Local NAACP to host annual Freedom Fund Banquet fundraiser

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington NAACP will host its annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Friday, Oct. 21, at the Galloping Hill Inn in Union, starting at 7 p.m.

“The Freedom Fund Banquet is our main fundraiser for the year, because we do have some expenses, although the church is offered to us free of charge by the Rev. William Rutherford Sr.,” said Irvington NAACP President Merrick Harris on Monday, Oct. 10. “This fundraiser helps us pay our fees to the national office that we need to pay, to maintain our local chapter. It’s our only fundraiser. We try to do other fundraisers, but we don’t get enough participation to make that cost-effective.”

According to Harris and Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher, the award recipients for volunteer service at this year’s Freedom Fund Banquet will be: Thurgood Marshall School Principal Wanda Warren, local environmental activist and East Ward Joint Block Association Coalition member Michael Spruill, and Lillie Little and Bishop James Everett of Jesus Deliverance Is Coming ministry in Irvington.

“The Rev. H. William Rutherford III, the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Orange, is the speaker who will talk on voter empowerment,” said Witcher on Sunday, Oct. 9.

There had been some thought given to honoring Mayor Tony Vauss for all the positive changes in town since he was sworn into office in 2014, but after one member objected to his nomination, a special vote was taken and a majority of local branch members present decided against honoring the mayor.

But Harris said that doesn’t mean the Irvington NAACP will not be honoring Vauss at some point. After all, Harris said, the mayor is a registered member of the township’s civil rights organization.

“The bottom line is the NAACP is not about one person; it’s about the whole group,” Harris said. “Things have changed in Irvington and there was a faction that wanted to honor Mayor Tony Vauss for that. … A vote was held at our meeting in August, where honoring him with an award was approved. Then a second vote was held in September, where the majority decided not to do it at this time.”

Harris added, “We don’t want to alienate the mayor and his administration, when they are clearly doing good things for the town. The NAACP needs to have a good relationship with the town. … We want to make sure the lines of communication are always open and clear with our local government officials.”

Vauss declined to comment on the Irvington NAACP votes, but he did state for the record that it has not changed his support for the local and national chapters of the organization.

“I believe in what the NAACP stands for and what it has always stood for since it was founded,” said Vauss on Friday, Sept. 23, while touring the refurbished Chris Gatling Recreation Center. “That’s why I’m a member and that’s why I will continue to be a member. They represent equality, opportunity and progress and that’s what my administration is all about, so of course I’m going to support such a civil rights institution.”