Helping Hands Hoagie Sale looks to score touchdown

Super Bowl Sunday fundraiser benefits local families facing medical troubles

“It’s really a Washington Township thing.”

Charlie Doud’s sentiment about the upcoming Helping Hands Hoagie Sale is on the mark. The Washington Township Education Foundation (WTEF) president said the community rallies every year to make the Super Bowl Sunday fundraiser a success, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars since its inception 26 years ago to support local families facing medical issues.

“The community is so involved in all aspects of it,” Doud said.

From local business owners to area teachers, the police department to the fire department, everyone lends a helping hand. Washington Township High School students volunteer,  along with kids from Orchard Valley Middle School, where the fundraiser initially found its footing.

Then-Orchard Valley social studies teacher Ron Lucarini started Helping Hands Hoagie Sale in 1994. His involvement continued after his retirement from teaching. This will be the first year Lucarini is unable to attend the event.

“He won’t be involved physically, but all the methods and the standards that he put in place, we’re sticking right to the model he set,” Doud noted of Lucarini. “I always joke he was insane — but insane in the best possible way ever. His energy and his enthusiasm and his love of this thing — it’s still his thing.

“This is his baby and we’re just picking up the ball and running with it.”

The 26th annual Helping Hands Hoagie Sale is set for Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2. Hoagies can be picked up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ganttown Road Entrance of WTHS. Pre-orders, which help volunteers estimate production needs, are highly recommended and can be made online at wtef-nj.com. Order forms can also be downloaded from the website.

Cost is $10 for a full hoagie and $5 for a half hoagie, with Italian, cheese and turkey options. For $50, hoagie trays can also be preordered — perfect for Super Bowl parties.

In addition to picking up orders and buying hoagies at WTHS, there will be street crews —  comprised largely of WTHS student-athletes — safely selling hoagies at busy street corners. 

All profits from the sale — the group is working with Liscio’s Italian Bakery and Nellie’s Provisions for the bread, luncheon meats and cheese — benefit local families. Tips are coming in now regarding families and students facing medical challenges, and Doud said he and other WTEF members are then tasked with splitting up the money accordingly. In addition to hoagie sales, money is also raised through donations and sponsorships.

Doud said the amount of money given to the families is not life-changing — they encourage families to do something fun with the funds, such as enjoying a dinner out or taking a day trip to Great Adventure. But the gift is symbolic. 

“The money’s not going to cure anything, but it will help in small ways,” Doud explained.  “More importantly, it represents the backing of an entire community as they fight their battle, whatever their battle may be.”

Helping Hands Hoagie Sale is also run in partnership with Williamstown High School. While all of the hoagie preparations are held at WTHS, members of nonprofit Monroe Lead the Way travel to the neighboring school early Sunday morning to pick up its hoagies, later selling them from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Williamstown Middle School, from the 5/6 entrance. Proceeds, like the Washington Township sale, benefit Williamstown residents facing medical issues. 

“It’s the same sale, supporting a different community,” Doud said.

The last few years of Washington Township’s sale netted about $50,000 apiece, according to Doud, and they hope to maintain that traction at this year’s event.

“That’s a lot of money in one day,” he said.

Doud added it is important to consider the non-financial benefits of the fundraiser, too. He is impressed to see the overwhelming response the sale gets from student volunteers, who are waking up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to volunteer their time.

“You’re teaching kids at all ages — be damn happy with what you have because there are a lot of people who are struggling,” Doud said. “More importantly, they’re now part of a major community event and hopefully you’re planting the seed going forward to stay involved with those kinds of things.”

As the 2020 Helping Hands Hoagie Sale crew mobilizes for this year’s sale for the first time without its founder, Doud insisted they’ll be motivated to go big — because going home is not an option.

“Ron and his wife, Eileen, together they have really constructed this thing on a solid foundation so people like us can carry it forward,” Doud said of the Lucarinis. “The pressure’s on to maintain this thing.”

To place an order for the Helping Hands Hoagie Sale, visit wtef-nj.com. Washington Township or Williamstown can be chosen as the beneficiary. Order forms can also be downloaded.