Chelsea Eriksen – Forked River Gazette http://www.forkedrivergazette.com Forked River Gazette Mon, 11 Dec 2017 14:29:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/cropped-Forked-River-Gazette-Logo-32x32.png Chelsea Eriksen – Forked River Gazette http://www.forkedrivergazette.com 32 32 People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-5/ http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-5/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 13:28:00 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=34032 In a small town, when someone is able to achieve success or celebrity, it’s a BIG deal. Rhett Titus was born in Toms River, raised in Forked River and graduated from Lacey Township High School. Today, Rhett is a professional wrestler who travels all over the globe for his matches. Recently, I had the opportunity … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents

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In a small town, when someone is able to achieve success or celebrity, it’s a BIG deal. Rhett Titus was born in Toms River, raised in Forked River and graduated from Lacey Township High School. Today, Rhett is a professional wrestler who travels all over the globe for his matches. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Rhett about his journey from small town teen to wrestling on national television.


Rhett’s life has always revolved around wrestling and he recalls some of his earliest memories being centered around the ring. “I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t obsessed with wrestling. In kindergarten I remember having to draw a picture of what your job would be when you grew up and I drew myself as a wrestler.”

When he was just 17 and a senior in High School, Rhett’s son was born and he realized that if he did not try to pursue wrestling then, he never would. “I tried out with the Ring of Honor Training Academy ( now known as the ROH Dojo) in Bristol Pa with CM Punk & Samoa Joe and was put through a vigorous workout to try to break you and quit but I survived and was accepted into the school.” After graduating High School in 2005,  he started his official training under Austin Aries and never looked back.

Over the years Rhett has been able to realize some of his greatest goals and achievements. “Originally my goal was to have at least one match for Ring of Honor and I accomplished that in Dayton, OH in my very first live match. Then a few years later Ring Of Honor offering me my first contract felt very rewarding. Wrestling on WWE Smackdown was also a really cool accomplishment,” he reminisced.

Rhett recalls the difficulty of training at the ROH Academy. He says it was, “Very hard and disciplined but it made me a better person. I was the youngest wrestler to ever come out of there, so I’d get hazed a lot by some of the older wrestlers but I eventually earned their respect. I learned a lot from former WWE star Austin Aries and then current WWE star Daniel Bryan.

All of these successes have not been without challenges and sacrifice. The wrestler had to learn to balance traveling every weekend with raising his son. Though he mentions that, “My family has always been very supportive, even driving to see my first match in Dayton, Ohio and still going whenever they can.”

Another big challenge he has faced has been recovering from injuries. In 2011 he tore his meniscus and continued to wrestle until his surgery was underway. This made for a very difficult rehabilitation, as he had built up so much scar tissue from wrestling with his injury.

Surprisingly, wrestling on injuries haven’t been his worst experience in the ring. Rhett expanded, “I did a county fair show when I was younger and it started torrential down-pouring at the beginning of the match, but as they say the show must go on. It was like a slip and slide in the ring, very dangerous but I was able to go on with the match and make it out alive!”

Recently, Rhett got married and commented, “My wife is very understanding and supportive. She found it a little weird when we first started dating how I would be leaving every weekend and missing holidays and family events but she has grown to understand it. She’ll always pack my food and my bags prior to a trip and is always there to greet me when I get back home.”

What’s next for Rhett? “I feel like I am in in the prime of my career right now and the sky’s the limit. You never know where this crazy business will lead you next but all you can do is buckle up and enjoy the ride!” Keep an eye out for upcoming shows by following him on social media!

Twitter/Instagram: @RhettTitusAnx

Facebook.com/RhettTitus

YouTube.com/RhettTitus

Prowrestlingtees.com/rhetttitusanx

Chelsea Eriksen is a freelance writer and marketing professional who has over 8 years experience writing for major magazines, websites and blogs. She graduated from Wells College in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a minor in Advertising. Following her graduation, she interned for Relix Magazine and Big Hassle Media in NYC and soon after joined Effective Immediately PR’s publicity team in NYC and became Vice President until 2015. During her time there, she helped to grow their team from 5 publicists to over 25 in just 3 short years and expanded their offices to the West Coast. She has worked with a range of clientele, from independent artists and budding businesses all the way up to major brands including Clarks, Converse and Sonos. Currently she works as a PR/Marketing Coordinator for Direct Development PR in Hazlet, NJ and resides in Forked River, NJ. For any marketing, social media, public relations or content writing needs, you can reach Chelsea at chelseaeriksen@gmail.com.

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People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-4/ Wed, 01 Nov 2017 13:52:19 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=33787 New Jersey Paranormal Investigations As a child, my mother was the President of the Ocean Nature Conservation Society in Ocean County. We spent a lot of time learning about our ecosystem, endangered species in our county and attending environmental events. It was at a Pinelands Jamboree event at Wells Mills County Park in the late … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents

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New Jersey Paranormal Investigations

As a child, my mother was the President of the Ocean Nature Conservation Society in Ocean County. We spent a lot of time learning about our ecosystem, endangered species in our county and attending environmental events. It was at a Pinelands Jamboree event at Wells Mills County Park in the late 90’s when I first remember hearing about the Jersey Devil. In between musical performances, an older gentleman took the stage and told the story of the Leeds family and Mother Leed’s 13th child.

I wasn’t scared by this man’s story, as I was already fascinated with all things paranormal, and had read and re-read every Goosebumps book I could get my hands on. From that point on though, I was intrigued by my hometown’s folklore and the pinelands that gave the story a home; the pinelands outside my window. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with the founder of New Jersey Paranormal Investigations, Barry Ruggiero, who has dedicated his life to examining mysterious phenomenon.


Barry Ruggiero started New Jersey Paranormal Investigations about 6 years ago and has been investigating the paranormal for over twelve years. Barry specializes in dealing with  hauntings and has investigated both residential and commercial locations. His team utilizes Infrared surveillance systems along with high end audio equipment to capture any abnormalities. “What I like about our group is that we are a diverse group of people. Michele and I lead with scientific methods, while Gale and her husband Rob are excellent with Spirit Box (A device used for contacting spirits through the use of radio frequency) communications, research and history and Jackie is a reiki master.” Barry believes that this makes his team stronger as they are able to conduct an investigation from several perspectives.

With so many investigations under his belt, I asked Barry which one was the scariest to be involved in. “We did an investigation for a girl and her boyfriend up north in a three-story home. They described many paranormal events happening in their house, like doors and drawers opening on their own. We went into the basement because we heard noises down there and discovered that no one was there. I was conducting an EVP session there and after reviewing the audio there was a voice, but the voice didn’t sound human. On the audio, I asked if there was anyone there and playing it back on the recorder, you can hear a very deep raspy voice say ‘I’m here’.”

The main pieces of equipment his team uses are EMF detectors, K2 meters, Mel meters, thermal imaging cameras, motion detectors, infrared cameras and digital recorders. These instruments can detect changes in atmosphere, read thermography and record high/low range tones. “I really enjoy working with the EVPs [electronic voice phenomena]. It’s wild to hear a voice that you know wasn’t there during the investigation.”

When I asked Barry about the Jersey Devil, he responded, “I have interviewed many witnesses face-to-face about the Jersey Devil. Some of the stories are scary, but my personal opinion is that you would think by now someone would have caught the devil or at least have some good video footage of it, if it was real. I think it’s a great urban legend, I just don’t see enough evidence to believe that it’s true.”

So what should someone do if they believe that their house is haunted? According to Barry, “Never provoke what is there. Call someone who deals with this sort of thing on a regular basis. You do not want to try to communicate with something that you know nothing about.”

New Jersey Paranormal Investigations regularly has events and lectures that you can attend. In 2018 they  will be investigating the White Hill Mansion in New Jersey, so stay tuned for more info on that investigation and many others by visiting their website at: www.newjerseyparanormalinvestigations.com! If you would like to consult with Barry’s team about a potential haunting, you can reach him at  njparanormalinvestigations@gmail.com.

Chelsea Eriksen is a freelance writer and marketing professional who has over 8 years experience writing for major magazines, websites and blogs. She graduated from Wells College in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a minor in Advertising. Following her graduation, she interned for Relix Magazine and Big Hassle Media in NYC and soon after joined Effective Immediately PR’s publicity team in NYC and became Vice President until 2015. During her time there, she helped to grow their team from 5 publicists to over 25 in just 3 short years and expanded their offices to the West Coast. She has worked with a range of clientele, from independent artists and budding businesses all the way up to major brands including Clarks, Converse and Sonos. Currently she works as a PR/Marketing Coordinator for Direct Development PR in Hazlet, NJ and resides in Forked River, NJ. For any marketing, social media, public relations or content writing needs, you can reach Chelsea at chelseaeriksen@gmail.com.

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Business Profile: Playa Bowls Lacey http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/business-profile-playa-bowls-lacey/ Thu, 05 Oct 2017 12:36:12 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=33387 Playa Bowls is New Jersey’s original Acai shop that started out in 2014 when Co-Founder Abby Taylor came back from traveling and surfing expeditions. Abby had her first acai bowls on these trips and fell in love. When she returned, she couldn’t find them anywhere and she decided to start selling them with her boyfriend … Continue reading Business Profile: Playa Bowls Lacey

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Playa Bowls is New Jersey’s original Acai shop that started out in 2014 when Co-Founder Abby Taylor came back from traveling and surfing expeditions. Abby had her first acai bowls on these trips and fell in love. When she returned, she couldn’t find them anywhere and she decided to start selling them with her boyfriend Robert Giuliani in a small cart in front of their apartment on Ocean Ave in Belmar. “Rob and I worked hard to explain our background and the story of this little purplish berry from the Amazon. It was long, hard and frustrating days in the beginning, but we knew when it caught on we would have something amazing.”

Sure enough, the lines started growing for the smoothie bowls and since 2014 they have opened 17 locations in NJ, including our very own store in Lacey located at 44M Manchester Avenue, next to Gille Park. Playa Bowls serves healthy smoothies, juices, soups and various types of bowls, including: coconut, acai, pitaya, green and oatmeal. You can choose from many toppings to add to your bowls like fresh fruit, honey, peanut butter, Nutella, granola or coconut shavings. The health-shop puts a special emphasis on the Acai berry. Abby added, “The acai is so full of antioxidants and gives you a natural little mid day boost.”

Since their start, many smoothie bowl shops have been popping up on the Jersey Shore trying to replicate the Playa Bowls experience. Abby isn’t worried though, “when you come into our stores, the vibe is infectious. It’s not forced or corny and I think that’s where we really hit the mark.  People want to hang out in Playa Bowls and maybe escape reality for a little and enjoy a bowl.” The shops all feature caribbean colors and aesthetics and make sure to incorporate the surf culture that inspired the restaurant.

The Jersey Shore is known for it’s ice cream, funnel cakes, pizza pies, hot dogs and more, so presenting a healthier option that tastes great has the health-conscious beach crowd ecstatic. Though, some have questioned the nutrition behind the smoothie bowls to which Abby remarks, “you can make the bowls as healthy or unhealthy as you wish. Sure, Nutella is not the healthiest option, but it sure as hell beats the pizza and french fries the majority of the population is scarfing down. The Acai in itself is packed with antioxidants and I think it’s foolish to say they aren’t healthy.”

Playa Bowls is also very active in the community and support local charities and programs. Recently they worked with Habitat for Humanity, donated to Oceans of Hope, Apple a Day Program and a few more. They also raised  money for the families of the young girls who drowned in Belmar, their hometown.

So, what’s next on the horizon for Playa Bowls? “We have plans to expand out of state. We recently opened up in Pennsylvania at Lehigh University, which has been a big hit. We also opened up two locations in NYC and that’s been an amazing experience for us. Next up Delaware, North Carolina, Florida and we have no plan of stopping!  We want to expand and keep our culture and brand strong!” Abby Added.

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People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-3/ Thu, 07 Sep 2017 12:22:15 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=32768 Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato I remember as a child the first time I heard about drug abuse. I was in Middle School and my class was gathered together for an assembly. The speaker told us terrible stories about kids not much older than us who lost their friends, families and futures to their drug use. … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents

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Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato

I remember as a child the first time I heard about drug abuse. I was in Middle School and my class was gathered together for an assembly. The speaker told us terrible stories about kids not much older than us who lost their friends, families and futures to their drug use. The speaker also showed us pictures that revealed the physical consequences of drug abuse, and I remember feeling so far removed from the discussion. Never before had I even heard the word “heroin” and it wasn’t until about a decade later that it seemed to become widespread in conversations, newsfeeds and obituaries of people I knew.

Now, 10 years after graduating from Lacey Township High School, I find myself living in my old hometown of Forked River, where heroin is more prevalent than ever. My childhood home was robbed 3 times by heroin addicts and at least 10 people I shared the first 18 years of my life with are dead from drug abuse. Ocean County has the second highest rate of overdose deaths in New Jersey.

Although this topic has seemingly become ubiquitous here, I still don’t feel any closer to understanding why or what any of us can do to help. Recently, I spoke with the Prosecutor of Ocean County, Joseph D. Coronato, hoping to have a better understanding of my home’s darker side.

In 1981, Prosecutor Coronato was employed as an Assistant Prosecutor at the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office where he supervised investigations and trials covering homicides, organized crime and narcotics cases. In 1984, Coronato established a private practice in Toms River, New Jersey, specializing in Civil Litigation, Municipal Government, Zoning and Planning, Estate Administration, Estate Planning, Estate Litigation, Criminal matters, Personal Injury and Real Estate Law.

After years of working and living in Toms River, Coronato was sworn in as the Prosecutor of Ocean County in March of 2013. Within one week of becoming prosecutor, he experienced eight deaths from overdose, all under the age of 28. “I was really taken aback at the amount of overdose deaths that we had. One of those was an 18 year old girl who died doing 50 packs of heroin a day; 25 in the morning and 25 at night. She died in a motel room and I certainly was shocked; I had no idea that this problem even existed in Ocean County, “ Coronato remarked.

After this happened the Prosecutor began looking back at previous year’s overdose records in Ocean County.  In 2012 there were 56 overdose deaths and by halfway through Coronato’s first year, they were climbing even higher. “By the end of 2013 we had 112 deaths from overdose. I started looking at Narcan and anything else we could do just to get the death toll down and we were the first county in the state to issue Narcan to police officers.” Narcan is a prescription medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose.

Despite these efforts, In 2016 the death count nearly doubled and the way heroin was being made started to change to more of a synthetic opioid. “Basically they began adding fentanyl into the heroin trade, which is a synthetic opioid, and they’re just deadly,” Coronato added. The way drugs were trafficked also started to change,  as people are now able to buy their drugs online.

In 2013 Coronato created a plan to decrease drug use that breaks down into three main segments. The first segment is prevention and education within the school system, “you need to get into the schools and get the kids to understand that this a road you don’t go down,” he stated.

The second segment is strong law enforcement targeted towards finding and convicting drug dealers. “We have a strict liability campaign that when somebody overdoses and dies we send out the homicide unit with the drug unit in order to track where the person who died bought the drugs from. Then we send in an undercover guy to try to buy drugs from that drug dealer and charge them with not only the distribution, but also homicide for killing that person.”
Finally, the third segment entails partnering with healthcare to break the cycle of addiction. Coronato launched The Recovery Coach Program in 2016 which sends recovery coaches to meet with those who have just been sprayed with Narcan at the hospital to convince them to go into a drug treatment program. Coronato then extended the program so that addicts can get help at any time, not just after an overdose.

In 2017 he rolled out The Blue HART program which allows any drug addict to enter the Brick and Manchester police departments to get an addiction and treatment evaluation without any criminal charges or threats of going to jail. Coronato hopes to eventually expand the program to other towns as well. He added, “If you work at all three blocks in conjunction together,  maybe then we can make a difference. But, it’s not going to be solved in a year or two years or even three years. It took 40 years for us to get to where we are now. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

This kind of work and grim subject matter takes it’s toll, “I would definitely say the most difficult part of my job is my cell phone. Because between the suicides, overdose deaths and motor vehicle fatalities, my phone is constantly ringing and I know we’re dealing with another dead body. I never had any inclination when I took this job of the volume or magnitude of death there would be  here in Ocean County,” Coronato stated.

It’s encouraging though as a resident of Ocean County to know that there are so many efforts directed at this issue. Still, what can we do as citizens of this County to help fight against this epidemic? “Not to sound trite, but I believe that it really starts with family. I think communication within the family and the family life itself can make a huge difference. Parents need to make sure that they speak to their kids and have dinner together and actually talk to them. It’s all about communication and it’s kind of the erosion of the family life that I think has led to a lot of these problems,” the Prosecutor remarked.

For more information on treatment, NARCAN and more, visit: http://oceancountyprosecutor.org.

 

 

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People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-2/ Thu, 01 Jun 2017 11:40:38 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=31145 Debra Simpson Debra Simpson is a well-known basket weaver whose family has resided in Forked River for several generations. Her family settled in Ocean County at the turn of the 20th century, when her bayman grandfather, William V. Arnold, settled at the mouth of the Forked River, the shortest outlet to the bay. Debra’s maternal … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents

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Debra Simpson

Debra Simpson is a well-known basket weaver whose family has resided in Forked River for several generations. Her family settled in Ocean County at the turn of the 20th century, when her bayman grandfather, William V. Arnold, settled at the mouth of the Forked River, the shortest outlet to the bay.

Debra’s maternal ancestors were the Ford nee Abelson family, locally known as Lenni Lenape, the Delaware Indians.  She adds, “What I have always been told is that early on they spent their spring and summer months along the Delaware River and by the first fall frost, would move westward as far as West Virginia. I can construct what is known as a South Jersey Eel Trap, which was used by family members to fish and eel with.”

Debra also wove Baymen’s Baskets that were used during the time her father and uncles fished out of the Barnegat Bay. Having had the influence of basketry on both sides of her family, it makes perfect sense that she came to be recognized as a Master Basket Maker for the State of New Jersey.  Debra adds, “My love of baskets runs parallel to my love of family traditions. I have been repairing baskets since I was a teenager and weaving baskets all my adult life. In 1999 I received a grant from the State of New Jersey Council of the Arts, Folk Arts apprenticeship.”

Debra now passes on her practice by teaching boy scouts and girls scouts how to weave. She also gives seminars on basketry regularly, commenting, “Each time I teach a basket class I give a little seminar on what we are weaving and how that basket was used in my family, and how that basket can be used today. While attending local craft shows I’m always weaving a basket, or giving a demonstration how to lash a rim or how to lay out a base.”

Growing up, Debra’s family didn’t have very much in terms of financial security, so they depended upon their traditions and work ethic. She adds, “We developed a can-do spirit which I call Pine Barrens Pride, and it has stayed with my family for years. The essence of Pine Barrens Pride comes from knowing who we are and where we come from and from knowing at the end of the day when it’s all said and done; you get another crack at it tomorrow. I try to weave that example into my basketry, and in every aspect of my daily life.”

Debra also worked as a police dispatcher for the Lacey Township Police Department for over 25 years. “Because I was born and raised in Forked River, I have a strong connection to many of the local residents,” she stated. Adding, “Not everyone is cut out to be a Telecommunications Operator.  It can be a daunting task. Luckily for me I had a past Chief, Thomas Darmody and present Chief Michael DiBella that always believed in proper training. Education is the key to workplace success.”

Debra recalls the early face of Forked River when there was only 1 traffic light on route 9. She believes that the sense of community is still strong is Forked River, though. “Forked River (Lacey Township) has grown in leaps and bounds. Some of the faces have changed but the same small town spirit remains,” Debra remarked. She is optimistic too that with new knowledge on preserving the Pinelands, Reclaiming the Bay and being mindful of recycling and water/energy conservation, that we can enhance our town and lifestyles.

I asked Debra if she had any final thoughts she wanted to share with the community, to which she replied, “If you can look at yourself in the mirror and be satisfied with what you see, take a minute and give thanks.”

Make sure to check out her baskets that are on display and for sale at Ivy Cottage Gifts 407 Lacey Road in Forked River!

Chelsea Eriksen is a freelance writer and marketing professional who has over 8 years experience writing for major magazines, websites and blogs. She graduated from Wells College in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a minor in Advertising. Following her graduation, she interned for Relix Magazine and Big Hassle Media in NYC and soon after joined Effective Immediately PR’s publicity team in NYC and became Vice President until 2015. During her time there, she helped to grow their team from 5 publicists to over 25 in just 3 short years and expanded their offices to the West Coast. She has worked with a range of clientele, from independent artists and budding businesses all the way up to major brands including Clarks, Converse and Sonos. Currently she works as a PR/Marketing Coordinator for Direct Development PR in Hazlet, NJ and resides in Forked River, NJ. For any marketing, social media, public relations or content writing needs, you can reach Chelsea at chelseaeriksen@gmail.com.

 

 

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W.B. Grant Insurance Agency http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/w-b-grant-insurance-agency/ Thu, 04 May 2017 12:11:58 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=30681 W.B. Grant Insurance Agency has deep roots in Ocean County and are the oldest and longest running business in Barnegat that is owned and operated by the same family. The Agency is also one of The Forked River Gazette’s longest advertisers, since issue one in January 1971. Originally the agency was founded by Wallace B … Continue reading W.B. Grant Insurance Agency

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W.B. Grant Insurance Agency has deep roots in Ocean County and are the oldest and longest running business in Barnegat that is owned and operated by the same family. The Agency is also one of The Forked River Gazette’s longest advertisers, since issue one in January 1971. Originally the agency was founded by Wallace B Grant as a small newspaper/magazine store in 1936, located on West Bay Avenue, currently Jack’s Barber shop. The store also sold tobacco products, printing services, greeting cards and Insurance policies. Now the agency is located at 344 S Main Street on Route 9 in Barnegat, where they’ve remained since 1950.

According to William Ridgway Jr, the acting Insurance Producer at W.B., “W.B. Grant was an entrepreneurial man who recognized very quickly upon purchasing the newspaper store that there was a need for an insurance agent in the area and decided to expand the insurance business.”

The Agency offers multiple lines of Insurance and is known for their hands-on service. Primarily, they sell Personal Lines Insurance products such as Automobile, Homeowners, Umbrella, Boat, and Recreational Vehicle. They also sell Commercial Lines including Business Owners, General Liability, Workers Compensation, Bonds as well as Life and Disability products.

W.B. is considered to be a “full service shop” in the insurance industry. They not only sell policies, but they service the policies as well.  As an independent agent, they represent several carriers and have access to alternative markets for hard to place type risks. Mr. Ridgway adds, “Longevity and experience still go a long way in this day and age. Purchasing insurance whether you’re 17 or 100 is serious business, and we provide the counseling needed when purchasing a policy.”

Customers are sure to enjoy the agency’s friendly staff, many of whom have been there for at least 20 years. The staff at W.B. is also very involved with the community. Mr. Ridgway has been active with the local Rotary for over 28 years, and several other employees are either active in support local organizations. Additionally, Wallace B Grant’s son and the current owner of the agency, Rick Grant, is a lifetime member of the Barnegat Fire Company and still responds to calls.

For more information on W.B. Grant Insurance Agency go to: http://wbgrantagency.com.

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People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents BARBARA ANTOLICK http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-barbara-antolick/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 12:44:11 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=29625 Having grown up in a predominantly white, republican town during the 90’s, Christianity was pretty much an expected belief system. My mother brought me up in the Episcopalian faith, attending Saint Stephen’s Episcopal church in Waretown every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. However, I began a lifelong struggle with religion at the … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents BARBARA ANTOLICK

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Having grown up in a predominantly white, republican town during the 90’s, Christianity was pretty much an expected belief system. My mother brought me up in the Episcopalian faith, attending Saint Stephen’s Episcopal church in Waretown every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. However, I began a lifelong struggle with religion at the age of 9 when my Sunday School teacher told me my father was going to hell for being an Atheist. This declaration was the catalyst for my initial rejection of religion.
 
Although I don’t personally believe in any specific religion, I’ve always recognized the pros of being involved with a church. Generally, houses of worship provide a sense of community, activities and events, support and aid, and perhaps foremost; hope. So, when I recently discovered the Unitarian Universalist community right here in Ocean County, I was immediately intrigued. As a self-proclaimed agnostic atheist, I did not think there would ever be a church that welcomed me to openly philosophize on religion and spirituality.
 
The Unitarian Universalist Ocean County Congregation’s cite that their mission is to: Embrace the Soul, Embolden the Spirit, Enrich the Community. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Barbara Antolick, the acting President of the UUOCC, to learn more about the religion.
 
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According to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website, their beliefs are “diverse and inclusive. We have no shared creed. Our shared covenant (our seven Principles) supports the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Unitarian Universalists believe more than one thing. We think for ourselves, and reflect together, about important questions.” Antolick expanded, “Everyone is welcome at UUOCC. We don’t discriminate. Everyone has their own spiritual journey that they are on and we are here to support them in any way that we can.”
 
The Unitarian Universalist Ocean County Congregation (UUOCC) has been in existence for 34 years. The group first met at Murray Grove in Lanoka Harbor, which is the birthplace of Universalism in the United States, starting in 1983. “Our services offer a variety of opinions and practices that reflect our tradition of a free pulpit. We’ve had service topics include: Baseball, Autism, Tattoos, Gardening, a Sunrise service, a Labyrinth service, Flower Communion, Water Communion, Fire Communion, and Poetry Sunday, just to name a few,” Barbara commented.
 
As President of the Board of Trustees, Barbara oversees the congregation. Every Sunday the UUOCC holds services every at 10:30AM. During this time, the church holds a “Religious Education” for children. Barbara expands, “Each Sunday a member of the congregation works/plays with the children while promoting our Seven Principles:
 
1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
The UUOCC also offers a wide array of events and programs including: Dream Circle, Meditation, Wrangle Brook Community Garden, and Book Club. Additionally, the church is very involved in activism. “We have a very active Social Justice Committee that seems to work around the clock. Our congregation supports the Interfaith Hospitality Network, all local food banks, the Community Garden, and Homeless concerns, again just to name a few”
 
The Wrangle Brook Community Garden is the church’s newest enterprise, and is available to all local residents.  Residents are offered the opportunity to cultivate their own vegetables and flowers. There will also be a common area to grow produce that will be donated to local food banks.
 
With this religion being fairly new, (the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association consolidated in 196), I was curious as to how receptive the general public has been. “People often “disapprove” of our religion because they don’t understand it.  Many of the skeptics usually join us for at least one Sunday to see what we’re all about. Many of them wind up becoming members. My advice to everyone reading this, if you don’t understand, just ask,” Barbara commented. For more information on the UUOCC, go to their website: http://www.uuocc.org.

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People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents MINISTER STEVE BRIGHAM http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-minister-steve-brigham/ Thu, 02 Feb 2017 13:20:32 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=29294 Having grown up in Ocean County in a big house in the woods, one thing I never thought much about was homelessness. This just wasn’t something I was exposed to during my childhood in Forked River. It wasn’t until my family began taking me into New York City as a young adult that I even … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents MINISTER STEVE BRIGHAM

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Having grown up in Ocean County in a big house in the woods, one thing I never thought much about was homelessness. This just wasn’t something I was exposed to during my childhood in Forked River. It wasn’t until my family began taking me into New York City as a young adult that I even became aware of the concept of people without homes. When I first came into contact with a homeless person there, and saw it manifested before me, I remember feeling deeply rattled and confused.

Years later, as an adult, I made New York City my home for 5 years and this idea of homelessness became an everyday reality for me. I encountered them sleeping on benches in subway stations, picking through trash on city streets, begging for money outside of buildings. On one occasion, I saw a homeless woman shivering in the dead of winter, loosely wrapped in some stained and fraying blankets. I gave her some money and was soon after  fiercely scolded by a friend, “they’re not human!” he had told me then. But that’s just not something I’ve ever been really able to accept.

Recently after speaking with Reverend Steve Brigham, the former de-facto leader of Tent City (an outlawed homeless encampment in Lakewood), I’m beginning to understand how much of an issue this is in my own backyard.

Reverend Steve Brigham began working with the homeless in 1999 when a man in a boarding home in Jackson asked Brigham for help with his next month’s rent. The man was unable to find work and had no transportation. Brigham, realizing that this man was in dire straights, decided to help him by offering to set up a camp in the woods and bring by food and necessities as often as he could. The man, having no other viable options, agreed, and began to establish a home there. Soon after, the man stumbled upon others living in the woods, but without any form of shelter. The man invited them to join him and Brigham then supplied them tents, sleeping bags and an outdoor cook stove; thus began Tent City.

 

After getting to know the people living in the camp, he began to understand how large the homeless population in Ocean County was and began to seek out those looking for refuge. He commented, “In Lakewood I found about fifteen people living in abandoned cars off of route 88 by the railroad tracks. At this point I realized there was a problem, and I could make a difference.”

At the start, there were about six camps scattered around northern Ocean County and the minister would bring them any food or any other essentials he could find. That first winter he began to realize how difficult it was for the people living there to make it through the cold winter nights. Brigham expanded, “One man named Vincent, a Vietnam veteran, came down with pneumonia that first winter.  He was hospitalized, and after only two weeks in the hospital, he died. That really hit me hard, and I realized that the next winter I had to find some way to bring heat to their living environment.” So, the next winter he started using propane heaters in the tents which made a tremendous difference for the resident’s living conditions.

After a few years, Tent City grew to around 30 people, and it was becoming difficult for Brigham to work full-time and support the forest community. The minister then decided to quit  his 17-year career as a high voltage electrical contractor, minimize his expenses and live off of his pension money. He moved into one of the largest growing camps in Lakewood and declared this site as the “headquarters”. Brigham added, “I had always wanted to try living in a teepee, so I built one and set up home. The media, knowing there were no shelters in the area, were quite supportive, and friendly. We were living in relative peace and harmony for a few years, and things seemed to be moving in the right direction. Our hopes were high that something permanent might be created.”

It was around this time that there was a shift in power in the politics of Lakewood, and there were many who weren’t quite as fond of the growing tent community. The town told Brigham they had to take down all of their shanties and huts. “So, I passed around the sledge hammer, and told the residents that they had to demolish their homes. It was hard. Many with tears in their eyes, took the sledgehammer to their home, thinking it would save the community. Although we complied with everything they had asked us to do, about a week later the police came down anyway to serve us eviction papers”.

The following court proceedings lasted around 2 ½ years, and Tent City received legal representation pro bono from Jeff Wild of Lowenstein & Sandler. During this time frame Brigham faced multiple arrests and confrontations with the township. Brigham recalled, “The township sent down the inspection department and gave me a ticket for every tent, wood stove, and structure that didn’t have a permit.” In the end, Lakewood officials agreed to pay for Tent City resident’s housing for 1 year in exchange for forever closing the campsite. Brigham added, “The year of housing went quick, and the conditions for the homeless of Ocean County are worse today than they were ten years ago. Lakewood created anti-homeless laws where if a homeless person is found camping on public property they can be fined $250, and be evicted”.

Currently, former Tent City residents, including Brigham, have set up camp in the woods in Howell. According to the minister, there are around seven people residing in the main camp and there are other camps scattered around neighboring towns. In regards to law enforcement there, Brigham expanded, “they have been very friendly, police and all.”

The minister hasn’t give up hope yet on creating a more permanent solution. He has started a non-profit organization entitled Destiny’s Bridge which, according to it’s social media profile, aims to be an, “intentional community dedicated to the task of providing a transitional home for homeless adults where they can heal and start the process of becoming productively integrated members of society. The primary objective is to provide shelter, sustenance, and medical care; opportunities for rehabilitation and healing, and learning of employable skills to facilitate integration back into mainstream society.” Visit www.destinysbridge.org for more information.

 

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People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents BARBARA MACKEY http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents-barbara-mackey/ Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:42:18 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=28530 According to the Pew Research Center, people identifying as non-religious make up around 1.1 billion people in the world, which is the equivalent of 16.5% of the global adult population. That said, “non-religious” is actually the third largest “religion” in the world, following Christianity (as the first) and Islam (as the second). I count myself … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents BARBARA MACKEY

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According to the Pew Research Center, people identifying as non-religious make up around 1.1 billion people in the world, which is the equivalent of 16.5% of the global adult population. That said, “non-religious” is actually the third largest “religion” in the world, following Christianity (as the first) and Islam (as the second). I count myself as part of this non-religious group, and yet the fascination with the paranormal and supernatural has always been present in me.

For those of us that have never had a direct line to the lord almighty, it’s comforting to think that perhaps someone else does. Or if not a direct line, some kind of connection to the “other side”. This brings me to the subject of this article, the self-proclaimed psychic and Ocean County resident, Barbara Mackey. Currently residing in Toms River, I met with Mackey on a brisk October night at her “enchanted retreat” to get a better sense of all things mystical.

Barbara Mackey identifies herself as a clairvoyant, channeler, medical and animal  intuitive, healer, psychic investigator for missing persons and animals, teacher, lecturer, and above all a healer of the human spirit. She has been a regular guest on television shows, including appearances on Discovery ID, Unsolved Mysteries, Court TV, Hollywood at Large and The Catherine Crier Show. Mackey has also been working in radio for over 20 years as a guest-host for various stations, the host of her own talk show, Visions and is the resident psychic for the Shawn & Sue Breakfast Morning show, 92.7 FM WOBM. Mackey is also a published writer and columnist for Gannett Press, On the Run Magazine and The Celestial Connection Magazine.

Mackey is a sixth-generation Psychic/Medium of Hungarian and Scottish background who has had premonitions since the age of four.  “When I was 4 or 5 we lived in Newark and had an apartment. We had a fire escape and I was watching my mom hang laundry off of it and there was a woman sweeping next to her, she was our landlady. So I was sitting there watching her sweep and for some reason I was thinking, she’s going to attack my mother with that broom,” Mackey recalls.
“I started getting nervous and all of a sudden she takes the broom and hits my mother, knocking her to the ground. I just started screaming and running through the building until we got my Mom into an ambulance and found out later that she had a concussion.”
Although she had these premonitions and feelings from a very young age, she didn’t pursue her career as a psychic until much later, after she predicted the death of her fiance. “After my fiance died, I went to 2 people, the Reverend Helen Williams and Edith Cantor to find some solace and they told me i was psychic. I denied it at first, but i kept going back to Trenton to meet with them. They had me try different practices and the gift just started coming out. Eventually, I just couldn’t fight it anymore and I sold everything I owned and turned in my company car and started to pursue a life as a psychic, “ Mackey commented.

The multifaceted medium has been called on many times by the police for her help in missing persons and homicide cases, including the Jennifer Pammer case in Toms River, NJ. “I was involved in a murder case with the Brick Police Department, the victim’s name was Jennifer Pammer.  I told the police that they’d find her body in Bamber Lake and sure enough, they found it there.”

Mackey has also participated in many exorcisms, but has since decided to discontinue that service as she became very sick from bringing the “bad energies” home. “I did The Haunted for 4 seasons and I would go into different places and pick up the energy there and get very sick. Then, I was doing an exorcism in a mansion and as I was going down the servants steps,  something pushed me down the steps and I decided I wasn’t going to do that work anymore.”

Towards the end of our interview, Barbara turned toward me, looked at me very intently and asked what I wanted people to get from this story. To which I responded, “I don’t think I’m trying to impart any particular judgement around any of this. I’m just interested in examining something that remains a curiosity to many people. In life, I don’t claim to know any of the answers and I’d like for people to come to their own conclusions.”

She then reiterated to me, “I had no control over this, I was born this way, it’s in my DNA. My fiance was really the catalyst for what made me want to do this work. I had a premonition that he would die from a heart attack and he didn’t listen to me. I wanted to help people.”

Whether or not Mackey is the “real deal,” I can tell she really means it.

Chelsea Eriksen is a freelance writer and marketing professional who has over 8 years experience writing for major magazines, websites and blogs. She graduated from Wells College in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a minor in Advertising. Following her graduation, she interned for Relix Magazine and Big Hassle Media in NYC and soon after joined Effective Immediately PR’s publicity team in NYC and became Vice President until 2015. During her time there, she helped to grow their team from 5 publicists to over 25 in just 3 short years and expanded their offices to the West Coast. She has worked with a range of clientele, from independent artists and budding businesses all the way up to major brands including Clarks, Converse and Sonos. Currently she works as a PR/Marketing Coordinator for Direct Development PR in Hazlet, NJ and resides in Forked River, NJ. For any marketing, social media, public relations or content writing needs, you can reach Chelsea at chelseaeriksen@gmail.com.

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People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/people-pines-unique-examination-various-ocean-county-residents/ Wed, 02 Nov 2016 21:41:14 +0000 http://www.forkedrivergazette.com/?p=27761 Terry O’Leary In a society suddenly infiltrated by spark words like “sustainability,” “organic,” and “locally grown,” why is it so easy for us to put on blinders to our own ecosystem and environment? Seemingly, we’re all so self-aware and are single-handedly saving the world by purchasing free-range eggs at the local Shoprite. Meanwhile, we are … Continue reading People of the Pines: A Unique Examination of Various Ocean County Residents

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Terry O’Leary

In a society suddenly infiltrated by spark words like “sustainability,” “organic,” and “locally grown,” why is it so easy for us to put on blinders to our own ecosystem and environment? Seemingly, we’re all so self-aware and are single-handedly saving the world by purchasing free-range eggs at the local Shoprite. Meanwhile, we are living in this incredibly unique area filled with a plethora of unusual wildlife, habitats and greenery. Ocean County is a rare gem of world-wide environmental intrigue, with cedar swamps, salt marshes, natural estuaries, pygmy forests and the protected pine barrens; all of which face very real threats.

I grew up in the Pine Barrens, right near Double Trouble State Park where my mother would drag me along each weekend on bird-watching expeditions; set on saving the endangered blue birds. As a child, I would play in the forest, dig out graves for dead frogs and mice and regularly attended the Ocean Nature Conservation Society meetings with my Mom at the tender age of 9, serving as their honorary Vice President. You might think that this background would cause me to become an environmentalist myself, but no— I rebelled. I moved away for college, and then became a music journalist/publicist in New York City where I became terribly ignorant of a world outside my own urban landscape. Having moved back to my hometown last year and in speaking with the esteemed environmentalist, Terry O’Leary, I’m suddenly present to where I live and all that our county has to offer.

Terry O’Leary is a master naturalist and conservationist who has devoted his life to protecting the unique environments and ecosystems within the Pinelands. O’Leary grew up in Port Monmouth, NJ, where he spent his time clamming and trapping muskrats with his brother. It was this upbringing that inspired his pursuit of higher education in Environmental Science, in which he holds a master’s degree from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). Following his graduation, Pinelands Regional High School recruited him to teach environmental science and ecology when it first opened. This was a very special opportunity, as it was the first High School in New Jersey to offer environmental science as a subject.

After leaving Pinelands Regional High School Terry and his wife Kathy started their own business, Cedar Hollow Landscape Design and Environmental Consulting. Through this company, they were able to work on protecting endangered species, wetlands mitigation and landscape design. It was during this time that they teamed up with the Ocean County Saw District in Forked River to build rain gardens for those wanting to get a permit to build in the pinelands.

O’Leary comments, “Every building nowadays can’t have runoff that goes onto the road. They must have either a retention basin or a detention basin. What better way to utilize the water than have it run into the soil and sustain itself by planting a garden there? So, we brought this to the local schools and worked with the kids there to imagine and build all of these gardens. This was a big successes because the kids bought into the idea so much and there was no vandalism.”

O’Leary helped to establish the Lighthouse Natural Resource Education Foundation in Waretown, which hosts interactive programs through “Experience Barnegat Bay,” (EBB) which is based on involvement in conservation of natural resources. The lighthouse center is also used by schools, universities, environmental groups and scouting groups for environmental studies and programs. However, it can also be rented by most anyone in need of a large lodge or dormitory wings in a camp like-environment. Additionally, he helped to create the Barnegat Bay Decoy and Baymen’s Museum (now the Tuckerton Seaport) and was the educational coordinator for the Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson for 12 years.

When I asked Terry about what keeps him continually coming back to Ocean County, he replied, “It’s quite an interesting place, we have beautiful streams and forests, and we have lots of threats. Barnegat Bay is a natural estuary, which is a big deal. There are only 21 natural estuaries in the entire country. It’s in peril because there’s too much runoff from lawn fertilizer, there’s garbage and goose feces everywhere. We have beautiful cedar swamps and all kinds of incredible rare animals and plants like: Pine Barrens Tree Frogs, Pine Snakes, Corn Snakes, Timber Rattlesnakes. And, there are all kinds of rare plants. We need to protect and help to expand these animal’s habitats and spread awareness about them.”

O’Leary has been recognized for some of the outstanding work he has done and has received the Guardians of the Bay Lifetime Achievement Award from the Barnegat Bay National Estuary program in 2007 and was also inducted into the Pinelands Preservation Alliance’s Pine Barrens Educator’s Hall of Fame in 2008.

O’Leary’s biggest goal now is to “pass it on. I had mentors in my life, like Elizabeth Morgan, who was a mentor to your Mom (Nancy Eriksen) and to me. Dr. Vivian, he was my professor and he was working until he was 88 and he died at 93. He was a role model who pushed me very hard and I learned so much from him. So now I’m trying to pass it on to the next generation, which I think Master Naturalist is a perfect avenue for (a program at Ocean County College’s Continuing and Professional Education Department). I have 9 people who finished the program this past year and they’re volunteering all over the place; one guy is working with eels, another guy is a master birder; there are people who are monitoring the peregrine falcons at Island Beach State Park. They all find a way to put in their 40 hours and then some!”

If you’re looking to get involved and volunteer, the Lighthouse Natural Resource Education Foundation will be hosting two information sessions on Wednesday November 2nd at 2 and 5PM. There will be refreshments available at both sessions, email info@nrefnj.org for more information.

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