NUTLEY, NJ - Who says lollipops are bad for you? The annual Lollipop Party raised funds for the Nutley Volunteer Emergency & Rescue Squad. (NVERS)

Over 100 people gathered in the large backyard of Ruth Bedford’s historic home on Highfield Lane in Nutley and socialized with the volunteer members while exchanging their purchased Dum Dum pops for beverages. The event brought in roughly $1,200 for NVERS according to squad member Marianne Zurawski.

Two rows of folding tables lined the middle of the yard with all different hors d'oeuvres consisting of wraps, shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs, bruschetta and cheese and crackers. There were also fruit cup shooters, chocolate covered strawberries and cookies. Another two tables in the back of the yard was attended by the NVERS, fixing just about any drink requested.

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Nutley resident Dave Wilson, led tours of the historic home, while his wife, Dianne helped organize and run the event.

Nutley resident William Cutillo purchased his lollipops at the front entrance then told of his encounter with NVERS. “About seven or eight years ago I was walking my dog, Petie, on Kingsland Road and I sprained my ankle… One of the members of the squad picked up my dog and took him home and me to Clara Maas. I never forget that,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for the squad I’d be dead by now,” said resident Greg Kueken, whose life was saved by NVERS.

Volunteer Hayley Meola, secretary, was assisting fellow NVERS  Zurawski at the entry table collecting raffle money and selling lollipops. When asked why she was on the squad her response was, “My brother [Henry] is a part of it. I wanted to help the community like he does.”

Former chief Skip Gould was sitting with Nutley resident Walt Smith and Cpt. Chuck Ennis. Gould was telling of when he delivered two babies. “One was delivered in back of a car and the other in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It’s great, what happens is whoever delivers the baby has to buy the squad beer,” he said. Ennis has been on the squad since 1976 and Gould since 1961.

A table with a poster board was set up with photographs of the late Michael J Rossi Jr. on and off the job, a framed portrait sat on the edge. Guests stopped and took a moment to reflect and pay tribute to him including his wife, Marianne and his aunt Marie Rossi and his cousin, Anne Marie Rossi. Dan Randall, a four year member, also following his brother JP’s footsteps. “Mike Rossi was the first to interview me for the EMS,” he said. The event was dedicated to him.

Volunteer Ray Sobanko was spending the evening at the party with his five-year-old son Jeremy, who was enjoying his lollipop deciding not turning it in. Sobanko spoke about his hiatus a few years ago. “Do to the hour requirements I had to leave for a while, but the restricted hours changed and now I’m able to volunteer again,” he said.

Ruth Bedford sat at the front entrance greeting the guests and socializing with everyone who attended. When asked how this party began Bedford explained that Wilson suggested NVERS. “And they are great. I wear this thing around my neck, I push it and oh my, they are here in no time flat. They are fast and they are very nice the way they treat you,” she said.

JP Randall discussed of the day’s activity the squad partaken in. “It was revitalizing, after what we been through recently.  We all performed a marine rescue mission in the Passaic River. Henry Meola and I got the boat back up. We practiced how to rescue if a boat capsizes. It was one of the best bonding moments the squad had in a long time, felt energizing,” he said.

Henry Meola has been on the squad for five years. It’s his third year holding a seat in office and his second as president. Meola is also being honored this October with the Renaissance award in the Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade.

Meola was asked what he finds interesting or amazing about his service. “For being as young as I am, for having the respect from the entire memberships, I’m 27 years old, and for keeping me as president,” he said.

“[The Lollipop Party] is always really nice. We are always helping out the community, it’s nice to see the community go out to these events to help us out, to allow us to continue to help ourselves to grow to help out as the community grows,” said Meola.

John Saar, a volunteer, on and off, since 1973 feels right at home with NVERS. “[NVERS] is family, always been family. The squad has been my family for 45 years,” he said. is the only locally owned news organization serving the Township of Nutley. is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association.

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