WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Lions Club of West Orange welcomed approximately 200 guests to its annual Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser on Wednesday, where participants enjoyed an evening of food, raffle prizes and socializing with friends and neighbors at the West Orange High School (WOHS) Tarnoff Cafeteria.

Nearly all the proceeds from the event will go toward organizations that help individuals with blindness by providing support, education and services. In addition, the club supports the WOHS Project Graduation to help provide the 2017 graduating class with a productive and drug-free program.

“It is wonderful to see so many people turn out to support our club’s efforts to give back and help others,” said Roger Schneider, chairman of the dinner. “I want to thank our 60 sponsors who supported this event.”

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Among the organizations helping the blind that receive funding from the club are the Eye Institute of New Jersey, the St. Joseph’s School for the Blind, Camp Marcella and Camp Happiness for the Blind, The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey, and E.C.H.O. (Eyes Closed Hearts Open).

A group from E.C.H.O., which was started in West Orange in 2007, attended this event for the sixth-consecutive year in appreciation of Lions Club’s support. One of E.C.H.O.’s longtime members, Jane Degenshein, said her group appreciated the commitment of the Lions Club to have a fundraiser every year that provides people with eye care, eyeglasses and optical aids.

“We are regular people who can’t see. It’s just a characteristic. It doesn’t define us,” said Degenshein, who added that the group, which has members from throughout northern and central New Jersey, gets together every month for outings.

These outings include enjoying shows at the Papermill Playhouse, bowling and book-club discussions.

Even with their own disabilities, the 30 members of E.C.H.O. give back to the community by participating in the Relay for Life walk to combat cancer and donating Toys for Tots and coats for people living below the poverty line. According to Degenshein, the group collected more than 300 items for these drives last year.

Steve Christiano, who has been a member of the Lions Club of West Orange for 30 years, said that WOHS should be thanked for always allowing the club to hold the fundraiser at the school.

“It’s great to see friends and neighbors come up for a good cause,” he said. “We’re always looking for new club members, and hope more people will join us in our efforts to help charitable organizations that help people with blindness.”

Numerous township officials were in attendance to show their support for this event. Among those who came out were former Governor Richard Codey, Mayor Robert Parisi, Township Council President Joe Krakoviak and council members Jerry Guarino and Susan McCartney.

“This is a great community event that shows how much West Orange cares about people with disabilities who need a helping hand,” said Guarino. “We not only care, we show it with events such as this one.”