Giving Back

Sparta VFW Holds Inaugral Rojas Scholarship Dinner

44dc1658d0113255f8c2_IMG_1668.JPG
Inaugral Ralph Rojas scholarship reciptients with Dolores Rojas Credits: Jennifer Dericks
c7633fc029891cb3f032_IMG_1662.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
3d1e8402e00c485852c4_IMG_1639.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
46e7c5e72b9942c47e3b_IMG_1646.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
8081397bf6ca88f2c865_IMG_1657.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
325817fb223f7af51012_IMG_1651.JPG
Credits: Jennifer Dericks
b924eebb9ee8fe73bf07_IMG_1640.JPG
Hunter Toburen reading his winning essay Credits: Jennifer Dericks
06d985f9df0da3bb1052_IMG_1644.JPG
Mia Francis Credits: Jennifer Dericks
44dc1658d0113255f8c2_IMG_1668.JPG

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta VFW has given scholarships to three area students in the inaugural Ralph Rojas Memorial Scholarship Award Ceremony dinner last week.  On Thursday, Hunter Toburen, Mia Francis and Erika Beckmann were awarded $2,000 to assist with their education at the Sparta VFW Post 7248.

In his welcoming remarks Veteran Bill Miller shared information about the scholarship’s namesake, Rojas.  U.S. Army Korean war veteran, Rojas was an active volunteer in the community.  He was a member of the American Legion, Sparta Elks and Sparta VFW.

At the VFW Rojas ran the annual Christmas tree sale with his sons for fifty years.

Sign Up for E-News

“He had a vision and he acted on those goals,” Miller said.  Miller spoke of the ‘can-do’ attitude of all involved with the fundraiser.  He said he “experienced an organization of people who would carve time out of a busy schedules to help,” and “men and women carry on the ilitary tradition of sacrifice and move mountains of Christmas trees at 5 a.m., for the common good.”

Miller reminded the students and all in attendance that the people who came before them, who raised the money for the scholarships through hard work, “did so because they wanted to make a difference.”

“This is the embodiment of what Ralph stood for,” Miller said.  “Can do, vision and execution.  Now you are the end of this string.  Your parents or grandparents served and sacrificed.”

Miller said the scholarship committee saw “that spark, that vision,” in the recipients’ essays.

The committee was comprised of Miller, Commander Pete Litchfield, Paul Corcoran, John Schoch, Stan Toriba, Doug Nobile, Ron Pace and the attorney Jackie O’Donnell who was credited as having created the scholarship.

"I had no expectation when I proposed this idea to the Sparta VFW how enthusiastically they would embrace the concept of creating the Ralph Rojas Scholarship Fund," O'Donnell said. 

Money for the scholarship came from donations by O’Donnell and funds raised by the annual Christmas tree sale and clam bake. 

"Our Christmas tree sales raised an unprecedented amount of money and now we can continue this scholarship annually to assist military veterans and their families with educational expenses," O'Donnell said.

Chris Hayden of Hayden’s Service Center on Demarest Road in Sparta donates the clams for the VFW event.  This year the clam bake is scheduled for September 15.

Litchfield announced the three winners and calling them up asked that they read their essays.

Toburen’s step father is on active duty and was en route to Yuma, Arizona and not able to attend.  Toburen said he had gone to nine different schools in five states so was able to adapt to different situations. 

“I’ve learned to be accepting of everyone,” Toburen said.  “I adapt.”

He said the scholarship will help him to be able to concentrate on his career after graduation “so I don’t have to worry about debt.” 

Toburen said he will attend Virginia Tech in the fall to study engineering.

Francis spoke about generations who have served in the military before her.  Beginning with “great, great grandfather, an Italian American” who served in World War II and ending with her mother Susannah Ollivierre who “enlisted when she was 18-years-old,” most of her comments were about ‘Grandpa Billy.’”

Dorr William “Billy” Powers was drafted on June 19, 1966.  He trained at Fort Dix and Fort Polk before being shipped to Vietnam to serve with the 25th infantry. 

“Because of his slender build at 5’8” Grandpa Billy was a tunnel rat.  Armed with a knife, flashlight and pistol he navigated the tunnels of the Viet Cong,” Fransic said.

Francis said she learned a lot about fighting for right from her grandfather, having won the battle with the Veteran’s Administration to have is lung cancer accepted as due to his service.  Grandpa Billy lost his fight with lung cancer leukemia from being exposed to Agent Orange.

“I will continue his model of fighter for others,” Francis said.  “I will honor Grandpa Billy’s memory with the help of the Rojas scholarship.”
Francis plans to attend Udica College to study criminal justice and human rights advocacy as a political science major. 

“I want to fight for those without a voice,” Francis said.

Erika Beckmann was represented by her parents Rudy and Celeste Beckmann as she was taking her final exams at George Washington University.  Her father served for 43 years in the U.S. Army after having fled Nazi Germany.  In her essay she said she learned about serving the underserved from him. 

She is going on as a graduate student at George Washington University studying international economic policy.  She currently works with the Foreign Service Association where she writes on policy issues.  She said she will continue in the Foreign Service using her studies in “data and regression analytics” to help “mitigate conflict through diplomacy.”

“I will use the funds from the scholarship to enroll in more advanced level analytics classes to fortify my undergraduate work,” Beckmann said.

Hayden said “next year we look to give out more scholarships.”

“The committee said it was a difficult decision,” having to decide from among all of the submitted essays,Litchfield said,

Litchfield also thanked O’Donnell for “putting this all together.”

O'Donnell said. "The members of the Sparta VFW are an incredibly generous adn philanthropic group of people and I'm honored to be a part of the good that they do." 

Rojas’ widow Dolores and sons attended the event.  They had been married for 60 years, Dolores said. 

“He was a generous man,” Rojas said.  “I never expected something like this.  I know he was special to me but never realized how many people thought he was special too.  I’m amazed at how many people miss him.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Sparta

Sparta Police: Byram Woman's Broken Light Ends in Drug Charges

June 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – A Byram woman is facing drug charges having been stopped for a broken headlight on White Lake Road.  On June 15 Abigail Carkhuff, 22, was pulled over by Police Officer Brian Porter around 10:40 p.m. police report.

When Porter spoke with Carkhuff the officer smelled marijuana in the car.  A search of the grey Ford Escape turned up a ziplock bag of marijuana and a ...

Sparta Police: Speeding Stop Nets Drug Charges for Two Brooklyn Men

SPARTA, NJ – Two men from Brooklyn, New York stopped for speeding are facing drug charges.  On June 16 around 11 a.m. Sparta Police Officer Thomas Herd pulled over a grey Toyota Rav4 driven by David Mai, 20 going 95 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, police said.

When Herd spoke with the Mai, the officer smelled marijuana in the car. Mai said he had pot in his backpack.  Sparta Police ...

Sparta Police: Wanted Sparta Man Stopped for Speeding

SPARTA, NJ — A Sparta resident was picked up on an active warrant after getting stopped for speeding on Route 181. On June 16 around 1:35 a.m. Cpl. Marc Rubino stopped John Clark, 51 in his black Ford pickup driving 60 in a 45 MPH zone, police report.

Clark was not able to show the officer his license but gave his personal information. Rubino found Clark’s license had expired and ...

Sparta High School Time Capsule

June 20, 2018

To the editor: 

For this year’s AP project in our English class, we have put together a 2018 Sparta High School time capsule to be opened in 25 years. The capsule, likely to be buried next to the garden behind the school, will contain student testimonies, memes, and other relics of our time. Hopefully with this project we hope to preserve our unique experience of teenage ...

The Power of Positive Engagement

To the Editor:

I wanted to share this letter from Laurie Beacham, Media Director for NJ 11th for Change, about the notable increase in voter turnout and citizens deciding to run in the recent primary election:

"The 11th Congressional District has a lot to be proud of. In the June 5th primaries, voter turnout climbed from almost 33,000 in 2014 to over 86,000. Democratic ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, June 21, 2:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Summer Afternoon Garden Soiree

Home & Garden

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, June 23, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Sat, June 23, 10:00 AM

CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties, Morristown

CASA Information Session

Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

Carousel_image_a567a59640ee87a05151_boe_sign__2_

Mon, June 25, 5:30 PM

Mohawk Avenue School, Sparta

Sparta Board of Education Meeting UPDATED

Education

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, June 30, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, July 7, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Carousel_image_ace2e0a21a0268782288_sparta_historical_society

Sun, July 8, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Sussex County Views: The Art of Toni Chaplin

Home & Garden

Carousel_image_dc175377b12fc03a60a8_toni4

Sun, July 8, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Sussex County Views: The Art of Toni Chaplin

Arts & Entertainment

Sussex Stags Football Team to Hold Fourth Annual Golf Outing

June 16, 2018

NEWTON, NJ—The Sussex County Stags will be holding their fourth annual gold outing on Saturday June 23.

Arrival time is 11:30 a.m. at the Minebrook Golf Club located at 500 Schooleys Mountain Road in Hackettstown. Golfing will begin at 1 p.m. and tickets can be purchased online at www.sussexstags.com.

Tickets are $125 per person and include the following: golfing, the cart, an all you ...

Update: Police Break Up Fight Involving 40-50 People at Bridgewater Commons Mall

June 15, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ — No injuries have been reported in an incident that shut down Bridgewater Commons Mall Thursday evening after a fight involving a crowd of 40-50 people.

Police are still investigating unconfirmed reports of shots being fired, according to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office.

The mall is closed for the evening as the investigation continues.

Somerset County ...

5 Home-Related To-Do’s Before Leaving On Vacation

With school out and the summer sun shining down, thoughts turn to summer vacation trips.  Team Nest Builder offers these 5 home-related tips to follow to avoid everything from minor inconveniences to major headaches upon your return:

Pause Your Post & Paper

Piled up mail and newspapers act like a “rob me” sign!  Avoid tipping off strangers to your absence by ...

Why Buying a Home is Better Than Renting

People often ask if now is a good time to buy a home in New Jersey, but nobody ever asks whether or not it’s a good time to rent. Regardless, Team Nest Builder wants to make certain that everyone understands that now is NOT a good time to rent.

The Census Bureau recently released their 2018 first quarter median rent numbers. This graph from their report shows rent increases from 1988 ...

5 Fab Father's Day Happenings in Sussex & Morris Counties

Father’s Day hits this Sunday--what do YOU have planned? Team Nest Builder offers a slew of Father’s Day fun in Morris and Sussex County. Read on and surprise Dad with cool activities! (Be sure to check if registration is required prior to showing up!)

Alstede Farms' Father's Day Brunch – Chester

From 9am-noon, take a scenic hayride to a brunch buffet that offers ...

Don't Miss Sunday's OPEN HOUSE for 4BR Sparta Mountain Beauty

Perched handsomely on an acre in the beautiful SpartaMountain community, 28 Waters Edgeoffers a 4BR 2.5 Bathroom home with space and style. Come see for yourself this Sunday, June 17th, from 1-3pm at our OPEN HOUSE!

Located in the prestigious Sparta Mountain Reserve, this large, beautiful center hall colonial with open floor plan has a nice, level play yard with direct ...

Days on The Housing Market Drops to New Low

According to recently released data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median number of days that a home spent on the market hit a new low of 26 days in April, as 57% of homes remained on the market for under a month.

NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, opined,

“What is available for sale is going under contract at a rapid pace. Since NAR began tracking this ...

Pass It Along Triathlon

Tri-something new this July and sign up for the Pass It Along Triathlon!

The 9th annual Pass It Along Triathlon will take place on Saturday, July 28, 2018, at the Lake Mohawk Country Club. This triathlon features two USAT-certified courses - Olympic and Sprint. This triathlon has become a Sparta tradition and everyone is welcome to attend to cheer on athletes and be a part of the ...

June 13 Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting

NEWTON, NJ - The June 13 Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting video.

 

NJ 11th for Change Endorses MIKIE SHERRILL for Congress

June 21, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 18, 2018

NJ 11th for Change Endorses MIKIE SHERRILL for Congress

Sherrill Meets Group’s Endorsement Criteria and Will Best Represent District’s Values

MONTCLAIR, NJ – NJ 11th for Change announced today that it has endorsed Mikie Sherrill for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in the 11th Congressional District of New Jersey.

After a ...