For 29 years, the Greater Ocean Township Chamber of Commerce has offered scholarships to deserving well-rounded high school seniors who excelled in the area of community service. The funds for these scholarships were generated by a comedy night and gift auction. For every one of the 29 years, Nicholas Blanda, a founding chamber member, past President and Hall of Fame inductee, has either chaired or co-chaired the event and overseen the distribution of scholarships.
This year’s event took place on Sept. 19 and a week later Blanda died unexpectedly.
Soon after it was decided to create the Nicholas Blanda Memorial Scholarship which will be offered every year to the most outstanding applicant.
Blanda was a great story teller and loved to tell the history of the scholarship program beginning with its first year when he co-chaired with his best friend Dr. Philip Agrios. It was held at Rascals Comedy Club on Monday night when the house was dark. While it was a successful event, without the gift auction in the early days, it was a learning experience. It allowed the Chamber to offer one $500 scholarship. As Blanda would explain, the chamber didn’t make enough for a $500 scholarship so the Chamber had to kick in.
The event grew year after year selling out at Rascals. Then GOTCC member, now a Florida resident, Leona Fundler wanted to incorporate a gift auction and chaired that portion of the event. Over the years that grew as well. Once Rascals closed their doors the event was moved to other local venues, every few years moving on because more space was needed. It has been held for the last four years at Ocean’s Buona Sera Palazzo, in the new St. George Greek Orthodox Church and maxes out at 320 people – a sell out every year.
Blanda was very proud of the event and had hoped to retire from his post as chair after 30 years. Unfortunately he only made it to 29, but helped raise a great deal of scholarship money for a lot of community-minded students over his reign.
The winners of the 2017 scholarships will be presented with their awards at the Chamber’s annual Awards and Installation Luncheon at the English Manor on Jan. 17. The first ever winner of the Nicholas Blanda Memorial Scholarship will be will be Dean Golan, a student from Ocean who attends the prestigious MAST High School (Monmouth County Marine Academy of Science & Technology). Other scholarship recipients will include Ocean Township High School’s John Butler, Madison Dietrich, Thomas Lavin, Michael Mauro and Stefan Olaguera of MAST High School.
The event is open to all will feature a buffet luncheon at a cost of $35 per person. There will be a cash bar available. Advance registration is required at www.GOTCC.org and can be paid with check, credit/debit or credit card or by using a card over the phone with the Chamber office at 732-660-1888.