NORTH BRUNSWICK – A township resident who has spent almost 20 years with the North Brunswick Food Bank is being lauded for her efforts.
Kathy Aruta will receive the Ann Marie Chandlee Heritage Day Award on Oct. 7 as part of the 35th annual North Brunswick Heritage Day festival at North Brunswick Community Park.
Although she will not be in attendance due to a prior commitment, it is fitting that the Rev. John Polyak of Our Lady of Peace Church will accept the award on her behalf, since he is the reason she initially got involved with the food bank.
“I’m feeling very blessed, and it makes me feel good that people feel I made a difference in the community because I think I have,” she said.
Aruta began by helping Ann Marie McHugh, who had founded the food bank on Nov. 1, 1996, and then became director herself.
More than 20 volunteers and delivery people make bags, stock shelves and assist clients from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday and from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday. Some volunteers are well into their 80s or 90s, while students from Linwood Middle School help during the holidays. Many are part of the Knights of Columbus at Our Lady of Peace church.
“I couldn’t do it without them,” Aruta said. “I have a great staff of volunteers.”
Aruta also assists with Meals on Wheels, Operation Holiday Cheer, and a giving tree with mayoral assistant Janice Larkin.
“It’s very rewarding to me when someone comes to us in tears but then they’re happy when they leave. We relieve stress, to a degree, when they don’t know where their food is going to come from,” Aruta said. “This is our home. I don’t want people in my home being stressed about food.”
She also thanked the residents of her hometown for their continued generosity.
“The people in North Brunswick keep the food bank going, even though this food bank keeps growing,” she said.
The Heritage Day Award will be presented at 7 p.m., followed by a performance by the ’90s band Nine Deeez Nite and a fireworks display.
Beginning at 1 p.m., there will be a fun-filled day of crafters, vendors, food, music, rides, dancing, a petting zoo, a beer garden, a beard/mustache contest, and lawn games sponsored by the North Brunswick PBA and the Heritage Day Committee.
Musical entertainment includes Oktoberfest music by Metropolitan Festival Band, Latin music by Temp Alegre, jazz and blues by GMJ and reggae by RazRoot.
The rain date is Oct. 8.
For more information, call 732-247-0922, ext. 475 or visit www.northbrunswicknj.gov.