SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The South Plainfield Elks hosted Pasta Night on the evening of Feb. 22 for the South Plainfield High School Music Department and the Persad Family at Elks Lodge #2298, located at 1254 New Market Ave. With a packed house from open until close, the evening was considered a success.
"Part of the purpose of the Elks is to help out the youth and community," said Bill Seesselberg, Leading Knight of the South Plainfield Elks and Chair of Youth Activities. "We had an excellent turnout and a lot of help from the kids and parents. It was probably the biggest that I've seen since I've been involved."
"We've seen time and time again when we put something together to try and raise money for the kids, whether it's the music or any of the educational aspects, this town really likes to come together," said Jay Buchanan, Co-Recording Secretary of SPHS Boosters of the Musical Arts. "It's really nice to be a part of South Plainfield, and to have that trust in your neighbors and your family and friends."
Students of the music program and their parents worked together with Elks members to make sure the night ran smoothly. Those who attended dined on pasta with homemade sauce, meatballs, sausage, salad, and warm garlic bread with cakes and cookies for dessert. Everyone played a roll in the night.
"It's always a team effort between the Elks, the parents, the kids," said Bill Reuter, Elks Past District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler. "This is what makes a community and what makes South Plainfield special."
"I've never really done a pasta night before," said Senior Sara Dubal, band (trumpet). "It was interesting because you got to see the different sides of working it. So you got to clean the tables and serve the food. It was really interesting to see all of the different things that go into arranging a night like this. And I really like food, so I was really generous giving out the portions."
"I really like pasta so this was really enjoyable, and I served garlic bread all night, which was fun," said Eighth Grade Student Allison Buchanan, chorus, band (percussion), orchestra (violin). "Everyone was there for South Plainfield and the Music Department. The music district is really amazing and it's great to see everyone in the community support us."
"I loved pasta night," said Freshman Justin Jordao, chorus. "The food was delicious!"
The South Plainfield Elks make it a priority to support the youth of the community.
"The kids were fantastic," said Reuter. "The main thing was the support of the parents who brought the kids out, and they brought the whole band community out. The band came together and brought the people down here and hung out for awhile. They all banded together, no pun intended. I love to see a good group like this."
"Being that this was my first time coming to the Elks Lodge, they seem like very generous people to give up a space and time for us to be able to hold a fundraiser for our school and for the Music Department," said Sophomore Kori Caicedo, chorus, band (percussion). "It's just a really generous thing for them to do."
"I'm very impressed with all the charity work that the Elks do in town, out of town, around the country," said Buchanan, who is a newly inducted member of the Elks. "They're constantly going out of their way to take care of other people, people in need, and lifting each other up. It's something that I think we all want to see in our family and friends, so to see that happening over and over again with a group of people is very impressive. It makes me feel good about being a part of this program."
The evening was also a tribute to Sam Persad. He and his wife, Robyn, have been longtime supporters of the SPHS Music Program.
"The Persads gave so much time and dedicated so much of their lives to the Music Boosters while their three boys were in high school," said Buchanan. "Sam is just a wonderful man who was always willing to go out of his way for the needs of the program and the needs of whatever his family and the students of South Plainfield needed."
Whether it be as MC for District Music Festivals with his collection of fun facts for the audience, or pushing equipment onto the football field for a halftime show, Persad gave of himself for the program.
The Persad family's lives changes drastically with an unforeseen turn after he suffered a serious health issue that left him hospitalized. With children in college and medical bills mounting, the Music Department and boosters wanted to do something to help.
"A lot of us who are involved in the program and know Sam donated some of our time and some of our money to try and help his family out, but Dr. Kregler said we should do a fundraiser for Sam and his family," said Buchanan. "Of course we agreed with that right away. We figure it's the least we could do for a family that always went out of their way to take care of this program and the needs of all the kids in general."
It was agreed to by all that half of the proceeds from Pasta Night would be donated to the Persad family and half would go to the Music Department. Ongoing fundraising will continue to help. A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the family, https://www.gofundme.com/f/pray-for-sam039s-heart.
"Sam Persad has been a great champion of the musical arts in South Plainfield, so the Music Boosters are using events like this and other events to raise money through their organization to help the Persad family in addition to the school activities of the students," added Seesselberg.
With take-out boxes available to bring food home, the night ended with laughter, friendships and fun.
"I think it was a great event," Buchanan said. "All the tables were filled all night, and people were having a good time. The kids were able to pre-sell a nice number of tickets, which was great. We had a lot of walk-ins as well."
"Our payday is in what we can give back to our community and the kids from the high school," said Reuter. "It's all worth it!"
The Elks continue to support the community with breakfasts and dinners to benefit community organizations. They ask that everyone come out and eat. Upcoming events at the Elks Lodge include: Mar. 8 Breakfast to benefit the Girl Scouts, Mar. 14 St. Patrick's Day Dinner (Run by the Veteran Committee), Mar. 21 Cheese Steak Dinner (Boy Scout Troop 309), Mar. 29 Easter Bunny Breakfast (SEPAC), and April 26 Breakfast (Cub Scout Pack 224).
"The easiest way to give back to this lodge and our community is if you see an event on the calendar, just come down and eat," Reuter said. "It doesn't matter what the group. It could be the cheerleaders, the veterans, it doesn't matter. That supports to our lodge and helps us support our community better. Sometimes all you have to do is eat!"
The South Plainfield Music Department is also gearing up for their 51st Annual District Music Festival, featuring music students grades 6-12, which will take place on Thursday, Mar. 5 beginning at 6p.m. with chorus, 7p.m. will be the band and 8p.m. will be orchestra. Grant School, the Middle School and High School will all perform throughout the evening at the South Plainfield High School auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5 each.