Family keeps mother’s memory alive through charitable foundation

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EAST BRUNSWICK – The Jeanne P. Alessandro Foundation has been serving the  community for more than 15 years, making it this year’s recipient of the Friends of the East Brunswick Recreation, Parks and Community Services Award.

Resident Jeanne Alessandro died in 2002 from colon cancer.

“Basically, after she had passed, a really good friend of ours said at the funeral, ‘Let’s kind of start a foundation in Jeanne’s name,'” said Amanda Alessandro, Jeanne’s daughter who is a foundation board member.

The organization provides funds to the Making It Possible to End Homelessness organization, scholarships to seniors at East Brunswick High School, pre-paid cellphones to domestic violence and sexual assault victims, scholarships to children who attend East Brunswick’s summer camp, funds to provide service dogs to veterans, and funds to the Swim Strong Foundation, according to Alessandro.

“My mom loved sports and she loved to watch my brother play baseball and soccer and everything, so [the foundation] started as giving scholarship money to high school seniors at Raritan High School where my mom went to high school and also at East Brunswick High School where my brother and I graduated high school. Then, we started looking for sports-related causes that we could help out and it kind of evolved into not just sports-related causes, but any cause that helps others and spreads kindness and spreads community,” she said.

The family holds a fundraising event every year at Monmouth Park, and coincidentally was at the race track in June when Jeffrey Litt, camp director for East Brunswick, informed them that he had nominated the Alessandro Foundation for the award and it had won.

“My entire family and the entire board were pretty speechless. We were so honored to receive this type of award. We never created this foundation to get recognition for anything; it was more of, we wanted to just help others and just spread my mom’s memory and keep my mom’s memory alive in that way, so we were really honored to receive that award,” Alessandro said.

The annual award is based on nominations for persons or entities making significant contributions to the township in the areas of parks, recreation and/or community service.

David Lonski, president of the East Brunswick Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, presented the award to Amanda and Thomas Alessandro on July 10 during a Township Council meeting.

“The [board] felt that the community services provided over many years made the recipient very deserving of this recognition,” Lonski said.

“It is an honor to recognize each of these groups from year to year as they are truly what makes a community work. The Jeanne P. Alessandro Foundation is a fantastic example of local community members giving back to their own town and the surrounding community. They have provided numerous opportunities to those less fortunate and have become such a great partner to our department,” said Michael Reissner, director of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Community Services, who was also present to congratulate members of the foundation.

Lonski said that the borough will plant a tree in honor of the foundation this fall in the grove located between the municipal building and community garden.

Besides hosting its annual Monmouth Park fundraiser, the foundation tries to hold other events throughout the year to raise money, Amanda Alessandro said, and also constantly seeks more organizations to support.

For more information, visit www.jpafoundation.org/mission/ or the foundation’s Facebook page.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.