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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    The training took place this week in Gloucester Township.

    IMG_2803.JPGPastor Kurt Kinney of Bethel Church in Gloucester Township. 

    Pastor Kurt Kinney freely admitted there was a time when his congregation would fully put their faith in God to protect them, especially in the sanctuary of their church.

    That time has passed.

    "We just think it's very critical in this hour to partner with the police and really with anyone who can help us as a faith community to become more aware of the threats that are out there and minimize the risk," said Kinney, pastor of Bethel Church, a congregation of about 800 members in Gloucester Township, Camden County. "Even though we believe that ultimately deliverance comes from God, we should not be naive that God would use the authorities he has called to bring that deliverance through."

    Kinney put his words into action this week when his church hosted a workshop on what to do if an active shooter invades the church.

    The training came less than a month after a gunman in Texas fatally shot 26 people during a Sunday morning service at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland on Nov. 5, and more than two years after a church shooting in South Carolina claimed eight lives.

    Details of both shootings were incorporated in a slideshow and lecture presentation in front of several hundred people who attended the event Monday evening.

    "The devil has a plan, also," said Lisa James, 53, a local resident who said her church pastor encouraged her congregation to attend. "We didn't have to worry about this 10 years ago. Some people may not think about it, but you have to be aware of what to do in that kind of situation. You may not want to think about it but you have to."

    Lt. Chris Crabtree led the slideshow and lecture presentation.

    "Nobody believes it could happen in my town," he said. "But it can."

    Crabtree shared a story about he and his wife visiting Las Vegas two weeks before the mass shooting outside of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in which 58 people were fatally shot by a gunman.

    "It was too close for comfort," Crabtree said.

    He and four other officers led the nearly two-hour session by emphasizing three key actions to take if anyone finds themselves in the crosshairs of an active shooter.

    "Run, hide, fight," he and the others said.

    The program included details about characteristics of gunmen who have committed mass shootings, including often being angry, withdrawn and with a history of domestic violence, and predominantly men.

    They encouraged the audience to "think like a cop" and survey a room for exits and to "arm yourself with a survival mindset."

    They also spoke about what to do when police arrive, including to not be alarmed if an officer points a gun in your direction when determining where to find the gunman.  

    Kinney observed the training from the back of the large, main room of his church. He already practices many of the precautions police recommend for keeping a sanctuary safe.

    "We have a security team," Kinney said. "They aren't armed but we have congregation members watching doors and hallways during our services. We also now have an on-duty a township police officer here when we have church service and have some off-duty members of our congregation. And sometimes, they're packing."

    Kinney said small children are supervised in a separate wing of the sprawling church on Blackwood Clementon Road during church service.

    He said he has also taken a precaution of having a separate security member follow him from a distance to watch behind him when he is in the pulpit.

    "I think it's very critical in this hour to partner with the police and anyone who can help us as a faith community to become aware of threats that are out there and to minimize the risk."

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Rutgers is among 15 large universities in a competition run by the prestigious James Beard Foundation. Watch video

    After extensive taste tests and on-campus research, Rutgers University thinks it has built a better burger.

    The new signature hamburger -- which blends ground beef, mushrooms, onions, celery, parsley, miso paste, egg and other ingredients -- has been getting high marks in campus dining halls.

    Now, the Rutgers burger, dubbed the Sizzling Scarlet Knight burger, is competing against burgers at 14 other large universities to see which campus has the best healthy hamburger in the nation.

    University officials are encouraging students, faculty and staff to vote online for the Rutgers entry in the "Blended Burger" competition run by the James Beard Foundation, a prestigious culinary arts organization.

    The contest is promoting the idea that traditional hamburgers can be replaced with tastier and more eco-friendly versions that swap out some or all of the ground beef for mushrooms and other healthier ingredients.

    "Winning would be an honor that would bring more notoriety to Rutgers and give us the bragging rights to having the best blended burger in the country," said Peggy Policastro, director of behavioral nutrition at Rutgers' New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health and nutrition specialist for the university's dining halls.

    The two universities that receive the most online votes before Dec. 15 will face off at the James Beard House in New York City in April to cook their signature burgers.

    Anyone, even if you are not affiliated with the university, can vote once a day. As of Wednesday afternoon, Rutgers University was in third place among the 15 universities in the competition.

    The top two vote-getters were the University of Massachusetts Amherst (with its Chicken Tikka Masala Burger with eggplant raita, cilantro and red onions) and North Carolina State University (with its Carolina Style BBQ Blended Burger made with smoked Cremini and button mushrooms that are ground with chuck steak).

    The Rutgers burger was developed as part of the university's efforts to offer healthier food in its dining halls.

    The university, which is best known for the calorie-laden "Fat Sandwiches" served at campus food trucks, recently joined the "Menus of Change" movement led by Stanford University and the Culinary Institute of America that encourages dining halls to offer food that uses less resources and is more environmentally friendly.

    Rutgers Dining Services introduced the Sizzling Scarlet Knight burger last spring after testing the idea of a blended burger on students. The version of the burger that used 50 percent white button mushrooms and 50 percent ground beef with added spices got the highest marks, campus officials said.

    "What better vehicle to introduce stealth health into the student body than through the iconic burger,'' said Ian Keith, a Rutgers chef who is leading the effort to redesign campus menus.

    The 8-ounce Rutgers burger, which is seared in sunflower oil and served on a whole wheat kaiser bun, has half the fat of a traditional burger, Keith said. The mushrooms and other vegetables add fiber and reduce the amount of red meat needed.

    "Cows produce 500 million tons of manure each year, releasing more greenhouse gasses than 22 million cars,'' Keith said. "Americans eat 50 billion burgers a year. By taking four ounces of red meat in an 8-ounce burger and replacing it with mushrooms, we are helping to cut that number in half.''

    The burger is currently served on Rutgers' New Brunswick-Piscataway and Camden campuses. It is on the daily menu at Livingston Dining Commons and Henry's Diner on the Piscataway campus and is available for takeout at the Neilson and Busch dining halls in New Brunswick.

    It is not available at Rutgers-Newark, where an outside contractor oversees the dining hall food, school officials said.

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.

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    Awards, honors and more to recap the 2017 boys soccer season.

    BOYS SOCCER SEASON IN REVIEW, 2017

    Jose Escandon of Kearny is the NJ.com Player of the Year

    Delbarton is the NJ.com Team of the Year

    Duncan Swanwick of Morris Catholic is the NJ.com Coach of the Year

    ALL-STATE TEAMS

    First, second, third team all-state

    All-Group 4

    All-Group 3

    All-Group 2

    All-Group 1

    All-Non-Public

    FINAL RANKINGS

    The NJ.com final Top 50

    Final group and conference rankings

    CONFERENCE REVIEWS

    Sebastian Varela of Ramapo is the Big North Conference Player of the Year

    John Strohlein of Delran is the Burlington County Scholastic League Player of the Year

    • Shadrach Asadu of Atlantic City is the Cape-Atlantic League Player of the Year

    Jack Dugan of Haddonfield is the Colonial Conference Player of the Year

    Andrew Beamer of Princeton is the Colonial Valley Conference Player of the Year

    Matt Hoyt of Monroe is the Greater Middlesex Conference Player of the Year

    Jose Escandon of Kearny is the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League Player of the Year

    Omar Sowe of Harrison is the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Player of the Year

    Tommy Scalici of Morris Knolls is the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Player of the Year

    Matthew Pattison of Bishop Eustace is the Olympic Conference Player of the Year

    Anthony Arena of Holmdel is the Shore Conference Player of the Year

    Owen Wolfson of Pingry in the Skyland Conference Player of the Year

    Maurice Williams of West Orange is the Super Essex Conference Player of the Year

    Sinan Tuzcu of Glassboro is the Tri-County Conference Player of the Year

    Mark Walter of Westfield is the Union County Conference Player of the Year

    Brian Deakyne may be reached at bdeakyne@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianDeakyneRichard Greco may be reached at rgreco@njadvancemedia.com.  Follow him on Twitter @RichardGrecoHS . Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Congratulations to these 65 recipients.

    The 2017 New Jersey high school football Mini Max Award recipients were announced Wednesday by Maxwell Football Club president Mark Dianno.

    According to club’s press release, players were nominated by their coaches throughout the season and were evaluated based on football performance, academics and community service.

    The recipients will be honored at a dinner held Jan. 28 at St. David the King located in Princeton Junction. The dinner is open to the public and tickets are available on the club’s website www.maxwellfootballclub.org.

    At the dinner, the Maxwell Football Club will also name one Mini Max winner the New Jersey Player of the Year.

    The winner -- along with the Players of the Year from Pennsylvania and Delaware -- will be the candidates for the Jim Henry Award, which is given to the region’s Outstanding Player. The winner of the Jim Henry Award will be announced as part of the Maxwell Football Club’s National Awards Gala on March 19 at the Tropicana in Atlantic City.

    Below are the 65 Mini Max award winners listed in alphabetical order by school.

    Marcus Manning, Bayonne
    Joseph Emerson, Becton
    Charles Schuller, Bernards
    Andrew Klitchko, Bishop Eustace
    Joseph Pentz, Bloomfield
    Justin Bryant, Bridgewater-Raritan
    Jimmy Browne, Burlington City
    Elias Tadros, Butler
    James Miller, Caldwell
    Joseph McCarthy, Cedar Grove
    Will Anderson, Delbarton
    Vinny DePalma, DePaul
    Noah Castar, Ewing
    Mark Pacini, Florence
    Dan Allegro, Franklin
    William Ciemmy, Haddonfield
    Chad Musilli, High Point
    Serge Felizor, Hightstown
    Charles Amankwaa, Hillsborough
    Christian Branch-Young, Hillside
    Josh Zamot, Holy Spirit
    Matt Lynch, Immaculata
    Jasiah Provillon, Irvington
    Joseph Turek, Johnson
    Joel Scerbo, Kingsway
    Coleton Klaus, Lacey
    Joshua Lezin, Lakewood
    Sean Mclaughlin, Lawrence
    Matt Lajoie, Lenape
    Troy Dupont, Lenape Valley
    Daniel Weiss, Livingston
    Kaymar Mimes, Long Branch
    Javis Hanks, Shabazz
    Luke Corcione, Manalapan
    Ryan Rodriguez, Matawan
    Jermer Downing, Millville
    Tarrin Earle, Montclair
    Grant Papa, Montgomery
    Mitchell Lisa, Moorestown
    Kyle Frimel, New Egypt
    Zachary Thomas, Old Bridge
    Henry Pearson, Paramus Catholic
    John Donegan, Paul VI
    Nicholas Josselyn, Phillipsburg
    David Kohler, Pinelands
    James Fara, Point Pleasant Borough
    Zach Bair, Red Bank Catholic
    Peter Lucas, Rumson-Fair Haven
    Zaire Jones, Salem
    Cooper Heisey, Scotch Plains-Fanwood
    Cameron Carti, Seton Hall Prep
    Ryan Kovacs, Somerville
    Felix Quinones, South Brunswick
    Andrew Silver, St. Augustine
    Shayne Simon, St. Peter’s Prep
    Devin Leary, Timber Creek
    Jose Taveras, Union City
    CJ Lavery, Verona
    Colin Tong, Voorhees
    Robert Kuna, Wallington
    Peter Orio, West Deptford
    Max Bruno, West Windsor-Plainsboro South
    Nate Lopez, Wildwood
    Nick Adinolfi, Williamstown
    Albert Nah, Willingboro

    Pat Lanni may be reached at planni@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatLanniHS. Like NJ.com High School Sports on Facebook.


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    The incident happened in Chesilhurst in August.

    No charges will be filed against a cop in Chesilhurst, Camden County for shooting a disabled senior citizen's apartment resident in the leg after he approached him with a meat cleaver, the Camden County prosecutor said Thursday.

    Daniel McOsker, 60, did not sustain a life-threatening injury from the shooting. He was charged after the incident with two weapons offenses, terroristic threats and criminal restraint. Two employees at B'nai B'rith Chesilhurst House, the senior citizen residential facility where the incident occurred, had called police after they said McOsker threatened them in the management office with the meat cleaver.

    An initial police report from the incident at 4:41 p.m. on Aug. 2 said McOsker had held one of the employees captive at knife-point. 

    The prosecutor ruled Thursday the responding officer was "legally justified" in shooting McOsker during his arrest. The officer was not identified by authorities.

    McOsker had returned to his third-floor apartment when the officer arrived on scene. McOsker refused to surrender and leave the apartment, officials said. The prosecutor said surveillance cameras recorded the encounters in the management office and the third-floor hallway near McOsker's apartment.

    McOsker finally exited the apartment crawling on his knees toward the officer. The patrolman shot him in the thigh when he raised the cleaver in close proximity to him, officials said.

    Officials later discovered McOsker was crawling because he was disabled.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
     

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    Peter Dunne lauds the retiring congressman's consistent votes to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and its migratory residents.

    I regard U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo's decision to not to seek re-election with a mixture of gratitude and trepidation: gratitude for his service to his constituents, of which I am one; trepidation, because, in these polarized times, it is precisely the intelligent, balanced and seasoned statesmanship exhibited by LoBiondo, R-2nd. Dist., that our nation desperately needs.

    Always a friend to the environment, it was LoBiondo's steadfast defense of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that earned my abiding respect and countenance. Where other members of Congress see a frozen wasteland, LoBiondo recognizes a rich, nurturing environment that is as close as the air we breathe, and home to the tens of thousands of wintering birds that become the Arctic's seasonal envoys to New Jersey. For example, the American robin eating the berries in the holly outside your door was likely raised in a willow thicket in the Arctic. 

    As someone who has made multiple trips to the Arctic Refuge, I celebrate Rep. LoBiondo's determination and farsightedness. He has earned his retirement, but his voice of reason will be missed. One can only hope that his successor shares LoBiondo's commitment to the environment that supports us and makes South Jersey the place in which we choose to live.

    Thank you, Congressman, for your leadership on the environment. Enjoy your well-earned retirement following a productive and pivotal last term.

    Pete Dunne, Cape May Court House

    Note: The writer is the ambassador for birding at the New Jersey Audubon Center for Research and Education and Cape May Bird Observatory. 

    Stop Christie from gutting Pinelands panel

    Gov. Chris Christie is trying to stack the Pinelands Commission before he leaves office. The governor may soon be gone, but he will continue to do major damage to the Pinelands.

    Christie plans to replace Ed Lloyd, an environmental lawyer who has served on the commission for the last 15 years, and is considered one of the strongest conservationists on the 15-member panel. In his place, Christie has nominated Edward McGlinchy for one of the seven seats that are appointed by the governor. 

    McGlinchy is already on the commission, as the statutory appointee of the Camden County freeholders. He has voted to approve Pinelands routes for the 22-mile South Jersey Gas Co. pipeline between Cumberland and Cape May counties, as well as New Jersey Natural Gas's Southern Reliability Link. He is a Christie puppet who votes for projects that threaten the environment, drinking water and Pinelands communities.

    The Pinelands are a United Nations biosphere reserve and one of the largest sources of fresh drinking water on the East Coast. With 17 trillion gallons of pure water in the Pinelands aquifer, the potential for leakage from these natural gas pipelines, or a fire that might result,  could be devastating. 

    Pinelands Commission members should be working toward protecting the environmentally sensitive ecosystems, not approving dirty pipelines to destroy them.

    Christie's nomination of McGlinchy is intended to block Gov.-elect Phil Murphy from making an initial nomination to the commission. The governor is trying to undo 40 years of Pinelands protections. Call the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell them not to approve this nomination. 

    The Legislature needs to stand with Phil Murphy and the Pinelands. The Pinelands belong to us, not the governor's cronies.

    Jeff Tittel, Director, New Jersey Sierra Club

    Send a letter to the editor of South Jersey Times at sjletters@njadvancemedia.com

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    Campbell's Field, Camden's 16-year-old minor league baseball stadium, will be torn down to make way for a new athletic facility for the university.

    Camden's troubled baseball stadium, once hailed a new beginning for the city's waterfront, will be torn down and replaced with three Rutgers University athletic fields under a deal approved by the university's board Thursday.

    Rutgers' board of governors voted unanimously to move forward with a deal to team with the City of Camden and the Camden County Improvement Authority to demolish Campbell's Field, the 16-year-old stadium across from the Philadelphia skyline.

    The stadium will be replaced by a multi-purpose athletics facility with fields, modest bleachers and locker rooms for Rutgers-Camden's NCAA Division III baseball team, as well as softball, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams, university officials said. The fields, which would be owned by the city, would also be used by Camden students and residents.

    "These playing fields are important to Rutgers students as well as to the health of Camden's families," said Phoebe Haddon, Rutgers-Camden's chancellor.

    The downward spiral of a $21 million stadium

    Rutgers pledged $7.5 million for the project, which is estimated to cost about $15 million, school officials said. The City of Camden is expected to apply for Green Acres state funding to pay for the other half of the project.

    Rutgers-Camden spokesman Mike Sepanic said he is unsure what will happen to the existing stadium's debt.

    No timetable was given for razing the old stadium or building the new athletic facility.

    Camden Mayor Dana Redd said the city is disappointed to see Campbell's Field torn down, but the partnership with Rutgers is the best outcome for the city.

    "I can not think of a better scenario," Redd said in a statement. 

    City and county officials have been debating for months what to do with the stadium and the valuable land around it. The Camden Riversharks, a now-defunct minor league baseball team, moved out two years ago.

    Rutgers-Camden's baseball team has been the only team regularly using the facility.

    Many view the current stadium, which was built partially with public money, as a massive failure and waste of public money.

    South Jersey political powerbroker George Norcross said in October that pouring money into a minor league baseball stadium proved to be unwise.

    "Unfortunately, the state, in its lack of wisdom, built a baseball stadium for an unaffiliated, independent league (team) that folded and $35 million disappeared," Norcross said at a Chamber of Commerce event, the Courier-Post reported.

    Campbell's Field was built with great promise.

    Then-Gov. Christie Whitman helped break ground on the project in 1999, comparing the stadium to the movie "Field of Dreams".

    "Well, soon we will see a field of dreams right here in Camden, and my prediction is 'they will come,'" Whitman said.

    The stadium was built with a complex combination of at least $21 million in bonds, loans, grants and other financing from the state Economic Development Authority, the Delaware River Port Authority, Rutgers and Santander Bank, then known as Sovereign Bank.

    The Campbell Soup Company, based in Camden, paid $3 million to have its name on the stadium and the facility began to attract crowds for baseball games, concerts and other events in the shadow of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

    But the stadium quickly ran into serious financial problems.

    The project eventually defaulted on its bond payments and the case ended up in court. Camden County purchased the property in 2015 to save it from foreclosure.

    With the minor league baseball team gone, Campbell's Field currently brings in only about $100,000 in revenue a year, including $82,000 Rutgers pays to use the stadium for its baseball games, a spokesman said last month.

    Rutgers-Camden plans to add new men's lacrosse and women's field hockey teams to use the new fields, said Sepanic, the school's spokesman.

    The new athletics facility would take over the entire footprint of the waterfront park, leaving no room for other projects that had been suggested for the space, Sepanic said.

    Camden County submitted a proposal earlier this year that would demolish the stadium to make way for a new Amazon HQ2 headquarters as part of a national competition to lure the tech company to the East Coast. But, Amazon has not expressed any public interest in taking Camden up on the offer.

    Kelly Heyboer may be reached at kheyboer@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyHeyboer. Find her at KellyHeyboerReporter on Facebook.

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    The ceremony also marked the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor Watch video

    The Battleship New Jersey celebrated its 75th anniversary Thursday by firing a four-shot salute from its anti-aircraft guns on the Camden waterfront.

    The storied warship was launched on Dec. 7 1942, one year to the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II.

    The 13-ton guns fired Thursday were recently reinstalled on the vessel which is permanently docked across the Delaware River from the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where it was built.

    The quad anti-aircraft guns -- fired for the first time in 60 years -- emitted an enormously-loud boom that reverberated through canyons of nearby buildings as a group veterans, including some from the WWII era, saluted and looked on after a brief ceremony.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The incident happened in Merchantville on Thursday.

    A police officer handling crossing-guard duties Thursday in Merchantville, Camden County drew his gun and fired into the windshield of a car being pursued by police from another town.

    The incident occurred near Chestnut Street at 3:15 p.m., a time when typically schools are releasing students. The Camden County Prosecutor's Office said Friday it is investigating the incident and the officer has been placed on administrative leave. The patrolman's name was not immediately released.

    The fleeing vehicle did not stop after it was fired upon and the suspect escaped a chase that began in neighboring Pennsauken. The vehicle reached speeds of up to 60 mph during the pursuit, police said.

    The driver, Christian Vargas, 24, of Pennsauken, turned himself into police on Thursday evening. He was charged with eluding a police officer. No injuries were reported in the incident.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
     

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    The Cherry Hill mall has unveiled a holiday display centered around the 1983 classic "A Christmas Story."

    Kids eager to see Santa as well as movie fanatics can immerse themselves in a true "Christmas Story" experience at the Cherry Hill Mall this month. 

    But don't worry, you won't shoot your eye out. 

    Instead of a traditional North Pole display, the mall has opted for an interactive, family-friendly set based on the 1983 holiday classic, created by the team at Parker3D, a design firm in Scotch Plains. 

    "The main thing is to get people out to have a shared experience for this movie," said John Carter, the design director and co-creator of the exhibit. 

    He and his colleague, Evan Wadsworth, are two Cleveland natives with an affinity for the movie who dreamed up the concept together. Wadsworth even has ties to the movie itself; his mother worked at the Cleveland Bigsby's where the Santa set was built and the scene filmed. 

    From authentic 1940s kitchen appliances to a swirling slide posed just behind Santa, the designers tried to nail the details from their favorite scenes -- stopping short of adding a frozen pole to stick your tongue on.  

    Cherry-Hill-mall-Christmas.jpgChildren visit Santa at the Cherry Hill Mall on Thursday, December 6.  

    Mall-goers can take photos with the "major award" (a full-sized leg lamp), and use their phones to download an interactive app. When opening the app in various parts of the house, users can see several augmented realities, including their face in the iconic pink bunny costume or suds and soap washing out their mouths after they've accidentally let an "Oh, fudge," slip. 

    "Getting grown-ups to come to a Santa set is not something that you expect to happen," Carter said. "But in this case, the parents just want to be there as much as the kid does. They want to stand on the stairs where Ralph stood."

    And the response, so far, has been overwhelming, said Lisa Wolstromer, the mall's senior marketing director. Typically, the mall sees between 35,000 and 40,000 visitors at the North Pole.

    Wolstromer said people have come from farther than before this year to take advantage of the one-of-a-kind display.

    "We have had people coming from Connecticut or upstate New York who love the movie," she said. "It just resonates with people."

    Walking through the display and visiting with Santa is free, and the mall only charges those who wish to purchase a professional photo.

    For all the set's authenticity, Santa and his elves are friendlier than those in the film.

    He said the kids are "great as always," and that he wants "them to keep on being as good as they have been all year long" with Christmas quickly approaching.

    And while the Red Ryder BB Gun is no longer the holiday's hottest toy, Santa said good little girls and boys can expect something special when he makes his rounds.

    And no, he won't be bringing any unwanted footballs. 

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    The incident occurred in Burlington City in January.

    A 19-year-old has pleaded guilty to the fatal shooting of another man during a street fight in Burlington City.

    Irie Y. Simmons[1] copy.jpg 

    Irie Y. Simmons, of Pennsauken, pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter Friday for the killing of Eric Thomas, 30, of Eastampton. Simmons was originally charged with murder for the January brawl.

    Thomas, who previously had served time for drowning a man during a fight, had only been out of jail three days when he was killed.

    Xavier L. Myers, 20, of Cinnaminson, also faces aggravated assault charges from the incident at 10:40 p.m. near East Broad and Library streets.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Dogs and cats throughout New Jersey need permanent homes.

    We all love eating holiday foods, but things can go seriously wrong if we feed our dogs the same kinds of sweet and fatty goodies we give ourselves. Many of our-best-loved holiday dishes can be harmful or even toxic to dogs.

    BluePearl Veterinary Partners has provided a list of five dog-healthy alternatives to classic holiday dishes. Just remember, these special foods should be given in moderation.

    "Your dog will love the treats mentioned in this article, but remember that treats should amount to no more than 10 percent of your dog's overall calorie intake for the day," said Dr. SusanWynn of BluePearl, who is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. "The rest of their food should be their usual complete and balanced diet."

    Turkey legs vs. cooked pieces of turkey breast

    It may be tempting to serve a turkey leg to your furry friend, but bones can actually be extremely harmful to your dog. Instead, cut a few small pieces of turkey breast, ideally without skin or heavy seasonings.

    Pumpkin pie vs. fresh pumpkin

    Creamy, rich pumpkin pie is a classic holiday dessert, but the high sugar and fat content makes it a bad choice for pets. However, plain pumpkin (fresh, roasted or pureed) is healthy for dog digestion. You can also freeze 100% unsweetened pumpkin puree in an ice cube tray for a bite-size snack.

    Candies and desserts vs. fresh apple slices

    One of the biggest holiday dangers for pets is sweets. Chocolate and xylitol, an ingredient in many sugar-free candies and desserts, are both highly toxic to dogs. The best sweet alternative is fresh apple, nutritious and low-calorie. You can substitute other fruits such as pear, banana and melon - just be sure to avoid feeding grapes, fruit seeds or pits and rhubarb.

    Sweet potato casserole vs. fresh sweet potato

    Nothing smells better than a baked sweet potato casserole, but the fat and sugar from the marshmallows and other ingredients can make your dog sick. Set aside some plain, cooked sweet potato pieces (or puree) for your dog.

    Green bean casserole vs. plain green beans

    Green bean casserole is another holiday classic that may tempt humans and dogs alike. But it's filled with ingredients that are bad for dogs, including onions, garlic and mushrooms. As an alternative, offer your dog some raw green beans as a crunchy snack.

    Remember, if you have questions about certain ingredients or introducing new foods to your dog, talk to your primary veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist.

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    Each of these municipalities has fewer than 1,600 residents, but police forces ranging from 3 to 29 members


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    The incident occurred in Gloucester Township on Sunday.

    Officials in Gloucester Township are continuing an investigation Monday into a destructive fire that displaced nearly two dozen residents of the Lakeview Apartments over the weekend.

    A police officer sustained minor injuries but no other injuries were reported, police said.

    The blaze was reported at 8:39 p.m. Sunday. First responders reported seeing fire showing through the roof of a townhouse backing up to Route 42 and a man trapped on his second-floor balcony.

    The man was safely rescued. An officer was treated and released from a local hospital after sustaining minor burns.

    Gloucester Township Office of Emergency Magagement and the Red Cross helped approximately 22 residents who were displaced. Power has been restored to the parts of the development affected by the fire, officials said Monday. Nine fire companies responded to the alarm.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Which teams have what it takes to win a state title this season?


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    The event was held Nov. 19.

    The Lions Club of Gloucester City hosted their annual pancake breakfast on Nov. 19 at Gloucester City High School. They served over 350 people and have been doing this for three years as a fundraiser.  The club had help from some of their 30 members along with assistance from their Leo club. 

    Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization. Its 1.4 million members are dedicated to bettering the quality of life for the handicapped, the poor, the sick and the aged. Local Lions Club programs include sight conservation, hearing and speech conservation, diabetes awareness, youth outreach, international relations, pancake breakfasts, environmental issues, and many other programs.

    The Gloucester City Lions Club wants to recruit new members and is proud of our recent new members who have advanced to District positions. All Lions Clubs are seeking more members and if anyone is interested in joining the Lions or getting information about their various activities, they can contact the Gloucester City Lions Club.


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    Where do you need to be on the first weekend of hoops season?


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    The pair were charged in Camden County.

    Two men, including one with "top-secret" clearance, have been charged with child pornography sex crimes and other charges in separate cases, the Camden County Prosecutors Office said Monday.

    Donald Baldi, 41, a Navy contractor with top security clearance, was arrested at his home on Albany Avenue in Barrington on Friday and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.

    In a separate case, Charles Borrelli, 55, of Voorhees, was also arrested Friday and charged with possession of child pornography, one count of prostitution and related offenses, and for paying women to engage in sexual acts.

    Local and federal officers participated in the raid on his home on Rollingwood Drive to seize evidence, officials said. Borrelli is the owner of Dynamic Sights, an online web design business, the prosecutor said. He was arrested and released pending a trail date. Baldi was held in the county jail pending a pre-trial detention hearing, officials said.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    A breakdown of players to watch in every girls basketball group in 2017-18.


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    Who are the top players in Group 4?

    The boys basketball season gets under way on Friday, Dec. 15.

    In preparation for the 2017-18 season, NJ.com took a look 44 of the top players to watch in Group 4 heading into the 2017-18 season.

    Who do you think will have the biggest impact in Group 4? Let us know in the comments section below.

    Jamal AndersonHightstown, Sr., Guard: Anderson is coming off a season that saw him average 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4.2 steals per game. He is heading into the season 112 points away from the 1,000-point mark.

    Mattias Arrindell, Piscataway, Sr., Guard: Piscataway is a good shooting team and Arrindell is no exception to that. He hit 15 3-pointers last season and finished second on the team with 11.5 points per game. He could tear things up alongside fellow senior Jordan Davidson this season.

    Derek Astarita, Sayreville, Guard, Sr.: The captain and team-leader will be huge for Sayreville this season. On a team that lost a lot of key scorers to graduation, Astarita will need to build on his 4.1 point per game total if Sayreville is to return to the sectional semifinals.

    Tyrek Battle-Holley, Dickinson, Sr., Guard: Dickinson fell to Columbia in the first round of the North 2, Group 4 tournament last season and is hoping Battle-Holley can led them out of the first round this season. He averaged 21.1 points, hitting 49 3-pointers in the process, and grabbed 8.2 rebounds per game last year.

    Greg Billups, Freehold Township, Jr., Forward: Billups is the only player back from last year's Freehold Township squad, which battled to the Central Jersey, Group 4 final. He averaged 6.2 points per game last season.

    Naseim Brantley, Howell, Sr., Guard: Howell may be moving from Central, Group 4 to South, Group 4, but will be in good shape with Brantley back. He led Howell with 16.8 points per game last season and will head a strong group of returners.

    Ji'Ayir Brown, Trenton, Sr., Guard: Trenton fell to Freehold Township in the Central Jersey, Group 4 quarterfinals and will hope to advance even further this season. Brown led Trenton with 12.6 points and 4 steals per game. He also had 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game last season.

    Hassan CeesayNewark East Side, Sr., Guard: Ceesay helped key East Side's run to the North 2, Group 4 final. He averaged 11.5 points per game and will be a crucial force alongside Shamir Johnson.

    Jaylen Colon, Paterson Kennedy, Sr., Guard: Colon led Paterson Kennedy with 16.3 points per game and knocked down 29 3-pointers last season. He has great ball control and even better footwork. Defensively, he is armed with active hands and will likely be matched against every squad's top guard. He can pull up, drive the lane or pass to open shooters on the perimeter.

    Kadian Dawkins, Rancocas Valley, Sr., Guard: Dawkins will be the head of a very strong Rancocas Valley team looking to make some noise. He was the key offensively last season with 12.2 points per game last season.

    Nazim Derry, Atlantic City, Sr., Guard: Derry will lead a pretty strong Atlantic City squad into this season. Derry is the team's top scoring threat back after putting in 10.4 points per game last season.

    Dylan Deveney, Shawnee, Sr., Forward: Deveney was an intricate piece in Shawnee's run to the South Jersey, Group 4 championship and Group 4 semis. Deveney averaged 16.6 points and surpassed the 1,000-point plateau last season.

    Anthony Dicaro, Cherokee, Jr., Guard: Standing at 6-1, Dicaro provides Cherokee with some size at the guard position. He can hit deep threes and uses his great vision to help run the point. DiCaro was Cherokee's leading scorer with 11.1 points per game last season. He helped key Cherokee's run to the South Jersey, Group 4 semis.

    Tommy DrubulisScotch Plains-Fanwood, Sr., Guard: Drubulis heads a Scotch Plains team that returns four of its top six scorers. He led the Raiders with 8.9 points and was second on the team with 34 3-pointers last season.

    Jake Dubois, Southern, Sr., Guard: DuBois is a primary ball handler and Southern’s returning leading scorer. He averaged 15 points per game last year and has 635 career points.

    Stephan Gabriel, Columbia, Sr., Forward: Gabriel keyed Columbia's run to the North 2, Group 4 quarterfinals and will hope to take the team even further this season. He led Columbia with 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season.

    Aaron Gao, Bridgewater-Raritan, Sr., Guard: Gao's biggest asset is his deadly pull-up jump shot. He led Bridgewater with 14.8 points per game and sunk 49 3-pointers. Bridgewater returns another strong shooter in fellow senior Sterling White. The duo should give defenses fits this season.

    Danny Gaines, Colts Neck, Sr., Guard: Gaines will be tasked with leading Colts Neck's offense a season after averaging 17 points per game last season.

    Ross Gang, Millburn, Sr., Guard: Millburn was stunned by Union in the North 2, Group 4 first round last season. Gang will try to erase that early exit this season. He led Millburn with 16.9 points per game last season.

    Carl Gibson, Cherry Hill East, Jr., Guard: After graduating its top three scorers, Cherry Hill East will look to Gibson to lead the offense this year. He will likely serve as the team's point guard and has the ability to shoot as well. He averaged 7.7 points per game last season.

    Mario Haklaj, Randolph, Sr., Forward: Randolph graduated a lot of key pieces from last year's sectional semifinal team and will look to Haklaj to build on a 5.6 point per game season. He was a solid player inside with good range and a jump shot to match. He is a good defender that clogs the lane with his active hands.

    Sam Johnson, Hunterdon Central, Sr., Guard: Johnson averaged nine points per game last season, but will need to improve on that total if he hopes to lead Central back to the a sectional title with Tucker Richardson graduated.

    Tavon Jones, Linden, Sr., Guard: Jones has been one of the top guards in New Jersey for quite some time and his senior season could be his best yet. He averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as he led Linden to the Group 4 championship.

    Dylan Kaufman, Marlboro, Sr., Forward: Kaufman averaged 12.1 points and six rebounds per game. He helped key Marlboro's run to the Shore Conference Tournament final last season.

    Rynell Lawrence, Millville, Jr., Guard: Few sophomores make the impact that Lawrence was able to last season. Millville's offense ran through him and he will be looking to step up even more this year. He averaged 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2 steals per game to lead Millville in all four categories last season.

    Steve LeungMorristown, Sr., Guard: Morristown graduated its top four scorers and will be relying heavily on Leung to pick up the slack of those graduations. He averaged 4.9 points per game last season and is a pretty dangerous threat from 3-point land.

    Chris MannPhillipsburg, Sr., Guard: Standing at 6-6, Mann might seem like he should be a forward, but he has the speed and shot to excel as a shooting guard as well. He averaged 18.3 points per game and hit 17 3-pointers last season.

    DeAndrae McFarlane, Union, Sr., Guard: Union has some big-time replacing to do after losing its top three scorers. That will start with McFarlane. He averaged 6.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game last season.

    Jared Meyer, Old Bridge, Sr., Guard: With Kyle Parris and Rich Calandrino graduated, Old Bridge will rely on Meyer to lead the offense. He is the team's top returning scorer after averaging 6.4 points per game. He is a solid player inside and will need to continue improving on his play this season.

    Charles Murphy, Montclair, Jr., Forward: Standing at 6-3 and weighing 175 pounds, Murphy provides Montclair with size and strength. He averaged 13.5 points per game and hit 49 3-pointers for the Mounties last season.

    Mike Patterson, Williamstown, Sr., Guard: Patterson has been a three-year starter for Williamstown. He is an explosive scorer and playmaker that averaged 12.4 points per game last season. He needs 291 points to reach the 1,000-point mark.

    Jovany Perdomo, Egg Harbor, Sr: Perdomo is Egg Harbor's top returning scorer after averaging eight points per game last season. He is part of a deep returning group for Egg Harbor.

    Kemari Persol, Woodbridge, Sr., Guard: Persol ran the point for Woodbridge last season and shined behind his great ball handling. He is a ball-moving player that can hit shots on the perimeter. He is a good defender and averaged 8.7 points per game last season. This season, he should be a force alongside Hura Blaine and Curtis Nesbit.

    Holden PetrickToms River North, Sr., Guard: The 5-10, wing guard averaged 10 points per game last season. He was a crucial part in Toms River North’s run to the South Jersey, Group 4 final.

    Dan Pilsbury, Watchung Hills, Sr., Guard: Pilsbury is a great scorer and is coming off a season where he averaged 16 points per game and hit 29 3-pointers. He also pulled down 3.1 rebounds per game last year.

    Ryan Purcell, Middletown South, Sr., Guard: The two-guard has over 600 career points and averaged 17 points per game last season.

    Abdallah Saleh, North Bergen, Jr., Center: North Bergen won 22 games last season and battled to the North 1, Group 4 semifinals. It will look to improve on that success behind Saleh, who averaged 11.1 points per game.

    Joe Sampson, East Brunswick, Sr., Guard: Sampson is hoping to lead East Brunswick back to success in the GMC after averaging 11.2 points per game last season.

    Michael SchretterRidgewood, Sr., Center: Schretter was a huge part in Ridgewood's run to the North 1, Group 4 final last year. He will need to continue to use his 6-7 frame to be a force inside. He averaged 14.2 points per game last season.

    Andrew Sims, Lenape, Sr., Center: Sims broke out last season as he led Lenape to the South Jersey, Group 4 semifinals. Although Lenape lost some key players to graduation, it returns Simms, who led the team with 13.8 points per game.

    Romey TalleyPlainfield, Sr., Guard: Talley averaged 16.1 points per game and was Plainfield's leading scorer. He heads into this year closing in on the 1,000-point mark.

    Atiba Taylor Jr.Hackensack, Sr., Guard: After initially transferring to Patrick School, Taylor Jr. is back at Hackensack. He is as dynamic of a player as they come. Last season he led Hackensack with 19 points, 4.9 assists and 4.6 steals per game. He finished third on the team with 5.8 rebounds per game.

    Paul Woolhouse, North Hunterdon, Sr., Center: Woolhouse is a Carnegie Mellon recruit and is coming off a season that saw him average 9.7 points per game. If North Hunterdon hopes to have success, his play on the glass will be huge.

    Andrew Yoon, Bergen Tech, Sr., Forward: Yoon led Bergen Tech with 14.3 points per game last season. The senior is hoping to build on a solid 2016-17 campaign and propel Bergen Tech out of the first round of states.

    Richard Greco may be reached at rgreco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Richard_V_GrecoLike NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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