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SJO’s Year in Review: People Who Made a Difference in 2016


What a difference a year makes. As 2016 draws to a close, SJO takes a look back at the stories that featured organizations or people who are making a difference in our communities.

In this post, SJO highlights some of those people – from students spearheading a homeless project, to police and fire personnel outreaching to the community, to residents who created a Free Little Library for their town.

Presented in round-up style and in no particular order, here are 23 organizations or people who were featured on SJO as having made a difference in 2016:

1. Girl Scout Troops #30215 & #30082

Girl Scout Troops #30215 and #30082 hosted an appreciation luncheon for Bellmawr Police, Fire & EMS in July. In November, they held an internet safety event that was open to the public.

Bellmawr Girl Scout Troop 30215
Bellmawr Girl Scout Troops #30215 & #30082 at July’s Police, Fire & EMS Appreciation Luncheon. (All Photos by SJO)

2. Bellmawr Baseball’s John Smith

Bellmawr Baseball honored long-time volunteer/treasurer, John Smith, for 50 years of dedicated service before the 10U All Star game on July 5.

Bellmawr Baseball
(Photo by SJO) John Smith was honored for his service to the organization by Councilman Steve Hagerty and Bellmawr Baseball President, Rick Dougherty. Smith said: “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years. When I started, I was 6’3″ with black hair!”

3-4. Bellmawr Teachers, Sue DiPrinzio & Gina Heller

Two Bellmawr teachers, Sue DiPrinzio and Gina Heller, were named 2016 New Jersey Exemplary Educators.

Bellmawr Schools Gina Heller Exemplary Educator of the Year
Gina Heller said: “I love Bellmawr. I grew up here. All of my school age children are [school] choice students and come to Bellmawr Schools. I am grateful to the administration and the staff for all of the things that are happening, not only for myself, but for my kids as well.”
Bellmawr Schools Sue DiPrinzio New Jersey Exemplary Educator
Sue DiPrinzio (center) is honored by School Superintendent, Annette Castiglione (left) and Bellmawr Park /Early Childhood Center Principal, Elizabeth Calabria. The superintendent said that DiPrinzio goes over and above and that she loves to learn. DiPrinzio said that she has worked with every single teacher in Bellmawr Park and believes they have made her a better teacher.

5. Bellmawr Hockey Hosts National Tournament

Bellmawr Hockey hosted the national tournament and will host it again in 2017.

Bellmawr Hockey
During the May, 2016 council meeting (above) members of Bellmawr Hockey thanked Mayor Frank Filipek & Council for their support. Below, Councilman Jim D’Angelo accepts a plaque of appreciation  from Bellmawr Hockey.

6. Camden County Historical Society’s Chris Perks & Rev. Vince Kovlak

Chris Perks of the Camden County Historical Society and Rev. Vince Kovlak of Bellmawr Baptist Church remain steadfast in their efforts to save the historic Hugg-Harrison Glover House.

7. New Covenant Ministries & Its Christmas Eve Outreach

New Covenant Ministries has been bringing Christmas Eve joy to Camden residents for the past 30 years.

8. Msgr. William Hodge of St. Mary’s Gloucester City

St. Mary’s Church Msgr. William Hodge organized Gloucester City’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Gloucester City St. Patrick's Day Parade
Msgr. William Hodge (left) & Grand Marshal Bishop Dennis Sullivan (right) at Gloucester City’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Photo by SJO)

9. Mt. Ephraim Teachers Raise Money

Mt. Ephraim’s teachers hosted a “picnic” to raise money for the Mt. Ephraim Education Foundation.

(Photo provided)

10. Jade Gasper, Alisha Simons & Little Free Library

Residents, Jade Gasper and Alisha Simons, brought a Little Free Library to Mt. Ephraim.

Mt. Ephraim Little Free Library
(Photo by SJO) Mt. Ephraim’s Little Free Library

11. Bruce Parry & the Annual Gloucester City Girls Softball Tournament

Bruce Parry and his army of volunteers make sure the annual Gloucester City Girls Softball Tournament happens each July.

Gloucester City Girls Softball Tournament
Photo by SJO. Bruce Parry and volunteers work to get a field ready for another softball game. during the Annual Gloucester City Annual Girls Softball Tournament.

12. Bell Oaks Students Help Distribute 2,000 Flags

Bell Oaks students helped to place 2,000 flags on veterans’ graves at New St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Photo Provided – Bell Oaks Students helped to place flags on the graves at St. Mary’s Cemetery

13. Bellmawr’s Nesenur Ozturk, Maddie Groves, and Jennifer Macao-Cedilla Help the Homeless

Bell Oaks students, Nesenur Ozturk, Maddie Groves, and Jennifer Macao-Cedilla spearheaded a collection drive to help the homeless.

Bellmawr Schools
Nesenur Ozturk, Maddie Groves, and Jennifer Macao-Cedilla address the Bellmawr School Board speak about their “Helping the Homeless” Project. Maddie said: “Our job as a community is to help. We believe that everyone deserves a second chance.” (Photo by SJO)

14.  Kyle Wright Organizes Annual Ryan Coyle Softball Tournament

Kyle Wright organizes an annual softball tournament in memory of his best friend, Ryan Coyle. The proceeds from the tournament benefit a scholarship fund for baseball players.

Ryan Coyle Softball Tournament
Kyle Wright addresses the crowd before the start of the games. This year’s tournament raised $7,000 for scholarships for baseball players. (Photo by SJO)

15. Bellmawr Fire Dept. Volunteers Help Out

Bellmawr Fire Department volunteers brought Santa Claus to visit with the Larc School students and also helped with the Bellmawr Learning Community PTO’s first Color Run.

Bellmawr Fire Department
(Above) Santa is escorted by volunteers from the Bellmawr Fire Dept. to visit Larc School and (below) volunteers help douse the runners during the Bellmawr Learning Community’s first color run. (Photos by SJO)

16. Bellmawr PD/Local PBA 375 Outreach to the Community

Bellmawr Police Department/Local PBA 375 outreached to the community with Water Ice with a Cop and a Magic Show.

Bellmawr Police Water Ice With a Cop
Ptlm. Jared Walton, Brian Ertl & Lt. Mike Draham with Evan Carlino at the Bellmawr PBA 375 Magic Show & Water Ice with a Cop (Photo by SJO)

17. Runnemede Police Officers Apprehend Human Trafficking Suspect

Three Runnemede Police Department officers: Ptlm. William Ortiz, Ptlm. Robert Alexander, and Sgt. William Sampolski, received recognition for apprehending a human trafficking suspect.

Runnemede Police Department
Ptlm. William Ortiz, Ptlm. Robert Alexander, and Sgt. William Sampolski are honored by Runnemede Mayor Nick Kappatos & Council for outstanding police work. (Photo by SJO)

18. Bellmawr PD’s Sgt. Chris Cummings Awarded Medal of Valor

Bellmawr PD’s Sgt. Chris Cummings was honored with a Medal of Valor, along with a Proclamation, in recognition of his heroic actions stemming from an incident that took place at the Tanger Outlets (The Walk) in Atlantic City on September 1.

Sgt. Chris Cummings of the Bellmawr Police Department was awarded a Medal of Valor, along with a Proclamation, in recognition of his heroic actions stemming from an incident that took place at the Tanger Outlets (The Walk) in Atlantic City on September 1

19. Bellmawr PD’s Jared Walton’s Actions Saved a Couple from Suicide

Bellmawr PD’s Ptlm. Jared Walton was honored with a Proclamation for saving a couple from suicide.

Bellmawr Police Department
Ptlm. Jared Walton receives a Proclamation from Bellmawr Police Chief William Walsh. Also pictured are Capt. Scott Parker & Lt. Mike Draham (Photo by SJO)

20. Runnmede-Bellmawr-Glendora Rotary Dedicated a Pavilion

Runnmede-Bellmawr-Glendora Rotary dedicated a pavilion at Green Acres Park in honor of Bartilo “Bud” Palmieri.

Bartilo Bud Palmieri Runnemede Bellmawr Glendora Rotary
The pavilion at Green Acres Park was dedicated in late November in honor of Bartilo “Bud” Palmieri. (Photo by SJO)

21. Summer Rec Program Keeps Kids Busy

Under the direction of Dawn Gillis and Kelly Cook, Bellmawr’s Summer Rec program provides fun activities for the town’s kids. It also employs teens to work as camp counselors.

This year as part of the Summer Rec program, some teens worked under the direction of Mike “Juice” Williams to paint fences around town.


22. Don & Bobbie Riebel Spread Awareness About Drug Addiction

Don & Bobbie Riebel
Don & Bobbie Riebel at Bellmawr’s Octoberfest. They lost their son 22-year old son, Colin, to an overdose. The Riebels use their voices to help spread awareness about drug addiction.

23. Deborah Magnin Started a Peaceful Protest

(This post reached over 109,000 people and had 62,000 views on Facebook.)

A nurse, Deborah Magnin, started the peaceful protests at Johnnie’s Liquors to bring increased awareness to the drug epidemic.
Bellmawr Brooklawn Feature Stories Gloucester Mt. Ephraim News Recent News Westville

Old Salem Pike to Close for Brooklawn Circle Improvement Project

Old Salem Pike in Brooklawn, N.J. will be closed beginning 7:00 a.m. on December 19 from Route 130 to Creek Road, as the Brooklawn Circle Improvement Project advances. Freeholder Susan Shin Angulo has been informed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) that the work will continue for several months.

Detour Information

The following detour is expected to remain in place for several months. Route 130 commercial traffic wishing to access Old Salem Pike will be directed to Creek Road.

Brooklawn Circle
All photos by SJO. As improvements to the Brooklawn Circle area continue, detours are in place.

“The improvements the State is making to the Brooklawn Circle will greatly improve the flow of traffic in one of our county’s most traveled areas,” said Freeholder Shin Angulo, liaison to the Camden County Department of Public Works. “Please allow yourself extra time in reaching your destination during this road closure.”

Project Details

The $7.9 million federally-funded Route 130 Brooklawn Circle Improvements Project began construction in August 2016, and is expected to be completed in early 2018. The project is expected to significantly enhance safety and improve traffic operation in the circle area.

Brooklawn Circle
The $7.9 million federally-funded Route 130 Brooklawn Circle Improvements project began construction in August 2016.

Improvements include:

  • The elimination of left turn movement from the Brooklawn Circle onto Creek Road.
  • The elimination of all turns from Creek Road to Route 47.
  • The improvement of the vertical curve from the Route 47 Bridge onto the circle.
  • Upgrades to Old Salem Pike including a new adaptive traffic signal at the corner of Route 130 and Old Salem Pike.
  • Pedestrian upgrades.
  • Utility improvements.
Brooklawn Circle
Old Salem Pike will be closed beginning December 19.

NJDOT will provide advanced notification to the public before upcoming road closures. The precise timing of the work is subject to change due to weather or other factors. Motorists are encouraged to check NJDOT’s traffic information website for real-time travel information and for NJDOT news on Twitter @NJDOT_info.

(Source: Press Release, Camden County)
*Article updated on December 17, 2016 at 11:15 a.m. to include photographs.
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Smart 911 Now Available in Camden County 

(Lindenwold, NJ) – The Freeholder Board has launched Smart911 in Camden County to save critical time in emergency situations and encourages county residents to register with the program.

Smart911 is a free nationwide service that allows users to create a Smart911 Safety Profile, which provides vital information to emergency dispatchers and first responders during an emergency.

“Our first responders need as much intelligence as possible to ensure positive outcomes and this program is a key to gathering that strategic analysis to provide help,” said Freeholder Jonathan Young, liaison to the Camden County Department of Public Safety. “By giving the department of public safety your home and work address, or even photos, you can let first responders know exactly where to go and who they are looking for. When every second counts, Smart911 can and will save lives.”

Smart911 allows individuals to create a safety profile at for their whole household that can include any additional information they want the county communication center and first responders to have in an emergency situation. When an individual makes a 9-1-1 call, their Safety Profile is automatically displayed to the dispatcher, allowing them to send the most appropriate response to the exact location with the right information.

With Smart911, residents can link both home and work addresses to mobile phones, which can be passed on to police and fire personnel in the field for more a detailed, rapid response. Additional information including current medications, preexisting medical conditions, vehicle details in the event of an accident, emergency contacts and much more can all be included in a Safety Profile.

“Residents who link their safety profiles to their cell phones will provide first responders with the vital information they need,” Young said. “Even if you are in an area with a weak cell signal or a location where the call drops, you will have the added assistance of having your safety profile speak for you.”

All information is completely optional and only displayed when the linked phone dials 9-1-1 and then is only available for a certain window of time. The caller has the ability to choose what details they would like to include.

Smart911 is currently available nationwide in more than 1,500 counties and municipalities across the country, and has been credited with positively impacting emergency outcomes including a missing child in which the girls photo and physical description were immediately available to first responders, as well as a heart attack victim where an address and medical notes allowed help to be dispatched to his location quickly.

Camden County residents are encouraged to create their Safety Profile with Smart911 to have their information available to dispatchers and to receive emergency notifications. Smart911 is private and secure, is only used for emergency responses, and only made available to the 9-1-1 system in the event of an emergency call.

(Source: Camden County Press Release)
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Ottawa Senators Buddy Robinson Ready to Produce

The Ottawa Senators’ Buddy Robinson addressed the media today in advance of tonight’s match up against the Florida Panthers and said he’s “ready to produce.”

Robinson was recalled yesterday from Binghamton, the Senators’ AHL affiliate, and will be wearing #55 in tonight’s game.

Robinson told the media that when he received the call up, it was “definitely exciting” and “It’s a real deal now.”

He’s also said: “I’m ready to get out there and show what I’ve been working on and prove that I can produce at this level and be a permanent guy.”

When Robinson was asked about drawing from last year’s three-game experience, he responded: “It helps a ton. Any time you get any type of experience anywhere, it just makes you more confident and more prepared for when you get here. It’s funny that [tonight’s game] is against one of the teams I did get to play against last year. So there is a little bit of familiarity. Any experience is good and I’ll take it.”

In April, Robinson scored his first NHL goal against the Panthers.

Robinson is from Bellmawr and played for Gloucester Catholic. His Rams teammate was Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.

In the Atlantic Division, the Senators are 14-8-2 and currently in second place.

Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. tonight in Ottawa.

Watch Robinson’s interview below:






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Sarah Spanarkel Sworn in as Gloucester County Assistant Prosecutor

On November 29, Superior Court Judge Kevin Smith administered the oath of office to Sarah Spanarkel, who was sworn in as an assistant prosecutor for the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office (GCPO).

Spanarkel earned a bachelor’s degree from York College in York, Pa. and her law degree in 2015 from New York Law School.

A Toms River native, Spanarkel served a clerkship in her hometown, the county seat of Ocean County, with Superior Court Judge Melanie Appleby. Spanarkel spent half of her time in the court’s criminal division and half in Family Court.

Spanarkel’s initial assignment will be in the GCPO’s grand jury unit.

(Source and photo: GCPO)