Virgin saint spotted in WNY tree; hundreds gather to pray
An image of la Virgen de Guadalupe (Mexico's version of the Virgin Mary) was spotted by West New York resident Eva Copantitla Tuesday as she was passing by a tree in front of the McDonald's on Bergenline Avenue and 60th Street. Copantitla then ran into Mayor Felix Roque's office around the corner in Town Hall to tell him the news.
Skeptical, Roque followed her to the tree and found a knot in the trunk that bore a remarkable resemblance to the iconic imagery of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Slowly, word spread, and crowds upwards of 100 people began to gather and pray around the tree.
The police department finally cordoned off the tree and the space around it in order to protect the praying crowd from Bergenline traffic. Hundreds of votive candles with the virgin's image were lit and placed around the tree, and devotees left photos of sick loved ones, baby shoes for protection, and other symbolic prayerful gestures.
Roque stood with Copantitla Thursday morning among the crowd who chanted prayers in front of the image in the tree.
"It's a miracle," Copantitla said in Spanish. "And it's so close to Town Hall. I believe it's a good sign for the mayor."
Just then a red colored votive exploded from the heat of its own flame, startling the crowd.
"It's okay," one of the women said in Spanish. "Red is the color of the virgin's veil."
UC police nab sex assault/kidnap suspect hours after alleged incident
Union City Chief Brian Barrett and several police officers caught a Hoboken man charged with aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, and burglary of a Union City woman hours after the alleged incident Monday morning thanks to local surveillance cameras, Barrett said Wednesday.
At 2:22 a.m. on Seventh Street’s 700 block, Alex Duenas, 55, allegedly grabbed a 27-year-old victim by the throat and dragged her before allegedly pulling her onto a staircase on the street, punching her, and demanding her property, Barrett said.
Duenas then allegedly held her down while smacking her and began to masturbate.
Barrett said that according to the criminal complaint, Duenas allegedly forced her to perform a sexual act before he allegedly took the victim’s belongings and money and fleeing the scene.
Barrett was notified when the call came in because of the severity of the incident, and he and his officers watched videos captured by city controlled cameras on Summit Avenue. They saw the suspect allegedly cross the CVS parking lot toward Eighth Street and turn toward Kennedy Boulevard.
Barrett and other plainclothes officers then patrolled the area beginning at 3 a.m. with a photo of the suspect taken from the videos, and found the person they believe matched the photos sitting on a stoop eating, he said. When they identified themselves, the man allegedly handed them the victim’s debit card, and he was placed under arrest without incident at 5:48 a.m.
The victim received treatment for injuries at Jersey City’s Christ Hospital where the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit met up with her, Barrett confirmed.
Duenas appeared at Central Judicial Processing court in Jersey City on Tuesday. As he is under indictment on prior burglary charges and allegedly failed to show up to a hearing scheduled in March, his bail has been set at $10,000 cash for that charge only, Barrett confirmed.
UC man dies July 4 in Afghanistan
Union City resident and Staff Sgt. Raul M. Guerra, 37, died July 4 in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. He was assigned to the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash, according to the Department of Defense.
Guerra entered the army in March 1999 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. after which he was deployed to Afghanistan three times between 2002 and 2006.
In 2007, he was stationed at Fort Stewart, G.A. He was then deployed to Iraq from October 2007 through December 2008.
Guerra was stationed in Germany from May 2009 through July 2011 after which he arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and was assigned to the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. He deployed to Afghanistan with his battalion in May. This was his fifth deployment.
Guerra’s civilian and military education includes a high school diploma (1992), Military Occupational Specialty 63B: Light Wheel Vehicle Mechanic (1999), Combat Life Savers Course (2012), Unit Safety Officer Course (2010), EO Leaders (2009), Advance Leader Course (2009), Military Occupational Specialty 35M: Human Intelligence Collector (2007), Warrior Leader Course (2005), and Airborne (1999).
His awards and decorations include Joint Service Commendation Medal (two awards), Army Commendation Medal (two awards), Army Good Conduct Medal (four awards), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star (two awards), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Overseas Ribbon (five awards), NATO Medal, Parachutist Badge, and Driver and Mechanic Badge.
On behalf of the entire Joint Base Lewis-McChord military and civilian community, the Department of Defense extends their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Guerra.
Dvine Konektion to offer free summer program for girls
The Dvine Konektion Community Development Corporation is partnering with the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey to offer a free summer program called “Summer B.L.A.S.T” - Becoming Leaders and Acquiring Skills Together.
Girls between the ages of 5 and 17 will meet once a week on Thursdays from July 12 through August 16. The girls will explore a different theme during each session through games and other activities. Topics will include financial literacy, health and fitness, community advocacy, arts and culture, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
The curriculum is customized by age level, enabling each child to learn at their own pace. Teenagers in the program will be given the opportunity to learn leadership skills and perform community service. At the end of the six weeks, all of the girls will be given the option to continue their Girl Scout journey during the school year.
Spaces are still available for girls interested in the Summer B.L.A.S.T. program. Sessions will be held at 611 56th St. in West New York from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, please call the Girl Scouts at (973) 842-4241 or Dvine Konektion at (201) 617-4484.
UC Art Gallery to host Liza Calache
Union City will host their July art exhibit at the Union City Art Gallery with an opening reception on July 18 at 6 p.m. at City Hall located at 3715 Palisade Ave. on the first floor.
The art exhibit will feature artist Liza Calache. Curator Amado Mora and the Union City Artist Collective will organize the event, there will be live music, and refreshments will be served and admission to the event is free.
Artists that would like to be included in future exhibits should contact the Union City Office of Public Affairs at 201-348-5746 for more details. The entire community is invited to attend.
For more info, visit www.UnionCityArtScene@blogspot.com.
UC’s St. John’s to begin Summer Wellness Program
The Arts at St. John's Summer Wellness Program will offer fitness, yoga, mediation and belly dancing classes Tuesday nights from July 17 through September 4. All classes will be held at 1516 Palisade Ave. in Union City, with its entrance located on 16th Street.
Get healthy and support St. John's at the same time. Class fees go to help keep St. John's doors open. Become an ASJ wellness member by buying a five-class pack where each class is only $15. Walk in visits are $20 per class.
For more information, email email@example.com or call (201) 301-8340.
Child advocate volunteers wanted
Are you interested in helping children in the foster care system? If so, Hudson County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is currently recruiting volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. CASA works through trained community volunteers to ensure that needed services and assistance are made available to children while helping to move them toward safe and permanent homes.
CASA and its volunteers speak for children in court, serve as fact finders for the judges, and safeguard the interests of the children while they are in the foster care system.
An information session will be held on Tuesday, July 17 from 6 to 7 p.m. in room 400 of the Hudson County Administration Building located at 595 Newark Ave. in Jersey City.
Hudson County has nearly 700 children in foster care; most have been removed from their homes for abuse or neglect. For further information, call (201) 795-9855, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hudsoncountycasa.org.
Free help at Dvine Konektion’s community fairs
The Dvine Konektion Community Development Corporation will hold a free community fair on the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 5516 Jefferson St. in West New York. Residents of West New York, North Bergen, Union City, Weehawken and Guttenberg are welcome to attend the next event on July 21. Groceries and baby supplies will be distributed, and various medical screenings and other services are offered.
NHCAC to host golf classic
The North Hudson Community Action Foundation’s seventh Annual Michael A. Leggiero Memorial Golf Classic will take place July 23 at White Beeches Gold and Country Club in Dumont.
Tickets to the event are tax deductible and the proceeds are to be used to help fund the agency’s capital campaign to purchase the building that houses its health center in West New York. The agency is one of the region’s largest non-profit organizations and it is the largest provider of federally qualified health care in New Jersey, with 11 health centers in Hudson, Bergen and Passaic Counties.
A brunch buffet begins at 9:30 a.m. for golfers and non-golfers, with a dinner reception to follow at 5 p.m. Attendees may golf, or use the tennis and swimming facilities, as well.
“This year’s Golf Classic is a wonderful opportunity to see old friends, make new friends, and help North Hudson continue to provide much-needed social services and health care to tens of thousands of people in the region,” says Christopher F. Irizarry, NHCAC president and chief executive officer.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, please call Odalys Valdes at (201) 210-0100, ext. 318.
Palisades Medical Center to hold health screenings
Palisades Medical Center’s staff has partnered with North Hudson Community Action Corporation, Christ Hospital School of Nursing, and Hudson Perinatial Consortium to provide free health screenings and education programs. The New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) recognized Palisades Medical Center’s Community Outreach Program with its 2011 Community Outreach Award for its unique and effective methods of reaching out to better serve the healthcare needs of area residents.
Palisades Medical Center has scheduled a series of free health screenings over the coming months.
On July 28, a health fair will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Nazareth Baptist Church located at 5800 Palisade Ave. in West New York.
For more information, please call Joanne Riggs at (201) 854-5793.
For more information, call (201) 617-4484 or visit www.dvinek.org.