Be A Shero

By Siara Clemente, Jersey Cares Program Manager, ReadyCorps AmeriCorps Member

she·ro

ˈshirō/

noun

  1. a woman, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

 

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Siara Clemente, Jersey Cares Program Coordinator, ReadyCorps AmeriCorps Member

To be a shero, one does not need to save the world, but rather, simply make a difference. Here at Jersey Cares, it is our goal to enable average individuals to conduct heroic gestures. These gestures may include sorting items at a foodbank or mentoring youth. The fact is, as long as a difference is made in someone’s life, and an impact is left, the mission has been accomplished. It’s important to remember that although a difference may not been made on the whole population, a difference was in fact made for at least one individual, and to that person, our sheroes appear to be wonder women.

 

This all being said, I’m excited to report a new opportunity available for sheroes, as well as their friends and family. Jersey Cares is working with the American Red Cross to help conduct the New Jersey Region Home Fire Campaign. Volunteers who attend are broken up into teams and provided a specific area to canvass, in which they provide residents with fire safety information and help the local fire departments install smoke alarms, should they be needed. These events will be occurring all over the state of New Jersey, and are open to anyone who would like to raise awareness, as fires are the most common natural disaster.

I was fortunate enough to attend my first fire safety canvassing event in Lambertville, New Jersey, located in Hunterdon County. I was placed on a team of four, and my team alone reached about 137 homes. As a whole, volunteers canvassed a total of 765 homes, and had approximately 86 alarms installed by the local fire department.

It’s important to know that not every family has the income to have smoke alarms installed on their own, and it’s even more important to be aware that more than half of parents do not have a designated meeting place in case of disaster. Families need to prepare now, for what may or may not occur in the future. This is a call to all parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, families, and friends; be a shero, be a hero. Learn what you need to know, and share it with others. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Volunteer.

For more information regarding the Red Cross Fire Safety Campaign, as well as dates and times of events, please contact Siara Clemente, the Ready Corps Program Coordinator.

Red Cross Fire Safety Volunteer Event Registration

 

A Sheroes Story

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Siara Clemente, Jersey Cares Program Coordinator, ReadyCorps AmeriCorps Member

This month at Jersey Cares we are celebrating Women’s History Month by inviting some of our friends to share their thoughts and experiences on the women who have inspired them.  Today we feature a piece by Siara Clemente, Jersey Cares Program Coordinator, ReadyCorps AmeriCorps Member. 

In honor of Women’s History Month and all sheroism, I have recently reached out to a former college professor of mine, the now retired, Det. Sgt. Toni Latario. While I was completing my B.A. in Criminal Justice, I was lucky enough to have Toni as my Criminology professor. Although a 6:30pm to 9:45pm, college night class can seem rather tedious, having Toni share her real life experiences with us really inspired me, and fueled my passion of helping others that much more. This is why I want to share her story.

Toni began her career in law enforcement in the early 1990s as a patrol officer for Plainfield Police Department, although she had aspirations of becoming a FBI Agent. In fact, in 1991 she passed the FBI entrance exam, right as they underwent a hiring freeze. While Toni was waiting for the hiring freeze to be over, she took the Police Officer Civil Service tests and chose Plainfield PD. Having grown up with a sense of pride in her city, she chose to serve her community as an officer. The goal was to gain experience as a patrol officer, and ultimately give the FBI reason to admire her for her tenacity to work in a rugged town. Little did she know, two years later to the day, she would be accepting a job with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, right before receiving a call from the FBI New York Field Office inquiring if she was still interested. It was at that moment that she made the best possible decision for her career, and opted out of the FBI.

After gaining two years of patrol experience, Toni left Plainfield PD to begin her career with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office. Toni’s first assignment was in undercover narcotics, and less than a year later she was assigned to the Special Victim’s Unit, where she remained for over 15 years. Throughout Toni’s career with Warren County, she worked in every unit, including Major Crimes, Special Victims Unit, Domestic Violence, and Juvenile and Community Policing Units. Prior to retiring, Toni was the supervising detective of the Domestic Violence, Juvenile and Community Policing Units; the Human Trafficking Liaison for Warren County; and served as the Bias Crime Officer for Warren County. Toni assigned cases to detectives and still conducted investigations on her own in addition to training and supervising office detectives and college interns. Toni also represented the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office for six years when she worked as a facilitator for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, Office of the Attorney General, Advanced Investigation and Prosecution of Domestic Violence Cases. Trainings were held twice a year across New Jersey, and these trainings allowed Toni to build some of her most cherished relationships with others, especially law enforcement agencies, should she have ever needed their assistance.

When asked about how it feels to now be retired, Toni explained that at first she felt like a fish out of water, but now she’s actually busier than before. Not only is she a professor at two colleges, but she is also the Vice President of an organization known as the New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement (NJWLE). However, Toni has additional plans for her retirement. She’s interested in being a security guard, or perhaps even becoming a private investigator.

It’s important for people to know that Toni didn’t come from the ideal family background. When she was in high school her parents got divorced, and she actually dropped out after her school shut down when she was a junior. At that point, it made the most sense for Toni to work and help her mother support her and her two younger siblings. Toni did obtain her GED while working, but unfortunately her family lost their home and they were homeless for a while, at least until other family members gave them a helping hand. Toni does admit that there was a certain amount of shame growing up in such difficult circumstances, however, she is aware that those experiences have made her into the astounding officer that she was, as well as the inspiring woman that she is today.

After all these years, Toni still carries what she’s learned at the Police Academy with her. Her training taught her to over prepare and never allow mediocrity, but only excellence. Early on in Toni’s career, random inspections would take place in their patrol cars to see if they had their extra kits which consisted of additional supplies and clothes in case of a disaster; to this day Toni is proud to say she still keeps a kit in her personal vehicle. Being an officer and training future officers has also shown Toni how aware or unaware local agencies may be of the special needs and disabled population in their communities. Toni made it a point to say that everyone should be aware of the communities they reside in and their neighbors, as communities thrive when they are closely knit. It’s also a great idea to inform first responders of any special needs or disabled people in your home; you can register all those needed through your local 911 center. Communication is key when working with your neighbors and first responders regarding emergency preparedness.

Retired Det. Sgt. Toni Lattario is the epitome of a shero, and I am honored that she allowed me to share her story. May she inspire you to be the change, as she is the change she hoped to see in the world. May she remind you that your past does not determine your future. May she be an idol for those in need of a shero, or for those who hope to become a shero, as sheroes come in all shapes, sizes, and professions. To sheroes!

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“The greatest feeling for me is knowing that I have made a difference in someone’s life.” – Det. Sgt. Toni Lattario

 

 

On the Road Again

By Meghan Tizzano, Community Emergency Preparedness AmeriCorps Member at Jersey Cares.

With the warm weather starting to make an appearance and calendars being marked for vacations, it’s important to keep in mind some safe tips to ensure your family has a memorable and enjoyable summer vacation. Whether you are traveling to the beach for the weekend or across the country for a month long trip, there are simple things you can do to be prepared for any type of emergency along the way.

Here are a few quick tips to make sure you’re ready to enjoy that summer breeze!

  • Pack an emergency kit for your car (jumper cables, flashlights, first aid kit, water, basic toolkit, blankets, and a fully charged cell phone)
  • Always keep your gas tank full
  • Battery is in good condition and terminals are clean
  • Check oil level and filter and change if necessary
  • Make sure head lights and flashing hazards work properly

If you are knowledgeable about cars, volunteer to help out your elderly neighbors and offer to take a look at their cars as well!

If you’re traveling to New Jersey for the summer, check out our monthly calendar and register for an opportunity during your vacation here!! It’s a great way to connect with the community you’re spending time in during your stay.

And remember, DO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE! If you need to use your cell phone for any reason, please pull over to a safe spot off of the road.

For more information about road trip and highway safety, visit www.ready.gov/car and www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/highway-safety.

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Protecting Your Pooch

By Meghan Tizzano, Community Emergency Preparedness AmeriCorps Member at Jersey Cares.

For millions of Americans, their pets are important members of their family. This means they are also affected by disasters and require specials needs when preparing your household for emergencies. Whether you will be sheltering in place or evacuating your home, it’s imperative to create both plans for your pets, just as you would for the human members of your family.

If you have to evacuate your home, please DO NOT LEAVE Cat VolunteerYOUR PETS BEHIND. They will most likely not be able to survive on their own, and if by some remote chance they do, it is unlikely that you will be able to find them once you can return home.

If you are evacuating to a public shelter, find out ahead of time if they allow animals inside. Many shelters do not, so it’s important to locate shelters that can accommodate your pet or find alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. If there are no shelters that accommodate pets in your area, consider contacting family or friends that live outside the immediate area who would be willing to take in your pet should you need to evacuate to a shelter.

Here are some quick tips to insure that your pet is prepared in case of an emergency:

  • Pack pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, and a first aid kit
  • Check your pets’ identification tags to insure they’re up-to-date and secure on your pets’ collar
  • Make sure you have a secure pet carrier, leash or harness to help transport your pet

Once you’ve prepared your pet for emergencies, help other animals in your area with Jersey Cares animal volunteer projects.

For more information about pet preparedness, please visit http://www.ready.gov/caring-animals.

Plumping Up Your Piggy Bank

With Tax Day rapidly approaching, making sure you are financially prepared for a disaster is very important when discussing emergency preparedness. Emergency preparedness means more than just determining the disasters in your community and storing enough water and food supplies. Insuring you and your family are financially ready for a disaster is just as important.

Follow these steps to become financially prepared for the next emergency:

  • Plan early and use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to help identify important documents for your family (e.g. medical records, household contracts, etc.) and put them in a safe place
  • Enroll in Go Direct, an electronic payment system to insure the quickest delivery of federal benefits
  • Plan ahead of time to recover from the disaster. It’s important to insure your family has time to get back on their feet following a disaster

first aidOnce you and your family have financially planned for a disaster, there are ways to volunteer to help your community become prepared as well. If you are qualified to prepare taxes, reach out to your local nonprofit organizations and offer to help community members prepare their taxes for free.

For more information and resources on how to prepare financially for a disaster, please visit www.ready.gov/financial-preparedness .