Pasta and meatball dinners bring families together for a new playground at Wolfe Park

Volunteers at a serving station for the Monroe Playground Foundation Friday Family Supper Night at Monroe Congregational Church are 13-year-olds, from left, Joshua Scinto, Kendyl Roelofsen, Olivia Vanderheyden and Olivia Beloblosky.

Teenagers dished out ziti, meatballs and bread at a serving station inside the Rexford House dining room at Monroe Congregational Church, and Nina Gagnon stirred a pot of tomato sauce next to a bowl of meatballs in the kitchen Friday night. Fellow volunteer Frank Bent made sure the loaves of Italian bread in the oven didn’t burn.

Mike Ganino, co-treasurer of the Monroe Playground Foundation expected to feed between 100 and 150 guests at the first Friday Family Supper Night, a fundraiser to rebuild the Kids Kreation Wooden Playground at Wolfe Park.

“We’re trying to bring families together, because families really use the playground and families are the backbone of our community,” he said. “We want to share a meal and tell our story about the playground.”

Ganino said he and his wife, Gloria, moved to town from Bridgeport 18 years ago, adding, “when we saw the park, our eyes lit up over what life could be like once we had kids.”

Now that their children are ages 12, 13 and 15, Ganino said the new playground, with safer modern equipment that can be enjoyed by all children, even those with disabilities, will benefit the next generation of Monroe’s children.

The Monroe Playground Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, is raising money for the $400,000 project with a target date of construction in May of 2020. It garnered close to $95,000 so far, according to Ganino.

A thermometer in front of Wolfe Park on Cutlers Farm Road tracks the progress of the fundraising effort.

The first fundraising event was A Party in the Park last spring and Friday’s dinner is the first in a series of five scheduled events. Ganino expressed his gratitude to Monroe Congregational Church, which is donating its space for every one.

Breakfast for Dinner is scheduled for Nov. 15, Taco Night is Dec. 13, Celebrate Comfort Food is Jan. 10 and Soup-er Bowl Throw-Down & Sandwiches is Jan. 31.

For information and to preregister tickets for a discount, visit this link. Tickets are $10 per person and kids younger-than-five eat for free or it is $40 for a family of four or more.

Tickets at the door cost $12 per person, children younger-than-five eat for two dollars and it is $45 for a family of four or more.

Takeout is also available.

For information about the playground project and how to sponsor equipment, make a donation or volunteer for the community build, visit the Monroe Playground Foundation website.

Memories for young and old

On Friday night an artist’s rendering of the park project was on display by the door and volunteers greeted guests and sold raffle tickets for gift baskets sponsored by the Ganinos.

“We have 25 volunteers tonight, from 11-years-old to people who are grandparents,” Ganino said. “It’s wonderful to get the community together and be part of the revitalization of the playground. Tonight isn’t just about fundraising. It’s about creating memories and being together. I’m impressed with the kids helping out, who are in middle and high school.”

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