BY JANIE ROSMAN
PHOTOS BY GENE GOUSS
What began as a soup kitchen in Haverstraw that expanded to an office in Nyack last week highlighted its platinum anniversary during a 25 at 25 Luncheon Celebration in New City.
“Let me tell you how I got involved with People to People,” 25th Anniversary Luncheon John Lang began. “During the darkest days of my family life in Germany in 1938, it was a matter of life and death, and we lived day by day.”
Lang recalled how his father instilled the premise of helping those who are less fortunate than he is. “My father asked my mother to bag two, three, four bag of groceries, and he said to me, “I want you to take all the toys you’ve been playing with, and then take your best toys.”
The two distributed groceries, toys, and an envelope of money to neighboring families. “That lesson in humanity, that lesson I received, left an inedible mark on my conscience, and I think of my dad all the time,” he said.
His introduction to People to People years later was via an article in the Journal News; his involvement, by giving (then-executive director) Dolores Treger an envelope. Crediting his son Peter for coming on board, Lang added, “Peter moved the organization ahead by light years when he moved it to Nanuet. We are so proud of you, and my father would have been so proud of you.”
“This can’t be done without funding and without sponsors,” People to People board president Joe Allen told 160 attendees last Friday. “The organization’s budget during the year is higher than anybody would think, and we can’t do it alone.”
Gratefully acknowledging the generosity of “good friends who have been there every single step of the way with us, and who never stopped helping folks who are hungry in the county,” he named the roster of supporters.
Milestones included hiring Treger as its first executive director in 1991, and purchasing its first van thanks to a $30,000 grant from the Rockland County Legislature. When Treger retired in 2008, People to People named Diane Serratore its Executive Director.
“It’s gratifying that the community supports us, and we’re proud to be able to serve the residents of Rockland County,” Serratore said.
A quote near the end “Hello, Dolly” with Walter Matthau and Barbra Streisand, Lang said, summed up his thoughts on giving. “Money is a little bit like fertilizer. You’ve got to spread it around to make things grow.”
That’s been his philosophy, he said. Another film reference was a recent dialog between Steven Spielberg and John Williams, who worked together on “Jaws.”
“Picture the movie,” Lang said. “The mechanical fish wouldn’t do what he (Spielberg) wanted it to do, and it’s going to be a flop. Finally he got the fish to do what he wanted, and then he heard John Williams’ score that scared all of us.”
He also cited the last scene in “Saving Private Ryan,” which, he said, would not have been as effective had it not been for the musical score.
“Both films would not been as effective had Williams’ music not accompanied them,” he said. “We have a team here of dedicated professionals at People to People. They are the Spielbergs who supply the funding and make things happen with our music.”
I want you to leave here this afternoon with a smile on your face because you’ve helped those in need, and gave them hope, inspired them, gave them dignity, and showed them that you care.”