Cause motivates Mrs. New Jersey United States first runner-up

Mrs. New Jersey first runner up Amber Mack (center) presented Hamilton Area YMCA with a check for $3,000. Pictured are Mary Ann Rostel, Joe Fuhrman, Ruth Ann Degler, Pat Faber, Amber Mack, CEO Jim Fell, Stacy Goss and Rita Gudebski. (Photo courtesy of Richard Krauss Photography.)

Mrs. New Jersey first runner up Amber Mack (center) presented Hamilton Area YMCA with a check for $3,000. Pictured are Mary Ann Rostel, Joe Fuhrman, Ruth Ann Degler, Pat Faber, Amber Mack, CEO Jim Fell, Stacy Goss and Rita Gudebski. (Photo courtesy of Richard Krauss Photography.)

By Alexandra J. Seymour

Amber Mack represented Bordentown as Mrs. Greater Burlington County in the 2014 Mrs. New Jersey United States pageant held on May 17, winning first runner-up and raising $3,000 for her charity, the Hamilton Area YMCA.

Mack, 31, entered the pageant because it was her childhood dream, she said, and because she believed it would be an effective way to raise money. In addition to working out at the YMCA six days a week, she sits on the organization’s Spirit Committee, which organizes events to raise awareness and funds for the annual campaign.

“I could have picked a national level charity, and then just sent the check off, but I’d never see the difference,” Mack said. “Picking a local charity is different because you get to see what they’re going to do with it… I can physically touch and see exactly what I’m going to affect, which makes me have a stronger drive to get more and raise more thoughts.”

Mack’s love for children, volunteering and fitness also influenced her charity choice. She is a mother as well as Assistant Director and Costume Mistress for the Central New Jersey Ballet Theatre, which impacted her choice to allocate her campaign proceeds specifically to the YMCA’s Special Kids Organized Recreation (SKOR) and Active Older Adult (AOA) programs.

“To me, she’s not only beautiful on the outside, she’s beautiful on the inside,” said Alisha Cardenas, owner of Central New Jersey Ballet Theatre and close friend of Mack. “Everything Amber does—I’m not kidding—she puts forth 110 percent. I know some people say that, but Amber really does it.”

Mack was disappointed she was not crowned because she had a vision of spreading her cause to all the New Jersey YMCAs and, ultimately, across the nation. However, she recognized that the competition was stiff and that this was only her first pageant.

“I think [this loss] contributed to pushing me further and giving me more of a drive to do it again, work harder, and change things I need to change,” she said. “The judges told me…to believe more that I could do it and then it’ll happen. They said there’s a time for everyone and…that next year is going to be my year.”

Cardenas has full confidence in Mack for the future and praised her efforts and initiative this year.

“I never thought that I would be supporting [a beauty pageant], but it’s really funny: she changed my mind,” Cardenas said. “I was so proud of her when she went up there and when she told me the next day that she got first runner up. I really hope that she continues, and I hope one day she gets first place.”

Mack altered others’ perspectives by sharing her story and purpose, too. Despite only living in New Jersey since January 2013, when she moved to Bordentown from Indiana, she rounded up 50 sponsors from six different states.

“I want to put to rest the claim that pageants are all about being beautiful and winning money,” Mack said. “It’s not about that. It’s about volunteering, making a difference in your community, and at the end of the day, learning more about yourself and making yourself a better person.”

Mack also found that her longtime passion for dance was a helpful asset during the competition. Mack started ballet at 14 years old and quickly developed a passion for it. She attended Northern Illinois University for dance and later Ivy Tech Community College in Valparaiso, Indiana where she became a registered nurse. She points out that this path completely differs from her twin, who is a sociology professor at Northern Illinois University. Mack also joined the Indiana Ballet Theatre and remains part of the company, often making the commute back for performances and practices.

Although her experience as a dancer allowed her to feel at ease on stage, one challenge Mack encountered was the five-minute personal interview.

“I’m used to being onstage and never saying a word because it’s like breaking the wall—you never do it,” Mack said. “You have absolutely no idea what they’re going to ask and they can ask anything under the sun, especially off the biography sheet that you give them. You just have to act like you’re relaxed and you can answer everything perfectly off the top of your head.”

However, the environment fostered a sense of camaraderie and friendship, which contributed to Mack’s growth in confidence in herself.

“At the end, it was all hugs for everyone, and we’ve already all planned to get together again over the summer down at the shore,” she said.

Mack currently lives with her husband, Codey, and two children Jackson, 3, and Kinley, 1, all of whom supported her throughout her journey. The family moved to New Jersey due to Codey’s work in Princeton as an actuarial analyst. The couple specifically chose Bordentown because Mack started working and dancing at Central New Jersey Ballet Theatre, and she wanted to live as close to the studio as possible.

Mack will still be making appearances as Mrs. Greater Burlington County until her title runs out in July, and her most recent focus is volunteering at the Special Olympics for the New Jersey 2014 summer games.

Libraries aim to stay relevant in changing times

Bordentown Library branch manager Suzi Freedman works at one of the library’s computers. (Staff photo by Bill Sanservino.)

Bordentown Library branch manager Suzi Freedman works at one of the library’s computers. (Staff photo by Bill Sanservino.)

By Aliza Alperin-Sheriff

When branch manager Suzi Freedman arrived at Bordentown Library five and a half years ago, the only program for adults was a monthly book discussion.

Now the library, part of the Burlington County Library System, is bursting with programs  and events for every age and interest.

The growth of library programs, events and technology use is a trend that spreads far outside of Bordentown, too.

In May, both Mercer County Library System and Princeton Public Library introduced Hoopla, a service that allows their patrons to stream movies, television shows, music and audiobooks directly to their computers or mobile devices.

Thanks to Hoopla and similar services, such as eLibraryNJ, which can be used to digitally check out e-books and audiobooks, and Zinio, which can be used to digitally check out magazines, library cardholders can access all types of material from anywhere in the world, as long as they have an Internet connection.

In the month following Hoopla’s debut, Princeton had 830 patrons check out 1,700 items using the service and Mercer County had almost 2,500 checkouts.
Ellen Brown, the director of Mercer County Library, believes that there are several reasons that library services like Hoopla are popular despite competition from commercial services like Netflix or Hulu.

“I think people like choices,” she said. “I think they like free. I think there’s a certain comfort zone or safety in downloading or streaming from a library.”
Larry McNamara, the supervising librarian of acquisitions and technology at Mercer County Library, added that commercial services focus on providing the most popular items, but libraries focus on having comprehensive collections, which allows for more diverse content.

Embracing services like Hoopla is one adaptation that libraries have made to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world. As libraries have less of a need to use their physical spaces to house their collections, they have remade themselves into full-fledged community centers that offer everything from notary services to computer classes to drum circles.

“It’s not books on a shelf and librarians going ‘shh’ all the time,” said Freedman.
Similarly, Brown recounted recently having seen a mother shush her young child after emerging from story time.

“It was funny because that’s really not how it is anymore,” said Brown. “Our role has definitely changed to be all encompassing.”

Leslie Burger, the executive director of Princeton Public Library, explained that the transition of public libraries into community centers is a natural progression.

“In the early 1900s, when public libraries became much more ubiquitous in the United States, they were built to to do the same thing. They were referred to as the people’s university and provided an opportunity for people, who might not have had the same advantages as others, to self-educate,” she said.

Freedman said one of the most important aspects of libraries is their accessible nature.

“We’re the only place open until 8:30 at night in all of Bordentown,” she said. “Schools close. Where else do kids have to go? If they’re old enough to be here alone, it’s a safe place to come. It’s a nurturing environment.”

As libraries have transformed into community centers, they have begun to expand their programming options including offering more programs geared toward adults.

Around 2000, Princeton Public Library made a deliberate decision to expand their adult programming.

Since then, adult programming has grown exponentially. Last year 70,000 people attended more than 2,400 programs at the library.

Mercer County Library has also seen an expansion in adult programming in recent years. Ann Kerr, who works in the reference department at the Lawrence Branch of Mercer County library, recalled that there was a push in the 1970s to create more programs, but the library had trouble actually getting patrons to show up at first. However, over the years attendance has increased and in 2013 19,135 people attended the 1,599 adult programs offered throughout the Mercer County Library system.

Brown pointed out that many of the programs are “things I would never associate with the library.”

Among the programs offered across the branches this June were yoga classes, crochet and knitting circles, movie screenings, talks about cooking and health, ESL conversation groups and coupon swaps.

Bordentown has been slower than either Princeton or Mercer County to increase adult programming, but that is slowly and surely changing. Once she started working at the Bordentown Library, Freedman had worked with Andy Woodworth, a librarian who recently left Bordentown to become the head of adult services at the Cherry Hill branch of Burlington County Library, and together they brought many programs into the library including American Sign Language classes, a home buying workshop and rubber stamping classes.

“Andy had a good touch about what’s a good program, what’s not, what will fly here,” said Freedman.

In addition to reinventing themselves, as technology changes, libraries also need to be able to provide their patrons with access to that technology and educate them about it.

Brown noted that when Mercer County Library first connected to the Internet, there was a rolodex at the reference desk with a list of good sites.

“That wouldn’t work too well, now,” she said.

Today, being able to use a computer and navigate the Internet is absolutely essential to many endeavors including job searches. After the economic downslide in 2008, people who had been in the workforce for 20 years suddenly found themselves out of work and turned to their libraries for help.

In 2004, 2,014 people attended 353 computer classes at Mercer County Library. In 2014, 4,080 people attended 760 classes.

Freedman has seen a similar trend at Bordentown Library.

“I get a lot of people who need computer and Internet access because they’re unemployed and going back into the workforce,” she said. She has explained to numerous patrons that for most jobs today you have to apply online and that if you don’t have an email address nobody will respond to you. She said that the library offers a lot of one-on-one tutoring sessions to help people use computers and work on their resumes.

As the role of libraries have changed, so have their physical spaces. Kerr said that when the Mercer County Library branches underwent renovations from 1995 to 1997, “We went from a couple of meeting rooms to a lot of them. There are now many rooms just for community programs.”

Bordentown Library’s 2007 expansion also allowed it to add more meeting spaces. Freedman said that it gives entrepreneurs and people with home-based businesses a professional space to conduct meeting.

“It’s sort of like an executive suite,” she said.

Despite the all the changes that have come to libraries, traditional library services remain popular.

“Every time you add a new format, you always think it’s going to be the end of the old format, but it’s not. Our collection of books on CD didn’t stop circulating when Hoopla was introduced. We didn’t stop buying them,” said McNamara.

In fact, circulation numbers, which don’t reflect digital checkouts, continue to rise. In 1997, Mercer County Library had 1,252,534 items checked out. That number rose to 1,424,450 by 2004 and 1,466,028 by 2013.

Ultimately, in order to be effective community centers, libraries need to pay attention to what’s important to their communities.

“Lawrence is headquarters, so it has more reference resources. Hightstown has a lot of Spanish-speaking people, so they have resources that would help and interest them,” explained McNamara.

Mercer County Library has also seen a need in its communities for non-traditional services like delivering library materials to home-bound patrons, developing library gardens, lending museum passes, and running a blog.

One of the unique services provided by Bordentown is a special needs collection that the Bordentown Library Association helps fund. The collection involves books (including Braille books), DVDs and manipulatives. They also put on programs that specifically cater to adults with special needs.

“I think the future of libraries is strong and we will be around for years to come,” said Burger. “The next generation of library leaders has to be very cognizant of what’s going on in the communities they serve. They have to really pay attention to what’s going on in their community, as opposed to jumping on a trend.”

Bordentown Library to feature summer reading program

Among the many programs offered at the Bordentown Library are the popular summer reading clubs, which were set to begin June 23 and are scheduled to run through Aug. 15.

Participants should pick up their packets for this year’s “explosive” program, “Fizz Boom Read” for Early Literacy and 3-12 year olds, and “Spark a Reaction” for the teens.

Kids can also stop by “Mad Science Mondays” to see what crazy concoctions are being mixed up and, on Fridays, the library will feature science themed movies.
Other July programs include Crafting for Tweens, Big Blocks & Legos, Yoga for Kids,  3-6 Year Old Story Time, Meet Pippi Longstocking, Teen DIY: Monster Bookmarks, Adult Book Discussion, Bordentown Area Photography Interest Group, History to Go: Benjamin Franklin, K9 Reading Time, Teen Cupcake Wars, Sci-Fi Movie Fridays, Mad Science Mondays, The Good, The Bad and the Bug-ly!, Science Story Time, Teen Jenga, Fitness Rock & Roll, Teen DIY: T-Shirt Tote, Baby/Toddler Time, Family Balloon Workshop and more.
Bordentown Library is located at 18 East Union St. in Bordentown.

For more information and a complete list of library events and programs, go online to bcls.lib.nj.us/bordentown. Phone: (609) 298-0622.

Fishing Derby contestants awarded for largest catch

Five fishers took home trophies for Largest Fish Caught at Bordentown Township’s annual Fish Derby July 4.

More than 300 people attended the event at Northern Community Park; 100 children participated in the derby.

Winners were Zander Gorlin with a 22 inch fish, Michael Bisceglie with a 12 inch fish, Amberlyn Wilson with a 11 inch fish, Ryan Scheaf with a 10 1/2 inch fish and Emily Klena with a 9 1/2 fish.

Each child who participated received a green ribbon of participation from the township and a certificate presented by the Mercer County Angler Association.

Several participants also won gift certificates donated from Sportsmen Center and rods donated from the Mercer County Angler Association.

Ron Jacobson from the Department of Fish & Wildlife and Hackettstown Fish Hatchery was on site to teach the children about fishing and stocked the pond that day.

30 years of playing and learning

Play and Learn Preschool is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Students celebrated this milestone with the school’s annual end of the year walk to Guilder Park and a graduation ceremony. Play and Learn Preschool is located in First Presbyterian Church, 420 Farnsworth Ave., Bordentown.

Play and Learn Preschool students take a trip to Guilder Park. Back: Abel (Bordentown), Cassidy (Bordentown), Ayanah (Bordentown), Julia (Hamilton), Maya (Columbus), Emily (Bordentown), Abby (Bordentown) and Marco (Bordentown). Front Row: Julianna (Bordentown), Kara (Columbus), Joey (Bordentown), Anna (Bordentown), Jacob (Bordentown), Jack (Bordentown) and Matthew (Bordentown).

Play and Learn Preschool students take a trip to Guilder Park. Back: Abel (Bordentown), Cassidy (Bordentown), Ayanah (Bordentown), Julia (Hamilton), Maya (Columbus), Emily (Bordentown), Abby (Bordentown) and Marco (Bordentown). Front Row: Julianna (Bordentown), Kara (Columbus), Joey (Bordentown), Anna (Bordentown), Jacob (Bordentown), Jack (Bordentown) and Matthew (Bordentown).

Play and Learn Preschool class of 2014.  Back: Marco (Bordentown), Julianna (Bordentown), Jack (Bordentown), Anna (Bordentown), Matthew (Bordentown), Emily (Bordentown) and Joey (Bordentown). Front: Julia (Hamilton), Cassidy (Bordentown), Abel (Bordentown), Jacob (Bordentown), Maya (Columbus), Ayanah (Bordentown), Abby (Bordentown) and Kara (Columbus).

Play and Learn Preschool class of 2014. Back: Marco (Bordentown), Julianna (Bordentown), Jack (Bordentown), Anna (Bordentown), Matthew (Bordentown), Emily (Bordentown) and Joey (Bordentown). Front: Julia (Hamilton), Cassidy (Bordentown), Abel (Bordentown), Jacob (Bordentown), Maya (Columbus), Ayanah (Bordentown), Abby (Bordentown) and Kara (Columbus).

Bordentown Post 26 defending its MCALL championship title

Tyler O’Dell, of Bordentown Post 26, takes a swing in a game against Ewing in June 2014. (Photo by Kyle Kondor.)

Tyler O’Dell, of Bordentown Post 26, takes a swing in a game against Ewing in June 2014. (Photo by Kyle Kondor.)

By Kyle Kondor

The Bordentown Post 26 baseball team is ready to defend its title this year.
The Mercer County American Legion League defending champions are in the midst of their 2014 campaign, hoping to take home their fifth league title in eight years.

Before Bordentown’s winning streak, Hamilton Post 31 had—for 11 consecutive seasons from 1996-2006—been the only MCALL team to hoist the league title; year and year out, Rick Freeman’s Post 31 team was the clear cut favorite to win the league.

The tides have since changed, and Post 26 manager Tom Dolan, now entering his 16th season as manger of the team, finally knows the feeling of coaching the team that’s favored to win the MCALL.

“It’s never good to be the favorite,” Dolan said. “We’re just going to have to focus every day and know that everyone’s probably going to come with their best against us.”

Last season, Bordentown finished 27-6 overall, with a 21-2 record against MCALL opponents.

Despite the loss of pitcher Dan Hornyak and slugger Mike Kendall, who have exceeded the league’s age limit, most of Post 26’s key players have returned this season.

Bordentown fields a team with several players from high schools all over the state, including Bordentown Regional High School, Northern Burlington, Burlington Township and Rancocas Valley, among other strong baseball schools.

The team has a handful of players on its roster who have made commitments to play at the college level, and therefore those individuals who pitch have had to limit the amount of innings that they’ve thrown this summer.

“That could be a problem,” Dolan said. “The guys who are limited are just staying loose by throwing bullpen sessions and throwing long toss when they’re not pitching.”

Zack Gakeler plays for Bordentown Post 26 in a game against Ewing in June 2014. (Photo by Kyle Kondor.)

Zack Gakeler plays for Bordentown Post 26 in a game against Ewing in June 2014. (Photo by Kyle Kondor.)

In fact, several of the team’s players represented Burlington County in the Carpenter Cup championship game at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, on June 20. The team, made up of Burlington County’s best high school baseball players, finished as the tournament’s runner-up for the second consecutive season.

Now that the tournament is over, a few of the pitchers who participated will be able to return to their normal roles on the Bordentown legion team.

Though Post 26 has had to deal with that minor setback, and will continue to do so, the team hasn’t seen a decline in success so far this season.

As of press time, the team had won all 12 of its games, and its loaded pitching staff had posted a league-best five shutouts without having let up more than three runs in any game.

University of Pittsburgh commit Zack Gakeler and Florida Gulf Coast University commit Ryan Shinn are two of several players on Bordentown’s roster who have contributed to the team’s impressive start, despite being limited on the mound.

“We can’t let statistics and everything get to our heads,” Gakeler said. “We just have to stay humble and go out there and do what we do every day.”

Bordentown’s offense may not be quite as notable as its pitching thus far, but as of mid-July the team still managed to plate 4.9 runners per game for a total of 59 runs on the season.

A lump some of those runs were scored in the team’s impressive 10-0 route of Ewing Post 314 in five innings by way of the mercy rule on June 5. Aaron Crichlow’s fastball, clocked at over 90 mph, proved to be too much for Ewing on that day, as he struck out seven while allowing only two hits. Post 26’s usual number two hitter Tyler O’Dell notched one of Bordentown’s four doubles in that game.

So far this season, O’Dell has lived up to his expectations as one of Bordentown’s leaders and returning starters from last year.

“I wouldn’t say there’s extra pressure on me, I just feel obligated to do well,” O’Dell said.

Post 26 still has a long season ahead. As of press time, the team was scheduled to play 21 games within the next 22 days, all for a chance at repeating as league champions.

“There’s a lot of competition within our team this year, and that’s going to bring out the best in all of our guys,” Dolan said.

Elks provide Heritage Corner Kit for MacFarland Intermediate School

2014 08 BC Elks MacFarland School

The Bordentown Elks Americanism Committee coordinator Dick Langan and chairman Jim Sharpe present a Heritage Corner Kit to MacFarland Intermediate School principal Megan Geibel (center) on June 10, 2014. The kit includes parchment documents of the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Monroe Doctrine, Gettysburg Address, Elks Resolution on Law and Order, and Elks Declaration of American Principles.

Jersey Bandits win two state tournaments

Pictured are the Bordentown Bandits. Front: Sofia Peterson, Angelina Marino, Carly Jones, Brianna Fischer and Emily Spencer. Back: Hailey Cope, Emma Chiemiego, Alexa Klepper, Faith Carll, Alyssa Costello and Dakota Jutting.

Pictured are the Bordentown Bandits. Front: Sofia Peterson, Angelina Marino, Carly Jones, Brianna Fischer and Emily Spencer. Back: Hailey Cope, Emma Chiemiego, Alexa Klepper, Faith Carll, Alyssa Costello and Dakota Jutting.

Bordentown-based 10U softball team, Jersey Bandits, won the USSSA N.J. State Championship and the N.J. Pony State Championship this season.

The Bandits defeated the Mystics 7-3 in the USSSA State Championship in Medford June 29. The team went on to beat NJ Pride with a score of 10-5 at the Pony State Championship in Westampton July 6.