Gala planned to benefit Millstone Twp. schools


Staff Writer

JEFF GRANIT staff Kathy Toth, of Millstone, twists garland around a grapevine wreath as part of the decorations for the upcoming Cupid’s Ball, which will benefit the Millstone Township Foundation for Educational Excellence.JEFF GRANIT staff Kathy Toth, of Millstone, twists garland around a grapevine wreath as part of the decorations for the upcoming Cupid’s Ball, which will benefit the Millstone Township Foundation for Educational Excellence. MILLSTONE — Every little acorn has the potential to grow into a grand oak tree.

For Laura Wittman, president of the Millstone Township Foundation for Educational Excellence (MTFEE), the acorn and the oak tree represent the “simplicity and the pure spirit” of the foundation’s goal — to nourish township students with the best possible education so they will grow into their utmost potential.

“We want to ensure [that] our schools and our teachers are working at standards higher than they ever were before as a benefit to the entire community,” Wittman said.

Incorporated about five years ago by a group of residents and educators with a similar vision, the MTFEE promotes and enhances educational opportunities in Millstone Township public schools through private resources, according to Wittman.

The MTFEE collects and distributes grant money to Millstone Township public schools, which may not be available through federal, state or local budgets. The grants enable qualifying teachers and administrators to offer innovative programs and materials to students in the district.

Since its inception, the MTFEE has donated approximately $185,000 to township schools.

In order for the foundation to continue its success, Wittman said people need to stay involved.

“Keeping people involved is the biggest challenge,” Wittman said.

All volunteer groups face the challenge of getting new members, but Wittman said groups that rely on “already overwhelmed parents” seem to suffer more.

“There are so many demands placed on parents today,” Wittman said. “It’s a challenge to get them to dedicate some of their extra time and energy.”

Wittman said she is certain there are people in Millstone who get invigorated by making a difference in a child’s life.

“It’s my goal to let these people know that there is an organization in town that they can join,” Wittman said.

In addition to volunteering, township residents can get involved with the MTFEE in numerous other ways, the most popular of which, according to Wittman, is by attending the annual Cupid’s Ball.

The brainchild of former MTFEE trustees Dixie Lane and Louise SanNicola, Cupid’s Ball raises money for township schools.

“We wanted to create an event that would stand out,” Wittman said. “We wanted to do something different, elegant, sophisticated.”

“Today,” she continued, “the Cupid’s Ball is one of the few affairs existing for people in our town to come together looking their absolute most gorgeous.

“It’s indulgent, and people really enjoy the experience of getting dressed up for a night of dancing, romance and smiles,” Wittman said.

This year, the MTFEE will hold its

fourth annual Cupid’s Ball on Feb. 11 at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe.

“It’s a black-tie-optional affair, but most of the women dress up and many of the men wear tuxedos or nice suits,” Wittman said.

MTFEE member Paula Kinsey, who co-chaired last year’s Cupid’s Ball, will chair this year’s event. She said preparations for the gala began months ago.

“It’s like planning a wedding,” Kinsey said. “I’ve helped to coordinate the band, the catering, the decorations.”

This year, the MTFEE has hired a deejay and an 11-piece band with a three-piece horn section.

“I think it’s safe to say that not a single person doesn’t cut a rug that night,” Wittman said.

During the evening, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, dessert and cocktails will be served, but the most entertaining aspect of the night, according to Wittman, is the silent auction.

“People get playful with their bids, and they keep checking the bid sheets,” Wittman said. “That turns into a tango in and of itself.”

The silent auction features fine jewelry, artwork, vacation packages, gift certificates to local business and gift baskets containing beauty, culinary and pet care products.

Although the night promises to be fun for all who attend, Kinsey said the MTFEE’s ultimate goal for the event is to raise money.

“Each year more and more people attend, the auction gets bigger, and we raise more money,” Kinsey said.

“This year, we expect more than 300 guests,” Wittman said.

“I believe,” Wittman said, “most people attend for altruistic reasons of knowing that the dollars raised at the ball go directly into our schools’ classrooms to effect a greater standard of education, which will ultimately set the tone for our town evolves over time.”

Those who help sponsor this year’s ball will have an opportunity to be featured in a magazine called Friends of the Foundation.

“The more money we are able to raise, the better we can enhance our children’s education,” Kinsey said.

Grant money in some MTFEE cycles has gone to suicide-prevention programs, diabetes-education programming, child-care lessons, and the enhancement of literature and math lessons. The MTFEE has also funded the purchase of new computer programming, laptops and other advanced teaching technologies, according to information provided by the MTFEE.

“We strive to enrich our children’s educational experience by providing opportunities that might not be available without private funds,” Kinsey said.

Her three children have directly benefited from the support provided by the MTFEE, according to Kinsey.

“They have used the mobile math lab, the laptop computers, the weather station and many other resources in the schools that may not have been available if not for the MTFEE,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey wanted to remind area residents to join the efforts of the MTFEE because, she said, “from little acorns, big things grow.”

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