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FEB. 24-MARCH 2, 2021

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Calm before the storm

Walk up window allows township residents to have human connection By MADELEINE MACCAR The Sun

MADELEINE MACCAR/The Sun

On Feb. 17, before another blanket of snow covered Mt. Laurel and the region beyond, a frozen lake serves as the seasonal centerpiece to the township’s Laurel Acres Park.

In a year filled with disruptions and mantras about “the new normal,” Mt. Laurel Township is trying to connect residents with township employees — from a safe, low-contact distance, of course — while delivering in-person service. Since opening its walk-up window at the municipal center nearly a month ago, the township has received promising reviews from residents about the newest development in wresting some normalcy from the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges, according to Communication Director Ashlyn Grisetti. “The feedback we’ve gotten so far has been great,” she confirmed. “Our residents really like seeing a friendly face. And it helps with frustrations, too: I know I don’t want to call a township and have to wait on hold just to get a simple answer.” Opened on Jan. 25, the window was the township’s way of providing real time answers and a human connection to residents who want a faceto-face response for some of their most pressing municipal questions.

please see TOWNSHIP, page 8

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THE MT. LAUREL SUN — FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021

Year of the Ox Lunar New Year celebrations look different this year due to pandemic By KELLY FLYNN The Sun

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Residents across South Jersey have reason to celebrate: 2020, the Year of the Rat, is over, and the Lunar New Year has begun for 2021, the Year of the Ox, according to the Chinese zodiac. Called the Lunar New Year because the holiday celebrates the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar, the celebration began on Feb. 11 and will culminate with the Lantern Festival on Feb. 26. In a typical year, the holiday’s traditions emphasize gathering with family and friends. Given the current restrictions, celebrations have looked a bit different, but locals still find ways to keep the traditions alive. Moorestown resident Sharon

Hou said that normally, generations of family members come together for Lunar New Year. Throughout the holiday, you visit your family, key relatives and friends. There are gatherings and food plays a key role as people come together to make traditional dishes to share. Decorations also play an important role. Families hang red ribbons and lanterns and hang door ornaments with lucky phrases. The color red is meant to symbolize good fortune and joy, two key themes that permeate the holiday’s traditions. Hou said given the pandemic, visiting friends and hosting large gatherings isn’t wise. So her celebrations have remained small, with just immediate family and a close friend’s family please see CELEBRATE, page 7


FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021 — THE MT. LAUREL SUN

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THE MT. LAUREL SUN — FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021

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Virtual STEM workshop: Rainbow Magic: Ages 7 to 10. 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Create a rainbow that appears like magic and moves on its own with water a household supplies. Visit mtlaurel.evanced.info/signup for a list of supplies and to register. 3 Steps to Sort Your Shoebox of Recipes: Adult Zoom event from 7 to 8 p.m. Learn three steps you can take to sort your recipes before spring, including a live mini de-cluttering session. Have some recipes on hand to sort and learn a new one. Visit mtlaurel.evanced. info/signup for more information and to register. Teens’ Among Us Virtual Game Night: Ages 12 to 18. 7 to 8 p.m. Root out the imposters Among Us! Meet in the teens’ Discord server to chat during the game. Visit mtlaurel. evanced.info/signup for more information. Registration is required.

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Kids’ Karate: Zoom event for children. 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. All-levels virtual martial arts class for kids. No prior experience required. Visit mtlaurel. evanced.info/signup for more information and to register. InspireSTEM: Science Class: Virtual class for grades 5 to 8. 4

please see CALENDAR, page 5

WANT TO BE LISTED? To have your Mt. Laurel meeting or affair listed in the Calendar or Meetings, information must be received, in writing, two weeks prior to the date of the event. Send information by mail to: Calendar, The Mt. Laurel Sun, 130 Twinbridge Drive, Pennsauken, NJ 08110. Or by email: news@mtlaurelsun.com.


FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021 — THE MT. LAUREL SUN

CALENDAR continued from page 4 to 5 p.m. Learn about a variety of fields like physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science. Classes will provide real-world application to reinforce the lessons. Visit inspirestem.wixsite.com/inspirestem for more information and to register. InspireSTEM: Math: Virtual class for grades 5 to 8. 5 to 6 p.m. Learn about algebra, statistics, geometry and more. This class is meant to prepare students for MATHCOUNTS and AMC 8 tests while teaching them concepts they might not learn in school. Visit inspirestem.wixsite.com/inspirestem for more information and to register.

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THE MT. LAUREL SUN — FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021

in our opinion

Who’s a good dog?

130 Twinbridge Drive Pennsauken, NJ 08110 (856) 779-3800

On National Love Your Pet Day, consider your furry friend’s role

F

ebruary may have focused on love last week, but this week? It’s going to the dogs.

Seriously. Today is National Love Your Pet

duce loneliness during this period.

Your thoughts How has your pet helped you during the pandemic? Share your thoughts in a letter to the editor by sending it to the email address listed at the right.

Day, Friday is Walking the Dog Day and Saturday is National Dog Biscuit Day. World Spay Day is next Tuesday. (Although, if she could talk, Muffin may not find this to be much of a celebration.) Turns out this is an especially good time to be showing extra love to our dogs (and cats, birds, snakes or whatever pet you have), since many of our furry, feathered and scaled family

There are extreme risks to loneliness and the social isolation so many have experienced, especially during the early days of the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders. According to

Brittany Rought brought@newspapermediagroup.com ManaGinG editOr

that these animals provide owners a

Prevention, this bevy of health risks

kdowd@newspapermediagroup.com

sense of purpose.

includes higher rates of anxiety and

Kelly Flynn

an overall higher rate of premature

kflynn@newspapermediagroup.com

When you throw a pandemic and related quarantines and social distancing into the mix, it appears the

death from a variety of causes. A pet in the home can help owners

seniOr editOr

direCtOr Of COntent

Jason Blue jblue@newspapermediagroup.com sPOrts WeeKlY editOr

benefits of a pet’s companionship

feel not so alone, and with adoption

increase dramatically.

and fostering of pets, especially dogs,

mshinkle@newspapermediagroup.com

increasing around the globe over the

Madeleine Maccar

A study from England’s Univer-

past year, it seems many agree.

percent of participants said their pet

Show your pet some extra love

support animal.

helped them cope emotionally during

today. Give your dogs an extra walk

the COVID lockdown, and overall

on Friday and a few more treats than

owning a pet. Studies have proven

pets helped human family members

usual this weekend.

time and again that pet owners expe-

maintain better mental health and re-

After all, they deserve it.

Lenape schools eye return to in person learning Board also approves backup dates for Class of 2021 events The dreams of Lenape high school students for a “normal” school year just got one step closer to reality. All schools in the Lenape Regional High School District will reopen for five day, in person instruction on March 1, Superintendent Carol Birnbohm announced at a board of education meeting on Feb. 17. The school day won’t be entirely normal. The district is beginning its reopening with half days for all students and will consider revamping class schedules to fit a shorter day. But this is the first time students from cohorts A and B, divided alphabetically by last name, will

assOCiate Publisher

Kristen Dowd

over the past year – that of emotional

The Sun

Arlene Reyes

areyes@newspapermediagroup.com

the Centers for Disease Control and

sity of York found that more than 90

By ALYSSA BIEDERMAN

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attend school at the same time this year. “This is just a natural progression of us being prepared for that very next step,” Birnbohm told the board. Seneca and Shawnee High School’s student council presidents and vice presidents gave a presentation on what school has looked like so far this year. They showed photos of their COVID-19 preventative measures, including one way hallways and QR code check-ins to the nurse and principal’s office. The district will continue those practices as students return to school. About 45 percent of its students have chosen to learn remotely, up 25 percent from the start of the year in September. Birnbohm said the lower number of in person students made socially distanced,

five day school possible. Thomas Rebstock, Shawnee’s senior class president, returned to school five days a week this month. “It’s a little better for me, because I can enjoy that school experience that I’ve been missing,” he said. “I haven’t seen the kids in cohort A since March of last year, so it’s definitely fun to see them again.” The district will pilot the new program until spring break in April, when a committee called Operation Open LRHSD will reevaluate class schedules. The board also voted to create backup dates for Cherokee High School’s senior prom and Shawnee’s 2021 class trip. Deplease see LENAPE, page 10

Matthew Shinkle Mt. laurel editOr

mmaccar@newspapermediagroup.com

The Sun is published weekly by Newspaper Media Group, 130 Twinbridge Drive, Pennsauken, NJ 08110. It is delivered weekly to select addresses in Mt. Laurel. If you are not on the mailing list, six-month subscriptions are available for $45, and a one-year subscription is available for $90. To submit a news release, please email news@mtlaurelsun.com. For advertising information, call 856-779-3800 ext. 6920 or email sunadvertising@newspapermediagroup.com. The Sun welcomes suggestions and comments from readers – including any information about errors that may call for a correction to be printed.

SPEAK UP The Sun welcomes letters from readers. The Sun reserves the right to edit letters for length and clarity. Brief and to the point is best, so we look for letters that are 300 words or fewer. Include your first and last name, address and phone number. We do not print anonymous letters. Send letters to news@mtlaurelsun.com or via the mail. You can drop them off at our office, too. The Mt. Laurel Sun reserves the right to reprint your letter in any medium – including electronically.


FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021 — THE MT. LAUREL SUN

The Cherry Hill Huaxia Chinese School/The Sun

This year, families with ties to the Cherry Hill Huaxia Chinese School celebrated Lunar New Year at home. Swedesboro’s Yang family gathers for a meal. From left: Eric, Amy, Deng and Christine Yang. Seated: Shuiying Guo.

Celebrate: Year of the Ox continued from page 2 who is part of her bubble. Given much of her family is still in Shanghai, it was already primed in some ways to celebrate separately. Hou said family members are using FaceTime to feel connected. She added that local Chinese

markets have been well stocked, and her family still decorated and cooked together. While the celebrations have largely been more intimate, there hasn’t been any less emphasis on connection. Mount Laurel resident Li Li, a please see OX, page 10

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THE MT. LAUREL SUN — FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021

Township: Walk up window allows residents to have human connection continued from page 1 According to Grisetti, residents’ comments indicate that it has been delivering well so far. The communications director reported steady streams of foot traffic as residents seek answers for issues that range from clarification on pet licenses to confirming monetary amounts for check payments or applying for a marriage license.

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The service window is positioned right next to the dropoff boxes the township had set up earlier in the pandemic to receive physical paperwork from residents. While some were wary about leaving sensitive information like tax forms unattended, having someone at the window has provided the additional benefit of bolstering confidence in a bin system that aims to minimize the potential

spread of COVID. “The window attendant is right there, so that extra security is there, as well, and I do see the window attendants and other township staff going out there to collect forms from the bins when they know something’s there,” Grisetti explained. “It’s also nice that if somebody has a question about the drop boxes, or they’re not sure what bin to use, that there’s somebody to help them.” Grisetti said that from the day the window first allowed township staff to safely interact with residents, Mt. Laurel has been amenable to making adjustments as feedback dictates. While she reported that no major tweaks have emerged as necessities yet, she can confirm that additional avenues of contacting the township will be provided at the window. Grisetti herself is coordinating information with the public works department to not only

install a sign near the service window directing residents to pertinent department phone numbers, but also determine what kind of sign is needed to best serve resident needs. “This is so people can easily access those numbers,” she noted. “We’ll have the extensions listed so people will be able to directly reach whoever’s in that department … I don’t want them going through the whole long menu.” In the event that a window attendee has to leave their post for a few minutes, residents can be left waiting for some in-person interaction and guidance. To resolve that gap, there will also be a number to call as a sort of ring-for-service bell. “We have a revolving group of window attendees, but if someone has to step away so nobody’s there to help with a form or a question, residents have a number to call so the attendee knows to return,” said Grisetti. She added that the window

is part of Mt. Laurel Township Council’s campaign promise to provide transparency and maintain open lines of communication between the township and residents. “That’s one of the main things this focuses on: how to make things more accessible,” Grisetti said. “This is just the first step.” Residents are encouraged to utilize the walk-up window, located at the entrance to the Mt. Laurel Township Municipal Center. Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional questions can be directed to (856) 234-0001, ext. 1281. “It’s nice to have somebody there, and it’s safe,” Grisetti said: “Even though our buildings aren’t open to the public, you’re still getting your questions answered. No one wants to deal with phone calls all day, and this is a way to get some of the human connection people miss.”


FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021 — THE MT. LAUREL SUN

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THE MT. LAUREL SUN — FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021

Lenape: Students return to in person learning continued from page 6 spite their senior year looking different during the pandemic, student representatives said the staff at Shawnee and Seneca have found ways to get them involved. At Shawnee, teachers created

a senior scavenger hunt, where students received prizes if they found hidden items between class periods. The school has also continued to host its spirit weeks, which include dress up days. Seneca Student Council Presi-

When Qualityy Counts™

dent Sabrina Capoli said the council is trying to make the school’s Golden Eagle Pageant, a senior fundraising event, happen outdoors in the spring. Seneca has also continued its spirit week, where in person and remote students wore crazy hats and Hawaiian attire to class. “It helps us create that feeling of optimism that hopefully that the year would progress,” Capoli explained.

Ox: Lunar New Year continued from page 7 Chinese teacher at Moorestown Friends School, acts as principal of the Cherry Hill Huaxia Chinese School. Approximately 95 percent of the school’s students are from Cherry Hill, Mount Laurel, Voorhees, Moorestown and surrounding towns. In some ways, Li said 2021 was a chance to connect even more deeply with some of the holiday’s traditions. While she couldn’t attend any gatherings, her daughters encouraged the

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family to celebrate with some of the traditions that they could at home., so the family made dumplings and other dishes together. In a typical year, families gather together for a Lunar New Year celebration gala, the Chinese school’s biggest event of the year. Nearly two months of work is put into planning the evening, and members of the South Jersey Chinese community who don’t even have students at the school come each year to be part of the festivities. Students sing, dance or perform poetry, usually in the auditorium of Cherry Hill High School West. After the performances, the school sells food for a donation, there’s a calligraphy showing and every child leaves with a red envelope containing a few dollars. Unfortunately, getting together was out of the question this year, so instead, the school put together a Zoom show consisting of submissions from its students. Hou, whose own children attend the school, said she commends its staff for finding a creative way to continue the tradition. “I applaud people who are trying to be resilient and still bring the community together,” she added. Li said she was pleasantly surprised by how the show came together. She was touched when she saw that families wore red, utilized backdrops or committed to the holiday’s themes in other ways for their videos. “The point to Chinese people when they celebrate is they want the atmosphere [to be really] lively and [to have] everybody’s participation. The colors, a lot of red, the feelings make you feel warm, feel hope and feel loved.” Hou will serve as presenter for a virtual MooreUnity event on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. to celebrate Lunar New Year, during which she’ll share a bit about the history and traditions of the holiday. Visit MooreUnity’s Facebook page at https:// www.facebook.com/MooreUnity to learn more. To learn more about the Cherry Hill Huaxia Chinese School, visit www.hxch.org.


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www.southjerseysportsweekly.com

FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 2, 2021

Reaching new heights Led by Alison Ahern, Cherry Hill West seniors have helped transform the future of the program

MATTHEW SHINKLE/South Jersey Sports Weekly

Since joining the team as a freshman, Cherry Hill West senior Alison Ahern was immediately an impact player in the Olympic Conference. Now in the midst of her final year with the Lions, Ahern is looking to put together yet another strong season alongside her teammates.

By MATTHEW SHINKLE Sports Editor

Before she played even a single second of high-school basketball, Alison Ahern already had it in her head that she wanted to score 1,000 points with Cherry Hill West. The goal was there, it was just a matter of making sure it was realistic. “When I went to school freshman year, I already had that goal in mind,” Ahern said. “I

was really unsure at first of what high-school basketball would be like, but after I played my first game, I kind of realized it was absolutely attainable if I worked really hard at it.” Now in the second half of her senior season, to say Ahern has worked really hard may still be selling short her accomplishments with the Lions. In her first three seasons with West, she led the team in scoring all three years, surpassing the 1,000 point mark in the team’s final win her junior season.

In dramatic fashion, Ahern scored a career high of 32 points in the 63-48 win over Woodrow Wilson and became the first girl to cross the 1,000-point threshold in the 21st century. Dan Butler, in the midst of his 12th season as head coach at West, said Ahern’s impact on the program has brought it to a new level. “Her impact has been immense in multiple areas,” he noted. “You have her presence in the middle of the paint, and she’ll often draw double teams,

Story idea? Email us: news@southjerseysportsweekly.com

so that has helped bring some confidence to surrounding players around her to be aggressive offensively and defensively. “She’s been on an upward trajectory ever since her freshman year,” Butler added. “She’s drawn so much respect and attention from our opponents over the years, so her job’s gotten more difficult with her growing reputation. But she’s continued to step up to the challenge.” In the four years before Ahern’s freshman year, the program won a combined 10 games. Meanwhile, the Lions won 32 games in Ahern’s first three seasons and are coming off back-to-back appearances in the NJSIAA sectional tournament. Butler said Ahern’s presence and innate basketball talent have certainly been strong components to build a team around, but plenty of credit also goes to the class with whom Ahern came to West. This year’s starting five includes Sophia Graffeo, Kayla Thompson, Michela Auguadro and Bella Sylvester, as well as Ahern. Together, they have had a substantial impact on the program, their coach said.

“That class brought in five amazing athletes, and it was really all five of them that have changed this program together to make us a respectable, competitive team,” Butler explained. “Making the playoffs the past two years, hosting a playoff game last year … It's a tribute and a credit to all five of our seniors on how they’ve been able to take this program to the best heights (it) has seen in decades.” The group of girls Butler calls the Fab Five are all three-sport athletes who will graduate from West with an anticipated 53 varsity letters, as long as the spring seasons can be played. Ahern said her success in the stat sheet each night, as well as the program’s recent achievements, are in large part due to the chemistry and high-level play of those around her. “Not only are they amazing athletes, but they’re amazing people, too, and we all have the same mindset when it comes to athletics,” she added. “I feel like we all have the same drive when we’re out there wanting to win and leave it all out there on the court, so it makes it easier to play together as a team.” ■

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FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021 — THE MT. LAUREL SUN

13

S U N N E W S PA P E R S

BURLINGTON DISPLAY $ ADS only

45

00

per week

Classified 35 LINE $ ADS

Cinnaminson • Delran • Marlton • Medford • Moorestown Mount Laurel • Palmyra • Shamong • Tabernacle Newspaper Reaching 50,600 Homes Media Group

00

only

COUNTY

per week

All ads are based on a 5 line ad, 15-18 characters per line. Additional lines: $9. Add color to any box ad for $20. Deadline: Wednesday 5pm for the following week. All classified ads must be prepaid. Your classified ad will run in all 9 of The Sun newspapers each week! • Be sure to check your ad the first day it appears. We will not be responsible for more than one incorrect insertion, so call us immediately with any errors in your ad. No refunds are given, only advertising credit.

TO ADVERTISE IN THE CLASSIFIED SECTION, PLEASE CALL 856.779.3800 EXT 6920 Air Conditioning

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THE MT. LAUREL SUN — FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021 Oil Tanks

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FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021 — THE MT. LAUREL SUN COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIAL Office Space for Rent

2 West Deptford Commercial Spaces

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15

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Multiple Work Locations Available Employee Referral Program

Apply Online at qmainc.com/careers


16

THE MT. LAUREL SUN — FEBRUARY 24-MARCH 2, 2021

PRESIDENTS’ DAY Window Special!

Presidents’ Day Special ENDS Thursday, February 25th

Buy 1 window or door, get 1 window or door

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1

NM-00453560

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