The Washington Township High School Helping Hands Hoagie sale has been saved this year by Liscio’s Italian Bakery and school Superintendent Joseph Bollendorf.
“We really thought nothing was happening,” said Washington Township Education Foundation President Charlie Doud. “We were going to send out an email that said, ‘See you next year,’ and at the 11th hour, (Liscio’s) stepped up.”
The hoagie sale is in its 27th year of collecting money for needy township families. In previous years, students were able to slice meat and cheeses and hand craft the hoagies themselves, something the ongoing pandemic precludes.
“We can’t have the kids making the hoagies, we can’t have the kids on the street selling the hoagies,” Doud explained. “So the normal plan is pretty much shut down.”
The education foundation only found out about a week ago that Bollendorf had been in touch with Liscio’s owners, James Liscio and Chad Vilotti. Fortunately, the retailing staple has stepped up to continue a decades-long tradition.
Anyone who visits Liscio’s between Feb 1 and Feb 9 to purchase one or more hoagies or a hoagie tray will have 35 percent of the proceeds donated to the Helping Hands Hoagie sale.
“This is a massive undertaking for Liscio’s,” Doud noted. “It’s a madhouse there on Super Bowl Sunday … For them to step up and willingly and supportingly give us access to their products, stores and workers is just phenomenal.
“It’s one of the nicest things ever.”
Each year this hoagie sale raises about $40,000 for families in need across the township. The money is distributed to approximately a dozen families to give them a small amount of financial as well as community support.
“When it comes to meat slicing, we have a group of fathers who come and who have lost children, including the superintendent, who lost his daughter a few years ago,” Doud said. “It’s become therapeutic, to show up and slice cheese and ham for five hours at a time. To them, it’s a tribute to their child and to the system that helped them.”
Despite the pandemic, Doud is optimistic about the community coming together to support this event.
“I know for myself, I am not spending as much money on things like we normally do,” he noted. “Restaurant visits are cut way down; sadly, there’s no movies to go see. So if I was going to spend $50 for a movie, I’d go buy a hoagie to help someone out and get a great sandwich. I think that plays into it.”
To help get the ball rolling, Bollendorf posted a hoagie challenge on Twitter to draw the community to Liscio’s and show support for the sale.
“It was just an idea that hearkened back to the ice bucket challenge,” Bollendorf said. “I thought it would be a good way to motivate sales by challenging some key people in the community to go out and by their own hoagies and challenge others to do the same.
“We are trying to do something really important and special for people that are in need.”
People who have responded to Bollendorf’s message include School Board President Julie Kozempel; high school Principal Jonathan Strout; and Michael J. D’Ostilio Jr., principal at Bunker Hill Middle School.
This event is the only one where the education foundation is able to do charity work in the community. Usually it raises money through its annual golf outing, cancelled last June due to the pandemic, but still on for this summer. The money the foundation raises through other events goes towards mini-grants for teachers across the district.
“The mini-grants are used for things the school budget doesn’t cover,” Doud said. “If a fourth grade science teacher wants to buy an ant farm, they’ll apply for a grant and we approve it and give them money to buy it. We sponsor speakers to the high school and trips for the athletic trainers.”
Anyone who wants to donate to the Helping Hands Hoagie sale, but is unable to buy hoagies, can donate through Venmo at @WT-ED-Foundation.