Boosters raise nearly 5K for WAA


If last Friday night’s first-ever Wreaths across America Wine & Beer Tasting Event offers any measuring stick, organizers and sponsors may have to look for another venue.

For starters, upwards of 150 people came to the famed Kelley-Gazzerro VFW Post 2812 on Plainfield Pike and helped the Ponaganset High School Football Boosters Club raise nearly $5,000 for the highly-acclaimed local operation of WAC.

Perhaps Vin LaFazia, a long-time Johnston resident and committee member said it best about the unique fun and food fundraiser that many people will attest was very much like a class reunion.

“The turnout was terrific,” LaFazia said with a smile on his face. “Hey, five thousand bucks for just two hours of work … that’s nothing to sneeze at!”

To which Mike Calenda, a former Johnston Police officer who now teaches Social Studies at Ponaganet High School, offered, “We are extremely happy – and thankful – for the terrific turnout of people who came out to support Wreaths across American and our veterans.”

Calenda, who heaped words of praise upon the organizing committee and super sponsors Graham Builders and Tri-Town Wine & Spirits, also wanted it known, “The nearly $5,000 we raised will be used to purchase wreaths that will be placed at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery during a special ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14th.”

The WAC volunteer director also announced that “portions of the proceeds will be used for the Wreaths across America Veterans Recognition Ceremony scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Ponaganset High School beginning at 9 a.m. and the event, he also announced, is open to the open to the public.

Meanwhile, as Calenda began thanking people for their support of the Wine & Beer tasting, the Grahams – David and Judi – who own and operate Graham Builders of Smithfield and have long been supporters of countless community projects, were happy with the event’s results.

“We’re very happy!” Judi Graham exclaimed. “For a first time event I thought it was super and can only grow. I’m sure we’ll do it again. Again, we’re very happy with the net result.”

Steve Larco, co-owner of Tri-Town Wine & Spirits offered, “Everyone had fun, the food (supplied by Spirito’s Restaurant that’s located at the Kelley-Gazzerro} was great and people were very generous when it came to the raffle. I’m honored to be part of such an important event, one that continues recognition for all veterans.”

Perhaps a classic example of the night’s fun came when David Del Gallo agreed to have his picture taken as he held his complimentary glass for Merideth Fontaine-Dionne to pour some Green Zelora Tea beer as her husband Brandon Dionne and Steve Macchioni looked on.

“Great mix,” Macchioni, who is a noted beverage sales executive and committee members, offered. “Green Tea (beer) and nearly 5,000 green backs; it doesn’t get any better than that.” 


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