By BONNIE GRAHAM
Several hundred year-round and summer residents, as well as residents from neighboring communities, filled the Youth Temple in Ocean Grove over the weekend for the annual meeting hosted by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.
CMA President Dale Whilden held up the 2013 Ocean Grove summer events booklet and said, ‘This is almost a book of remembrances. “ He spoke of the super storm Sandy, which struck the Jersey Shore on October 29, 2012, calling it a “devastating experience.” However, Whilden said he was thrilled to see the community pull together and was grateful to see so many involved in this effort. Whilden said the 13-member CMA staff worked extra hours throughout the year, not only in post-Sandy relief, but also in planning the 2013 summer program.
The CMA is seeking to hire a new Chief Operating Officer, Whilden said. They have engaged the professional services of Bruce Dingman in searching for the person who will replace Acting COO Ralph Del Campo, who will step down from this position effective November 6. Del Campo will remain on the CMA’s Board of Trustees and will continue to work with the FEMA funding efforts.
According to the company’s web site. Bob Dingman founded the Dingman Company in 1979 after working for fifteen years as a recruiter with Ernst & Young and with two boutique executive search firms. The company’s goal is to serve business and non-profit clients in their executive searches. In 1986 Bob was joined by his brother, Bruce Dingman, who brought extensive management experience from the hospitality industry. In 1993, Bruce became President of the firm.
Whilden said the CMA will conduct their final candidate interviews in October and then make their selection. He thanked DelCampo for his extended stay as COO with the Camp Meeting Association.
Lew Hiserote from the CMA’s Program Committee said the 2013 program was jammed-packed with music, learning experiences, preaching, and children’s programs. The program was slightly reduced this year, due to budget considerations.
This summer’s annual choir, held on July 14, drew an audience of 2,989, and the Auditorium Choir’s sacred concert, held on August 25, had an audience of 893.
Overall, the Saturday night concert attendance this summer was 24,053, compared with 29,517 last year. Revenues along the Jersey Shore are down this summer, in the wake of super storm Sandy, Hiserote said.
There was a slight increase in attendance at the Auditorium Sunday evening worship services.
Attendance at the 9 a.m. boardwalk pavilion praise is down from last summer, with a highest attendance of 500 in 2013 compared with 625 in 2012. The average attendance this summer was 418, compared with 490 last year.
Attendance in the Monday-Saturday Bible Hour was higher this summer, he said.
Shelley Belusar from the CMA’s Program Committee said attendance at the Saturday evening concerts was significantly lower this summer, as an aftermath of super storm Sandy. There has been a steady decline in attendance at the concerts since 2008, she said. Nevertheless, she said the Great Auditorium was voted a “major concert venue” in the “Asbury Park Press.”
The June 15 “Raise the Roof” concert, which featured performances by Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, Maureen McGovern, and Michael W. Smith, brought in $45,000 to the “Together” capital campaign, Belusar said.
Hiserote said the CMA was continually evaluating its program schedule. There are many things to consider, and the events must not only be worthy programs but also must be cost effective, he said.
Hiserote spoke of the annual choir festival and the reduced number in the choir – a situation that has been ongoing for a number of years. He said they will meet to discuss how to increase choir participation in this concert.
Jason Tramm, in his 7th season as Director of Ocean Grove Music Ministries, said the music ministry in Ocean Grove is very special.
“We always strive to give the best,” he said.
The Auditorium Choir started with about 75 in June and grew to 125-130 by the end of the summer. More men are always welcome, he said.
Tramm praised the professional music team (organist Gordon Turk, soloists Ronald Naldi, Monica Ziglar, Jeremy Galyon, and Martha Bartz) and the numerous choir officers and workers, whose combined efforts helped to make this a successful summer.
“Sandy was tough for all Shore towns. Music soothes the heart,” Tramm said.
They are working to find new ways to bring in new choir members and increase attendance. The Ocean Grove music ministry is vibrant, and we need to get the word out, he said.
Jack Green, Chief of the CMA’s Operations Committee, said the Auditorium roof’s temporary covering was in place before the start of the summer season. They are working with the insurance company concerning the repair expense, and this process is going along well, he said.
The company that produces the stainless steel zinc roofing that is used for the Auditorium sold that part of its business to another company, Green said. They are about eight weeks away from getting the product here. They hope to start in the fall and be finished with this task by Christmas, he said.
CMA Chief Operating Officer Bill Bailey spoke of the extensive post-Sandy beach and boardwalk repairs and showed a number of slides depicting those areas. The CMA has met continuously with JCP & L concerning the beachfront lighting, he said. “We have two generators donated by Neptune Township to provide lighting along the boardwalk”, Bailey said.
There are three stages along the boardwalk that are marked for specialized lighting – the North End, McClintock Street, and Olin Street. The South End lighting is working. Two lights have been placed along the fishing pier, he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ sand replenishment program will start south of Manasquan and work its way north along the Monmouth County coast. It is expected that the sand will be placed along the Ocean Grove beaches in October/November and that the process will be completed by the end of this year, Bailey said.
The goal of the sand replenishment program is to restore the beaches to their pre-Sandy levels. Additionally, the project includes rebuilding of sand dunes. This work is fully funded by the federal government, through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), he said.
The CMA expects to go out for bids for the boardwalk reconstruction in October.
The boardwalk/beach reconstruction work will occur in stages – Middle Beach, Seaview Avenue to the Dweck Building at the North End, the fishing pier, and the North End.
An anonymous donor has come forward to provide the funding to potentially extend the pier out towards the additional pilings, Bailey said.
The damaged/destroyed lights along the Middle Beach have been removed, he said.
CMA Acting COO Ralph DelCampo said they are in their third and final appeal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “FEMA has agreed to an oral presentation in Washington, D.C.” he said. They expect to receive a decision on the third appeal by Thanksgiving.
DelCampo said the CMA has received excellent support from elected officials, including Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Governor Chris Christie’s office, State Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), and the members of the Neptune Township Committee. “We have gone to Washington and to Trenton several times”, he said.
“FEMA has a very complex regulatory process. Overall, we feel optimistic that we will succeed in the end. We are going for bids in October”, he said.
DelCampo said FEMA officials toured Ocean Grove and were impressed with the community spirit.
He said the CMA is working closely with the NJ Department of Transportation (DOT) and Neptune Township in finalizing a memorandum of understanding. The CMA expects to receive a Community Development Grant in the $200,000-$400,000 range. “We will leave no stone unturned, and we will have a back-up plan”, he said.
Heather Kleinle, Director of the Ocean Grove beaches, thanked all of the people who patronized the beaches this summer, post-Sandy. Beach revenues declined this year, with a 6.5 percent decrease in season badges, a 13.5 percent decrease in daily badges, and 19.4 percent decrease in hotel badges. “Revenues were OK, as the badge fees were raised”, she said.