Lakeland Bank Awards bergenPAC a Community Impact Grant

$11,000 grant supports middle school education program to raise awareness of opioid addiction

Oak Ridge, N.J. – Nov. 16, 2018 – Lakeland Bank recently presented an $11,000 Community Impact Grant to the bergenPAC in Englewood, N.J. to support a new opioid addiction education program for students in middle school. The program is a joint initiative between bergenPAC, FBI Newark Citizens Academy Alumni Association, the FBI–Newark Division, Hackensack Meridian Health and Lakeland Bank. 

“To provide funding for a program for the youth in our communities that takes direct aim at opioid addiction is something we strongly believe can make a difference,” said Thomas Shara, president and chief executive officer of Lakeland Bank. “We are honored to be one of the partners in this joint initiative to raise awareness of this major public health crisis in our State.”

Susan Scimone-Bellini, SVP, regional administrator at Lakeland Bank was instrumental in bringing the partners together for this project after the idea for an educational program to address drug addiction in the community was proposed by staff at bergenPAC. Scimone-Bellini serves on the boards of bergenPAC and FBI Newark Citizens Academy Alumni Association and recognized the opportunity to bring the two groups together to develop an in-school assembly program.

“The opioid crisis impacts everyone in our community, directly or indirectly. So when the idea evolved to create an educational program for middle school students that included an interactive artistic exercise, I was committed to helping make this program a reality,” said Scimone-Bellini. “I submitted a request for funding through Lakeland Bank’s non-competitive Community Impact Grant program, and was thankful the Bank approved the grant.”

It also quickly became evident that representatives from the FBI and Hackensack Meridian Health should be invited to participate in the initiative to assist in creating the program. The FBI developed an awareness program about two years ago called “Chasing the Dragon” and Michael Kelly, M.D., chair, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, and chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, is a leading advocate for eliminating the epidemic prescription drug and opioid abuse.   

“Beyond bergenPAC, our education outreach initiative, uses performing arts in entertaining and interactive assemblies to deliver important lessons on character-building and good decision-making,” said Dominic Roncace, president and chief executive officer of bergenPAC. “We appreciate Lakeland Bank’s support of our efforts to help health and law enforcement officials engage our program’s audience in a meaningful way.”

“First time exposure can lead to long-term addiction,” said Dr. Kelly. “At Hackensack Meridian Health, we are working to combat the opioid addiction problem by minimizing the exposure to patients, either by reducing the number of prescriptions, or not giving opioids entirely to manage pain. Prevention is most definitely a step in the right direction and I applaud our team for taking the initiative to protect our patients and the community.”

Program Overview

bergenPAC will work with local schools to schedule assemblies which will begin in the Fall/Winter 2018. The assembly will consist of two parts. Part One of the program features an assembly presentation conducted by FBI representatives to share the “Chasing the Dragon” program which was designed to educate civilians, educators, and students about the opioid epidemic. In between various segments of the video they will have discussion sessions. The final segment of this portion of the program will conclude with a presentation by Hackensack Meridian Health. Part Two of the program will begin directly after the assembly and offers schools the opportunity to select one of three Reflection exercises that will be directed by bergenPAC staff to further highlight the importance of the drug addiction crisis through an interactive and artistic project.

About Lakeland Bank’s Grant Program

The Lakeland Bank Grant program is non-competitive with no public solicitations for applications. Prospective recipients and their programs are nominated for consideration for a Community Impact Grant or Housing Impact Grant based upon an internal nomination process designed specifically for this program. The non-competitive grants will be awarded in the second and fourth quarters to eligible organizations within the Bank’s assessment areas.

About Lakeland Bank

Lakeland Bank is the wholly-owned subsidiary of Lakeland Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ:LBAI), which has $5.6 billion in total assets. The Bank operates 50 branch offices throughout Bergen, Essex, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Union counties in New Jersey including one branch in Highland Mills, New York; six New Jersey regional commercial lending centers in Bernardsville, Jackson, Montville, Newton, Teaneck and Waldwick; and one New York commercial lending center to serve the Hudson Valley region. Lakeland also has a commercial loan production office serving Middlesex and Monmouth counties in New Jersey.  Lakeland Bank offers an extensive suite of financial products and services for businesses and consumers. Visit for more information.

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