SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – An intimate Donors Reception was held Feb. 26 at the South Plainfield Public Library to celebrate the new, state-of-the-art buildings’ opening earlier this month and thank those who made it all possible. Sponsored by PSE&G and TAPinto South Plainfield, the event was attended by donors and supporters, including residents, library employees, business owners, elected officials, organizations and library trustees, past and present.
“Tonight isn’t about speeches. Tonight is about thanking everyone in this room – from former trustees to current trustees to employees to all the sponsors and donors,” said Darlene Cullen, president of the South Plainfield Library Board of Trustees. “To you, we toast. Thank you.”
According to Library Director Linda Hansen, the project would not have been possible without Cullen’s dedication and support. “Darlene decided this project was going to get done and this project got done. Being board president is a volunteer job and she put in a lot of time, a lot of blood, sweat and tears and we truly appreciate everything you have done,” said Hansen.
During the reception, invited guests enjoyed drinks, music and food donated by PSE&G and Tapinto South Plainfield. “The town has a great relationship with PSE&G, not just as employers-employees but also when it comes to working on projects together,” said Frank Lucchesi, regional public affairs manager for PSE&G, co-sponsor of the Donors Reception. “Our relationship goes both ways and it is great to see the South Plainfield community have this beautiful new library.”
The celebratory evening provided attendees the opportunity to mingle, tour the library and reminisce while also enjoying music performed by Kathy DeAngelo, a harpist with You Gotta Have Harp Productions. Throughout the evening, guests stopped to look at historical photographs of South Plainfield that are displayed on the walls of the library and many headed down to the new, state-of-the-art multipurpose room to view a slideshow of the library project, from start to finish.
Among the invitees were former library employees Eleanor Haines, Karin Harris, Michele Lavoie, Millie Condon, Judy Love-Fischer, and Jeff Cupo along with past trustees Donna Egan, Sue Goulet, Marv Deruyscher, Peter Calderone, Cornelia Calderone, Barbara Ware, Nina Rohrer, Bob Harrison, and Eric Aronowitz, who served a president for 12 of his 13 years on the board.
“It’s unbelievable. I cannot even remember what the old library looked like,” said Aronowitz, who currently serves a library attorney. According to Aronowitz, the struggle to provide the community with a new library had been going on since early 2000. “In the mortal words of Jerry Garcia, ‘what a long, strange trip it has been.’ This new library was well worth waiting for,” he said.
Councilman Ray Rusnak, who as a member of the borough’s administration and finance committees worked closely with the library board to see the project come to fruition, said, “The first time I came in the library after it was finished I was in awe of what I was looking at, especially due to what it used to be and how long it took to get here. I still can’t believe it.” Rusnak added, “All politics aside, what was right for the community is exactly what we have here. I am just so proud to have been a part of it.”
Invited guests also include Eleanor Haines and Cheryl Nagel-Smiley, two members of the South Plainfield community who have a longstanding history with the library.
Haines, who recently celebrated her 95th birthday, was a longtime employee of the library and former trustee. She remembers when the library was run out of the Grant School and said she was honored to be part of the South Plainfield Library’s history and be included in the celebration of the new facility.
Nagel-Smiley, sat on the library board for nine years – serving as the mayor’s representative for four years (2001-2004) and then as a trustee from 2005 to 2010. In January 2015, Mayor Matt Anesh reappointed Nagel-Smiley to the board as his rep and she also serves as chairperson of the library’s community relations committee.
“It took a long time and, for years it was felt like it was an endless goal and we would never get a new library. It was disheartening,” said Nagel-Smiley. “I am extremely happy. This new library is what this town needed.”
Among the invited guests was also Tom Seiz, a former owner of The Artist Touch on South Plainfield Avenue, who donated an acrylic painting featuring a picturesque Spring Lake Park and gazebo to the library.
“I was passing the library one day while construction was going on and remembered a photo I had taken of the park and gazebo several years ago,” said Seiz, who carries a camera with him at all times and typically paints beach scenes, including waves and fishermen, out on Long Beach Island. “I thought it would be nice for them to have it in here.”
Also included among those who gathered to celebrate the library’s opening were those who played a significant role in its actual construction, including Andy Trocchia, principal of Sonnenfeld and Trocchia Architects, P.A., and George Moutis, owner of Structural Concepts, Inc.
“As contractor, you imagine things and see them in your head but this is much nicer than even I originally imagined. It is great for the community – old and young … We all had a goal to get the job done. It is a nice facility and it’s great to see the community happy,” Moutis said.
Trocchia, who served as the architect on the project, said, “The new library has so many nice features. I am so pleased with the way it turned out.”
Having specialized in public work projects for more than 20 years, Trocchia noted that what impressed him the most about the $2.6 million South Plainfield Public Library project was that it came in on budget. “For projects like this, that is typically unheard of. Because of Darlene, the board and the town, we were able to stay on budget and provide a library that works well for the community,” he said.
The South Plainfield Public Library will hold its official grand opening celebration on Saturday, March 5, beginning with a ribbon cutting on the front steps at 9:30 a.m. Events are scheduled throughout the day and include: Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Celebration (for children) at 10:30 a.m.; a Silver Linings String performance at 1 p.m.; Unity Bank’s Blizzard of Dollars at 1:30 p.m., 2:20 p.m. and 2:50 p.m. (18 and older, must be present to win a spot in the booth); a discussion and photograph display presented by the South Plainfield Historical Society at 2 p.m.; and a mime performance by J.E. McCarthy at 2:30 p.m.
“This library martials in a new beginning for our residents - young and old,” said South Plainfield Mayor Matthew Anesh. “Tonight’s event was great. I want to congratulate all those that made this evening possible as well as express my thanks and appreciation for the support and fortitude of everyone who made the South Plainfield Free Public Library Expansion a reality.”
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