ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury officials and the Roxbury Rotary Club are hoping to avert a crisis at Roxbury Social Services that could take place when the Ledgewood Walmart is razed – possibly later this year – to make way for a new Walmart Supercenter.

The Walmart store has been vital for Social Services, especially during the holidays when Roxbury fire and first aid volunteers stand at the store and ask patrons to buy items to be donated to the less fortunate.

“This year, we’re going to have a real problem with Social Services,” Roxbury Councilman Richard Zoschak said at a council meeting Tuesday. “Many of our volunteer organizations, the fire department and the first aid squads, go overboard on the holidays. For Thanksgiving, they do food drives where they’ll stand out front and collect food for social services.”

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But during the period between the closing of the current store and the opening of the new one, those volunteers are “not going to have that opportunity to do that,” said the councilman.

He said the Friends of Roxbury Social Services support group is concerned about the matter. “So what we’re trying to do, as Friends of Social Services, is get … the fire departments and the first-aid squads to go other places” during their toy and food drives.

Start Holiday Charity Shopping Now

Additionally, Zoschak, a Rotarian, said the club is asking people to keep the holidays in mind starting now.

“If you’re out shopping … and you come across an inexpensive new toy, pick it up,” Zoschak said. “We will get that to the kids at Christmastime. We’re going to try to run that through the fire departments also. You just have to keep it in the back of your minds. I know Christmas is a way off, but that’s going to be a crisis for them (Social Services)."

Roxbury Mayor Robert DeFillippo acknowledged that “one of the unintended consequences of the arrival of this new Walmart on the site is we’re tearing down the old Walmart and it will be out of business for about a year.”

DeFillippo also serves on the Roxbury Planning Board – which approved the new Walmart plan. He said Walmart “contributes a lot of money and time and effort to our Social Services Department in the form of gift cards and low-cost products and items that are essential” to the department’s efforts to help the less fortunate.

A Good Track Record

DeFillippo noted the effect of the project on Roxbury Social Services did not escape the planning board.

“When we gave them permission to begin the project, the planning board did address this to the Walmart executives who were there,” said the mayor. “We brought this to their attention. And we were assured that it was certainly something they were sensitive to and would take steps so that (during) the year the Walmart is shut down, Social Services isn’t disadvantaged by that closing.”

DeFillippo said the board was “encouraged” by the Walmart executives’ apparent sensitivity to the matter, but he said they might need to be reminded. “I’m sure Walmart, given its track record of community involvement, will keep its commitment to this community.”

The new Walmart Supercenter will be part of the new shopping center, called The Shops at Ledgewood Commons, replacing the former Ledgewood Mall. The store will be open 24-hours, as will a fitness center also proposed for the new mall.

“We are looking forward to their new start,” said DeFillippo, referring to Walmart. “We’re looking forward to their continued presence in Roxbury.”

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