By Ron Leir
The Salvation Army of Greater Kearny will honor local Canstruction representative Paul Rogers and Spectra Colors Corp. at its 10th annual fundraising dinner, slated for Thursday, May 8 at the San Carlo, 620 Stuyvesant
Festivities get started at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $55 and may be purchased by calling Rebeca Escobar at 201-991-1115 or by emailing her at Rebeca.Escobar@ USE.SalvationArmy.Org. Deadline for reservations is May 1.
People are also invited to buy ads for a souvenir journal that will be circulated at the event, which will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Salvation Army Kearny Corps’ presence in Kearny, according to Lt. Maurice Moukouangala, who oversees the Kearny Corps with his wife, Capt. Sherry Moukouangala.
The theme of this year’s dinner is “Doing the Most Good … Together.”
The affair is one of two big annual fundraisers held by the Kearny Corps; the other is the Christmas holiday Kettle Drive. Lt. Moukouangala said: This event makes it possible for us to publicly honor individuals and companies who have given uncommon service to the five communities we serve: Harrison, East Newark, Kearny, North Arlington and Lyndhurst.”
And his spouse, Capt. Moukouangala, added: “We depend on the continued generous support of the public for this, our principal fundraising event. The money we raise through this dinner helps local families and individuals in need.”
This year, the Kearny Corps is presenting its Individual Award to Paul Rogers, a retired Kearny firefighter who is being recognized for his volunteer work on behalf of Canstruction, an international charity which hosts competitions, exhibitions and events showcasing colossal structures made
out of full cans of food.
Once the structures are assembled, they go on display to the public as a gigantic art exhibition and, ultimately, all the food in the cans is donated to local hunger relief organizations.
This year, Rogers is guiding Kearny High School’s third Canstruction project and is also advising Harrison High School in its first season working with the charity.
Working with Kearny High teachers, administrators and students, and aided by volunteers from Kearny’s service clubs and the Fire Department, Rogers raised donations that enabled Canstruction to provide 43,000 cans of food to the food pantries of The Salvation Army, St. Stephen’s, St. Cecilia’s, First Presbyterian, Apostle’s House and St. John’s. He hopes to add an additional 30,000 cans this year.
Some interesting background on Rogers: His paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Scotland and his maternal great-grandparents came from Ireland, and Paul grew up in a house – one of 25 – that his father and other WWII veterans, working together, build in Kearny on their return from the front.
Paul’s grandfather worked in the old Clark Thread Co. in East Newark until he joined the Kearny Fire Department in 1925. Paul’s father also worked at Clark before he, too, was hired by the KFD in 1949, after which he served in the Kearny Town Museum.
In 1977, Paul became the third generation of his family to become a member of the town’s Bravest.
In 1984, Paul married school friend Donna MacKenney, who, after her retirement from St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark, became a docent in the Kearny Town Museum and volunteers with two food pantries and an animal shelter.
After retiring from the Fire Department in 2002, Paul enrolled at Rutgers University’s Newark campus for courses in art history and religious history. In 2009, he was felled by heart failure and three strokes, for which he received a double pacemaker, followed by two years of grueling rehabilitation.
With encouragement from his doctors and friends, Paul returned to school and to
serving Kearny with Canstruction.
The Kearny Corps is giving this year’s Community Service Award to a firmly rooted Kearny business, Spectra Colors Corp., 25 Rizzolo Road, off Schuyler Ave., in recognition of the company’s charitable efforts.
Alexis Capik, Spectra’s marketing manager and, like her dad Spectra President Luis Marrero, an active member of the Kearny Corps’ Advisory Board, said the family-run business has been in operation in Kearny for the past 26 years and supplies dyes and colorants to companies around the globe to create a variety of products such as inks, soaps and makeup.
“We have a standing rotation among our employees for people ringing the bell for a day for the Salvation Army’s annual Kettle Drive,” Capik said.
The company has pitched in to help with that drive for the past five years, said
Capik, who, with Laurence Mach, is co-chairing this year’s dinner for which Spectra is printing the souvenir journals.
In 2013, Spectra led all other corporate organizations by raising $1,700, according to Lt. Moukouangala. For four consecutive years, Spectra employees set a record for most money raised by a company during the Kettle Drive period.
The Kearny Corps is encouraging members of the public to attend next month’s
fundraising event or consider becoming a sponsor or ad-taker to help finance its
efforts to extend assistance to the needy in its constituent communities.
Among the ways it serves its constituents, the Corps:
• Aids more than 120 families, including about 150 children.
• Donates more than 4,500 grocery orders a year to people in the five-town area through its food pantry, which is open three times a week.
• For last year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, it distributed more than 2,000 toys, some 1,900 pieces of clothing and 1,500 grocery bags.
• Provides computer classes for adults twice a week.
• Accommodate 55 adults in three levels of English as a Second Language/Citizenship programs.
• Welcomes adults and children to an open gym every Friday.
“Every month, we receive requests from 75 households for rent assistance, 115 for
utilities assistance and over 150 for clothing/furniture. Unfortunately, we do not have resources to help,” a Kearny Corps press release said.
Additionally, the statement said, “We currently have a waiting list of children wishing to join our After School Homework Center – before the school year even starts.”
Every Sunday, about 50 people travel to the Corps, 443 Chesnut St., for worship service and about one third of the congregation is from Kearny but the rest arrive
from places like Newark, Lodi and Teaneck – stirring memories of the days when the Army’s national headquarters was in Verona and Kearny was a destination of choice for as many as 100 each Sunday, Lt. Moukouangala said.
When the Army moved its HQ to Alexandria, Va., during the 1990s, many of the pastors and congregants who had been Kearny regulars drifted away. “We’re still struggling to get them back,” he said.