Project Self-Sufficiency’s executive director, Debra Berry-Toon, stood just past the foyer entrance to Perona Farms last Monday evening. The gala fundraising event was back in person after a two-year hiatus due to COVID. Imagine her thoughts reflecting back to the non-profit’s meager beginnings operating, literally, out of a janitor’s closet to see it evolve to something so huge over the years? Mind boggling. Project Self-Sufficiency’s home has grown to a sprawling campus in Newton, and its numerous vital services are offered all over the area to help those in need
The event is called “A Taste of Talent” and it’s the non-profit’s prime annual fundraiser, featuring restaurants from all over that prepare and serve tapas-style delicacies. Guests move around the rooms at Perona Farms sampling the goodies, such as a steak tar tar from Hayek’s Market, a crab hors d’oeuvres from the Walpack Inn, fine mozzarella from Jersey Girl Cheese, scallops from The North Shore House, ice cream from Cliff’s and many, many other treats from dozens of restauranteurs.
“It’s a fantastic cause and a great event,” said Dan Hayek who owns the popular Newton landmark, Hayek’s Market, with his wife, Denise. “Project Self-Sufficiency is right around the corner from the store and we’re glad to support them in this event and in all they do. The way it works is restaurants are invited to attend and they are given a table. We bring all the food and supplies to prepare it.”
Perona Farms Executive Chef Kirk Avondoglio said he was delighted to host the event and is glad it’s back after COVID.
“What a wonderful event,” he said. “I look forward to it every year. It’s nice to see all the chefs come together. There is a lot of camaraderie, and it does so much for the people served by Project Self-Sufficiency. It’s their biggest fundraiser of the year.”
Participating restaurants and chefs included:1776 by David Burke, Andre’s Lakeside Dining, Angry Erik Brewing, Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse, Cafe Pierrot, Caffe NaVona, Cake Pop Bar, Capital Grille, Chef Anthony Lo Pinto, Chef Tim Schafer, The Chocolate Goat Gift Shoppe, Clay Oven, Cliff’s Ice Cream, Cranky Noodles, Crossed Keys Inn, Czig Meister Brewing, Dakine Cuisine, Emily’s Hearth, Essex County Country Club, the Farmer’s Daughter, Fossil Farms, Fran’s Farmhouse Kitchen, Garriss General Store, George’s Wine & Spirits Gallery, Gourmet Gallery, Hayek’s Market, Home Made, Hunter’s Lodge, Indian Masala, Jersey Girl Cheese, Krave Caterers, La Vita Italian Specialties, Lorraine’s Cake Shop & Tea Room, Mama’s Cafe Baci, Mr. Crabby’s Craft Kitchen & Bar, North Shore House, O’Reilly’s Pub and Grill, Passionate Chef, Pattycakes, Perona Farms, Springhouse Creamery, St. Moritz Bar & Grill, Sussex County Community College Culinary Arts & Hospitality Program, Tanti Baci Caffe, Walpack Inn, and White Birch.
Music was provided by a variety of individuals and groups, including the Colofonia Trio, cellists Aubrey and Rachel Kline and Aimee Nishimura, Meant to Be, the Pro Tempos, students from the Sparta High School Chamber Club, the Skylands Dulcimer String Band, and the Sussex Brass Quintet.
“We’re just so glad to be back doing this event in person,” said Gary Kraemer, a partner at Dagget & Kraemer Attorneys at Law and a member of Pro Tempos. He plays guitar and his wife, Carol, plays the violin, chiming in with the others in the band. “We’re right up front so get to welcome people into the event, say hello to friends we haven’t seen in a while and enjoy the great food.”
A Taste of Talent directly benefits those in need in the community and is “the cornerstone” to this annual event, said Berry-Toon.
“We are exceptionally grateful for the time, talent and resources provided by the Avondoglio family, as well as all of the chefs and the musicians who have contributed to this event year after year, and to the entire community for their support of our programs for low-income families,” she said.
Brian Lytwynec is a member of the board at Project Self-Sufficiency.
“Project Self-Sufficiency offers a broad spectrum of help to the community, from help with emergency needs to life skills and education,” he said. “A Taste of Talent supports Project Self-Sufficiency’s work and allows it to continue the agency’s impact across generations.”
Project Self-Sufficiency of Sussex County was established in 1986 with funding from various state departments and initiatives. It began operating out of two storage closets at the Sussex County Technical School with a staff of two full-time professionals. Since then, it’s grown exponentially and has become a vital resource for many. The five-acre site includes the Selective Insurance Career Training & Employment Center, the B. Douglas Gordon & Elizabeth Houskeeper Gordon Family Counseling Center, the Senator Robert E. Littell Family Literacy Center, the B. Douglas Gordon & Elizabeth Houskeeper Gordon Little Sprouts Early Learning Center, and a large Community Education Center. Then, there’s “Journey,” a refit RV that enables the agency to reach residents in the more remote regions of Sussex and northern Morris counties where residents might not have easy access to a car or public transportation. The RV is staffed by a driver, a case manager, and a computer instructor and travels according to a set schedule throughout Morris and Sussex counties.
A “journey” it truly has been for Project Self-Sufficiency. It’s achieved and continues to achieve its mantra again and again: “Project Self-Sufficiency has empowered vulnerable families to achieve stability and self-sufficiency through comprehensive programs that build self-confidence and self-reliance.”
About Project Self-Sufficiency
Project Self-Sufficiency is a community-based non-profit organization that specializes in services for low-income families in northwestern New Jersey. Programs offered at Project Self-Sufficiency include family literacy education, computer training and job placement services, assistance with parenting skills, childcare, counseling and advocacy, referrals, and help with emergency basic needs. To donate, or for more information about the programs and services offered by Project Self-Sufficiency, visit projectselfsufficiency.org or call 973-940-3500.