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Sunday, May 29, 2011

WALLINGFORD FIREWORKS FUND - Charity saves the day

Fireworks show must go on in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal, Saturday, May 28, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — For the second year in a row, private donations will fund Wallingford’s Fourth of July weekend fireworks display after the town dropped the celebration from its budget.

Jason Zandri, who successfully led the fundraising charge last year, came up with the $24,150 needed only hours before Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s Friday afternoon deadline.

Zandri said the group was about $6,000 short of its goal at the beginning of the week, but made the final push thanks in part to a $2,500 donation from the New Life Church in Meriden (

“It’s very gratifying to know that we made the deadline,” said Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, who helped Zandri on the fundraising effort.

Fishbein said he had some doubts about a month ago that the money could be raised in time, but Zandri was confident the money would come.

“I wasn’t able to help as much as I did last year,” Fishbein said. “For Jason, this is a labor of love. His confidence and work ethic should be heralded.”

As of 11 p.m. Thursday, Zandri had posted on his blog that the group still needed $1,288.

Zandri took off from work Friday and started collecting money at the Dunkin’ Donuts on North Colony Road at 7 a.m. while his father collected at the Dunkin’ Donuts on South Colony Road. Jason Zandri said that he was able to raise nearly $200 Friday morning before he collected the $2,500 check from the Rev. Will Marotti. Zandri said additional donations were collected at the Stop & Shop in town.

Dickinson said it was good that Zandri raised the money in time and applauded the successful effort. Dickinson said the town would begin to appropriate the money and plan for the show. He said the check was delivered to Town Hall about 2:30 p.m. Friday.

While Zandri has made the deadline each of the last two years, it hasn’t been easy. In 2010, Choate’s $5,000 donation pushed the fund past its $30,000 goal. This year, the money wasn’t raised until the eleventh hour. Even though fundraising efforts started earlier this year — and the group earned 501(c)(3) status, making its donations tax deductible — Zandri said it wasn’t until the last few weeks that the checks started rolling in.

Zandri said he hopes to get more volunteers next year, and that the current group of himself, his father and Fishbein “isn’t sustainable.” He said he hopes to form a committee next year to help better coordinate the effort.

Fishbein said that the group’s three fundraisers — a dinner, a concert and a movie matinee — didn’t draw many people from the community. Fishbein attributed the success to a number of small donations and “grassroots fundraising and going door to door.”

Fishbein said he doesn’t foresee the town providing taxpayer dollars for the event in the near future, and that residents should get used to chipping in for the fireworks.

“I’ve said all along, this event is for the people, by the people,” Fishbein said. “If the residents of the town want this event, then they should volunteer.”

The fireworks are scheduled for July 2 at 9 p.m.

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