By Lori Draz
The Journal magazine is enormously proud that we and owner/publisher Louis Francis Mercatanti have been chosen to receive the prestigious Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce (EMACC) Spinnaker Award for Community Service. We are equally honored to be among the company of such influential honorees. As we look forward to the awards event, to be held on January 26 at The Shadowbrook in Shrewsbury, we thought you’d like to get to know the other honorees a little better. Each month, leading up to the awards, we profile some of our fellow honorees. For more information on the Eastern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce, or tickets and sponsorship opportunities for the Spinnaker Awards, featuring live entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, open bar (beer and wine), a silent auction to benefit the EMACC education scholarship fund, and a plated sit-down dinner, call the chamber at (732) 741-0055 or visit www.emacc.org.
Meet the Non-Profit Organization of the Year, awarded to a non-profit organization that provides consistent quality programs and services to the community: SPUR (Special People United to Ride)
Special People United to Ride (SPUR) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides children and adults with disabilities, veterans, and active duty military the opportunity to achieve personal goals through therapeutic horsemanship. The Monmouth County Park System’s Sunnyside Equestrian Center provides a safe environment for students to enjoy the freedom of riding and handling a horse. Instructors are certified by PATH International, the governing body of Therapeutic Horsemanship. In addition to 12 staff members, there are over 100 volunteers who help with programs serving more than 200 students annually.
It is the mission of the board of directors of SPUR to raise funds for the assistance of individuals with disabilities through need-based scholarships. In addition, the board provides material assistance to the park system as needed. The MCPS runs the facility and programs and also participates in, as well as sponsors, a number of horse shows and competitions throughout the year.
SPUR began in the late 1970s when a local therapeutic riding program was looking for a home and approached the MCPS about using the East Freehold Park Showgrounds. In 1978, it moved to a private farm in Middletown with a staff of two. In 1980, the program moved to a more permanent location at the park system’s headquarters in Thompson Park. That year, with one instructor, four leased horses, and 31 volunteers, 33 special needs students experienced the benefits of horseback riding.
In 1981, SPUR was incorporated, forming a board of directors with a park liaison. In 1989, the SPUR board entered into a formal agreement with the MCPS. The park system would provide a site, equipment, support, and program staff. SPUR’s board would become the source for public relations and raise funds for scholarships, horse acquisition and retirement, and other incidentals deemed necessary, like instructor training. This was also the year that the program moved to Huber Woods Park. In the late 1990s, the board made the commitment to “think big,” launching major fundraising drives in 1997, 1998, and 2000 with the objective of building a new facility.
Phase I of SPUR’s new home was completed in 2002 at the Neuberger Farm in Middletown, now owned by the MCPS and renamed Sunnyside Equestrian Center. The facility includes paddocks, an outdoor sand instruction ring, an 80’ x 200’ indoor instructional arena, and an 18-stall barn complex. Phase II, including an arena viewing area, classrooms, and offices, opened in 2008. Sunnyside, like all MCPS Parks, is open to the public.
Lawrence Anderson, board president, recently reported, “Ridership continues to increase to record levels. In addition, families receiving assistance through SPUR scholarships has risen from 5% of riders four years ago to 25% today. The board has committed over $40,000 for scholarships in 2016. SPUR is truly a magical place. We are honored that the EMACC has chosen SPUR as the Non-Profit Organization of the Year.” SPUR holds a variety of events throughout the year to raise funds for scholarships. Visit www.spuronline.org for updated information on the program and upcoming events.
Meet the Eastern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce (EMACC)
In June of 1928, 12 Red Bank businessmen met to sign the articles of incorporation for the Chamber of Commerce of Red Bank “to promote the economic, civil, and social welfare of the people of Red Bank and vicinity.” Seventy-five years and more than 500 members later, they’re still at it, helping businesses, organizations, residents, and visitors in Red Bank and beyond.
With their original focus on Red Bank proper, the chamber’s most popular projects were the ones that united the business and residential community. Outdoor art shows, Christmas lightings, PBA dinners, fireworks displays, and parades were the result of the collective efforts of chamber members and community volunteers.
In 1959, the Red Bank Retail Trade Board, a chamber sub-committee, was established. Its primary activity was the creation of special promotional campaigns and events – boat shows, sidewalk sale days, holiday promotions, food festivals – to lure shoppers into downtown Red Bank. In 1991, the chamber embraced the neighboring business districts and invited the surrounding communities of Eatontown, Fair Haven, Little Silver, Monmouth Beach, Oceanport, Rumson, Sea Bright, Shrewsbury, and Tinton Falls to join in their efforts to build a strong business base and help maintain the unsurpassed quality of life that we all enjoy in the thriving, prosperous Eastern Monmouth area.
Today, EMACC continues to expand. It is a full-time resource center offering a wide range of business services, consumer and visitor information, and a wealth of activities lending support and strength to the members and communities within Monmouth County, including:
- Educational, informational, and skills-building seminars at Small Business Council meetings
- Business, consumer, and tourism resource materials and referral service
- Legislative watchdog service with the latest information on business-related bills
- Business development and facility showcase opportunities through regularly scheduled Business After Hours events
- Business and technological mentoring and advice with chamber members
- Financial scholarships through the EMACC Educational Foundation scholarship program for high school, college, and adult students
- Relocation information and assistance for businesses, individuals, and families new to the area
- Partnerships and support for community and social service organizations
- Annual Business Expo showcasing members’ products and services and the attributes of eastern Monmouth County
- Business to Business and Community Non-Profit Marketing Support
- Member, NJBIA, NFIB, NJ State Chamber of Commerce, NJ Better Business Bureau. Board representation on the Small Business Development Council, Red Bank RiverCenter, Fort Hancock Advisory Committee, and Red Bank Rotary Club.
Whether they’re organizing a post-disaster support team, taking phone calls from citizens seeking consumer help, or assisting a new business create an affordable marketing strategy, EMACC prides itself on its past achievements and looks wholeheartedly toward a prosperous future for the businesses and communities it serves.