Close to 100 people came to the Howell First Aid Squad on Sunday in an impressive showing of neighborly spirit.
They were there for a pancake breakfast to benefit the Schiazza family, who just two months earlier watched as their house was gutted by a fire. However, just as work is underway to allow the family to move back into their house in a few months, the Sunday event showed the ability of the community to rally together when one of their own needs help.
Rob Schiazza said his family has been moved by all the support they have received while working through this at times difficult situation. "It has been a couple of different experiences," he said. "One is the initial horror of watching your house burn to the ground with 16 years in a house full of memories just burn away. Then you rebound and you have to rebuild. Life goes on so we try to make the best of a bad situation and use it as a learning experience."
After the fire ripped through their Villanova Drive house, Schiazza said the family came together and decided to move forward and make the best of whatever was to come next. "We just sat down as a group and said that we're going to use it to make it a positive experience for us and so far so good."
As he looked around the room at the Kent Road facility, Schiazza said the family was touched by the how many people came out on a grey Sunday morning. "It's just amazing how people come out," he said. "That's not just Howell, which is great because that's our town, but it's America."
Seeing the community spirit, he said, is one of the things his family has loved about the town since they moved here more than a decade ago. "We would do the same for anybody else," he said.
With Deidre Schiazza working in the Howell Township School District, there were several representatives from the district at the event. That included current and former members of the Board of Education.
Recently elected board president Tim O'Brien said he was glad to be able to help out the family of someone who has served the district for a long time. "It's really a terrific testimony to the community spirit that we have," he said. "She has been a terrific member of our district community for many many years. My family and I were really glad to be here." He called the event a as a whole, "a wonderful thing."
The event was sponsored by the Howell United Republican Club and its president Robert Antonelli said he was glad his organization was able to help in any way they could. "The group is growing and one of the things I wanted to do as president was to give back to the community in whatever way possible," he said.
Both families lived in the same development, which Antonelli admitted, "was a little close to home," seeing how quickly the Schiazzas lost everything. It also inspired him to want to help the family that much more. "We just thought it would be a good thing to do for the betterment of the community in which we live," he said.
Antonelli said it was more than just his efforts that made the day a success for the committee. From people like Jim Stanberry working in the kitchen, to Councilman Rob Nicastro helping with the shopping for the needed goods, it was a team effort to make everything work. That also included help from Dr. Anthony Pannone who paid the rental fee for the hall.
Stanberry and his kitchen brigade were arguably the busiest people of the day, arriving at 6 a.m. to whip up eggs, bacon, pancakes and more to feed all the people who attended. Stanberry even went the extra step as he made some homemade sausage gravy for anyone looking to really fill up to start the day.
With all the work they did and all the food they put out, it was hard to imagine that anyone could have left the event hungry. And knowing that whatever food was not eaten was going to the food bank, and the money raised was going to a family in need only helped to complete what was almost without question a rousing success for all involved.