MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ: With a history that goes back nearly 74 years to 1947, the Monmouth Park Charity Fund (MPCF) has cemented itself in the history of Monmouth County as one of the most notable and successful non-profit agencies. Having raised nearly $9.9 million for those at risk or in need in the community, the MPCF is a reliable partner for local charities that have come to count on its financial support through Traditional Legacy Grants, and several other grant programs. But 2020 is proving to be a year like none other, and the MPCF now finds itself in need of help more than ever before.

“With the cancellation of our Kentucky Derby (event) we are appealing to our supporters to pivot their sponsorships and reservations and make a straight donation to Monmouth Park Charity Fund,” said Debi Heptig, MPCF Director of Operations. “We have $115,000 toward our goal of $265,000. The success of this effort will determine our ability to distribute grants in 2020 so this is a truly important campaign for us, and for the 50+ local charities that count on our grants to run their programs.”

MPCF’s 17th Annual Kentucky Derby Party was postponed from May to align with the new September date for the Kentucky Derby race, but with the current state of the pandemic the event has been cancelled entirely. An elegant affair that draws more than 400 attendees annually, it is one of the most anticipated events each year in Monmouth County. Known for its Derby Hat Parade and Contest, raffles and auction, and specialty cocktails and cuisine, it is a true Derby celebration often attended by the sitting Governor and other notable figures. But more than a fun and exciting party, the day at the races is the main fundraiser for MPCF. Last year a new record was set with more than $417,000 raised, and those funds provided 99% of the 58 grants that were awarded by MPCF to local non-profits. 

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“In Monmouth County there is a diverse group of populations that use non-profit agencies to get their medical and mental needs met, food to put on their tables for family members, and an array of support services,” shared Maureen Lloyd, President of the Board of Trustees of MPCF. “In recent months, with the pandemic not seeming to leave us alone anytime soon, these agencies have been working around the clock. Our goal at MPCF is to continue our legacy of giving even during this dire time. We ask the community to continue to support MPCF! Although we have had to cancel our biggest event, we still are asking our past donors, attendees, and sponsors to support our goal of raising more than $265,000 by donating to our organization in the next few months so that the non-profit agencies we support through grants will be able to receive their check at MPCF’s Annual Tea in late October, and carry on their service to our most vulnerable citizens.” You can donate to the MPCF HERE. 

The Kentucky Derby Party and the fall Breeders Tin Cup Team Challenge for Charity are the two main fundraising events hosted by MPCF each year, while the Winner’s Circle Society Membership Reception and the Roberta O. Fox Annual Distribution Tea are held to honor members and award grants. On average, 80 non-profit agencies apply to MPCF each year for funding. A review committee determines which organizations receive grants, with typically 50 awarded annually. By bringing the leaders of various non-profits together in one room, the Annual Tea fosters a way for greater needs to be met.

“I was Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters for 20 years,” shared Heptig. “Every year all the (non-profit) agency Directors would attend the Annual Tea. It was our day to receive much needed funding, and it was our day to shine and share. So many of our most vulnerable in the county need a myriad of services, at the Tea we talked and figured out ways to do more by working together.”

The Annual Tea is an afternoon of giving and collaboration that sets the work of the Fund apart from what many other charities are doing, but it’s also a day of great emotion.

“One of my favorite parts of working with MPCF is presenting our Legacy Grants at our Tea,” said Maria Farhat Tanzola, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of MPCF. “Every recipient shares how the grants help their constituents and often there isn’t a dry eye in the room.”

An all-volunteer leadership, the Fund is run by a Board of 18 trustees and one staff member. With Monmouth Park Racetrack donating office space for the organization, 83% of all monies raised go directly to financial support of human service programs throughout Monmouth County. Strategic partnerships with New Jersey Natural Gas, the Grunin Foundation, CentraState Medical Center, and Hackensack Meridian Health have afforded even more opportunities for giving.

“Since learning of their mission, I have always been proud to support the Monmouth Park Charity Fund. The vision of MPCF to aid Monmouth County charities, so they may carry out their diverse objectives in assisting the most vulnerable in our community aligns perfectly with my core beliefs and values,” said Carol Stillwell, President of Stillwell-Hansen and proud supporter of MPCF. “Many of the charities that benefit from MPCF are organizations that I already serve and truly speak to my heart, making MPCF a natural and ideal fit for my philanthropic endeavors.”

Beyond attending or supporting MPCF events through purchases or direct donations, as of 2018 a $500 individual donation offers membership into the Society. The Winner’s Circle Society, chaired by Sandy Mullaney and Anita Roselle, is a new initiative of the organization where members participate in determining how and to whom an annual grant called the Transformational Grant will be distributed. The first grant of the group was awarded this summer to The Arc of Monmouth for $13,750. The Society is currently 51 strong, and MPCF is looking to bring on 50 new members in time to complete its 75th Anniversary in July of 2022 as part of its planned year-long celebration.

For more information, to donate, or secure membership, please visit MPCharityFund.org.

The History of MPCF

In 1946 a group led by the late Amory L. Haskell of Middletown began a restoration of Monmouth Park Racetrack, which had been abandoned for 50 years. Under the new leadership of then-President Haskell, the Monmouth Park Jockey Club was born. In an effort to show their gratitude to the residents of Monmouth County for their assistance in making the dream of a revitalized racetrack a reality, Haskell and his partner, Philip H. Iselin, assembled a committee of 15 area women to plan a charity ball and carnival to be held at Monmouth Park. It was decided the money raised from the first charity ball in 1947 would be given back to the community by way of support for local charitable endeavors, a tradition that is honored by The Monmouth Park Charity Fund to this day.

Betty Iselin, wife of Philip, became the first president of the Charity Ball Committee, an office she held for 50 years. Haskell’s daughters, the late Anne Haskell Ellis of Middletown and Hope Haskell Jones of Rumson, were a vital part of the fundraising committee for more than 30 years. Hope Haskell Jones continues to be an active member of the Monmouth Park Charity Fund.

For many years, the Committee worked with the support and cooperation of the Monmouth Park Racetrack administration and enjoyed the many courtesies available to them. The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority purchased Monmouth Park in 1986 and continued to support the activities of the Fund. Today, Monmouth Park Racetrack is managed by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) and the organization continues the tradition of honoring the work of the MPCF.

Meet the MPCF President of the Board

Name: Maureen Lloyd of Oceanport, soon moving to the Jersey Shore's Avon by the Sea

How I joined MPCF: I became a new member of the Board in 1998 after being nominated by Mary Ann Martin who was then a Board member. After marrying my husband, John Lloyd, who at the time was the President of Jersey Shore Medical Center, I became active in fundraising and chaired some local community events. In 1997, after having my son Dylan, I had stepped away from my role as a nurse and felt the need to give back to my community. Learning of the amazing history of MPCF and its mission to provide funds to more than 50 local non-profit agencies in our community who serve those in need, I felt it would be a perfect fit to my compassion for giving back.

My favorite part of being involved with MPCF: Is the ability to reach so many agencies and community members who will ultimately benefit from our mission. I also enjoy working with so many wonderful volunteers and board members who have the same goals and commitment to bettering the lives of those in our community.  You can make a donation to the Monmouth Park Charity Fund HERE.  This story was authored and published by Community Magazine, and is being republished under a special content-sharing agreement between the publishers.  You can view the original publication of this article HERE.