By Diane Blaszka
Lawrenceville, NJ – May 14, 2012 – Nonprofit PEI Kids, which serves more than 16,000 Mercer County children and families annually, recently raised more than $55,000 and recognized four outstanding community leaders as PEI Kids’ PALS (People Appreciated for Long Service) at its 21st Annual Dinner and Auction. The Mercer County organization, which is dedicated to keeping children safe, also honored The College of New Jersey’s Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement and the Bonner Community Scholars Corps.
The Dinner/Auction, held on April 22 at the Greenacres Country Club in Lawrenceville and featuring donated art; fine jewelry; vacation get-aways; spa treatments; gift certificates; and tickets to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the U.S. Open, and Thunder and Phillies baseball games, is the organization’s biggest fundraising event. This year, more than 200 people attended.
Money raised will directly benefit PEI Kids’ programs and services, which include counseling at no cost to children who have been sexually abused; bully and assault prevention programs in more than 60 Mercer County schools; juvenile intervention services guiding youth away from gangs and lives of crime; and supervised family visitations for children placed in foster care. PEI Kids is also the lead agency of the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse, part of a statewide initiative to educate adults in the community on how to prevent child sexual abuse, how to recognize when a child may be being abused, and how to get them immediate help.
“This special evening traditionally brings our donors, volunteers and community supporters, as well as some young clients, together in the same venue — learning up close and personally about the work PEI Kids has been doing in local community since 1985,” states Penny Ettinger, Executive Director of PEI Kids. “It is a highlight of our year, and money raised allows us to continue serving more than 16,000 Mercer County children and their families annually.”
During the evening, PEI Kids honored TCNJ’s Bonner Center as a valued community partner. Since 2009, student scholars from the Center have donated more than 1,800 hours of mentoring for PEI Kids’ juvenile intervention programs that help youth on probation.
PEI Kids also named four of its most dedicated supporters — George M. Gill, Dolores R. and Vincent A. Piacente, and Keith Smith — as PALS (People Appreciated for Long Service). The PALS program began in 2010 to recognize special friends who have contributed more than 10 years of time and resources to advance PEI Kids’ mission.
Lawrence resident George Gill is the husband of PEI Kids’ founding director, Evelyn Gill. He has helped PEI Kids since day one, doing office repairs, raising funds, filing, and using his knowledge as an office furniture dealer and owner of Gill Office Systems to provide free office furniture. Gill also volunteers with the Presbyterian Church, where he is an elder, as the Chair of the Monmouth Presbytery Committee on Preparation for Ministry, which oversees students in Seminaries working toward Ordination as Pastors.
Titusville resident Dolores Piacente has been involved with PEI Kids since the early 1990s, specializing in obtaining donations of goods and services from local merchants and in helping to plan major fundraising events. A former systems engineer for ROLM and IBM, Dolores is now involved in the fashion industry.
Residing in Titusville with Dolores and their children, Danielle and Alec — who are also PEI Kids volunteers — Vincent Piacente was first introduced to PEI Kids in 1990 when his architectural firm, Inside Architecture, helped the organization move to a new headquarters location. When the project was completed, he joined the nonprofit’s Resource Development Committee and later its Board of Trustees, of which he was an active member for 18 years, serving as both Vice President and President. He was a driving force in PEI Kids’ last office move to 231 Lawrence Road in Lawrenceville, and in its branding efforts.
East Windsor resident Keith Smith is another longtime PEI Kids board member, serving from 1993-2011 — four of those years as President. A survivor of stranger abduction and child sexual assault, he is a well-known speaker on the topic of child sexual abuse and the author of the book Men in My Town. Keith has lobbied government officials to prevent cutbacks to sexual abuse prevention and counseling programs, and has been interviewed on numerous radio and television shows. His story has also been covered by the New York Times and on Oprah Winfrey’s award-winning show, 200 Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
“The Bonner scholars and these four PALS — who have collectively committed more than 80 years of dedicated service to PEI Kids — are true examples of community service,” says Martin J. Deitchman, President of PEI Kids’ Board of Trustees. “We feel very fortunate they have made such personal investments in the work we do to keep children safe.”
Top event sponsors included Tom and Fran Bartlett; Marty and Beth Deitchman; NJM Insurance Group; The Tuchman Foundation; AAA Mid-Atlantic; Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, PC; New Jersey Utilities Association; Phoenix Advisors, LLC; Amy Smith; Taylor, Colicchio & Silverman, LLP; Ventura Wealth Management; PNC Bank; Quakerbridge Radiology; RedEye, Inc.; Roma Bank; The College of New Jersey; Borden Perlman; Capital Health; ETS; First Choice Bank; Hopewell Township PBA Local 342; Chris and Denise Pratico; Mark Mucciacciaro, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney; Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader, PC; and Trap Rock Industries.
About PEI Kids
PEI Kids’ aspiration for the children of Mercer County, NJ, is “Safe Kids, Sound Futures.” Currently serving approximately 16,000 children and their families each year, the nonprofit organization began in 1985 when, while working at a rape crisis center, its founders discovered there were no local services tailored for children who had been sexually abused. For the past 27 years, its mission has been dedicated to promoting and maintaining a safe environment for all children. Its services have expanded to include engaging, developmentally appropriate and culturally diverse Prevention/Education and Intervention programs relating to personal safety; physical and sexual abuse; understanding physical and educational differences; school safety and bullying; anger management; gang prevention; and the overall well-being of the child and family. It is currently the lead agency of the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse. To learn more about PEI Kids’ many programs and services for Mercer County children and families, and how you can support its efforts, please call 609-695-3739 or visit www.peikids.org. All calls regarding possible abuse are confidential.
By Diane Blaszka