The South Orange Elks Club played host to a “Rent Party” on Wednesday night. Modeled on the rent parties of the Depression, when hosts turned their apartments into nightclubs to raise rent money, the event generated funds for Our Lady of Sorrows food pantry in South Orange and St. Joseph’s food pantry in Maplewood. Local bands Juicebox and Walk the Dog and Louise Vitello and Friends performed.
This was the second such rent party. The October event generated some $275 for each food pantry, according to Mary Beth Zichelli, volunteer coordinator at Our Lady of Sorrows food pantry. This month’s take could be even higher, thanks to a 50/50 raffle. Zichelli explained the success of the event. “It works because everyone has fun,” she said. “Local bands get to play, and it’s nice to see that kind of support for our neighbors.” A longtime volunteer and parishioner at the church, Zichelli notes that the pantries are truly local. “These are our neighbors that we’re helping,” she explained. She was assisted with the raffle by members of the band Mophat, who hope to play a future event.
Wednesday evening drew a crowd for both the music and the Yankees-Phillies game. In recognition of Game 6 of the World Series, pitchers of beer were priced at $6. Louise Vitello and Friends played the first set of the evening, starting with “The First Cut is the Deepest.” As they played, members of the other bands listened in the audience. Walk the Dog, the second band in the lineup, shared their drummer and bassist with Louise Vitello. Juicebox closed the event.
Walk the Dog member Larry Hardie said, “This is a great cause. We’ll play almost any charitable event. It’s good to be part of community action and to get our neighbors out there.”
Juicebox lead singer, Leslie Goldman, awaited her turn to play. “I’d rather be playing music than anything,” she said. “And it’s a good cause,” added bandmate and neighbor Arlene Correa. “It’s win-win,” agreed Goldman.
Bob Fanneron of the Elks Club first approached Chris Dickson with the idea of putting music to work for the charity. Dickson, who lives in Maplewood,organized the Battle of the Basement Bands concerts and the food drive at Maplewoodstock. He hopes to make the rent parties a monthly event in town, and the next concert is scheduled for the night before Thanksgiving, Nov. 25. Concerts start at 7 p.m. and end at 11 p.m. Minimum donation at the door is $5, but “the more you give the better you’ll feel” reads the event flyer. A cash bar is open during the concerts.
As this month’s flyer promised, the rent party offered “good music and cold beer at reasonable prices.”