Saugus restaurants to step up for schools

SAUGUS – Twenty-one North Shore restaurants will showcase their stuff Monday when the Saugus Business Education Collaborative holds its 19th annual Taste for Education fundraiser.The event, from 6-9 p.m. at the Danversport Yacht Club in Danvers, typically attracts more than 300 attendees who come for the all-you-can-eat buffet and dancing to a disc jockey’s rocking tunes. Silent and live auctions, coupled with raffle ticket sales, make the night the organization’s most profitable.John J. Smolinsky, president of the Saugus Federal Credit Union and among the collaborative’s original founders in 1992, recalled its roots are humble at best.”We started in the basement of the Saugus Co-operative Bank,” said Smolinsky, the collaborative president.He noted others at the meeting were attorney Robert Cornetta, a former Saugus town manager since appointed to a judgeship; Saugus banker Joseph Vennard; local funeral director Paul Ciccarelli, then Saugus Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dolores Sarver; Kathy Fiore from the former Fiore Bus Co.; and Mary Sarris, then director of the fledgling Lynn Business Education Foundation.”We sat down and discussed the idea,” he said. “We asked ourselves, what could we do with a business-education collaborative? How could the business community help the town’s schools?”Cornetta completed the necessary paperwork to create the organization and set up a 23-member board, which includes the town manager or a designated person, a representative from the School Committee, the school superintendent, six school principals and 12 from the business community – bankers, brokers, insurance agents and restaurateurs.”We wanted a very broad base. Fundraising efforts started modestly. The credit union gave $200 and received a match,” said Smolinksky. “Then somebody came up with the Taste of Education concept. The restaurants were happy about it because they got to promote their wares. They told us, we’ll come with some food, but you sell the tickets.”Smolinsky said the 300-plus tickets sell for $45 each, bringing in at least $13,500. When proceeds from the raffles and auctions are added, the night’s take can approach $18,000, he said.”That’s not bad for a night’s work. And remember, we do this on a Monday night. But it brings the community together. For $45, people get to eat all the food they want from 21 different restaurants, socialize, have a great time and still feel like they’re contributing to the town’s schools,” he said.In the early days of the collaborative, the local schools applied for mini-grants to fund various projects and programs. “Now, we give allotments to each principal and let them decide how to use the money,” Smolinksy said. “Since we began doing this, we have raised over $150,000.”The collaborative gives out $25,000 annually but takes in only about $18,000. The remainder is made up by businesses such as Wheelabrator Technologies, which runs the waste-to-energy plant in Saugus.”For the past six years, they have given $9,500 a year toward school technology,” Smolinsky said. “That’s $60,000 and we’re very thankful for it.”The collaborative funds the town’s annual Shadow Day, paying for associated meals and teacher stipends. It also helps pay for the Unsung Heroes program in the schools, again assisted by Wheelabrator.John Vasapolli, the town counsel and the town manager’s designee to the collaborative’s Board of Directors, said all funds directly benefit the School Department. “This is a non-profit organization and under the bylaw, the town manager gets a position on the board. I have been the designee since Steve Angelo was town manager and I can say honestly the Taste for Education is a nice night out for a great cause,” he said. “They donate everything back to the schools. We have bought them Smartboards and other equipment. We fund the Unsung Heroes program. The collaborative gives back to the community.”Sarris, currently executive director of the North Shore Workforce Investment Board, al

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