First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Freehold Township High School Teacher

Press Release


Pictured above: Freehold Township High School Teacher, Laura Vannauker (right) receives a check from First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Freehold Township, NJ – Freehold Township High School Animal Science Teacher Laura Vannauker, a resident of New Egypt, was delighted when she received a surprise visit to her classroom by First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan, who brought her a $500 classroom grant for the 2012-2013 school year.

Ms. Vannauker submitted a grant application to purchase supplies for the pets kept in her classroom as part of the Animal and Botanical Sciences Academy at the school.  Specifically, the grant money will help to care for Bucky the rabbit and Bear the ferret (pictured below along with two students).  Both animals were donated to the class and require constant care and feeding.  Part of the grant money will be used to build a hutch so they can both live comfortably.


“I would also like to spend part of the grant money on an egg incubator,” said Vannauker.   ”We have hatched eggs in the past and it is always a highlight of the year for the students!”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators four classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2012-2013 school year.

“Education remains a guiding principal for our organization, and we’re delighted to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” noted First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a difficult job of choosing just four winning teachers out of the numerous outstanding applications it received this year. “We received dozens of heartwarming essays from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement a variety of creative programs in their schools such as anti-bullying and character education, building a greenhouse on school grounds, integrating iPads, iPods, and laptops for educational use, and starting a classroom library to motivate and inspire students to read – to name a few,” said Stephan. “We wish we could have rewarded each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the four classrooms in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”


Business Spotlight: Wall Stadium Speedway

Down at the Jersey Shore, the Wall Stadium Speedway is home to great racing and family fun for the surrounding communities and fans of all ages.  From the time the Speedway first began racing in 1950, they have continued to provide a great experience for the fans who flock to the stadium.

Wall Speedway Photo - Racecars

Above Photo Credit: Ace Lane, featured on from 7/28/12

Since it opened, the Wall Speedway was created on 47 acres with the future and safety in mind, featuring banked turns and a one-third mile track.  The track design was developed based on allowing racing car speeds to increase, but also providing a margin of safety.  Over time, the Speedway was altered and updated a few times, adding more safety precautions such as a flat inner loop and a metal guard rail.  Now it hosts many racing events throughout the year.  One of the most recognized races held is the annual Turkey Derby, which takes place each Thanksgiving weekend.  This year will be the 39thrunning of the popular event.

As a family operated business, the Krause family works hard to make sure the needs of the fans are met.  Stated Co-Owner Diane Krause, “Since our family began managing the Speedway in 2011 – we have really placed an emphasis on making sure our fans experience our family friendly, family fun atmosphere.  We want them to have a great time, right in their own backyard!”  And that they will, as Wall Stadium Speedway prides itself on its ability to provide family fun, offering entertainment not just for the diehard fans – but for kids too!  In addition to the races, the Speedway also has a dunk tank, bounce house, face painting, and mini train rides.  The Wall Stadium Speedway also has a new Kid’s Klub, where young racing fans can spend some time playing games, doing arts and crafts, and having all sorts of fun.  The Speedway even has a personal party area for young fans to host birthday parties at the track!

Over the years, the Wall Stadium Speedway has added new equipment, seating, a new sound system and lighting, among other amenities, and has renovated in order to keep the stadium up to date.  They also have plans for a few more new additions in the future – so stay tuned!

Wall Speedway currently races stock cars on Saturday nights in season.  They have two Open Wheel Divisions – Modified and Sportsman Class, as well as Legends, and two Classic Divisions – Factory Stock and Street Stock.  You can view the racing schedule at

With the Corporate Office being right across the street from the Speedway, First Financial has partnered with the stadium by sponsoring a #88 Senior Champ Kart in the past. Caroline Nickerson (First Financial member since 1965), and mother of driver Roger Nickerson (built the Speedway’s Sunday Go Cart Series Program), approached the credit union’s Business Development team and mentioned her husband, Charles Nickerson was a former First Financial CEO and Speedway enthusiast. She hoped that Mr. Nickerson’s former two vested interests could be combined into developing a partnership.  The credit union couldn’t have been happier to oblige and in addition to sponsoring the company branded Senior Champ Kart, also sponsored some additional event nights at the stadium.

1st Financial FCU - Annual Mtg.

Pictured above: Roger Nickerson (center) with First Financial’s Senior Champ Kart, along with Caroline Nickerson (left) and Chris Gall (right).

Please visit Wall Speedway’s website for more information and event schedules.  To contact the Speedway, call 732-681-6400 or e-mail them at