected by their surgery. Clients can begin as early as six weeks after their procedure, or as late as several years after surgery.

“Once you get through all the drama of surgery and possibly radiation or chemotherapy, you are often told to take it easy,” says Patti Haggerty, a certified Pilates instructor who has been specifically trained in the six-year-old Pink Ribbon Program. “But there is tremendous value in exercise. It can restore range of motion. It can help prevent lymphedema (swelling of the arm caused by a compromised lymphatic system) and infections, which is everybody’s biggest fear.”

Breast cancer survivor Doreen Puglisi, a New-Jersey-based exercise physiologist, founded the Pink Ribbon Program after working with breast cancer survivors and then becoming a patient herself. She has trained more than 400 instructors in the United States, Europe, and Australia in the technique she developed. Many, like Ms. Haggerty, are Pilates instructors; others are physical therapists. The program focuses on stretching and strengthening the shoulder, chest, back, and abdominal muscles.

Once a client reaches a certain level, she (or he) can progress to regular Pilates exercise sessions, or Redcord, another system of rehabilitation offered at the Neurac Institute. “Pilates is the next step, and it’s an easy transition,” says Jamie Kornbluth, who is co-owner of the Institute. “And Patti knows just how to help the person make that transition, because she knows what they have been through. Clients don’t feel like they’re being thrown to the wind when they finish, because they can continue their fitness training right here, at the next level.”

Ms. Haggerty’s personal connection to breast cancer is her closest friend, who is a 14-year survivor of the disease. “The good news is that she is a survivor,” Ms. Haggerty says. “But what isn’t as good is that after her surgery, no one told her that she’d lose her range of motion if she didn’t exercise. If she had known, she would be better off today.”

The Pink Ribbon Program is for patients at all levels of fitness. Ideally, training should begin within a year of surgery. “The best time to start is six to twelve weeks after, because you’re really nipping it in the bud and getting that range back,” says Ms. Haggerty. “And one of the most important things for breast cancer patients is regaining control, strength, and self-esteem. This is the way to do it.”

 

Herman Parish is signing a copy of Amelia Bedelia’s latest adventure at Saturday’s Children’s Book Festival on Hinds Plaza. The character first created by his Aunt Peggy Parish in 1963 has been all his for 27 volumes. Sales number 35 million. See this week’s Town Talk for comments by other authors. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

September 5, 2012

Do school administrators have the right to require that students take a breath test prior to being admitted to a school event? What are the parameters of police jurisdiction on a public school campus?

“Students don’t leave their rights behind once they step on the school bus,” observed a recent message from the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-NJ). Rights and responsibilities on campus and in the classroom are not always clear cut, and school administrators don’t always know where students’ rights begin and end, they say.

In an effort to articulate what students (and teachers, administrators, and parents) can and cannot do, there is a new edition of the Students‘ Rights Handbook, created by the ACLU-NJ and sponsored by the New Jersey Bar Foundation.

The Handbook says, for example, that “the short answer” to the question of whether drug tests can be required is yes; “school administrators can require a student to take a drug test if there is a reasonable suspicion that the student is under the influence of drugs, and they can have a policy that requires suspicionless drug testing for students participating in extracurricular activities or who park on campus.”

Is the message on that t-shirt objectionable and can a school teacher tell a student that it cannot be worn in school? “No,” advises the Handbook. “Clothing that expresses a political message generally cannot be censored but schools can prohibit profanity, references to illegal substances, and messages that are likely to cause a material disruption.”

And foreign students should know that all New Jersey students have a right to public education in New Jersey, regardless of their immigration status.

Other topics covered in the Handbook include homeless students; freedom from discrimination; sexual harassment; married, pregnant, and parenting students; and non-English speaking students. There are chapters on students with educational disabilities; bullying; immunizations; HIV and AIDS; freedom of speech and expression; religion; search and seizure; and sexual health and education.

At 46 pages and including some 224 footnotes, the Handbook is substantial, but may not address every possible inquiry. Any unanswered questions may be sent directly to the ACLU-NJ.

To obtain free copies of the Handbook, write to the N.J. State Bar Foundation, One Constitution Square, New Brunswick, N.J. 08901-1520; call (800) FREE-LAW; or visit www.njsbf.org. The ACLU-NJ may be contacted at P.O. Box 32259, Newark, N.J. 07102, by email at info@acul-nj.org; or by visiting www.aclu-nj-org.