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Record, The (Hackensack NJ)

WAYNE - First the biography hit the shelves. Then came plans for the blockbuster movie. So what was Sheriff Jerry Speziale doing hosting cake-decorating classes and offering gardening tips?

Passaic County's high-profile top cop isn't bucking for airtime on the Home and Garden Network. Nor is he trying to oust Emeril from the kitchen. The sheriff was offering free seminars Friday at a Senior Citizens Day at the Public Safety Academy. "True community policing is more than sending a patrol car to somebody's house," Speziale said. "It's about police officers not only being there when you're in trouble but being there when people need nothing, so they understand police and the community are one and the same."


It isn't as if Speziale actually demonstrated the best way to plant petunias - not even when the gardening lady didn't stick around to give the class (she dropped off pamphlets and left). He shook hands and ate pizza with the group. When the gardening class was canceled at the last minute, a few disappointed, though frisky, septuagenarians eagerly pressed their noses to the glass door and watched young Fire Department recruits train on apparatus outside.

In a corner of the cafeteria, volunteers from Preakness Healthcare Center provided kitchen expertise, showing everyone the must-have item for professional cake-decorating results: a pastry bag with different shape tips.


Gaby Rinkerman, a Passaic County Community College professor, showed seniors how to find driving directions on the Internet using MapQuest and guided them to, a Web site where they can see if long-lost friends have died. Rinkerman also told the seniors about free computer training at the school's community center. Previous efforts to draw in the elderly were unsuccessful. "Senior citizens usually are afraid of new technology," Rinkerman said. "They think it's too late to learn. It's never too late." To her delight, about a dozen raised their hands when asked who had home computers. Clifton resident Esther Benard sends recipes and offers household tips to friends. Hilda Zunza's reason for attending was more economic. "I want to communicate with my daughter and son," said Zunza, 65, whose family lives in New York and Peru. "It's expensive for me to use the phone all the time."


The free program also offered pointers on fire safety, adopting a pet and the latest hot-button issue: drafting a living will. "Everyone knows since the Terri Schiavo case, it's become very important to Americans," said Ronni Nochimson, who runs the sheriff's senior identification program.


Between classes, attendees snacked on cookies and pastries, some wrapping the extras in napkins, carefully tucking them in purses and coat pockets. Lunch, which consisted of about $1,000 worth of pizza, salad and soda, was paid for by Speziale's non-profit foundation, funded primarily through an annual carnival in West Paterson. * *


By ALISA CAMACHO, Special to the record


May 23, 2005 Section: LOCAL Edition: All Editions Page: L01


All content © 2005- Record, The (Hackensack, NJ) and may not be republished without permission.


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