Morris County Bureau of Corrections Sergeant Andrew Bileci will be honored June 14 as a volunteer “angel” for a charity that eases the financial and emotional stress on families faced with unexpected crises, like loss of a loved one or a job or a cancer diagnosis.
Karen M. Casolaro, a mother of five, founded the non-profit organization Halos For Angels, Inc., in 2010, a few years after the community of Florham Park stepped up to help her and her large family with daily meals after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The charity’s mission is to directly help families and people in the community who are impacted by a crisis – and Sergeant Bileci has proven to be an angel in helping Halos For Angels fulfill that quest, Mrs. Casolaro said.
“The first time I met Sergeant Bileci I felt an immediate personal connection. He lives kindness every day. With him leading the way with his team of angels, we’ve been able to help the community and grow as a charity. Sergeant Andrew is a shining star,” Mrs. Casolaro said.
Mrs. Casolaro said she met Sergeant Bileci several years ago through Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon. The sergeant assembled a team of other officers from the Morris County Correctional Facility – Corporal Peter Lohmus, Sergeant Raymond Dykstra, Sergeant Shawn Johnston and Lieutenant Michael Schweizer – to serve as ghoulish actors the past two years at a haunted house called “The Fright Factor” that Halos For Angels operates as a fundraiser every year during the month of October.
For instance, Sergeant Dykstra posed at the 3,000-square-foot haunted house in Florham Park as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre villain in a costume and bladeless chainsaw provided by Mrs. Casolaro. Other officers played equally macabre roles at the haunted house.
Before Christmas of 2018, Sergeant Bileci made the holiday brighter for at least five families by posting stories about their tragedies on a billboard at the Morris County Correctional Facility. He also left gift bins and the family wish lists in the lobby of the Facility so others were encouraged to donate, Mrs. Casolaro said.
The outpouring vastly exceeded the charity’s expectations. One family, who lost their 9-year-old daughter, received $1,000 in monetary gifts to start a scholarship in their child’s name. A grandmother unexpectedly caring for her grandchildren asked only for donations of pajamas – and received them, along with gift cards and a multitude of toys, Mrs. Casolaro said.
Sergeant Bileci, who will be honored at the Halos For Angels, Inc., gala fundraiser at the Hanover Manor, said he’s had only a small role in helping the charity succeed.
He credited Sheriff Gannon, Correctional Facility Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Warden Chris Klein and unions of both the Bureaus of Corrections and Law Enforcement for their generosity. The unions include P.B.A. 298, S.O.A. 298, F.O.P. 137, and P.B.A. 151.
“Without all these people being involved, it never would have happened. The Sheriff and the Administration gave us the blessing and we took it from there,” said Sergeant Bileci, who has worked at the Correctional Facility for 20 years.
“There’s a sense of family between officers at the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and they, including Sergeant Bileci, have the heart and compassion to ease the burden on other families who are suffering through a difficult time,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Other volunteers will be honored at the June 14 gala: Florham Park Businessman Bruce Danishek; Oncology Masseuse Pamela Berstler, Craig Sacco, who helps store and transport the haunted house; and corporate volunteer sponsor Boiling Springs Savings Bank and its representative, Stephanie Licausi.