GLEN RIDGE, NJ — With the final weeks of yet another year upon us, charity is again a key ingredient in holiday cheer for many borough workers and residents.
For some of those workers, November is the time to put away razors and soap, and with the money saved by not shaving, make a donation to fight cancer.
With that in mind, the Glen Ridge Police Department is concluding its first year of participation in “No Shave November,” an annual monthlong event, recognized worldwide but perhaps tilted toward men because it requires the growing of hair as an observance.
Traditionally believed to have started in Australia in 2003 to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancers, the no-shave month has grown to embrace all forms of cancer, its prevention, cure, and survivors.
In Glen Ridge, for this month only, GRPD Chief Sheila Byron-Lagattuta has suspended departmental beard and mustache regulations for the cause.
“Everyone is growing a beard,” GRPD Sgt. Merritt Carr, the no-shave coordinator, said in a telephone call last week. “On Dec. 1, your face has to be clean shaven.”
The goal for borough police is to attract donations for the Zeuner Foundation, named for 23-year GRPD veteran Sgt. Rob Zeuner, who died after battling colon/rectal cancer for nine years.
“The department was devastated when they lost one of their own,” Carr said. “When he was first diagnosed, he was given six months. This tough son-of-a-gun lived for nine years.”
Donations to the Zeuner Foundation, which was started by Zeuner’s wife, Nicole, a sergeant with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, will provide special events for terminally ill adult cancer patients and their caregivers residing in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
Ordinarily, Carr said regulations require all GRPD officers to be clean shaven every day.
“You can have a well-groomed mustache, but no one has one,” he said.
The idea for the GRPD to participate in “No Shave November,” according to Carr, belonged to Sgt. Daniel Manley who brought it up with PBA Local 58 President Joe Uliano, a GRPD patrol officer. Uliano brought the idea to the chief’s attention.
“She loved it right away,” Carr said.
And as fate would have it, borough police will be made baby faced again before a larger-than-life audience. This is because Carr went to the website of the TV program “The Today Show,” which was soliciting photographs of no-shavers, and the GRPD had a group shot.
“I submitted ours and told them what’s going on with the Zeuner Foundation,” he said.
Carr was then contacted by a show producer who invited the department to the studio for a group shave-off on Nov. 30. He now hopes the few moments he will have on New York TV will help the Zeuner Foundation in a big way.
And that’s not all for the GRPD. The department will take a “giant picture” at the Ashenfelter 5K, Thanksgiving Day run, Carr said.
“The entire department gets recalled for the event,” he said. “If you’re scheduled off-duty, you have to come in for it. We had 3,000 runners last year.”
Also for a good cause, the Kiwanis Club of Glen Ridge, helped out by the Glen Ridge High School Key Club, had its semi-annual collection of clothing and toys for the holidays in the high school parking lot this past Saturday.
According Kiwanis member Jeff Monacelli, the collection has been taking place since 1978. At one time, the collection was annual. Another was added for people doing spring cleaning.
“It’s an opportunity, instead of throwing stuff away, to give it to a good cause,” said Joe Connolly, a Kiwanis member and former local municipal judge.
The collected items are to be distributed to needy families in Essex and Morris counties, or sold, by Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Across the street from the high school, at the Ridgewood Avenue train station, the Glen Ridge Rotary Club had its annual Turkey Drive on Saturday, too, collecting frozen turkeys, non-perishables, and taking donations. According to Michael Rohal, the borough administrator, 107 turkeys and one ham were collected. Rohal did not have a count yet of the non-perishables, but the club did collect $2,071 in donations.
For more information on how to donate to the Zeuner Foundation, call Carr at 973-748-5400, ext. 124.