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North Bergen PBA ‘Bugs Against Drugs’ helps teens learn trades

Photo Credit: ABOVE
Photo Credit: ABOVE
Photo Credit: ABOVE

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Thanks to a North Bergen police union, a group of youngsters at the Hudson County Vocational School is restoring a classic 1961 Volkswagen Beetle while reinforcing their commitment to becoming successes in life.

The “Bugs Against Drugs” program was created by members of North Bergen PBA Local 18 to help students develop skills while staying off drugs — but also to open networking opportunities in the trades once they graduate, said Dino Apostolakos, the union treasurer.

PBA members hope the program can become a model for other districts and organizations throughout New Jersey.

“It’s intended to be an extension of the D.A.R.E. program,” Apostolakos told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “It’s a way to reach out to older kids who may not respond to its younger focus.”

The reasoning, PBA 18 President Jeffrey Gennari said, is simple.

The Beetle after arrival

“In the age of computers, the need and demand for computer skills has usurped
interest in skilled trades,” he said. “Automotive, plumbing, woodworking, machining, and other skilled trades have less attention and emphasis than ever before but still remain critical to our economy.

“While manufacturing and other jobs continue to be outsourced to other countries, the need for skilled trades will always remain.”

The key objectives, Gennari said, are to:

  • Encourage hands-on skills toward a common goal;
  • Instill pride in the students while honing skills;
  • Open lines of communication between the students and vendors to manage the project to completion, so that they’ll have contacts when they joing the workforce;
  • Build a vehicle to display at festivals, car shows and educational events, benefitting from a unique showcase to display the advantages of team building.

PBA members found the iconic, early-60s VW Beetle convertable in restorable shape in South Philly. It seemed a great choice, given its universal appeal, particularly in Hudson County, as well as the easy availability of parts and supplies. After buying it with union funds, they towed it to the school.

Thus, “Bugs Against Drugs” was born.

Parts and materials for the VW are coming from local vendors, with emphasis on North Bergen businesses, to encourage students to network and maintain relationships.

Under the guidance of Automotive Technology Instructor Sergio Gamarra, the participating students are:

Nelson Avila
Phillip Dias
Nicholas Loppe
Hector Mejias
Adrian Solares
Daniel Almonte
Devin Basanoo
Kelvin Batista
Mike Brito
Nicole Flores
Victoria Gangadin
Anthony George
Roberto Godoy
Samantha Guzman
Ibad Khokhar
Michael Lugo
Andrew Mavros
Javier Ortez
Freddery Spraus
Jarrett Tyler
Jeremy Torres


The North Bergen PBA 18 Civic Association is a 501.3(c) non-profit registered with the State Attorney General’s Office, as well as the NJ State Division of Consumer Affairs. It hopes to continue raising money to keep the program going, while featuring local businesses in Hudson County.

Among those who signed on right away with Gennari and Apostolakos:

Main Towing (1445 Union Turnpike, NB)
Union Auto Parts
(1525 Kennedy Blvd., NB)
America Collision (1405 Kennedy Blvd. NB)
P&A Auto Parts (Multiple locations throughout NJ)
J&R Auto Body (6208 Kennedy Blvd., WNY)
Central Jersey Volkswagen Society

Custom T-shirts and decals will be provided to students for sale to their families and friends, in addition to PBA Local 18 members, with proceeds from these sales to directly support parts and materials purchases.

Donations beyond what is necessary to complete the pilot project will be used to:

  • Stock a resource fund to buy and supply parts for the next car (They’re considering a Camaro or Mustang, one that can be raffled off after being renovated);
  • Contribute to a charity or organization — the first recipient being the New Jersey D.A.R.E. program;
  • Support the PBA with funds to continue development of community-oriented programs and activities.

YOU CAN HELP by sending a donation in any amount to:

Bugs Against Drugs
C/O North Bergen PBA 18
P.O. BOX 201
North Bergen NJ 07047

OR: (201) 736-6688


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