Sunday, May 21st marked our sixth annual fundraiser. Long-time supporters might have been expecting the 6th Beacon of Hope, but experienced “Expressions of Hope” instead. The name was altered this year to reflect changes made to our regular program. In past years, one Shore House member has been selected to present his or her story of recovery. These stories were always quite inspirational and showed how helpful the Clubhouse model and Shore House in particular is to members on our journeys to recovery. However, we made the bold decision to try something new.
There was a very healthy-sized crowd at the beautiful Main Clubhouse of the Rumson Country Club that evening. Members, staff, Board members and volunteers mingled with the crowd, catching up with familiar faces and sharing information about mental illness and Shore House with new additions to our community. Delicious appetizers were passed, and people ate, drank, and seemed to be very merry.
Around 6:15pm, attention was called to the podium set up near a wall of windows and glass doors which opened onto a patio with tables and provided a panoramic view of the grounds and the Shrewsbury River. First to address our guests was Shore House Founder and current Board President Susan Sandlass, who gave an official welcome and introduced this year’s honorees: veteran supporters of mental health issues and of Shore House, Howard P. Aronson, Bud & Judy Rose, and the law firm of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper. After giving brief speeches, the honorees were presented not only with artwork by a Shore House member, but with a Proclamation received from the State of New Jersey recognizing their good deeds in the name of improving the lives of New Jerseyans living with mental illness. Eleventh District Assemblypeople Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey were instrumental in having these Proclamations decreed. Assemblyman Houghtaling was in attendance at the event, where a Proclamation was also presented to Shore House.
The honorees were followed by Shore House Executive Director Susan Mazzeo, who spoke of the progress she has witnessed in our organization since she began as an intern years ago and slowly rose through the ranks to become our leader. Perhaps the most poignant moments in her speech were those when she spoke of Kevin. She stated that she has favorite stories about each member, but chose to share Kevin’s (with his permission) with those in attendance. Susan recalled his first days of membership, when he would come to her alone, with several pages of writing about how he would like to start his own business selling tomato plants. He would read these pages aloud to her. He’d told her that he wrote things down so that people would think he was smart; this was a product of the stigma attached to those living with mental illness. Over time, Kevin began to interact with other members and, before long, his confidence and self-esteem improved. Shore House helped him to formulate a business plan, name his business, and make business cards, and gave him the courage to approach a community gardener, who would eventually purchase $300 worth of his plants. Shore House also helped him to create the invoice he would submit to this buyer!
Next was the main event, if you will. We have been working of late with fellow-non profit organization Project Write Now of Red Bank. The reason we decided to rename the fundraiser “Expressions of Hope” was to highlight the fact that, rather than focus on one member, we would have four members present poetry that conveyed our feelings of hope. Sam Duval-Cofer, Kerri Zeblisky, Mary Husowech, and I read to the audience. We were incredibly well-received! A bound book of members’ creative work (which featured Mary’s artwork on the cover and was dedicated to the late Keith Granit) was also made available.
The program wrapped up with Board Members Peder Hagberg and Lisa Klem Wilson calling for attendees to volunteer to donate at different levels. This was fast-paced and successful.
All in all, the evening was quite a hit. A big thank you to all of our supporters, attendees and donors for making our evening successful and helping Shore House to thrive!