Democrat Photo by Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY COMMITTEE of Friends of the NRA Chairman John Kelder, left, and committee volunteer Joseph Siegel, right, joined special guests New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, second from left, New York State Senator John Bonacic, center, and Sullivan County Judge and Surrogate Frank LaBuda for a photo at Saturdays banquet.
By Rob Potter
CALLICOON May 12, 2006 The Sullivan County Committee of the Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA) held its second annual fundraising banquet last Saturday night at the Club at the Villa Roma in Callicoon.
We have about 250 people here tonight, said John Kelder, who is the Chairman of the Sullivan County Committee of the Friends of the NRA.
Kelder noted that the Sullivan County Committee, which was organized in 2005, has had a very good first year.
He explained that a total of 75 Friends of the NRA committees were formed throughout the United States last year and that the Sullivan County Committee placed in the top 20 in four different categories. The local committee was third in attendance, fifth in gross dollars raised, eighth in the net to gross dollar rating and 18th in net increase over gross.
Half of the money raised for the NRA Foundation is returned to committees throughout New York State. Last year, for example, the NRA Foundation gave approximately $500,000 in grants to committees in upstate New York.
Like those other committees across the Empire State, the Sullivan County Committee uses those funds to assist a variety of organizations.
We give money to the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and 4-H clubs, Kelder said. We also use the funds for other youth programs, like conservation and firearms safety and education.
Kelder also noted that the local committee will utilize some of the money to send kids to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Camp this summer in DeBruce.
At Saturday evenings dinner, the Sullivan County Committee raised money though several raffles and a live auction. The raffle prizes included binoculars, duck decoys, rifles and a tent. The live auction, which was called by guest auctioneer Thomas Gage of Massachusetts, featured a cowboy sculpture, rifles, the NRA Knife of the Year and several wildlife prints.
One of those prints, called Standing Guard, was named the Friends of the NRA 2006 Print of the Year. Created by artist Cole Johnson, who lives in Deposit, the print features a vivid image of a bald eagle guarding its territory.
Johnson signed contracts with Friends of the NRA last year and this year to create special edition wildlife portraits. He will also be one of just three artists from around the nation to paint pieces for the Friends of the NRA in 2007.
Its just great to work with this organization, said Johnson, who was named the 2005 Friends of the NRA Artist of the Year. Its great recognition as well. You cant ask for better public relations than to work with the Friends of the NRA.
Several area businesses and residents were donators and underwriters for the items featured in the live auction and raffles.
During the evening, Kelder recognized some of the special guests who were on hand. Among them were New York State Senator John Bonacic, New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Sullivan County Court Judge and Surrogate Frank LaBuda and Sullivan County Clerk George Cooke.
National Rifle Association Field Representative Jay Rusnock presented awards to Kelder, who has been the Chairman of Sullivan County Committee for two years, and Michael Gagliardi, who is the incoming Chairman for the Sullivan County Committee.
Kelder presented awards to his fellow committee officers: Co-Chairman Karl VanValkenburg, Treasurer Russell Sniffen and Gagliardi, who is the Secretary.
The committees volunteers also received awards from Kelder. Those volunteers included: John VanEtten, Joseph Siegel, Jim Hemmer, Maura LaPiana, Dino LaPiana, Bill Webbe, Helen Webbe, Jeffery Mariner, Siggy Poty, Jim Atkins, Elizabeth Sherwood and Jerry Beiling.
During his remarks, Rusnock praised the committee members for their work to uphold the Second Amendment and support community and youth organizations.