There aren't too many things more important to the Oceanport Lion's Club (OLC) than the people of Oceanport. At the Oct. 18 Board of Education's public meeting, the OLC presented the Oceanport school district with a donation check in the amount of $3,500 - which included a $500 donation from Caputo's Pastry Shoppe, Long Branch.
Every year, the OLC holds the annual Strawberry Festival, which has been a long standing tradition of the people of Oceanport for the past 50 years. Back in the early 1960's, the Strawberry Festival was first held in the church basement on Main Street, Oceanport. As attendance grew, the festival was eventually moved to the Oceanport Maple Place Middle School. Many years later, the festival was relocated to the parking lot at Monmouth Park Racetrack, where it evolved over the course of 15 years into a huge carnival attraction that drew in thousands of people from all over the state. As the festival grew each year, it began to lose that close-knit community value on which the event was originally founded. The Oceanport Lion's decided they wanted to scale it down, and bring it back to the people of Oceanport at the Maple Place Middle School.
"Oceanport school board member Kelly McGowan was a key player in helping the Lions bring the festival back to the school. We couldn't have done it without her help," says Oceanport Lion John Bonforte, Sr. "School board member Joan Osgoodby was also helpful by donating the creative marketing pieces to help advertise the changed venue, so the people of Oceanport would know that we had our tradition back."
Bringing the festival back to the community was certainly a step in the right direction, but the festival couldn't go on without the generosity of Joey Caputo of Caputo's Pastry Shoppe, Long Branch. For the past 53 years, Caputo has donated all the whipped cream and strawberry short cakes.
Each year, the OLC donates most of the proceeds generated from the festival to the Oceanport school district. To acknowledge Caputo for his generous contribution, the OLC earmarks $500 of the proceeds to benefit a cause of Caputo's choice. This year, Caputo asked that the $500 donation go to special services in the Oceanport schools; making the pooled donation a whopping $3,500 to be split evenly between Maple Place Middle School and Wolf Hill Elementary School.
"The school district is so appreciative of the efforts put forth by the Oceanport Lion's Club, and we can't thank them enough. Year after year, they generously donate most of the proceeds to our schools," says Superintendent Andrew Orefice. When asked what this year's donation will benefit, he added, "There are certainly many areas where we can use the extra money. We are currently considering putting it toward our Leveled Library Initiative to promote balanced literacy in our schools. The donation will expand what we can do beyond what we planned for with our current budget."
"Oceanport is a community measured by what it provides for its citizens, and what its citizens contribute toward its future," says Bonforte, Sr. "It's a special place with devoted residents who offer their time and talent freely. Many residents go back three and four generations. It's why Oceanport children grow up and plant their roots here. It's where they build their lives to raise the next generation."