By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services (SYFS) will hold its annual Masquerade Gala Saturday, March 12, at St. John’s High School. The event is open to the public and raises much needed funds for a vital community institution. Last year, the fundraiser added $95,000 to the nonprofit’s budget. According to Terry Cassidy, executive director, nearly 50 percent of SYFS’s revenue comes directly from fundraising, with the gala raising the lion’s share.
To reap this reward requires a huge investment of time and hard work by a dedicated core of volunteers and staff, the commitment of supportive donors, and an umbrella of local businesses who share their services and expertise. The gala generates publicity for a worthy organization, brings donors together, and gives everybody involved the opportunity to show their backing for SYFS.
The Cause: SYFS provides needed services including counseling, social services, education and positive youth development programs for the town of Shrewsbury. Cassidy elaborated on some of the problems that she and her staff deal with.
“We help students who suffer from debilitating anxiety,” she said. “Often their symptoms are so severe that they have difficulty leaving their homes, attending school or even socializing with friends. Our therapists use proven techniques to help them manage their stress, cope and practice interventions to alleviate their symptoms.
“Recently we had a father who had come to this country as a refugee. He had two small children and no family or friends. Our office helped him connect to childcare, housing options and employment opportunities. He was moved to tears that SYFS helped him.
“Right now there is tremendous concern about the opioid crisis, so we’ve formed the Coalition for Addiction Prevention and Education to promote drug prevention activities. Our ‘Way to Go Guys’ program helps middle school boys. For seniors, we have a program called, ‘Live Your Life Well’ that helps the elderly deal with depression and so much loss such as health, loved ones, mobility, etc. One member is 99 years young and has been attending for two years.”
The Volunteers: Maria Munro, the gala chair, has refocused her efforts as a community volunteer on guiding her committee of about 20 people to produce the 12th annual Gala. Her team includes sub-committees for promotion and media, live and silent auctions, decorating, entertainment and venue, sponsorships, technical support and volunteer training. Twenty-five student volunteers from Shrewsbury and St. John’s high schools will handle the coat check, greet the guests, take people to their tables, hand out masks if needed and help with the professional photographer.
“This job has allowed me the opportunity to help an organization which I deeply believe in,” said Munro.
“Our hope for this year’s Masquerade Gala is that all Shrewsbury residents, whether they’ve attended past SYFS galas or are new to the event, join us for a fabulous and fun evening that supports this incredibly important community organization,” said Sara Port, who is handling the public relations and marketing. First time guests often turn into reliable supporters to continue the SYFS mission.
The Event: Using fanciful masks and beads galore as part of the masquerade theme, “guests can expect an amazing cocktail hour and a plated dinner by Struck Catering, musical entertainment by songstress extraordinaire Gail Fabbri, elaborate floral arrangements by Danielson Flowers, photos by Joyce Maranto and plenty of glitz, glamour and intrigue,” Munro said.
Professional auctioneer John Terrio will provide a fast-paced and entertaining live auction. Some items include a weeklong stay at the Harborside Resort Atlantis, tickets to the James Taylor/Jackson Browne concert at Fenway; Kenny Chesney at Gillette Stadium; Jason Aldean at Mohegan Sun; and Red Sox tickets. Struck Catering and Niche Hospitality have donated dinners. State Representative Hannah Kane, R-Shrewsbury, donated a Beacon Hill experience and Sachs Jewelers, a custom-designed piece. The silent auction allows guest to bid on everything from sporting tickets and golf outings to wine baskets and spa packages.
Grossman Development Group, which is developing the Lakeway Commons property on Route 9, is once again the overall presenting sponsor.
The Honoree: Elaine LeBlanc, director of human services at St. Anne’s Church, will be honored as the recipient of the Harry S. Cutting Jr. Award, which is awarded to one who embodies the spirit of giving, community service and support for the Shrewsbury community.
The Tickets: Tables of 10 may be reserved. Tickets are $100 per person and can be obtained by calling 508-845-6932, online at syfs-ma.org or by mailing checks payable to SYFS, 240 Maple Ave., Shrewsbury, MA 01545.