By Rob Potter
CALLICOON June 17, 2005 More than 200 people packed the Club at the Villa Roma last Saturday evening for the First Annual Sullivan County Friends of NRA Fundraising Banquet.
Scores of people enjoyed a good meal and the chance to bid on dozens of items in a live auction and a silent auction. The auction items, as well as the door prizes and raffle prizes, included everything from award-winning nature prints to rifles to a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle to a gun safe to a stuffed black bear wearing a blaze orange shooting vest.
All of the proceeds from the banquet will benefit the Friends of NRA, an organization dedicated to education, community and service.
Jay Rusnock, who is a NRA Field Representative in the organizations Field Operations Division and covers the upstate New York region, said that when many people think of the National Rifle Association, they immediately think of the organization strictly in political terms. He said the NRA and the Friends of NRA are much more than that.
Friends of NRA gives grants to community organizations around the nation; its a great organization, Rusnock said. Proceeds from fundraising events like this are used to help organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. Half of the money raised tonight will stay in the local area and the other half will to go the national office.
Rusnock travels to similar banquets throughout the year within the upstate New York region, which covers a good portion of The Empire State. The region includes everything but Long Island, New York City, and the Adirondacks.
He was pleasantly surprised by the number of people in attendance.
The local committee members deserve a great deal of credit, Rusnock said. This is a great turnout and its only year number one for this event. It can only get bigger and better from here.
Deneen Sines, a volunteer for the NRA field representive team, concurred with Rusnock.
Its very impressive to have this many people here at a first time event, said Sines, who lives in Elmira and has attended other Friends of NRA fundraising banquets in cities across the state, including Binghamton and Poughkeepsie.
Another person who was pleased with the excellent turnout was Friends of NRA Sullivan County Chairman John Kelder.
At 5:30 [p.m.], we only had a few tickets left, he said, referring to the time the doors opened for the 7 p.m. dinner. There are around 230 people here tonight. We expect to raise more than $25,000 tonight.
Following dinner, Kelder addressed the crowd. He thanked everyone for attending the first-ever event and praised the work put into the planning and preparation for the banquet by the committee officers and committee volunteers.
Those committee officers are: Co-Chairman Maura La Piana, Treasurer Scott Feldman and Secretary Michael Gagliardi. The committee volunteers included: Jim and Cathie Lane (Chairpersons Grand Slam Drawing), Karl VanValkenburg (Chairman Freedom Drawing), Ezra Feldman, Joseph Siegel, Jim Hemmer, Bob Hawkes, Paul Bertram, Bill Webbe, Helen Webbe, Ron Barry, Jeffery Mariner, Siggy Poty, Howard Gildersleeve, Rich Franceschi, Ron Croce, Jim Atkins, Elizabeth Sherwood, Dino La Piana and Jay Rusnock.
Kelder also thanked several local businesses that served as donators or underwriters for the event.
Among the dinner guests who won a prize during the event was Charlie Greenhouse of White Lake. He won a book about the NRA written by Tom Clancy.
I was admiring this book when I came in, he said. I am going to enjoy reading it and adding it to my book collection.