Voorhees Township Year in Review Day Two

The past year saw plenty of change at Eastern Regional High School, including a change in leadership and honors for its students and staff

After another quick 12 months, yet another year has come to a close. Voorhees Township residents have plenty to look back on from municipal and school events, as well as community events as well.

Let’s take a look back at some of the top moments from this past year in The Sun’s three-day coverage of the past calendar year:

Eastern superintendent retiring

After nearly two decades, Superintendent Harold Melleby Jr. is retiring from the Eastern Regional High School District. Melleby served as a principal at Eastern from 2001 to 2005 before serving as superintendent ever since.

While at Eastern, Melleby says he’s become the biggest fan of the school for a myriad of reasons.

“I tell people that I take a lot of pride in the fact that Eastern is a comprehensive high school, we have something for every student,” Melleby said. “If you’re a high-powered student, we have 27 Advanced Placement courses, if you have special needs we have great programs for special needs students.”

“In the arts, the music program and concerts and arts in themselves are fantastic, and in athletics we’re the envy of a lot of schools in a lot of ways,” added Melleby. “And plus we’re the home of the champions, it all starts with providing the services like coaching and athletic training.”

Melleby says he’s more than thankful for all the work that board of education members, faculty and staff members, students, administration and more have added to making Eastern a destination high school for some in South Jersey.

“Thanks for listening”

Sheri Lattimer, a guidance counselor at Eastern Regional for the past 16 years, originally started her career in the education field as an English teacher.

Having taught for a combined five years at both Maple Shade High School and Vineland High School, Lattimer says at the end of each school year that students would frequently have a similar message for her after a year of stress, anxiety and hard work.

“I always buy yearbooks and let the kids sign them,” said Lattimer. “And I noticed that, as a classroom teacher, I would hear them say ‘thanks for listening,’ and as I read their comments it wasn’t ‘thanks for English class or learning anything’, but more like ‘thank you for listening and always being there,’ and I think that was the hint that maybe I should shift gears and go into working with kids in this capacity.”

Now, after mentoring generations of local students, Lattimer has been awarded the Camden County Counselor of the Year Award from the Camden County School Counselors Association for her role in helping guide and provide support of thousands of students.

Voorhees, like many NJ municipalities, hurt by recycling costs

New Jersey, like many other states, has been hit hard with the cost of recycling.

Voorhees Township has been no exception.

According to figures provided by the township, Voorhees Township made revenue for three consecutive years leading up to China’s decision to no longer accept recycling from the Unites States and others. Between 2015 and 2017, Voorhees Township made approximately $4,000, $11,000 and $41,000 each year for recyclable materials before beginning to experience hardship.

In 2018, Chief Financial Officer Dean Ciminera says Voorhees first starting to go into the red with recycling around May, which continued to grow over time. In total, Voorhees Township paid more than $27,000 to take away recyclable materials last year.

Now in 2019, the township paid nearly $70,000 through April.

Part of the problem, Township Administrator Larry Spellman believes, is due to single-stream recycling.

“The nice thing with single-stream is that you put it all in one bucket, “ said Spellman. “The old days, you’d have a place for paper, green glass, clear glass, aluminum cans, even tin cans back then. Single-stream means we can put it all in one thing, but I’ve read something about with how recycling is separated along a conveyer belt, that the more something is recycled that is gets harder to be separated.”

Additionally, problems arise from recycling misconceptions with residents before materials even reach a recycling plant. Spellman says that, in meeting with trash and recycling workers, approximately 20 percent of what goes into a recycling bin is actually trash, due to recycling standards.

For additional information and recycling FAQs, visit camdencounty.comand click the recycling icon on the homepage.

McGroarty named Gatorade Player of the Year honor

After yet another successful season at Eastern, which culminated in the school’s first Group 4 State Championship since 2006 with Kelli McGroarty setting a new single-season goal record and eventually being named the 2018 Sun Newspapers Girls Soccer Player of the Year, McGroarty’s accomplishments continue to rack up after the final whistle.

In early June, McGroarty was named the 2018-2019 Gatorade New Jersey Girls Soccer Player of the Year, the first to be chosen from Eastern in the company’s 34 years of honoring some of the best athletes across the country.

However, this most recent honor comes with a meaningful added bonus, receiving a $1,000 grant to award to a nonprofit of her choosing. Having been named a state Player of the Year for a sport through Gatorade, McGroarty was then eligible to submit an essay to win one of 12 $10,000 spotlight grants for an organization of her choice – something she quickly did and won as well, donating all the money to ‘Smiles From Kara,’ a Voorhees non-profit established in honor of Kara Lemanowicz.

Township hosts positive medical cannabis public hearing

Prior to its public meeting on Monday, July 29, the Voorhees Township Committee held a public hearing in the courtroom of the Voorhees Town Center. Although the discussion was around a sometimes divisive topic, this one didn’t go up in smoke.

As advertised in a release put out by the township earlier in the month, the purpose was “to receive public comments regarding anticipated requests to site medical marijuana facilities within the township of Voorhees.”

As of the meeting, no applications had been received by the township, therefore no determination to accept or reject such facilities had been made by the township committee either.

However, with the news in July that the state’s Medical Marijuana Program would be expanding to seek to open as many as 24 additional alternative treatment centers across multiple stages of the medical cannabis process, township committee wanted to receive comments from residents before moving in either direction.

Mayor Michael Mignogna, in a written statement to The Sun, said the public hearing was very positive in favor of allowing medical cannabis within Voorhees Township, but that any official action would most likely come during a potential additional round for the program due to the close August deadline.

“Every member of the public who spoke at the hearing was strongly in favor of allowing medical cannabis in Voorhees,” said Mignogna. “As always, the township committee will strongly consider this public input as we move forward in discussing this important issue. We will continue to evaluate and study the issue and do not anticipate taking any formal action prior to the August deadline.”

Voorhees to honor POW/MIA soldiers with Chair of Honor

Locally, Voorhees Township honors veterans every year through its Veterans Wall of Honor located at the Voorhees Town Center. Each year, Mayor Michael Mignogna, committee members, township officials and more honor veterans with a connection to Voorhees who are placed on the wall with a special ceremony, with the wall now entering its sixth year this upcoming October.

In the past, the wall has made special sections to honor war dogs, African American soldiers from the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, those killed in action and more.

This year, the Voorhees Town Center will see an addition to the ways it honors veterans with a POW/MIA Chair of Honor to be added near the Voorhees Veterans Wall of Honor.

Jeanette Schelberg, former township clerk for Voorhees Township, helped create the Veterans Wall of Honor after a suggestion from a resident years ago. Ever since, Schelberg, also a veteran herself, has sought veterans who could be placed on the wall, complete with a picture from their days in their particular branch along with applicable information on a plaque.

“The purpose of the chair is to remind people that there are still thousands of U.S. servicemen and women, most of whom were teenagers when they left, that never got to come home,” said Schelberg. “As time passes, they’re remembered and known only to the family and friends that they left behind, they’re not generally known to the public.