When I returned home last Thursday evening from Jazz in the Garden, I pulled into my driveway and had to decompress back to what is my reality.
Wow - what a terrific event that was held at the palatial Wintersville home of gracious hosts Derek and Lisa Ferguson - a perfect place for entertaining, that's for sure.
And what beautiful weather, food and music courtesy of the Sunny Sunseri Jazz Group combined for a true celebration that at its heart is the generosity of Jefferson Society members to help others in need.
Hosts Derek and Lisa Ferguson
Jazz in the Garden applauds the contributions of Jefferson Society members of the United Way of Jefferson County. The society was created under the leadership of William Wolter, the late Arthur D'Anniballe and Sue Hershey to encourage and recognize outstanding leadership giving among individuals. During the past 16 years, that has translated into more than $1.5 million to help the United Way's 17 member agencies throughout the county.
Ross Gallabrese, president of the United Way's board of directors, told supporters on hand about the components that ensure a successful United Way campaign. One is a loyal and dedicated board of directors; another is a great campaign chair - Anthony Mougianis is the 2013 leader. Yet another is support in the office with Ame Taggart as the United Way's interim executive director as Nancy Grim has left to pursue other interests.
"But the fourth component is each and every person who is with us here this evening who donate your time, your money, people who volunteer your services to help make every United Way campaign a success," Gallabrese said in offering words of gratitude.
Mougianis, who joked that he'd gladly move into the guest house should the Fergusons have a vacancy, said it was his honor to chair the campaign.
"We're one of the only United Ways in America that meets its goals continuously and that struck me as very important, and I wanted to be a part of excellence," he said.
"The late great Woody Hayes would say we cannot pay back the past. That has passed us - it's beyond us. The only thing that we can do when we have been blessed by God with wonderful things we have in our lives is to have an opportunity to pay forward, and that's what we do and all of you do by being here. This is the bricks and mortar of the United Way right here, and God bless you so much for helping us. We look forward to having a record-setting campaign this year," he said.
His parting words? "Dig deep," he quipped.
Anita Jackson, Jefferson Society chair and event coordinator, expressed appreciation to the Fergusons for hosting the event and to the society solicitation group who year after year step up to the plate. "I am so proud of them," Jackson said.
Event sponsors applauded for making the evening possible included Tri-State Security, World Radio Telecommunications, Brightway Center, Teramana Enterprises/Hollywood City Center, Jackson, Apollo Professional Cleaning & Restoration and First Choice America Federal Credit Union. In-kind gifts and discounts came from McCauslens Florists Inc., Piergallini's Catering, the Sunny Sunseri Jazz Group and Tri-State Printing.
Three 2012 Hall of Fame inductees were introduced by Christine Hargrave, coordinator, as "folks who have gone the extra mile for our United Way."
First up was Gallabrese, who "knows the pulse of the community, lives in it, works in it, raised kids in it and helps us all to know more about it, a bit of an actor-comedian who brings to each task a light-hearted approach which keeps his peers enthusiastic no matter how hard the work ahead."
Hargrave credited Gallabrese with presenting "innovative ideas especially to help in those last hectic days to put the campaign over the top. He's been instrumental in bringing the 2-1-1 service to our community and has worked with the team to have the first year of that endeavor be funded by grant dollars," she said of the three-digit information and referral service.
Hargrave next inducted Dr. Sunny Sunseri for the musical element he and his jazz group have brought to the festivities for so many years.
"Each year the group is slightly different and each year slightly better. I don't know how they improve on perfection," Hargrave said. "The harmony and easy listening they bring to this event is one of the reasons so many people look forward to what we affectionately call the jazz."
The third inductee is someone Hargrave says she has a lot in common with, from love of travel and big families to believing food and wine are to be savored and shared.
Todd Piergallini of Piergallini's Catering and his team were applauded for each year making the cuisine "refreshing, exciting and delicious. He and his team of hard workers set before us the most inviting and tasty treats," she said.
And so, another Jazz in the Garden is history but not the work of the United Way campaign.
Keep your calendars clear for the palate-pleasing 18th-annual Taste of the County set for Oct. 9 at St. Florian Hall. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $30 and available by calling the United Way office at (740) 284-9000. See you there!