by Elsie Walker
Mardi Gras is usually associated with jazzy New Orleans; but on March 3rd , at 10:30am, the sounds of Mardi Gras will be closer to home. The Stanhope United Methodist Church in Netcong will be holding its 7th annual Mardi Gras fundraiser breakfast for hurricane relief. Funds raised will go help those in areas affected by the hurricanes that have hit the country in the past several years. The fundraiser, held in the church’s fellowship hall, will be a breakfast with live and recorded jazz music. A free-will offering will be taken. Prior to it, the Sunday service at 9:30am will feature live jazz music along with hymns and contemporary Christian songs. An offering will be taken for Hurricane Relief. All are welcome to attend the breakfast and/or the service.
Scott Lefurge, of Andover, explained how the event came to be and where the funds donated go. He is the president of the church’s United Methodist Men’s group which sponsors the yearly event.
“After Hurricane Sandy, I came up with the idea of having an event to raise funds and awareness for local New Jersey Hurricane Relief efforts. I thought if we had an event like a pancake breakfast like people do on Fat Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, it might work well. We thought if we held it on a Sunday, we could have the pancake breakfast event in addition to our worship service. Since the event would occur on the Sunday before Mardi Gras, we would use that as our theme and the idea to add live jazz music was born. People really seem to love this event and come out to support it,” he said.
While the event started as a response to Hurricane Sandy relief and continued as that for the first five years, the need has expanded, since Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence and Michael hit, affecting Puerto Rico and parts of the United States.
“To help out with Hurricane Relief in a bigger way, last year we raised funds for UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee On Relief). We chose UMCOR as our charity because it is directly affiliated with the United Methodist Church and allows us to give the funds directly for Hurricane Relief efforts,” explained Lefurge. All the funds raised go to Hurricane Relief.
Of course, to have a jazz breakfast, you need food and music. The menu for the breakfast will include the traditional pancakes and sausage along with fresh fruit. Homemade waffles will also be served. Lefurge noted that the waffles have been a big hit with attendees since they were added to the menu a few years ago. As for the live music at the worship service and breakfast, this is an area in which Lefurge’s personal expertise comes into play in getting musicians. He is a saxophone player, Instrumental Music Teacher for Bedminster Township Schools, and has been involved with other musical projects. Through his work, he has made different contacts. As a result, the musical offerings for the fundraiser have grown over the years.
“When we began in 2013, we were happy to have a jazz trio and quartet performing. In 2017, we had a nine-piece jazz ensemble play at our worship service and several jazz soloists, duets, combos and ensembles perform at our breakfast. Last year, in 2018, God blessed us with a record number of 16 musicians for our jazz ensemble. This year, with God’s help, we hope we can exceed the number of jazz musicians performing with us. The live performances by the musicians really make this event memorable,” he said.
He noted that in past years jazz musicians from Kutztown University, Bedminster Township School, Bernards High School, Lenape Valley Regional High School and within the Stanhope United Methodist Church have joined in making music.
When asked about sharing some of the pieces people will be hearing, Lefurge said that there will be jazz renditions of “When the Saints Go Marching In” ” The Old Rugged Cross” , “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” along with his personal favorite, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” .
Lefurge noted that since the first Jazz breakfast, $4000 has been raised towards Hurricane Relief efforts. He would love the event to raise $500 to $1000 this year. To sum it up, Lefurge said, “this is the event everyone will talk about and you won’t want to miss!”