Kathleen DiChiara, CEO of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey, receives HomeTowne TV’s Community Service Award from HTTV President Fred Honold at HTTV’s annual holiday party at the Beacon Hill Club on December 8, 2011. (Photo by Chase Newhart)

“Wrap up the Holidays” was the theme of HomeTowne Television’s annual holiday party held at the Beacon Hill Club in Summit on December 8th. And what better way is there to wrap up the holidays than to honor a person who epitomizes the spirit of holiday giving? Kathleen DiChiara, Founder and CEO of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey, was honored with HTTV’s third annual Community Service Award.

In his introductory remarks, HTTV President Fred Honold noted that Mrs. DiChiara began bringing food to distressed individuals and families in Summit out of the back of her station wagon in 1975. She started the Community Foodbank of New Jersey in 1982 in Newark with a staff of five that distributed 75,000 pounds of food to the hungry. Today the Foodbank has huge distribution centers in Hillside and Egg Harbor Township that employ 150 full time staff and 26,000 volunteers. By partnering with 90 supermarkets and many other food sources, the Foodbank last year gave 39 million pounds of food to 1,500 charitable agencies which in turn helped feed almost one million people in New Jersey.

Mr. Honold further noted the many accolades bestowed on Mrs. DiChiara and the Foodbank. “Forbes magazine selected the Foodbank as one of the top 200 charities in America because the Foodbank ranks very high in statistical measures of effectiveness: it raises a dollar for every penny spent on fund raising and spends only 4% on administrative overhead. Mrs. DiChiara has been honored by many, including three presidents and a pope.”

In a final observation, Mr. Honold praised Mrs. DiChiara’s visionary way of thinking. As an example, she established the Food Service Training Academy which uses the commercial kitchen at the Foodbank’s Hillside facility to train disadvantaged people to be chefs. She has recruited celebrity chefs such as Dennis Foy to help lead the training.

In accepting the award, Mrs. DiChiara noted the progress from her early efforts to distribute food just in Summit, where she had to overcome the popular notion that no one there went to bed hungry. Today, the Foodbank serves almost all of New Jersey and, she said, “More people are hurting than ever before.”

She contrasted the physical hunger for food felt by many people, with “a spiritual hunger on the part of good people who want to help, but they don’t know how or where. We provide opportunities for people to help and at this time we need that help more than ever. One of the services that HomeTowne TV provides is putting on the air the opportunities for people to get involved.”

Mrs. DiChiara concluded her remarks with a heartfelt call to action. “Each one of you out there can make a difference. At this time in our country we need you to do that more than ever, in whatever way that you can. You can give your time, give your talent, give your funds or give all three. It’s needed whether it’s for my organization or the many that are out there. You can make a difference, too. We need you!”

Credit for the evening’s arrangements belonged to HTTV Executive Vice President for Marketing Paula Mooney and her team of dedicated volunteers. The party attracted about 120 guests who spent an enjoyable three hours “Wrapping up the Holidays”.