Friendsgiving 2023:  A Very Thankful Thursday 

We are very grateful to our
Major Donors
to the
HPA's First  Friendsgiving 

Barbara Tanis
The Link Family
The Sciarra Family
Kathy Donnelly
Joanne Graziano

On Thursday, November 16, the Hawthorne Pride Alliance,  in conjunction with Passaic County Community College, sponsored its very first Friendsgiving which drew over thirty people who feasted on a turkey dinner created by the culinary students of the college.  Although this event was free to the public courtesy of Passaic County Community College, many guests gave generous donations to the HPA. The HPA gratefully acknowledges, Barbara Tanis, Kathy Donnelly, Joanne Graziano, Elissa Link, John Bruce, Sandy Wahba, Cathy Raiaand and the Sciarra Family for their generous donations. Their contributions help support our goals.

The concept  of “Friendsgiving” started over a year ago as the HPA wanted to bring the community together in a festive way.  The invitation was opened to the public as well as the students of local colleges and universities who have been shunned by their families based on their sexuality.

President Steven M. Rose welcomed those in attendance, stressing the evening was about “community, friends and family” and hoping “this is one of the many events the HPA will do in conjunction with the college.”

After President Rose spoke, those in attendance engaged in an interactive Bingo game that was LGBTQ+ themed. Prizes were given to the first three winners.

Mike Stracco, the President of the HPA introduced the HPA Executive Board (Erica Muszynski, Krissy Sciarra, Hope Foley, and Wendi Marak), and the Friendsgiving Committee (from the HPA:  Harrison Bruining, Samantha Bruining, Kathy Donnelly and Joanne Graziano; from Passaic County Community College: President Steve Rose, Teya Eaton, Enrollment Services, and Lisa Jones, Assistant Director/ Coordinator of Student Services ).

 Stracco, in his welcoming message said, “ The HPA was started with a change in mind.  At the beginning, we asked ourselves when will the change begin? When will it start to happen?  When will our light shine?  How can we make sure our light shines in a conflicted world?  In time, we found our answer.  The change began the moment we saw it in ourselves. It happened when we believed in ourselves  and did not despair; when we loved and did not  fear, when we gave and did not take. It was then we saw the change happen and in time happened around us.  We realized the answer was within each of us, waiting for us. Tonight we are thankful for all you and we are looking forward to “Doing more in 2024”.  Tonight we celebrate the work we have done and the work we will continue to do - all of us together.  The HPA is not only grateful to PCCC and their staff, but we are grateful to each and every one of you.”

Before dessert was served, the cast  (Patrick Dwyer, Robert Laub, Roseann Puzo, Richard Pearson, Jess Hope Katz, and Wendi Marak ) of “It’s A Wonderful Life : A Live Radio Play” , the annual theatrical production by the Alliance’s Pride Players, performed a brief tease of the show with rounding success.  Tickets for the show are now on sale and are available here.

Wendi Marak, the HPA’s Executive Secretary added, “ It was a lovely event and it was so encouraging to see a wide variety of attendees from elected officials to high school students.  Everyone chatted with each other  and left with a warm feeling as if you had hugged old friends while making new ones.”  

Stracco added, “tonight was a huge success. We are so very thankful for the hospitality of Passaic County College and its staff.  One of the most memorable things that happened tonight was we were approached by students of PCCC who wanted to be involved not only in the upcoming production, but in the HPA.  That is what we, as the HPA, are about. This idea of building community and inspiring others to be elements of change makes what we do all worth it.”