LIVINGSTON, NJ — For the first time, Livingston Township Council members rescheduled their regular Monday evening meeting to attend the Livingston Sunrise Rotary’s 16th annual Food & Wine Tasting. The event that has grown in attendance and popularity each year was held on Election Day eve at the Westminster Hotel.

The nearly 300 people that attended, including local politicians, candidates, business owners, doctors, educators and dedicated Livingston residents, came together to help the Sunrise Rotary raise money for their usual annual cause, the Saint Barnabas Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit

In addition this year, the Sunrise Rotary also recognized and helped raise funds for Rotary International’s main charity, Polio Plus, and announced that they would be the new charity sponsor of Livingston’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

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“This is a great opportunity for the community to come together to support the Livingston Sunrise Rotary Club in its efforts to support other charities such as the Barnabas Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at Saint Barnabas,” said Michael Karu, West Orange Rotarian.

Jan Press, a member of the Livingston Sunrise Rotary, was delighted with the night’s turnout. “Another wonderful night here at the Westminster Hotel. We have a wonderful turn out--lots of new vendors and prizes. If you didn’t come out this year, you must remember to put it on your calendar next year. It simply gets better and better every year," Press said. 

The 25 members of Livingston Sunrise Rotary collected a variety of door prizes which ranged from high profile items such as 50-inch TV, Golf Outings at Exclusive members only clubs, Sports gear signed by athletes such as Tiki Barber and more.

During the program, Sunrise Rotary President Jay Freireich, member Monte Ehrenkranz, Saint Barnabas Medical Center CEO Steven Zieniewicz and Melissa Segreti-Pritsiolas from Neightbors Helping Neighbors addressed the audience.

“If you’re inspired by this event, we have meetings every single Tuesday at Eppes Essen starting at 7:45 a.m. Come out, see what we are all about,” said Freireich. “I’d like to thank the 25 members of my club who stepped up and made this event what it is.”

Ehrenkranz took a moment, on the eve of Election Day, to thank local elected officials, members of the school boards and candidates for coming together to support the Sunrise Rotary’s efforts through this event, including: Mayor Ed Meinhardt, Deputy Mayor Al Anthony, Councilmen Michael Silverman, Rudy Fernandez and Shawn Klein, council candidate Brandon Minde, BOE Candidates Ronnie Konner and Pam Chirls, BOE member Buddy August, Superintendent Jim O’Neil, and Steve Robinson, school district business administrator. 

“Glad that we were able to rearrange our schedule for the town council so that we could attend,” said Silverman.

“My third child spent 74 days in the Saint Barnabas NICU,” said Anthony. “So this event is near and dear to my heart.”

Ehrenkranz then continued with the program. “We will continue to support the NICU, but this year we also named a new beneficiary of our club, Livingston Neighbors helping Neighbors. “

Member Melissa Segreti-Pritsiolas spoke on behalf of the organization, which started in 2016. “Our mission to help families in need with short term financial assistance,” said Segreti-Pritsiolas.  “Monetary donations go to our emergency fun which directly assists families going through hardships, right here in our own community.  Since we started the organization has impacted 32 local families.  We also serve the community through CHOW pantry.  It always blows my mind how generous this town is.”

Announcements of support for the Sunrise Rotary didn't stop there.

“One of our goals is to eradicate polio,” said Ehrenkranz. “Since 1979, with its first efforts in the Philippines, Rotary with its partners has helped reduce the number of cases from 350,000 annual to fewer than 22 cases of polio in 2017, and Rotary remains committed until the disease is eradicated.”  

“Rotary has contributed more than 1.3 billion dollars and countless volunteer hours immunizing and protecting 2 billion children worldwide.”

To benefit Polio Plus, another $1,774 was raised from the audience in a quick bucket collection done by the Livingston High School Interact Club, which the Sunrise Rotary sponsors. The first $1,000 was donated by Zieniewicz and the total amount will be matched, 2 for each dollar, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Zieniewicz closed the program by thanking the audience for attending and recognizing the NICU doctors in attendance including Dr. Sun and Dr. Kamtorn and their team.

“The new NICU does provide tertiary and quaternary care for some of the most fragile patients that we have,” said Zieniewicz.  “A year ago we opened up the Cooperman Family Pavilion and it has provided us a state of the art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit much bigger and better equipped to take care of our patience in the future.”