The Village Spotlight highlights organizations and/or businesses that have served the South Orange community for a number of years. If you have a recommendation for next quarters' Village Spotlight, email us at email@example.com.
South Orange Elks, #1154
Highlighted: Winter 2023, Vol: VS-05
On May 20, 1909, the South Orange Lodge was instituted as Subordinate Lodge #1154 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. By the end of the first year, South Orange boasted a total of 48 members. Within five years the lodge had more than doubled to 100 members. The highest mark in membership came in April 1932 when there were 632 members on the roster. Presently the lodge is home to just over 300 members, both men, and women.
The Elks are a fraternal organization that promotes and practice the virtues of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love, and Fidelity and values diversity and celebrates the contributions of people of all backgrounds, regardless of their age, ethnicity, race, color, abilities, religion, socioeconomic status, culture, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
The South Orange Elks Lodge has a tradition of serving the community for over one hundred years. They support children with special needs, veterans, local food banks, and other local organizations and charities in South Orange and Maplewood. Activities include bringing furniture and appliances to newly housed veterans and raising money to fund the Elks Camp Moore, a summer camp in northern New Jersey for children with special needs. The South Orange Elks has a community garden, the South Orange Elks Rent Party Garden, which grows vegetables for three food pantries. The Elks also hold concerts, comedy nights, dance parties, cookouts, board game nights, and family nights. As one of their newest commitments to service, the South Orange Elks, along with the other 8 lodges in the North Central District, raises money each year to send local veterans to compete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
For more information about the South Orange Elks, #1154, please go to: https://www.soelks.com/
220 Prospect Street
South Orange, NJ 07079
Exalted Ruler: SouthOrangeElks@gmail.com
Friends of the South Orange Public Library
Highlighted: Spring 2022, Vol: VS-04
The Community Relations Committee is proud to recognize the Friends of the South Orange Public Library as our Spring 2022 Village Spotlight.
The Friends of the South Orange Public Library are honored to be Spotlight honorees at this vital and exciting time for our library. The Friends are champions of the South Orange Public Library’s vision and mission to meet educational, informational, and cultural needs of the South Orange community.
South Orange leaders and residents value their public library, as American Library Association studies show most Americans do. They know that the public library is a place of equal access, rich resources, and hands-on help. People consider their library a safe and quiet place to meet, talk, research, work, and read. In addition, studies show that people consider libraries a good use of tax money. Public libraries enhance the desirability of a town’s business and residential neighborhoods.
The Friends have supported the South Orange Public Library since 2006 under the leadership of presidents Tonia Moore, Anne Simms, Dru Barkalow, and Janyce Wolf and a large group of dedicated volunteers. Every summer the Friends support the Library’s Children’s Summer Reading Program, nourishing a love of reading and life-long learning. The Friends supplement the Library’s collection with funds for books and popular materials, including social justice, large-print, best sellers, graphic novels, manga, children’s, teen, and bilingual.
Every week the Friends coordinate with the library staff on the Volunteer Home Delivery Service providing homebound citizens with books. Museum Passes are funded by the Friends so that patrons can access cultural centers such as Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Morris Museum, Newark Museum, New York Historical Society, and Storm King Art Center with free admission.
The Friends provide support for a variety of programming which have included Black History month author’s night, children’s and teen events, a foreign film series with Gerard Amsellem, and art lectures.
The Friends maintain four Little Free Libraries throughout South Orange, stocking them with books and thus helping to inspire the community to participate in reading and sharing of this ecological village benefit. The Friends proudly supports the Library Board of Trustees and the Foundation for the South Orange Public Library in the campaign to build a new and improved community center and informational and cultural focused facility.
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In addition, the Friends, a 501c3 registered charitable organization, seek to expand their membership both to raise money for the library and to include a larger core of active community members of all ages. Everyone who cares about the South Orange Public Library is invited to consider becoming an active member.
Mother's Day Jewelry Sale
The Friends invite our entire community to attend our Mother’s Day Jewelry Sale on Saturday April 30, 2022, 1-5 pm, and Sunday, May 1, 1-4 pm, at the South Orange Public Library. We have a goal of again raising $7,000 by selling a large selection of jewelry from fun to fancy in a moderate range of prices. Buyers can pick up a special something for everyone on your list (including yourself) and benefit the library at the same time.
South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race
Highlighted: Fall 2021. Vol: VS-03
The Community Relations Committee is proud to recognize the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coaltion on Race as our late Fall 2021 Village Spotlight Organization.
The South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is a nationally-recognized, progressive, grassroots community group committed to racial integration and equity. It was founded in 1996 by a diverse group of volunteers concerned about the under-representation of people of color in the civic life of our towns, about realtor steering, about a perceived decline in the quality of our schools, and about stagnating property values. The organization adopted three main strategies to foster stable racial integration and inclusion: to promote strong and sustained robust demand by all racial groups for housing in every area of our community; to take proactive steps to ensure involvement of persons of color in the civic life of the community; and to promote dialogue and understanding on race-related issues.
Mission: To build and sustain a community that is racially, culturally and socially integrated and truly inclusive where there is equity and equality for all.
Vision: We aspire to be a community that is a model for the nation in which people of different races, ethnic groups and backgrounds can interact, form friendships and participate fully in the community’s economic, political, civic, educational and cultural life.
Board Initiatives 2020-2021
- Strengthen the community’s commitment to racial and cultural inclusion of all people of color by challenging the community power structures* to rectify disparities and by promoting the value of inclusiveness to the well-being of the community. *(municipal government, school system, realtors, businesses, arts and recreation groups, corporate and nonprofit groups, media, and key leaders and influencers)
- Ensure the sustainability of racial integration in SOMA by both affirming and supporting the current population of Black people and by researching and developing strategies to increase the rate of Black in-movers.
We are steadfast in our vision to be a community that is a model for the nation in which people of different races, ethnic groups and backgrounds can interact, form friendships and participate fully in the community’s economic, political, civic, educational and cultural life. We use race-conscious strategies to best leverage change toward racial inclusion and equity to address both individual attitudes as well as public policies. Thus, we work throughout the community—with the school district, businesses, governments, service organizations, faith institutions, and cultural resources.
The Community Coaltion on race has programs and activities that are developed within four mission focus areas: schools, residential, affirmative marketing, and community engagement.
This group works to ensure that students of all races are expected and encouraged to excel in a community that is proud and supportive of our schools. It focuses on eliminating the academic achievement gap; promoting parental involvement; providing resources, information, and training to teachers and parents; and advocating for diversity hiring, and integrated schools and classrooms.
Bringing the community together to learn, to build relationships across racial and cultural barriers, and to celebrate differences is the focus of this mission area. Volunteers are active in one or more events and projects like the annual MLK Celebration, the MLK Luminary Project, Conversations on Race, Coffee House Discussions, the Civic Engagement Institute, and Integration through the Arts programs.
Promoting the welcoming and inclusive nature of our towns to potential homebuyers, and raising local, regional, and national awareness for the Coalition on Race’s mission and programs are the goals of this group. Volunteers identify target audiences and publications for placing promotional ads, develop stories, oversee our website and social media marketing, and support Coalition events with outbound communications.
Using pro-integrative strategies to support stable racial integration in our towns’ neighborhoods, this group works with realtors and neighborhood associations, gives tours to prospective home-buyers, and oversees a Home Maintenance Loan in support of strong and attractive neighborhoods.
Tracking our integration levels–in the towns, in neighborhoods, in schools and classrooms, on boards, among leadership, and in businesses–helps us work toward stable racial integration.
Visit CommunityCoalitionOnRace.org to learn more and to volunteer!
SOMAtv: South Orange Maplewood Community Television
Highlighted: Summer 2021. Vol: VS-02
The Community Relations Committee is proud to recognize SOMAtv as our Summer 2021 Village Spotlight Organization. Please check out their highlight reel below.
SOMAtv is our local public access television station that serves the communities of South Orange and Maplewood. Founded in the mid-1990s as a station for local public access, government, and educational programming, SOMAtv produces shows that focus on many subjects, including careers, pets, books, education, and nostalgia.
In addition to original programming, SOMAtv also covers a number of community events, including South Orange Play Day, Newcomer’s Day, the 24-Hour Music Festival, Maker Madness at Columbia High School as well as local election debates, Town Council and Board of Education meetings.
Over the years SOMAtv has made significant changes to expand its impact, which includes promoting Dustin Dumas to Station Manager in 2018. Ms. Dumas was initially brought on as a featured producer of her show Dustin’s Kaleidoscope. In 2019, she successfully leveraged the station’s professional membership with Jersey Access Group (JAG) to get original SOMAtv shows syndicated. As a result, SOMAtv shows have been picked up over 153 times by television stations across the United States. SOMAtv shows air on 36 stations in 12 U.S. states, a testament to the high-quality content and production of these programs.
As with many other organizations, SOMAtv had to adjust in light of the COVID-19 pandemic since the television studio is located at Columbia High School. Although the school was closed for most of 2020 and into 2021, SOMAtv did not slow down; the station continued producing content via Zoom.
To help get out the vote in the 2020 election, SOMAtv solicited video submissions from residents encouraging their fellow community members to vote. Videos were submitted by over twenty individuals from our diverse community in Spanish, American Sign Language, Nepali, French, and English. These public service announcements (PSAs) were not specific to any political party or special interest group.
In addition, SOMAtv contacted the mayors of Maplewood and South Orange as well as the County Clerk’s office to do a special show on voting this year. Mayor Frank McGehee and County Clerk Chris Durkin participated in a program to help people understand the mail-in ballot process and explain what voters could expect during this pandemic election cycle. Topics discussed included early voting, ballot boxes, mail-in ballots, and curing. The special show was well-received by the community and within a few days, there were over two hundred views on YouTube.
SOMAtv is a member of Jersey Access Group (JAG), a professional organization for the public, educational, and government (PEG) stations where best practices and standards for stations are shared.
Updated information: SOMAtv wins JAG Award of Excellence for Get Out The Vote videos. First, win in 27 years! Press Release
Ways to access SOMAtv:
Channel 19 - Cablevision | Channel 22 & 44 - Fios
Channel 35 - Comcast | Channel 22 - Fios | Channel 24 - Fios - Town government broadcasts only
The Community Relations Committee presents the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School in this quarter's inaugural Villiage Spotlight.
South Orange-Maplewood Adult School: A Community School for All Ages
Highlighted: Spring 2021, Vol: VS-01
The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School was founded in 1933 during the Great Depression. Its mission is to be a community school where people can gather to learn, stay informed, and be entertained. The school is the oldest operating Adult School in New Jersey and was named a Local Legacy in 2000 by the Library of Congress. In the last two years, the school has served over 700 South Orange adults and 350 South Orange kids in its Children's Summer Program.
- The Children’s Summer Program typically consists of two, two-week sessions with classes in creative and performing arts, science, coding, woodworking, and sports. It is truly a community program with most classes led by South Orange-Maplewood School District teachers and/or talented community members and the Adult School's friendly "Yellow Shirt" counselors, consisting mainly of Columbia High School students. The program has been running since 1974.
- English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which the Adult School has provided since 1937, helping the immigrant population adapt to life in the U.S.
- Suzuki Violin and Cello Lessons for grades K-4 and two orchestras for grades 5-8.
- A wide variety of lectures on topics ranging from the future of race relations to the American Movie Musical and personal enrichment classes, such as college planning, finance, languages, fitness, art, technology, and more.
Check out the SOMAS highlight reel
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