CRANBURY, NJ – The sweetest ingredient lending flavor to Saturday's Strawberry Festival wasn't the ice cream, the pound or angel food cake or even the strawberries themselves. It was, instead, the measure of human kindness mixed into the day.
According to Janice Luffey, monitor of the deacons at The First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury, the festival is an annual event the deacons organize to raise money for the church's benevolence fund.
“People who are in need come to us and we give them money if they need it,” she said. “We can get three or four requests in one month and we can also go three months without any requests, so it's kind of a hit or miss thing.”
Numbering between 14 and 25, the deacons oversee the benevolence fund and determine how the money is allocated, according to Deacon Andy Kremann.
Most of the requests received are to meet basic needs in the local community, Luffey said.
“We have seniors that have sent us requests that they need electric paid,” she said. “We've also had people email or call us that they're about to be evicted, they need this much money for their rent.”
According to Luffey, all requests for help are investigated to make sure the need is real.
Nearby streets were lined with cars, with hardly a parking spot to be had, as residents came out en masse to support the festival, which is a fixture on the community events calendar as outside temperatures flirt with summer.
In addition to the fund-raising aspect of the event, Luffey said it was heartening to see children playing outside and families enjoying time together.
“The one gentleman who has older kids said, 'Boy guys, I'm so glad that you suggested we come and do this today. It's been fun,'” she said. “And that's what you want to hear. You want to hear about the families having fun.”
As the afternoon wound to a close, children ran from game to game in the slanting sunlight, pausing to ask the clown for a balloon animal or get their faces painted.
With an open emergency vehicle, members of the Cranbury Volunteer Fire Company were on hand to answer questions about the rig from curious bystanders.
Volunteers from the Cranbury Presbyterian Nursery School and the church's Vacation Bible School program were also available with information about their respective organizations.
For those whose appetites craved savory as well as sweet, the Boy Scouts served up traditional summer fare, with grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, which could be purchased separately.
In her second year running the event, Luffey said that the weather for this year's festival was “phenomenal.”
Turnout this year seemed a little better than last year, she said, however, actual attendance numbers were unavailable.
Tickets for the event were $7 per person or $28 for a family pack, according to Luffey.
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