St. Vincent de Paul Regional School has operated in Mays Landing for 51 years, but despite this long history, many in the area don't know the Main Street building houses a school, said Christine Gras, the advancement director.
Gras' duties include raising St. Vincent de Paul's profile in and around Mays Landing. Without the mandatory audience afforded a public school, Gras has had to get creative in planning events. On Jan. 19, the school will hold its second annual Meatball Cookoff.
"A lot of people do chili cookoffs, I wanted to do something different," Gras said. "Everybody thinks their meatball is the best, so that's how it came about."
The event, which will take place in the school building at 5809 Main St., begins at 6 p.m. Admission is $6 per adult and $3 per child, and includes meatballs, salad, dessert and refreshment. Affiliation with the school is not required to enter or attend.
Prizes will be awarded by a panel of judges and by a popular vote of attendees. To enter, email Gras at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last year's Meatball Cookoff was a surprise success for the school, Gras said.
"Last year, I would have been happy if 30 people showed up," Gras said. "We had over 200 people. We had three judges, 17 contestants. It was pretty shocking."
All proceeds from the event will be put toward an overhaul of the school's computer lab, which is in need of new monitors, Gras said.
In addition to parents, students and school staff, members of the community will volunteer their time at the event. Chris Groome, owner of Brownies Squared in Mays Landing, will serve as a judge at the event. He was an entrant last year.
"It's always extra work because it's not within the normal business hours of my business, but it's fun to get out there and try to do something different or help out and be involved within the community," Groome said.
Linda Pirolli, the school's principal, also will serve as a judge. The third judge has yet to be determined, Gras said.
As an entity of the Catholic church, St. Vincent de Paul teaches its students humility. A promotional event like the cookoff might seem at odds with this lesson, but, in Gras' eyes, it's time the school got its name out there.
"Catholics in general are pretty modest, so now it's time to brag about all the good things that we do," Gras said. "We have a lot of great things that go on here."
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
St. Vincent de Paul Regional School Meatball Cookoff.
6 p.m. Jan. 19
St. Vincent de Paul Regional School, 5809 Main St., Mays Landing
$6 for adults, $3 for children.