By Michael V. Crismali
EAST WINDSOR – It may have been cold and rainy outside on Saturday morning, but inside the East Windsor Bowl and Recreation Center was all the warmth and holiday spirit you could ask for.
In what was truly a remarkable community event, the East Windsor Police Benevolent Association #191 and donors from across the area hosted a bowling and pizza party for 35 children identified through Rise. This was the first year for this event, and many members of the community played a part to make it a success.
The inspiration for the party started with David Berez, an 18-year veteran of the East Windsor Police Department. Mr. Berez explained that the PBA always had a family party for officers and their children every year, but he was inspired to find a way to extend this to members of the community with a focus on children and families who may need a little more assistance during the holiday season.
Mr. Berez said it was important that this party not be a separate event, but rather an extension of the PBA parties of years past. He wanted to bring the families of the PBA together with the families within the community they serve.
With the help of RISE, 35 children were registered, and with the generous donations of the PBA members, who bought all of the gifts for the children, as well as donations from various businesses from the area, the children had a wonderful time and left with smiles on their faces.
Donors included Church & Dwight, Party Fair of East Windsor, Target of East Windsor and Walmart of East Windsor, East Windsor Education Association, Famous Footwear, Dairy Queen, and NJ 101.5’s Bill Spadea.
The kids also got a thrill when Boomer, the Trenton Thunder mascot, made an appearance.
The venue and all of the food was provided by Vijay Papaiya, who has owned East Windsor Bowl and Recreation since 2014. Mr. Papaiya finds it very important to support his local community and actually first met Mr. Berez at a charity golf event, where the idea for using this venue first came up. Mr. Papaiya said he has always been treated with the utmost respect by the town of East Windsor, including town council and members of East Windsor Police Department, and didn’t even think twice about taking part in this event.
Deputy Mayor Peter V. Yeager stopped by as well, and spoke about how great everything turned out. He was also very impressed with the level of participation from the community.
Only one week after Rise hosted its holiday gift giveaway, it was right back at it for this event, helping to make it a success. Rise Executive Director Leslie Koppel and Maitiel Jimenez, volunteer and holiday gift party coordinator, were on hand taking photos and helping everything run smoothly.
As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.” This event was born out of an idea, but it became a reality because of the efforts of many. When the community comes together to help other members of that community, some might say that is exactly what the holidays are all about.