Kindness and perseverance thrive despite pandemic
This year, the impact of the coronavirus worked its way into our everyday lexicon.
A new normal.
Flatten the curve.
When encouraged to shut down and stay home to quell the spread of COVID-19, many in the Greater Cumberland County region didn’t abandon their drive to help others or achieve new goals. I’ve selected about two dozen stories I wrote during 2020 that highlight how small acts of kindness made a big difference.
The collection includes a businessman who settled outstanding school lunch debts, a deaf dog encouraging acceptance, and the Class of 2020 who joyfully embraced their non-traditional graduation celebrations.
May their compassion, resilience, and perseverance serve as inspiration to us all in the new year.
A municipal dog park debuts in Vineland giving pet owners and their pets a place to mingle. The gates opened and the first guest was a Champ.
A Vineland businessman stepped up to payoff lunch debts for public school families, including one who lost their home in a fire.
A Barse Elementary School fourth-grader offered a lesson in empathy introducing the school’s new Buddy Bench.
At his retirement, Vineland police Officer Fredrick DeMary publicly thanked his spotlight shunning fellow officer Detective Domenic Ferrari for a lifesaving kidney donation years before that made his law enforcement career possible.
Cole the Deaf Dog, a therapy-certified pit bull, didn’t let the pandemic stop him from spreading some love. Like a true superhero, the pup and his trusted sidekick, Mennies Elementary School teacher Chris Hannah, hopped in their Colemobile for a special mission.
Starbucks made a grande announcement; they’re coming to Landis Avenue.
Jersey Girl Farm Market owner Lori Staas of Vineland launched her weekly “bundle boxes” that featured an assortment of fresh produce at an affordable price. Her patrons embraced healthy eating and embarked on some culinary creativity. They also launched a pay it forward option to purchase a bundle box to donate to someone in need.
A Vineland business found weathering the impact of COVID-19 the local economy could be a piece of cake, specifically a cupcake. Crust’N’Krumbs Bakery developed a do-it-yourself Easter-themed cupcake decorating kit. It occupied the kids and yummy when complete.
The City of Vineland and the state Department of Agriculture took their pride in local farmers to new heights. They teamed up to give a water tower a makeover that featured the Jersey Fresh logo.
When Gov. Phil Murphy closed theaters to quell the spread of the coronavirus, the state’s lone drive-in theater was among them, despite being an open-air venue. It took some lobbying but eventually “Logic prevailed,” Delsea Drive-In co-owner Jude DeLeonardis said. The theater reopened on May 22.
Fruta Mex brought a new flavor to Landis Avenue. Betzaveth Cruz, who co-owns the business with her boyfriend, Uriel Mendoza, said the menu is inspired by the treats served by Mexico’s street food vendors. She is a second-generation downtown entrepreneur and opted to locate her shop just a few storefronts down from her father’s former telecommunications business
The Class of 2020 at Vineland and Millville High Schools didn’t know if they would have traditional stadium graduation ceremonies with Gov. Phil Murphy tweaking COVID-related mandates right down the wire. In the end, school administrations developed one-of-a-kind socially distanced celebrations that brought everyone together in fun and festive ways.
Kelly Soracco is a trailblazer becoming chief of the Vineland Emergency Medical Service. She is the first woman to hold the title.
Vineland Police also made some history, swearing in six female recruits in a single ceremony.
When a sign went up at the South Vineland Post Office announcing the U.S. Postal Service was slashing its hours of operation, the community rallied. Vineland resident Selena Mohan launched a petition drive and the plan was abandoned. It was a precursor to the public outcry of nationwide cuts implemented by the U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
The regular crowd bellied up to bar to toast South Vineland Tavern owner John Forosisky, when he announced last call for the Vineland neighborhood watering hole.
Patricia Burkhardt of Millville is a devoted grandma and dedicated Wawa employee. It seems fitting she was among the company’s associates who helped bring the new Kids Meals to the menu.
Army Pfc. Chris LaPortez came home to surprise his sister at her wedding, unaware there was something special waiting for him. After his mom’s death, the soldier tried to get her 2009 Toyota Corolla back on the road. His family and Main Auto Service made his wish come true.
When COVID-19 threatened Verna’s Flightline Restaurant in Millville, her friends got together to raise the roof. Donations funded a 30-by-40 feet outdoor pavilion that extended the outdoor dining area as a way to thank Verna Herman for her kindness to the local community..
Yilmaz Kangal, co-owner of a regally named restaurant empire expanded into Vineland – opening the Queen Restaurant II.
Vineland suffragist, Portia Gage, was remembered as a new generation of female voters wanted their voice heard in the general election. Gage cast her first ballot in 1868. It was rejected but marked a pivotal moment in the women’s rights movement.
The Daily Journal’s Pennies for Puppies launched a campaign to purchase Vineland K9 Kess a safety vest. Donors were so generous, there was enough money to purchase a new K9 dog. K9 Pluto is now attending the John “Sonny” Burke Police K9 Academy with his partner Officer Robert Magee.
Derry “DJ” Cottrell Jr., who divides his time between his Millville hometown and Los Angeles, urged South Jersey to show love by donating coats to the Cumberland Family Shelter in Vineland. His Every Heart Should be Warm, Not Cold drive-through coat drive gathered more than 150 coats in one afternoon.
Deborah M. Marko, a senior staff writer at The Daily Journal, is focused on breaking news and education issues. She also oversees community outreach programs that promote literacy and public safety. Got a story idea? Call 856-563-5256. Follow on Twitter: @dmarko_dj Instagram: deb.marko.dj Help support local journalism with a subscription to The Daily Journal.