Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this January 2019

Happy 2019! We’re ready to kick off the new year with some wallet-friendly activities for your family and friends. So, break out that new calendar and pencil in these dates for some free or inexpensive events happening in a town near you this month.

January 4: Pizza and Penguins at Jenkinson’s Aquarium (Pt. Pleasant) from 6-7:30pm. Your favorite flightless bird will make a special dinnertime appearance while you and the kids enjoy pizza! Learn all about them, ask their keepers questions, and meet Perky the Penguin too. Pre-registration is required. Cost is $20 for adults and $15 for children. Call 914-334-2440 or email to reserve your spot is conservation@jenkinsons.com

January 5: Night Skies Hike & S’mores from 6-8pm (Lincroft). Take a hike around Thompson Park and learn what’s in the night sky before warming up by the firepit with s’mores, warm drinks, and music. Open to ages 7 and up, under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The event begins at the Thompson Park Ski Hut.  For more information, click here.

January 12: Christina Noel and Friends Hands On Cooking Class (Soule’ Culinary and Art Studio, 800 Ocean Road in Pt. Pleasant) from 5-8pm. Hands on cooking for the evening includes making wet mozzarella, stuffed baby bella mushrooms, roasted peppers, crostini, caprese, homemade ricotta for ravioli filling, maple sweet potato sauce, and soufflé for dessert. Purchase your tickets here.

January 13: Goldfish Swim School Free Family Swim (Manalapan) from 4:30-6:30pm. Goldfish Swim School is hosting an exclusive event for local families. The event includes FREE family swim, facility tours and lots of family fun! RSVP at 848-206-3584 or email swimmanalapan@goldfishss.com for more details, or click here.

January 24: New Year, New Flavor Tasting Event (Molly Pitcher Inn, Red Bank) from 6-9pm. Enjoy an evening of fantastic flavors from some of Red Bank’s finest restaurants, amazing dessert purveyors, and artisan breweries – all to benefit the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide and the Red Bank Business Alliance. The party will rock to the beat of the Sherri Pie Band while you feast on the best food and spirits Red Bank has to offer. There will be an auction of prizes donated by Red Bank and Monmouth County businesses that will add to the fun.  Get your tickets here.

January 26 & 27: Asbury Park Beer Fest at Convention Hall. The event takes place 12-4pm both days, and Saturday night has an additional session from 6-10pm. Advance tickets are available at ticketmaster.com or at the Stone Pony Box Office. Ages 21+ only. The event features craft beer, cider, retro beer, boardwalk food, and tasting classes. Learn more here.

January 27: Beef and Brew at Chubby Pickle in the Highlands from 3-7pm. Tickets are $30 and include a buffet dinner & brew. There will be a gift auction, pipe bands and Irish dancers to entertain. All proceeds will benefit the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Call 732-291-4713 or click here.

January 28: Taste of Long Branch Restaurant Tour at Rooney’s from 5:30-8:30pm. Join the Greater Long Branch Chamber of Commerce for their annual Long Branch Restaurant Tour. They will be showcasing the local restaurants and their talented chefs. Be prepared to taste delicious food from multiple restaurants and bakeries. Taste of Long Branch is a night to eat, drink, and be merry. Rooney’s cash bar will be open for the evening. Learn more here and purchase tickets in advance.

We hope you have a happy and healthy new year!

2018 Holiday Toy and Gift Drive in All First Financial Branches

Holiday Greetings to all of our First Scoop Readers!

As we continue into the 2018 holiday season, First Financial is partnering with local non-profit organizations to help families in need within Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

Each branch will be holding a holiday toy and gift drive through December 2018:

Please click on the links above for more details. These gifts will be picked up at all First Financial locations on the dates listed above – so please be sure to return your gifts to your nearest branch before this date.

We are also collecting non-perishable food items at each branch location until December 31st.

Help brighten someone’s holiday this season and thank you for your continued support!

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this December 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  With so many joyful and festive events happening this month, it’s definitely going to be hard to choose which ones to attend. Enjoy this special time of year with your family and friends – check out the many free or inexpensive activities happening this December in a town near you.  Happy Holidays from all of us at First Financial, and wishing you a prosperous 2019!

December 2 – 30: Magic of Lights at PNC Arts Center in Holmdel. Don’t miss a mile of festive and vibrant light displays, which celebrates the joy of the holiday season. Experience the drive through the comfort of your own car. Hundreds of sparkling lights – a must see! Sunday through Thursday times are dusk to 10pm and Friday & Saturday are dusk – 11pm (weather permitting). Purchase tickets online and learn more here.

December 7-8 & 14-15: Christmas Lantern Tours, Allaire Village in Farmingdale. The weather is cold, but the scent of Christmas is in the air! Come celebrate the holidays with a stroll through Allaire’s lantern lit village, and learn about Christmas in 1836! Advance ticket purchase is required for this event. Tickets are available for $20 per person. The tour lasts roughly 90 minutes and is an outdoor walking door, with various stops in our historic buildings along the way. Tours begin at 5:00pm and depart from the visitor center every 15 minutes until 8:00pm.  For details call 732-919-3500 or click here.

December 4: Downtown Freehold Tree Lighting from 5-7pm at the Hall of Records. Join DownownFreehold.com and Monmouth County for the Annual Tree Lighting. The Rock and Roll Choir will perform, The Court Jester will be providing hot cider, and Ray Catena Auto group will be helping to transport some of Santa’s elves. The Freehold Fire Department will also be stopping by with a special guest! Learn more here.

December 6: Annual Holiday Bazaar at Monmouth University (West Long Branch) from 9am-4pm at the Rebecca Stafford Student Center. Local vendors will be selling a variety of fun and unique products including jewelry, home goods, clothing, cookware and much more. The event is sponsored by the Global Experience Program – Monmouth University students who will be spending their winter, spring break and summer breaks volunteering in Haiti and Guatemala to aid the under-privileged. Proceeds from vendor table rentals will help support the organizations the students are working with. For more information, contact Corey Inzana at 732-923-4768 or click here.

December 8: Free Santa Photos at all First Financial Locations (Toms River, Neptune, Howell/Freehold). Sit with Santa from 9am-12pm! Each participating child will receive a free 4×6 photo in the mail, as well as the original image file will be sent to each parent/guardian. Register at your nearest branch here, or call 732-312-1500.

Community Christmas Concert at Georgian Court University (Lakewood). Starting at 7pm, celebrate the holidays with the music of the Georgian Court Community Chorale. This diverse group of men and women of all ages will perform a wide variety of classical, traditional, and popular seasonal favorites. The singers are accompanied by piano, flute, and stringed instruments. Cost is $15 for adults; $10 for seniors; FREE for students, children & GCU community members with ID. Call 732-987-2263 or learn more here.

December 8 & 9: Ocean Grove Victorian Holiday Festival House and Inn Tour. The Inns, Homes and Tents will be open for a self-guided holiday tour. Jitney services will be available to shuttle patrons. Tour tickets are $30 per person. Saturday evening, join the Ocean Grove community for a live nativity at 5pm in the Great Auditorium and Tree Lighting and Community Sing-a-long in Auditorium Square Park at 6pm. Other activities include exhibits at the Historical Society of Ocean Grove and the Ladies Auxiliary Christmas Boutique. Ocean Grove’s beautiful downtown will be bustling and decorated for holiday enjoyment! Learn more by calling 732-774-1391 or click here.

December 8, 15, 22: Classic Horse and Wagon Rides from 1-5pm in Red Bank. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season throughout Red Bank’s Business District with a FREE classic horse and wagon ride. Wagons can be boarded at 11 Bridge Ave or 26 Broad St. Learn more here.

December 9 & 16: Sunday Brunch with Santa at the American Hotel in Freehold from 10am-3pm. Bring your wish list and your appetite to The American Hotel’s Sunday Brunch with Santa! Enjoy brunch specialties and grab a photo with Santa too. Adults $38.00, Children $19.00 (12 years and under), 3 Years and under FREE. Reservations required (732) 431-3220 or click here for more information.

December 15 & 16: A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Algonquin Arts Theater in Manasquan. Performances take place on 12/15 at 11am and 2pm, and on 12/16 at 3pm. Each performance lasts approximately one hour. Tickers required for ages 2 and up.  Get more information and purchase tickets here.

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Clause at Riverfront Park in Pt. Pleasant from 2-5pm. Come Meet Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause at the Herman Bennett Log Cabin at Riverfront Park. Free gifts and photos with Santa, train display and wonderful holiday décor, plus cookies and hot chocolate. This is a FREE event sponsored by the Point Pleasant Open Space Commission and Historical Society. Call 732-295-8850 or click here for more information.

December 23: A Very Electric Christmas at Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts (Ocean County College, Toms River).  Shows are at 3pm and 6pm, and tickets are $17 for adults and $10 for kids. Lightwire Theater, known for their signature brand of dazzling visuals, poignant storytelling and music designed to evoke imagery, “A Very Electric Christmas” will be available at OCC on 12/23 only. This captivating and magical tale of adventure, friendship and love, centers on a young bird named Max and brings a whole new meaning to coming “home for the holidays.” Call 732-255-0500 or click here for details.

December 31: Ring in the New Year at iPlay America in Freehold from 7:30pm-1am. Bring the entire family and enjoy a night of rides, party favors, live DJ, and giveaways! There will be confetti cannons at midnight as you watch the ball drop on 5 large screens. This party sells out fast so get your tickets soon! Advanced ticket purchase discounts are available online. Learn more here.

Small Business Spotlight: Aspire Digital Marketing

I am pleased to present a monthly blog post which features one of our current businesses, how they got started, and how First Financial has helped them grow their business. If this inspires you to want to expand your business goals or see how First Financial can assist you further, feel free to reach out to me. Keep reading to learn more about our featured Business of the Month, Aspire Digital Marketing.  — Matt Brazinski, Assistant Vice President of Business Development

Meyer Laniado: Owner of Aspire Digital Marketing 

Aspire Digital Marketing, led by Meyer Laniado, is a digital marketing agency located in Neptune, New Jersey. Aspire helps drive leads from a solid web presence and sees themselves as their clients’ partners in business, dedicated to enhancing growth by matching them with their ideal customers. They combine business strategy with digital marketing to help local businesses meet their goals and grow with custom marketing solutions. Learn more at aspiredigitalmarketing.com.

What is your niche? 
Building brand awareness and generating leads for local businesses.

What is one of your recent success stories? One of our local clients’ Google Business pages recently received 32 phone call leads 28 days, offering them a 10x return on investment. What would an additional 32 monthly leads to your business mean for you?

What do you love most about this business?
Empowering business owners to do what they do best.  We work on increasing awareness and driving leads so businesses can service more of their market.

What are your products/services?
We combine business strategy and branding with digital marketing to drive leads for local businesses. Our branding strategy has been implemented with our team of three superb graphic designers, a creative web developer, an SEO fanatic and a social media ninja.

Our offerings include:

  • Logo Creation
  • Brochures
  • Postcards
  • Banners
  • Infographics
  • Websites
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media Planning and Management

Aspire’s social media programs start at $500/month, and their SEO programs start at $750/month.

What do you like most about banking with First Financial?
Matt and Joe in the Business Development Department! Their personal touch and support has been essential for the growth of our business.

You can schedule a strategy call with Meyer here or contact Meyer directly at Meyer@AspireDigitalMarketing.com.

Ready to grow your business? Call the Business Development Department at 732.312.1500, email business@firstffcu.com or stop by any branch location. Learn more about our Business Account products and services on our website.

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Shark River Hills Elementary School

Press Release

(Pictured Above L to R: Superintendent of Neptune Schools Dr. Crader, Grant Recipient Stephanie Huff, and Principal Williams).

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Shark River Hills Elementary School Pre-K teacher, Stephanie Huff, was surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $500 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2018-2019 school year. Ms. Huff has been an early childhood educator within Neptune Township Schools for 20 years.

Huff submitted a grant application to purchase equipment for the betterment of her students’ gross motor skills. The grant money will be used to benefit the 60 Pre-K children at Shark River Hills Elementary School for years to come. Currently, the school uses equipment from a gym cart – however there is not enough to go around and it was purchased 16 years ago. With the grant funds, Ms. Huff plans to purchase new kickballs, basketballs, foam balls, a hopscotch rug, a mesh tunnel, a bowling set, handkerchiefs and ribbons, a set of scooters, and more.

(Pictured above L to R: AVP of Business Development at First Financial, Grant Recipient Stephanie Huff, and VP of Marketing and Business Development at First Financial).

“We are required to provide our students with 45 minutes of gross motor activities each and every day.  Gross motor skills are defined as the abilities required in order to control the large muscles of the body for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities,” said Huff. “In order to develop and strengthen those gross motor skills, equipment is needed to do so. Fred Rogers, beloved creator of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and dedicated child advocate, poignantly said: Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. I can personally attest to the value and worth of play in children’s learning.”

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 six (6) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2018-2019 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able 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 tough job of choosing just six winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received dozens of heart warming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs in their schools such as flexible seating, virtual reality glasses, book stands and shelving, new classroom cabinets, and interactive books and games – to name a few,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the six classrooms in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

About the First Financial Foundation: Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, visit www.firstffcu.com.