Tag Archives: Charity

Jumble STore

Junior League of Elizabeth-Plainfield: Ready to Rock 95 Years!

I know many of you drive past The Jumble Store on 110 Walnut Avenue in Cranford. It’s a fabulous resale store, right? But do you know much about the incredible women’s organization running this shop or how the Career Closet, housed in the upper floor, serves hundreds of women ready to re-enter the workforce? I had the pleasure of meeting the current President of the Junior League of Elizabeth-Plainfield, Nydia Diefenbach, and was just awestruck to find out how much the members give back to our own Union County.

By official definition: The Junior League of Elizabeth -Plainfield is “a chapter of the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. and is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.” However, it’s how these women live up to these ideals that will make you want to support them – or join them! Here are just a few “hot” charitable events and programs that they have this year!

Jumble SToreThe Jumble Store – serving Union County for over 80 years and is such a great resource for the whole community! From Halloween costumes, designer dresses, brand name jeans, purses, accessories, toys, knickknacks for the home – you won’t leave empty-handed at their resale shop! The proceeds all go back to aiding those in the community and to fund League driven projects such as Career Closet and Teen Closet. For information regarding store hours, special tag sales, or when to donate your own items – please visit their website at JLEP Jumble Store


Career Closet – for over 20 years the JLEP has been serving agencies such as the Urban League and other similar social services agencies. Women served are part of a re-entry program back to the workplace and come as clients of the agencies. There are appointment dates throughout the month and usually three set dates. The client may choose eight articles of clothing/accessories to compliment her business wardrobe. For example, a woman may leave with a two-piece suit, blouse, a new bra, purse, scarf, and a pair of shoes. “March Blitz” is a big month for the Career Closet! Every Wednesday of the month, 20-25 clients visit to receive their new professional outfit. Sizes of career wear range from 0-16 plus. If you would like to donate please label “Career Closet” and donate during store hours (listed in website link) or email [email protected]

Career Closet Event: November 18 – In partnership with “Heeling for Hope”, a Union County mentoring program for at-risk young women, JLEP has a day of treating them to a new look and fostering a positive outlook for the road ahead. These girls have the wonderful opportunity to visit the store that Saturday and pick out an outfit and a new pair of shoes. This is to celebrate their success and give them a sense that what they are wearing is appropriate and ready for any community or career event! JLEP is asking the community for donations of NEW shoes as part of this event. Professional shoes such as pumps, dressy flats, and low heels are all welcome! Email Career Closet Committee Chairs, Val Camara and Flo Baker at [email protected] for more information/questions.

JLEPTeen Closet – JLEP provides three workshops during the year focusing on the needs of at-risk teen girls. This past year all were held in Elizabeth and presentations were given on three separate career areas: medicine, tech/engineering, and business. The girls were educated about each area of business, given resume building techniques, and worked on presentation/job interview skills. They were also given amazing swag bags full of information and local resources.

Angel Tree Toy & New Clothing Drive – Tuesday, October 18 through Thanksgiving is their coveted Angel Tree project. This is a 30-year tradition at JLEP! They partner with Healthy Families Elizabeth and each year provide holidays for over 200 children! New outfits/pajamas combined with one gift is what is given to each child. JLEP encourages all of Union County to support this enormous holiday drive! An Amazon Wish List will go live soon and you can have the opportunity to help these ladies! Email Angel Tree Committee Chair, Laura Lanigan, at [email protected] for more information/questions.

1st Annual Little Black Dress Initiative – fashioned after a sister London chapter, the ladies of JLEP will start their “Little Black Dress” fundraiser this fall! Members will wear the same black dress for five days straight and a button that will say “Ask Me About My Dress”. The fundraiser will kick off on Giving Tuesday (11/28) and will run for the next five days. By leveraging the iconic “little black dress” and heavily using social media channels – the goal is to put a spotlight on poverty. All funds will directly benefit the Career/Teen Closet.

Ready to Celebrate 95! The women of JLEP are so excited for the chapter to be turning 95 IMG_7963years this Spring 2018! This summer they started the “Drive to 95”. Their goal is to accomplish 95 activities in 2 years! The League will extend an invitation to the entire community to celebrate their big anniversary – a Kentucky Derby Fundraiser! More information to follow but it will definitely be on Derby Day at a local country club. Expect cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and game day contests!

The JLEP consists of about 170 members – both sustainers and active members. They are always seeking new women to join the league and have some exciting socials coming up where you can find out more information about this amazing group! The League membership is open to all women of Union County – particularly members from Cranford, Westfield, and Scotch Plains/Fanwood.


Nydia mentioned that this League is very unique and welcoming. “We are mix of all walks of life: young people, new moms, empty nesters, and all ethnicities. This a diverse group of women – not your typical “ladies who lunch” – although we do lunch and love hanging out with each other! We are a close group of women who like to volunteer – we are very volunteer driven!”

How can you become a member or find out more information about this organization making powerful footprints in Union County?

Sunday, October 22 – JLEP will have a table at the Cranford Street Fair and this will be their kickoff to their membership drive! Meet some of the women and get more information about the League!

Tuesday October 24 – New Member Happy Hour at Stage House Tavern in Scotch Plains fromIMG_7957 IMG_7958 7:30 – 9:30 pm. Come out and enjoy a night of meeting new friends and finding connections with other women. JLEP New Member Chairs will be hosting and available to answer any questions. New Member Packets will be ready for pick up!






Friday, October 27 – Start your morning at Rockin’ Joe’s Coffee in Westfield at 9:00 am and sip coffee with the ladies of JLEP. Come alone or bring your child! Find out about the JLEP and meet some new friends in the community!

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Back 2 School

Patricia Perry Salon: A Westfield Experience Dedicated to Curls, Color, and Community!

Patricia PerryI know there are a million NJ hair salons to choose from– so why did I decide to pick the Patricia Perry Salon in Westfield (www.patriciaperrysalon.com)to write about this week? My friend told me about her positive experience at the salon – from the gleaming chandeliers, to the sweet woman who shampooed her hair, the first-class service, and finally how amazing her hair felt and looked! The more I learned about Patricia, her ideals, and what the salon means to her – I had to write this article!


Patricia was born in Portugal and came to the United States when she was four years old. She has been in the salon industry since she was 14 years old!! She started shampooing at a friend’s home and has been working in salons in Union County from 19 years old until the present! In fact, Patricia loves the “hair business” so much that she even quit law school for it! She decided to give the salon industry 100% of her devotion and dedicate her career to curls, color, and health conscience hair products! Oh – and don’t forget the community – she and her husband love to give back to the community that’s supported them through this crazy ride!

That’s right – this is a family business which is what I love about our community! Matthew and Patricia Perry met, married, and started this salon business together! They have two beautiful children, Jacob and Emma, and live in Clark, NJ. They opened Patricia Perry Salon in April 2015. She grew her extensive clientele in Union County salons and then came to a point in her career where they wanted to open their own salon and “do things the way we want to do it!” Matthew and Patricia went into this business as a total partnership. Patricia devotes her days to styling, the salon, and education – while Matthew handles the paperwork and marketing. You’ll always find him at the front desk so make sure to say “hi” next time you visit!


She decided to make it her mission to conquer CURLS! As she worked in the salons she noticed the curly-haired clients left with wet hair and tons of product while the other women left with a gorgeous blowout. She wanted every client to feel like they left the salon with a “finished product” and equally as beautiful. She made curls her “niche” and her main focus for Patricia Perry Salon. Did you know that 80% of the population has some sort of curl/texture to their hair? Patricia wants women to “fall in love with your hair all over again!” She says, “Love who you are – embrace your curls!”


Patricia PerryPatricia has been deemed a “Deva Curl Ambassador” – meaning she has done extensive education on her own and at the Deva Curl Deva Academy in the field of DevaCut, No Poo Transformation Service, and Pintura Highlighting. DevaCurl is a company devoted to curly hair products and stylist education of curl management. Everything you need to know is on their website here www.devacurl.com. Patricia is a “DevaStylist” and other stylists come to her salon to learn how to cut and style curly hair. All the stylists at Patricia Perry Salon are educated on curls and can formulate and prescribe styling regime for each person – it’s very individualized.


No harsh chemicals will ever be found at Patricia Perry Salon – even their keratin treatments are formaldehyde-free! “We are extremely environmentally and health conscience about the hair care products we use and sell and we stand behind them 100%. The salon specializes in boutique hair color. They use the “top of the line” Goldwell products (www.goldwell.us)– the standard for luxury hair color. Goldwell, founded in 1948 is “the most intelligent and caring system for creating and maintaining vibrant healthy hair color.”


Patricia PerryWhen you walk into the salon you will see a display case of the most beautifully labeled and packaged hair care products. They sell Davines ( www.davines.com) , a family company started in 1966 in Parma, Italy, and the leader in eco-friendly products. Davines is “farm-to-table “hair care. Earlier this year, Davines partnered with the Slow Food Foundation– “a global nonprofit that preserves food and agricultural biodiversity by connecting local farmers with alternative markets- to launch the next generation Essential Haircare. The concept is truly unprecedented. The line is comprised of nine product families. Each contains one specific active ingredient from a Slow Food farm in Italy and the name, face and story of the farmer who grows it with care and passion.”


Patricia Perry Salon wants to give you the whole package when you walk in their door. From going back to get your shampoo, to the styling experience, to walking out the door with your fresh, new look. You will be offered your choice of mimosas, wine, champagne, coffee, tea, or infused water! “It’s all about customer service. We stand behind everything we do. We know there are so many salons to choose from – we feel we are bringing something different to the table!”


Back 2 School

The salon also has an awesome “Back to School Drive” scheduled for Wednesday, August 30 –  between 10 am and 7 pm bring in a new lunchbox and your child will receive a free haircut! All proceeds benefit the YWCA of Union County. Please call the salon in advance to make an appointment for that day! “The community has completely embraced us and we want to continually give back to them!”



Trust me, I’m not trying to change anyone’s loyalty to their NJ local hair salon – but if you are looking for a new salon to experience or you haven’t had the best “curl” treatment – why not stop in? Every stylist at this salon is amazing and a true artist! You won’t be disappointed!

302 South Avenue East, Westfield, NJ 07090

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6th Annual Miles With Moms 5K and Fun Run 4/23/17

Miles With Moms 5 K and Fun RunThe 6th Annual Miles with Moms 5K and Fun Run is fast approaching, and I’m thrilled to be a sponsor of this wonderful family-friendly race that raises money for the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ. The event will take place on Sunday, April 23rd at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, with the first race starting at 9 am, and it’s sure to be a memorable day for adults and kids alike. 

I caught up with Miles with Moms volunteer Jenn Gillman to chat about this year’s event. Jenn said, “This is an event that has something for EVERYONE in the family–a 5k race, 1 mile race, free fun run for kids, great music, delicious refreshments, wonderful raffle items, and ways to keep the kids busy. Runners, walkers, moms and dads with strollers, kids, friends and neighbors are all welcome.”

If you’ve been hesitant to do a 5K with your children, this is the perfect “ice breaker” 5K since it’s specifically geared toward families. Jenn said, “We have special crafts, activities, and races just for young kids. Our DJ will be playing fun music appropriate for young listeners; we have a face painter who will be offering free face painting for kids; and Creative Kids from Scotch Plains and Tinkergarten will be back with plenty of hands-on activities for kids to partake in. We also have a free Fun Run for children age six and under where everyone gets to show their speed.”

Besides all the races and activities, there will be refreshments and lots of raffles with chances to win some great prizes. And let’s face it, any event is better when you leave with a prize in hand! There will also be awards given out for the top finishers in several categories of the races.

Based out of Garwood, the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ is a nonprofit that creates and supports a community for all mothers. According to Jenn, “The fundraising done through the Miles with Moms 5K helps pay for our rented space, keeps costs at a minimum so all of our programming is accessible to everyone, and pays for exciting events for our members.” 

The Mothers’ Center has been around for almost 40 years, offering daytime and evening activities for moms and their children, fostering lifelong friendships among Union County mothers. For more information about the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ, visit http://cnj.mom-mentum.org/

To register for the Miles with Moms 5K visit www.njmileswithmoms.org2017 flyerScreen Shot 2017-04-07 at 11.37.52 AM

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Comedy For A Cause Hosted by the Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield 3/24/17

Comedy For A CauseWant to eat, drink, and laugh until your sides hurt . . . all while supporting a great cause? Then get your ticket to the COMEDY FOR A CAUSE benefit hosted by the Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield on Friday, March 24 from 7-11pm at the Scotch Plains Italian American Club.

This “Funnyraiser,” as it’s affectionately come to be known, will include stand-up comedy, live music, a full buffet (provided by everyone’s favorite Five-Star Catering), unlimited wine/beer/soda, tricky tray, auction, raffle, and more! Proceeds from the Funnyraiser will benefit High Expectations Inc., a NJ-based nonprofit that provides recreational sports programs for the special needs community.

Event Co-Chair Mary-Eileen Fay explained how High Expectations was chosen as the beneficiary of the Funnyrasier: “Every year the club invites a few nonprofit organizations to our May meeting and we vote on which charity we will support through our major fundraiser. This is always a difficult decision because we wish we could say yes to all of them. We all were so moved by High Expectations, which is dedicated to the enrichment of the ‘whole person’ by providing developmentally disabled individuals and their families with access to athletic, recreational and social activities to supplement their educational and vocational training.”

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Mary-Eileen went on to say, “Both my twin nephews are affected by autism, and if it were not for High Expectations, my nephews would not have played sports. They look forward to practices and games where they could be themselves and never feel judged. It has provided life-long friends for them and their parents. My nephews also love to perform and tell jokes, and that’s how I was inspired to incorporate comedy into the fundraiser.”

After catching one of his hilarious stand-up shows, Mary-Eileen selected renowed comic Rich Vos as the headlining entertainment for the Funnyraiser. Rich has been featured on HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central, and countless other media outlets. He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, so it’s great to have a comic who truly understands his audience.

Live music at the event will be played by the local KGB Band. Comprised of former high school friends, the KGB Band has become widely known as a top cover band in the Cranford-Westfield Area. And in case you were wondering, KGB stands for Kevin’s Garage Band! Kevin is also the director of Westfield’s Washington School Show band. 

Tickets to the Funnyraiser cost $75 per person. You can purchase your tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2770089. If you have any questions or would like to become an event sponsor or donate a tricky tray prize, email [email protected]

For more information about High Expectations, visit their team website: http://www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=highexpectations.

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Give Back During This Holiday Season With “Blessing Bags”!

Give Back with Blessing Bags 

The elderly often are overlooked during the holidays. But one Fanwood resident is making sure that dozens of local nursing home/assisted living residents feel LOVED this Thanksgiving, by distributing a Blessing Bag filled with goodies to each of them! 

nursing-homeKorri Toll lives with her husband and two high-school children in Fanwood. She said, “We don’t have any local family here, and we really wanted to give back this year. We thought about volunteering on Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen. Then I saw a friend successfully create blessing bags for cancer patients, and I thought it could be a great way to give back locally. I live in Fanwood and work in Cranford at Trinity Episcopal Day School (TEDS), so I contacted both The Chelsea assisted living facilities in Fanwood and Cranford Hall Nursing Home in Cranford, and both facilities were so appreciative and welcoming. I talked with staff members about what residents would need, and together we came up with the Blessing Bags. We hope to get one into the hands of every resident of both nursing homes by Thanksgiving.”

blessing-bagKorri is doing all the shopping for the items that will go into each Blessing Bag, including toiletries, snacks, large-print activity books, and fuzzy socks and gloves, and more. It costs a little over $25 per bag, so Korri is seeking sponsors–for every $25 you donate, another Blessing Bag will be created and distributed. Just imagine how happy these residents will be when they get surprised with a special bag full of items that they want and need, not to mention they will be reminded that they are appreciated! 

According to Korri, the students at TEDS will help assemble (and possibly distribute) the Blessing Bags to the Cranford Hall residents, and Korri’s own children have been busily making the bags for distribution to the Chelsea. Few things make me as happy as seeing kids gladly volunteer to help others! This could be a great fundraiser for any local volunteer organization (Girl Scouts, etc.) where they raise funds to sponsor some of the Blessing Bags.

So how can YOU help? You can personally sponsor a Blessing Bag by donating $25 by paypal or check

  • To donate via paypal: Send your donation to Korri Toll (username [email protected]), select “friends and family” as your recipient to avoid any fees, and in the Notes section write “Blessing Bag” and write the name of the Nursing Home you’d like to receive your bag (The Chelsea or Cranford Hall). 
  • To donate by check: Make your check out to TEDS Preschool, and in the memo write “Blessing Bag” and write the name of the Nursing Home you’d like to receive your bag (The Chelsea or Cranford Hall). 
    • If you select The Chelsea, mail your check to: Korri Toll, 62 Montrose Ave., Fanwood, NJ 07023. If you select Cranford Hall, mail your check to: TEDS Preschool, 205 North Ave. East, Cranford, NJ 07016

Spread the word about these Blessing Bags and donate by NOVEMBER 15th, to ensure that the bags get out by Thanksgiving! It’s acts of kindness like this that will make sure everyone enjoys the holiday this year. 

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Brian D’Apice, Founder of Bicycle Around America to Visit Cranford NJ 4/28/16

Bicycle Around AmericaKeep your eyes peeled and you might see a news truck or two in Cranford this Thursday. That’s because my friend Robert Schott will be hosting Brian D’Apice, the founder of BICYCLE AROUND AMERICA, who will have pedaled more than 11,000 MILES (!!!) around the perimeter of the United States before reaching Robert’s home in our little hamlet, his penultimate stop before completing his journey in New York City on Friday.

If you recognize the name Robert Scott, that’s because he’s something of a local celeb himself–he’s the snow sculptor whose incredible sculptures have turned the heads of thousands of passers-by on Springfield Ave in recent winters! Last year, Robert met Brian D’Apice at a company meeting in Texas, where Brian gave a motivational speech during a stop on his bicycle tour that struck a cord with Robert. 

According to Robert: “What struck me is that he was a regular guy from a suburban town with good opportunity to follow a ‘regular’ path, but after 9/11 he joined the Army, determined to protect what we have and hold so dearly in this country. He joined the 101st Airborne Division and did two tours in Iraq. He is also a 2011 graduate of York College in Pennsylvania! He’s just a remarkable person.” Right there on the spot, Robert offered Brian a place to stay, should he need it during his cross-country trek.

Bike Across AmericaBrian commenced his journey in Rockefeller Center last May, with the goal riding of around America to raise money for charities near and dear to him. Having lived and worked in Southeast Asia for 2 1/2 years (including as a teacher in Thailand), Brian saw firsthand the need for better schools in the impoverished areas. One of the charities he is fundraising for–Pencils of Promise–builds schools and trains teachers, and according to its website Pencils of Promise has built more than 300 schools so far.

map Bike Across AmericaYou can see in this map the circuitous path Brian took around the country. Along the way he stayed with friends and with welcoming strangers when he could, and camped out at other times. On Thursday Brian will be riding from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, to Cranford (a 63-mile trek, close to Brian’s average daily mileage on his trusty bike). Robert has planned a barbecue to welcome Brian, along with a cozy guest room that will provide some much-needed comfort and rest! Bright and early on Friday, Brian will head into the city to complete his 12-month journey. He’ll appear on several TV news shows, and hopefully word will spread out about his incredible accomplishment and his mission to help those less fortunate. 

I spoke with Brian about how it feels to be this close to the end of such an groundbreaking trip. He said: “Although I’ve enjoyed my time on the road, it feels great to be heading down the home stretch of this epic journey. This has been an extremely special year. I’ve met wonderful new friends and have had experiences that I’ll never forget. What impressed me the most is the heart of the American people. Just about everyone I encountered was eager to help. I have a new and promising faith in the people in this great country!”

It’s so heartwarming to know that Cranford’s own Robert Schott is among those kind people who offered Brian food, companionship, and a place to stay–it’s another reminder that there really are people everywhere looking out for one another. 

Brian went on to say: “The days after I arrive in New York City will not be much different than the days on the road. I have a tremendous amount of administrative work to complete before the project can be finalized. I also have plenty of ‘thank you’ letters to write to the hundreds of people who made this project a success. My bicycle may feel neglect in the coming days, but that’s only because she can’t hear all the stories I’m telling about her.” 

A hearty congratulations goes out to Brian! I hope he feels the warmth of this town when he visits on Thursday. 

For more information about Brian’s project and the charities he is raising money for, visit www.bicyclearoundamerica.com. You can purchase T-shirts featuring the Bicycle Around America logo at https://www.booster.com/bicyclearoundamerica2016?type=2&side=front

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Miles with Moms 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run Sunday, April 24 in Oak Ridge Park in Clark

Miles with Moms 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run Sunday, April 24thThere are a lot of terrific 5K races in our area, but only a handful of them are geared toward the hardest-working people on Earth–MOMS! I’m a proud sponsor of the annual Miles with Moms 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run coming up on Sunday, April 24th in Clark. In its 5th year, this event is the sole fundraiser for the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ, and it’s shaping up to be the best one yet!

The races will be held at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, which is a great flat course. And for you serious runners out there, don’t dismiss this one! The 5K is chip-timed and USATF- and RCAA-certified! Trainers from RWJ gym in Scotch Plains will lead warm-up stretches before the races. At 9 am, the 1-mile run/walk begins; 9:30 marks the start of the 5K. After those races will be a FREE kids’ fun run.

There’s so much more at this event than races–it’s truly an outing for the whole family to enjoy. There will be a DJ, refreshments, and during the first two races kids can be kept busy with activities provided by Tinkergarten and Creative Kids! Strollers are welcome during the 1-mile run/walk.

I spoke with Trish Johnson, one of the volunteers who is organizing this year’s Miles with Moms event and a longtime member of the Mothers’ Center. Trish said, “When I found the Mothers Center almost six years ago, I was a first-time mom home with my baby, unsure of so many things–both about him and myself. I was lonely and craving the friendship and support of other moms. I stumbled upon the Center one day while doing an Internet search and went to my first Mom and Baby group. It was so nice to relax in a supportive environment with other moms and to know that I was not the only one struggling with an infant and first-time motherhood. I now have three children and the Center has helped me through so many ups and downs of motherhood, and continues to be a place of friendship for both myself and my children.”

Trish went on to describe how inclusive the Miles with Moms event is for families: “My whole family will be running the one-mile that day, from my in-laws to my two-year-old! We welcome strollers, kids, families, expert runners, beginning runners, and everyone in between! If you’re not ready for a 5K, our one-mile is a great way to get out there and get active with your family. The day ends with our free kids’ fun run, such a cute event for the little ones!”

According to Trish, this year’s raffle at the Miles with Moms event is going to kick some you-know-what! Here is a list of local businesses who generously donated prizes for the raffles at the event–as you can see, there will be a TON OF PRIZES (woot, woot!). Where you don’t see a prize listed, the business either donated a gift card or basket.

  • Alfonso’s Bakery
  • 4U Nails
  • Atlantic Beach Soap
  • Music Together
  • Kidz Village 2 VIP fun passes
  • Ferraros Restaurant
  • Brawl House gym 1 month membership
  • Westfield Y 3 month silver family membership
  • Dancers Pointe 4 $50 gift cards
  • Game Changer gym membership fee
  • MLB Network signed Al Leiter baseball
  • NY Jets signed poster
  • NY Giants signed poster
  • Alluem 1 month of yoga
  • River and Rail bottle of tequila and gift card
  • Patricia and Paul oil and vinegar set
  • Farmhouse Store coverlet
  • Angels Wings tray of wings
  • IPlay America free passes
  • Pastosa
  • Turning Point 2 complementary entrees
  • Echo Plaza Cleaners
  • Bloom Nail Salon gift cards
  • Devils Tickets
  • Dr. Feret teeth whitening
  • Wild Roots hair salon basket
  • Avon basket with gift card
  • Ambeli restaurant gift card
  • Vine Ripe Market gift card
  • Imagine That gift card for birthday party
  • Hunter boots for kids with personalization
  • Vanilla Bean Creamery gift card
  • Milk Money

For more information or to register for the Miles with Moms event, visit www.njmileswithmoms.org.

From the Mothers’ Center of Central NJ website:

The Mothers’ Center of Central New Jersey (MCCNJ) is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization providing friendship, education, outreach, and support for all parents across Central New Jersey.  Throughout the year the Mothers’ Center offers daytime and evening discussion and craft groups, book clubs, morning and afternoon playgroups, library and referral resources, and special events.  The center holds groups and events at the Garwood Presbyterian Church and Casano Community Center in Roselle Park. On-site babysitting is available for most daytime activities. New members are welcome at any time.

For more information about the Mothers’ Center and a schedule of their upcoming events, visit http://cnj.mom-mentum.org/httpdocs/index.html.

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We “Shared The Love” to Benefit CASA of Union County

CASA of Union County

Last October I blogged about a nonprofit organization called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Union County. In researching that blog, I came to learn more about this incredible group of volunteers who advocate for the nearly 600 youths in foster care in our county. I was so inspired that I decided to host a fundraiser on Feb. 12th called SHARE THE LOVE, where we raised almost $3,000 to benefit CASA of Union County and the youths it serves!! As you can see from the photos, guests of the fundraiser enjoyed wine, cheese, sweets … and some attendees got extra lucky and left with fabulous prizes! 



“The evening couldn’t have been nicer or come at a more apropos time,” said Dominic Prophete, executive director of CASA of Union County. “Indeed, as Valentine’s Day neared, Sharon and her guests were shining examples of the simple yet huge impact to be made when good people share their heart to others. Sharon opened her home to a community she so clearly loves and champions, and became an advocate, a champion for CASA! Sharon’s guests bustled about, interested in being part of something greater than themselves and learning more about ways to help area youth in foster care: becoming a CASA advocate, joining its board of trustees, or donations that fund more advocate training, or offer the promise of prom, summer camp and even braces to foster children that wouldn’t otherwise have these ‘everyday’ childhood opportunities. From wines and scrumptious cheeses to creative raffle baskets from generous local businesses, Sharon’s party was a wonderful reminder of a community not only giving back, but realizing — and seemingly relishing — the immense power in that.”

“What an amazing night! CASA is near and dear to me,” said Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan, senior development and marketing coordinator at CASA. “I have been a volunteer advocate and supervised a team of advocates, and now I’m using those experiences with my journalism background to spread the depth and breadth of CASA’s work in the community. No matter which role any of us play here at CASA, when we walk through the door each morning we carry a huge responsibility, and it’s to the foster youth we advocate for. Children who’ve seen and experienced far greater trauma and loss than anyone ever should. The extraordinary work of dedicated volunteer advocates who juggle their own life responsibilities with their CASA work makes tangible differences in the lives of those who had no voice in being removed from home, in being abused, neglected or abandoned.”

Gretchen continued, “CASAs give their child back a voice, and work toward a future that is safe and a home that is permanent. As we all know, from a loving and safe home, life thrives. It’s no irony Sharon makes her living helping people fulfill the dreams of home; by  selflessly opening her own home to us she essentially did so to the 600 children in foster care from Union County. Spending those festive hours surrounded by Sharon’s caring and generous guests showed me Sharon understands that with the good fortune of being part of a comfortable community comes an obligation to pay it forward. It’s then that lives are impacted in big ways. The reality is that when you give back, you get more. I’ve always said that: you get back more of what really matters. I am so grateful Sharon and her assistant Angela, who worked tirelessly to make this night a huge success, totally get that.”


I’d personally like to thank the following local businesses for donating generous gift cards and merchandise to the fundraiser: Just 4 Pooches; Cougar Headquarters; Artist Framer; Atlantic Beach Soap Co.; Periwinkle’s; Cranford Hotel; Kilkenny’s; ATH/100 Steps; Ambeli Greek Taverna; Augusta Mae Boutique; Alfonso’s; Pastosa; Emma’s Brick Oven; Fire Me Up; Perotti’s; Pairings Palate + Plate; Dreyer Farms; Lemondrop Designs; Julie Castillo Small Pieces of Art; Artemisia; Simply Art & Framing; and OXO. Your contributions were such a hit at the event! Thanks also to GiGi’s Cupcakes for the lip-smackingly yummy desserts that were enjoyed by all!

A little background on CASA of Union County: Since 2005, the organization has been recruiting, supervising, and supporting community volunteers to advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children in foster care. CASA of Union County currently serves just one quarter of the children in foster care; it is CASA’s goal to provide an advocate for EVERY foster child. 

What does a CASA do, exactly? CASAs provide consistency during tumult, compassion during confusion. They ensure a youth’s best interests are prioritized in court and the community, and that time spent in foster care is as short — and peaceful — as possible. Every child deserves a safe and permanent home, and CASAs work tirelessly toward that end. 

To become a CASA, each volunteer must undergo extensive training and then be sworn in by a judge, who issues a court order allowing the CASA to access on the parties in the youth’s life to ensure their needs are being met. Gretchen says: “We are, in a sense, a second set of eyes and ears for the judge.”

It is by no means an easy job to serve as a CASA. But the positive impact made by a CASA can change the course of a child’s life for the better, and according to many volunteers, that’s what makes the hard work worthwhile. Jona Cannon, an advocate since 2009, says: “Being a CASA is the most powerfully real thing I’ve done outside the realm of motherhood. I learned to keep the child at the focal point, tap into the guidance of my supervisor and trust my intuition. I came to realize that a CASA’s work does make a difference and that giving voice to those who have none is truly bigger than oneself.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a CASA, below is a list of upcoming informational sessions and their locations/times. You can also find more information about CASA on their website: www.casaofunionounty.org


Union County Clerk’s Office

300 North Ave East

Westfield, NJ 07090

6pm – 7pm

Monday, February 22nd

Albender Building

1143-1145 East Jersey Street

Elizabeth, NJ 07201

10am-11 am

Friday, February 26th

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Foster The Dream Gala hosted by CASA of Union County

image1There are a few events in our area that combine a magical evening with fundraising for a truly worthy cause . . . and the Foster The Dream Gala hosted by CASA of Union County is one such event. The 3rd annual gala is slated for Friday, November 6 at the beautiful Galloping Hill Country Club in Kenilworth, and the cause it supports is one you might not be aware of.

There are currently 542 Union County children in foster care, and the goal of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is to have one advocate for every foster child, and to ensure a permanent, safe environment for every child.

According CASA’s Development and Marketing Coordinator, Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan: “Right now, we serve about 25 percent of the county’s foster children. We all must undergo an extensive training and then be sworn in by a judge, who issues a court order allowing the CASA to access the parties in the youth’s life to ensure their needs are being met. Amazingly, CASAs do this unique and challenging work on a volunteer basis. There really are some great hearts out there.”

Gretchen wears many hats for CASA; she also serves as one of six advocate supervisors who oversee a team of volunteer advocates, while continuing to act as a court advocate herself. Her career in legal journalism shifted course after she began volunteering with CASA years ago. She says: “Given the role adoption plays in my life every day – my daughter and husband were both adopted – advocating for children in need and making them whole again is certainly a top priority.”

The Foster The Dream Gala is the largest annual fundraiser for CASA of Union County. Attendees of the gala will enjoy a cocktail hour, live entertainment, dancing, open bar, and an elegant multi-course dinner. A live and silent auction will feature some highly coveted items, from event tickets to gift certificates to hotel stays and more. If that’s not enough, the evening will be capped off by FIREWORKS that guests can watch from the balcony overlooking the golf course!

To purchase tickets for the gala, visit https://casauc.ejoinme.org/fosterthedream2015tics. And for more information on CASA an the many ways to volunteer or support future CASA events, visit www.casaofunioncounty.org.

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A Birthday Wish Program to Benefit NJ Children in Foster Care

A Birthday WishDid you know there are more than 8,000 children in New Jersey who are living outside of a permanent, loving family. Many of these foster children never experience the simple joy of receiving a birthday gift. But one Westfield resident has made it her mission to put a smile on every foster child’s face through A Birthday Wish.

image2In 2014 Jane Hoffman partnered with CASA of Union County to found A Birthday Wish, an organization that gives children in foster care a birthday gift and card specially selected for them. According to Jane, “Fulfilling a special birthday wish says, ‘the day you were born is a day to celebrate, and we acknowledge the unique person that you are.’ It also builds trust. A child in foster care has experienced the betrayal of broken promises. Allowing a child to ask for something special and to have that wish granted is a small step in learning that you can trust people in your life.Through the money we raise and the wishes we grant, we are able to reach a child on their birthday with a message of hope, in celebration of their life.”

Jane has a long history of working in the nonprofit sector as a fundraising consultant, however she likes to get her hands dirty. “I find hands-on volunteering to be the most rewarding. For me, service to others in my local community is about connecting with people, hearing their stories and working together.”

In the past 10 months, A Birthday Wish has granted over 300 birthday wishes in New Jersey foster care, and every county in the state has expressed interest in the program! Kids who normally wouldn’t get so much as a “happy birthday” have received everything from shiny new bikes to Barbie dream houses and everything in between.

How can you get involved in making a foster child’s birthday wish come true? There are several ways:

  • Visit www.ABirthdayWish.org to select a wish! You can grant a wish in celebration of your birthday or the birthday of a family member or friend.
  • Get your children involved. Encourage your children to hold a lemonade stand or bake sale at school. With the money they raise they can pick the Birthday Wishes they want to grant!
  • Host a Wrapping Party. Is your book club, scout troop or service organization looking for a fun service project? Set the date, ask your guests to pick a birthday wish to grant and come together to wrap your gifts and make cards. A Birthday Wish will also provide you with other gifts that need to be wrapped that month!
  • No Gifts Please! Do your kids have enough stuff? Are you about to celebrate at milestone birthday? In lieu of gifts, ask friends and family to contribute any monetary amount in your honor of your special occasion. A Birthday Wish can help you set-up your personalized fundraising page. The best part? You get to pick the Birthday Wishes you want to grant!

And on Friday November 13, A Birthday Wish will celebrate its first anniversary at Crossroads in Garwood with a special night of Bruce Springsteen tunes by Asbury Fever! All proceeds from the fun evening will be used to grant Birthday Wishes of children in NJ foster care.

Isn’t it amazing how one person’s good idea can positively affect the lives of so many?

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