Vernon Township Mayor’s Updated Statement on the Coronavirus

Posted: May 15, 2020

My Vernon Family, in my weekly COVID-19 updates I normally (1) focus on those mental, emotional and physical things that we can do/strategies that we can implement to aid us in dealing with this novel coronavirus that has, and that continues to, attack our bodies, minds and spirits; and (2) provide you updates on the grim statistics reflecting the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths that this diabolic virus has visited upon us.

Well, this update will be different; it will focus on how the power of VERNON CARES and VERNON STRONG have joined together to confront this coronavirus, and to let it know that Vernon Township will not allow it to total rob our graduating Vernon Township High School seniors of the opportunity to be recognized, honored, appreciated and congratulated for achieving an important accomplishment in their lives.

This awful virus has already robed Vernon’s senior class of important high school experiences such as their last high school athletic events, their last high school band performances, their last high school play performances, their last high school Honor Society recognitions, and many other last high school activities. It has also robbed them of their senior class trip, their senior prom, and of course, the joy, pride and honor of walking across the proverbial stage in front of their family and friends to receive their diploma.

However, because of the strong family orientated community that is a hallmark of Vernon Township, there is no doubt in my mind that there are many individual and group actions that are taking place in Vernon as part of our community’s collective attempts to ensure that this coronavirus does not rob our graduating seniors of all the celebratory joys of this important rite of passage. And, as your mayor, I am proud of, grateful for, and appreciative of every action that’s taking place.

That being the case, in this update, I want to focus on the very dynamic, visible, and municipal centered honor for our town’s graduating high school seniors that’s currently taking place in our town’s center. I speak of the 227 “We Rise!” signs containing the names and class photos all 227 members of the Vernon Township High School Senior Class of 2020!

These signs, which are posted on sections of Main Street, Guthrie Drive and Route 515 in our town center, are a beautiful, dignified, personal, emotional, and fitting tribute to our high school seniors. And from my perspective, they represent an “in-your-face” act of defiance to this coronavirus; it shows this coronavirus the real meaning of VERNON CARES and VERNON STRONG!

This specific sign project is the work of three dedicated Vernon citizens—Ms. Kelly Mitchell, Ms. Dawn DiMartino, and Ms. Justine Van Blarcom.

As I understand, Ms. DiMartino designed and did the art work for the signs; Ms. Van Blarcom proofed all the signs for accuracy; Ms. Mitchell paid for all 227 of the signs out of her personal funds; and the three of them spent a significant portion of Wednesday putting up the signs.

On several occasions, I have observed large numbers of Vernon residents, including graduating seniors and their parents, making the tour of Main Street, Guthrie Drive and Route 515 to see the signs and to take photos in honor of the seniors.

And, I was very pleased to see that during the several occasions when I drove by the area where the signs are posted, the only non-social distancing group gatherings that I observed were of what appeared to be families taking photos with their graduating senior.

How could we not be proud of our town!!!

In addition, to support this salute to our graduating seniors from an official town perspective, I have directed that Main Street and Guthrie Drive, the sections of our town where the great majority of the 227 “We Rise!” signs containing the names and class photos of members of the Vernon Township High School Senior Class of 2020 are posted, be temporarily renamed “2020 Senior Drive”; and, that new signs containing this temporary name be posted in the blue and gold Vernon Township School District colors.

It’s true that every day, every person is both living and dying at the same time. Every person can either move their life in a positive direction where they are “busy living,” or in a negative direction where they are “busy dying.” Because VERNON CARES, and because we are VERNON STRONG, we have made the collective decision to face this coronavirus with an attitude fueled by our positive decision to get “busy living!”


Howard L. Burrell, Mayor