SPARTA, NJ - More than 100 Sparta seniors were treated to a barbecue at Knoll Heights by the Sparta Kiwanis. Hamburgers and hotdogs were grilled outside by President Ben Caruso and Mike Pelli as the guests filed into the meeting room getting together with friends to enjoy the meal.
Salads rounded out the meal, donated by Donna Wanio’s Homers. The Kiwanis also provided the beverages. This was one of two picnics the Kiwanis sponsors each year for the seniors.
“It is one of my favorite events,” Kiwanis member John Klumpp said.
In addition to the barbecue, the Kiwanis supports the community in many ways. Fall Festival for Families will be held at the Pavilion at Station Park on October 8 beginning at noon running until 4 p.m. Every year the organization awards “about 20 scholarships to seniors from the three high schools in Sparta," according to Klumpp.
One of the more prominent Kiwanis activities is support for the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry. They collect food outside Stop and Shop 10 months a year. The Kiwanis has given more than $200,000 in donations, according to Kiwanis Frank Cannistra. On October 10 at a fundraising event for the food pantry the Kiwanis will be presenting a check for $11,000. This monetary donation is in addition to the 130 + baskets of food.
At Christmas they collect 700 to 800 turkeys and hams for holiday meals for local families in need, according to Cannistra. The Kiwanis will pick up and store the turkeys and hams if people would like to make a donation this holiday season.
They also provide much needed support for the summer months when school children who typically get meals at school, turn to the food pantry. According to Cannistra more than 800 area children were served in the summer months.
“You get by with the help of friends,” Cannistra said.
The organization holds a few fundraisers throughout the year. The duck races were just held during Sparta Day.
“The Duck race has been a staple in the Kiwanis fundraising arsenal for year,” Klumpp said. “It assumed more importance this year because it has become the major fundraising effort having replaced the Casino Night that Kiwanis relied on to fund their scholarship programs.”
They put extra efforts into the race this year, Klumpp said and their efforts paid off. The organization generated “about $13,000 that is all ear-marked to fund our college scholarship program for worthy graduates.”
They also ring the bell for the Salvation Army each Christmas holiday season, manning the red kettle collections at Stop and Shop and other locations.
The group meets on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. at Homer’s restaurant. Anyone over 18 is welcome to join the community service organization.
"If the pleasure we get from serving our community equals the benefits derived from our efforts, it is a win-win for all,” Klumpp said. “We believe our town deserves it.”