15 Sep 2014
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'Tricky Tray' Raffle Helps Fort Lee Families in Need

Saturday's event at the Fort Lee Recreation Center featured over 400 individual items and baskets being raffled off. Proceeds benefited Fort Lee residents in crisis. Photographer Cirong Kang captured the event for Patch.

The Fort Lee Department of Human Services hosted a sold-out "tricky tray" raffle event Saturday at the Fort Lee Recreation Center, raffling off donated items, including a TV and other electronics, tickets to sporting events, cash prizes, theme baskets donated by Fort Lee elementary schools and more, to raise money for Fort Lee families in crisis.

“The Department of Human Services is seeing more people than ever before, many of whom do not receive food stamps—do not receive temporary assistance,” said Jillian Raimondo-Langham of the Fort Lee Department of Human Services of the motivation behind the fundraising event. “These are working families, who have hit the wall.”

Sponsored by Fort Lee’s Church of the Madonna and Church of the Good Shepherd, the event started in September, when Raimondo-Langham and her colleague with the Department of Human Services, Lori Colacino, began hand-addressing and sending out more than 4,000 letters to local, regional and national organizations requesting donations.

“Like a snowball,” Raimondo-Langham said, those donations started coming in.

Caffasso’s Fairway Market was the first to respond, giving a fruit, cheese and wine basket, she said, and Fort Lee’s elementary schools also came up big with students, parents and teachers putting together theme baskets, such as “movie night,” including popcorn, soda and movie tickets and “pasta night,” including items such as a wooden spoon and a colander.

As of Wednesday, Raimondo-Langham said 165 tickets had been sold for the fundraiser, making it a sell out. She also said the more than 400 individual raffles were double the 200 her department was hoping to come up with by Saturday.

All of the proceeds from Saturday’s event go toward helping residents of Fort Lee in need, said Colacino last week. That might include anything from basic needs like food, a winter coat and medicine, to assistance with utility bills and other basic necessities.

"Somebody calls us up, they're getting a shutoff notice on their electric, somebody needs medicine, they're getting evicted, we can help them out," Colacino said. "[For the most part] the Fort Lee Community Fund handles that, but we pick up what they can't. We needed some funding for it, so we decided to take this on."

But for the $10 price of admission, the Department of Human Services had no expectations and no specific fundraising goals in mind, preferring instead to be surprised by what the event would bring in simply “to have on hand.

“We wanted an event that was very affordable,” Raimondo-Langham said prior to Saturday’s event at the recreation center. “That was important to us. That was one of our goals. And we understood that we were not going to make big bucks. But we also understood that it had a threefold value: It was entertainment that was affordable, it was community working together and it was a fundraiser. It’s not just to make a whole lot of money, because that’s not going to happen with a tricky tray.”

Photographer Cirong Kang captured some scenes from Saturday’s Tricky Tray at the Fort Lee Recreation Center:

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