HILLSIDE, NJ — The Hillside Police Department is a busy place, but it still manages to find time to give back to the community it serves.
This summer, the HPD collected backpacks and school supplies for the YWCA of Union County and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, to assist children in need for the upcoming school year.
The HPD also assisted the Bris Avrohom Center, a synagogue and community and education center located on Salem Avenue in Hillside, in receiving $75,000 in grant money from the Office of Homeland Security to improve the security and infrastructure of their facility.
Hillside Capt. Nick Lomonte told LocalSource that he conducted the initial security assessments at the synagogue, then contacted Michael Boyle at the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Counter-Terrorism Unit. “There was nothing of major concern, but the grant was out there to assist them in improving their on-site security,” Lomonte said in an email.
According to Lomonte, Boyle then conducted an assessment that the synagogue utilized to apply for funds, which it ultimately received.
This year, the Christie administration awarded the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness more than $4.2 million for nonprofit organizations under the Jersey City/Newark Urban Area Security Initiative, Nonprofit Security Grant Program — the second-highest total in the nation.
Fifty-eight nonprofit organizations — including religious institutions —operating in New Jersey’s UASI and Metropolitan Statistical Area will share the federal grants to improve physical security.
The grants, up to $75,000 for each organization, are slated to be used for the purchase and installation of physical security equipment or security-related training for organization personnel. Nonprofit organizations within the seven principal UASI counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic and Union, as well as those operating in Sussex, Hunterdon, Somerset, Ocean, and Monmouth counties — and in Pennsylvania’s Pike County — were eligible to apply to NJOHSP for this program.
According to Lomonte, Hillside acting Chief of Police Louis Panarese has led the way in these efforts. “Chief Panarese’s goal has always been to assist all members of our community in a collaborative effort to better the community,” Lomonte said. “Chief Panarese grew up in Hillside and recalls the town it used to be and wants Hillside to get back there again. One of the most endearing statements he made was, ‘I may live in Hunterdon County, but Hillside is my home.’”
Lomonte said the HPD jumped at the chance to help the local synagogue. “When we were advised of this opportunity to assist the congregation, we immediately offered our assistance and resources.”
Helping out with community back-to-school services for the past three years has been another initiative close the hearts of many HPD members, and backpacks and supplies were gathered at the department and via the collection drive posted on the HPD website.
Hillside Sgt. Nancy Swider said that she organized the drive with Hillside officers Natalie Ogonowski and Shantell Franklin.
“Officer Ogonowski has been working with the YWCA for several years and has had a lot of success,” Swider told LocalSource in an email. “Officer Franklin and I have worked with the First Baptist Church in Hillside in the past, and this year we are working with the Community FoodBank. The Community FoodBank will be distributing the supplies to Hillside schools and other districts that need assistance.”
Teachers from area school districts, including Hillside, can shop at the Tools 4 Schools store at the FoodBank for free supplies and backpacks for the classrooms.
Swider said she feels fortunate to be a part of the initiative. “I am very lucky to work for a community that shows tremendous support for our police department,” she said, adding, “I also grew up in Hillside and I want to help our community in any way I can.”