STONINGTON — Tom and Diane Neligon have turned an annual holiday bash into what they call “a party with a purpose.” While hosting a soiree at the Mystic River Yacht Club recently, the Mystic residents used the affair to raise money for the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center. Thanks to their generosity, and the generosity of their guests and sponsors, the center received $6,500 from the party.
“It was a big success,” Diane Neligon said. “We were really pleased.”
The Neligons started this tradition about 10 years ago, Tom Neligon said, when they lived farther down Interstate 95 in Connecticut. Both work in banking, and they threw a party for clients and friends to celebrate the holidays and thank them for their business and referrals. Inevitably, people would show up with a gift for the hosts — a bottle of wine, or perhaps some flowers. One year, Tom Neligon said he decided the money spent on gifts could be put to better use at a local soup kitchen.
“They could certainly use the funds more than a host could use a bottle of wine,” Diane Neligon explained.
So they asked their guests, if they were willing, to bring a donation to the party instead of a box of chocolates. They found a local business willing to match the donations, and a tradition was born. One year, they raised $30,000.
The Neligons moved to Mystic about a year ago, and decided to find a local organization for their annual party. They took a tour of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center to learn more about it, and were impressed. Diane Neligon described the tour as “eye opening.”
For this year’s party, they also had some corporate sponsors. Grover Insurance, Dog Watch Café, and their employer, Farmington Bank. Each sponsor offered to match donations up to $500 each, garnering $1,500 toward the total. The Neligons matched all of the donations as well.
Vicki Anderson, executive director of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, said creative fundraisers like the Neligons’ help keep the center in business, providing food for more than 2,000 people in Stonington, Mystic, Westerly and North Stonington. In December, the center provided a record 661 bags of food to 726 people, with a value of $32,918, she noted.
“Those numbers point out the continuing need for community support,” she said in a press release. “While we are especially busy during the holidays, there is a need throughout the year and that is why we need that continuing support.”
Both Anderson and the Neligons encouraged others to have parties for a purpose. Although the Neligons invited 75 people to the Mystic River Yacht Club for their party, and matched the donations, a backyard barbecue or casual drinks with friends could serve the same purpose.
Anderson suggested Super Bowl parties with a purpose.
“My thought was, that’s a good thing for other people to do,” said Tom Neligon.
Added his wife: “It’s better for everyone.”