When Maryann Roland’s husband Charlie died in 2010, she wanted to some way continue the good work he was doing with the local food pantries.
“He was always doing things for them, very quietly,” she said.
Out of this wish to carry on something Charlie had felt a strong need to do came the idea of Chamber to Charity, an effort by the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce to help raise money that would help provide for the neediest people in the city.
Continuing with a program to partner with local charities that it started two years ago, the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce gathered at Winners Bayonne to raise money for local food pantries at a time when they have seen a drain due to the economy, the holiday season and the impact of Hurricane Sandy.
Chamber President Vincent Virga picked up where former president Matt Dorans left off by raising money that would allow the chamber to give cards to a dozen local food pantries.
Gift cards from ShopRite for $450 went to Our Lady of Assumption’s soup kitchen, the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, First Assembly of God, Friendship Baptist Church, Jewish Family and Counseling Service, St. Andrew’s Church, St. Henry’s Church, St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, St. Vincent de Paul Church, and Wallace Temple.
Sponsors for the event included Bayonne Medical Center, Kenrich Petrochemical, Provident Bank, Sonic Burgers, Bayonne Community Bank, A+ Temps, Shop Rite, PFS Wealth Management Group and the River View Observer.
The total amount raised from the event was more than $5,900 with additional donations received after the event as well as 60 turkeys donated by Winners Bayonne.
Gail Godesky, treasurer of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the Provident Bank, said “It’s is the absolute responsibility of business men and women to play a role in this community. There are too many people who are needy, not only because of the economic environment, but also because of Hurricane Sandy. We really need responsibility of all professional people within the city. It’s not just the mayor’s role, it’s not just the council’s role; it’s every business owner and citizen’s job to insure that our community grows and prospers into the future. That’s the bottom line.”
“It’s is the absolute responsibility of business men and women to play a role in this community.” – Gail Godesky
Robert Kowalski, director of Winners Bayonne, which hosted the gathering, said this was part of the facility’s effort to reach out to the community.
“From the moment we broke ground we knew that we wanted to have a presence in Bayonne and a presence not only to people as patrons, but business in and around this city,” he said. “So on a day like today, we have an opportunity to meet with all the members of the chamber is an opportunity not only for us to get word out about who we are, but to share what this facility has with every one here. What it is going to do is put a great foot forward. I hope it is the start of something special for everybody.”
Matt Dorans, former president of the Chamber, instituted the chamber to charity events under his tenure.
“Any time business can give back to those in need is a plus, and given the fact that the chamber was looking for membership we looked at the exposure this could give to the chamber,” he said.
In the background, sounds of the racetrack came over the speakers – a bugle announcing a trace, jockeys talking about track conditions, commentators talking about horses and such.
A number of small betting screens lined up like school desks, but there is a sense of joy in the room, as prominent citizens from throughout Bayonne gather for a good cause, waiters and waitresses making their way up and down, carrying trays of food.
This was supposed to be a meet and greet, Virga said, but put off that event because of the closeness of the holidays and the hardship many people faced as a result of Sandy
The chamber, whose historic role has been to represent businesses in the community, has come to realize that there are other roles it can play in the city, giving way in ways that will allow the worst off to benefit, and by doing this, helping the community grow stronger.
As many as a hundred people attended the event, representing some of the most successful business people in the community, who know how to make things work even in a tough economy.
Horse names flash across the screens such as “Millions in the Making,” or “Lip Singer.”
Mona Vaccarella, head of human resources for Meadowlands Race Track and Winners Bayonne said she wanted to bring Winners closer to the business community in Bayonne and feels this is an event that does just that.
“We want to give back to the community as much as we can and also share with you and hopeful geminate new businesses as well,” she said.
Jason Settlemoir, new general manager and CEO of Meadowlands Race Track, said he had listened to police scanners which conveyed the terrible ordeal people in Bayonne and the regions suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
“It was a surreal situation,” he said, “and my heart went out to you folks.”
Meadowlands not only donated $500 to the cause, but also 60 turkeys to help replenish the food banks.
“Too often we get caught up what can you do for me, but as we move forward, we want to ask, what can we do for you?” Virga said. “We have to take that extra step and inspire ourselves to do better, not only at home or our place of business, but also in our community. I always say this, it always starts with a simple smile, no matter who we get in front of each day, it will go a long way to improving the quality of life in the community we live in.”