HISTORY OF THE LAKE HOPATCONG FOUNDATION
As state funding was drying up for the Lake Hopatcong Commission after years of uncertainty with regard to state management of the lake’s weed harvest and water quality improvements and monitoring, local business owner Béla Szigethy joined efforts with other long-time lake residents and supporters to initiate a nonprofit organization that would focus on the Lake Hopatcong environment and experience. The Lake Hopatcong Foundation was established, with a founding board that included Szigethy, Thomas D. Flinn, Martin Kane, and founding president Jessica K. Murphy. Lauren Rossi signed on as the organization’s first secretary/treasurer.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is officially incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in the state of New Jersey.
Szigethy’s initial donation of $300,000 establishes the Lake Hopatcong Foundation on a strong financial footing.
The LHF hosts a launch event at Alice’s Restaurant to introduce the new organization to local leaders and organizations.
The first LHF volunteer event takes place: a post-fireworks cleanup that involves volunteers of all ages going out in motorboats, sailboats, and kayaks in an effort to clean the water and shoreline of debris generated by the annual Independence Day fireworks show.
Six teams of volunteers gather together to learn about the history of Lake Hopatcong and then to meet in groups and begin working on projects that would benefit the lake. The initial teams included water quality/water level; emergency and safety; supporting local businesses; boater information; recreational trails; and fundraising/marketing. Over time, these groups would achieve the LHF’s long list of completed projects, and additional teams would be established.
The LHF gives its first grant: a $15,000 donation toward the creation of hiking trails on Prospect Point and behind Liffy Island in Jefferson Township.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the LHF “Support Local Business” volunteer team coordinates a contest that encourages local people to shop locally in an effort to help small businesses that suffered in the storm.
The LHF hires Donna Macalle-Holly, former administrator of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, to work on securing grants and coordinating programs at the foundation. Macalle-Holly had worked for the commission for more than a decade before the state stopped funding the commission at the end of 2012.
The first-ever LHF Restaurant Night is held at Alice’s Restaurant, continuing monthly throughout the year at restaurants all around the Lake Hopatcong area. Each restaurant that hosts gives a portion of the evening sales to the foundation.
The first LHF membership meeting is held at the Hopatcong Senior Center, where supporters of the foundation are updated on the organization’s projects and initiatives and given an opportunity to ask questions of the board, staff, and volunteer team leaders. More than 50 people attend the meeting.
Two major initiatives begin: the funding of additional police patrols on Lake Hopatcong as a result of a partnership among the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, and the N.J. State Police. The additional patrols are during weekend hours when patrols otherwise wouldn’t have taken place. The other initiative that begins at this time is the funding of the water quality monitoring at stations throughout Lake Hopatcong. Because the state stopped funding the monitoring—which had gone back continuously for three decades—the foundation funded the 2013 effort to prevent a gap in data. These are two of the first initiatives that the LHF took on, and the list of projects would continue to increase in the months and years ahead. (Click here to learn more about the current state of our initiatives and programs.)
The LHF’s first official major fundraising event takes place: the LHF Miniature Golf Outing at the Lake Hopatcong Golf Course. LHF fundraising team leader Becky Rubenstein and event chairwomen Kathy Damerel and Nancy Freifeld helped to coordinate an event with dozens of foursomes, sponsored holes, prizes, food, and fun.
The LHF “Lake Hopatcong Guide” app officially launches for Apple and Android devices. A product of the Boater Information and Recreational Trails teams, the app gives users a chance to learn about lake-area businesses, historical locations, events, news, and more.
The foundation hosts its first guided trail walk on the Prospect Point trail that it helped to fund. Jefferson mayor Russ Felter and Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum (and LHF board member) Marty Kane provide insight into the history of the area and the development of the trail.
The first LHF Shop Local event kicks off for the month of July, encouraging participants to shop at participating local businesses. Seventy-five businesses participated, and scores of cards are turned in at the end of the month to win prizes donated by Bob’s Canoes and Kayaks, the Camp Six companies, and Bridge Marina.
The LHF hosts its first fundraiser at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club, an art auction and wine tasting event. Local artists, including Greg Hildebrandt, Bill Sturm, Linda Rossin, and Matt Keown, are featured and donate their work to be auctioned off at the event.
The first LHF Charity Clay Shoot is held at Hudson Guild Farm in Hopatcong. The day includes a clay shoot, a guided walk, and a group lunch and dinner at one of the borough’s most stunning locations.
The first LHF Autumn Bike Challenge sends riders around Lake Hopatcong (and beyond) on a day that celebrates the lake scenery and recreation as well as raises funds for the foundation. (The event would continue to grow in size and scope in the years to come, and now includes a run/hike and a paddling component.)
On November 9, 2013, about 400 volunteers access the lake from 39 different entry points to remove debris from the newly exposed shoreline (a result of the 5-foot drawdown). More than 23,000 pounds of debris is pulled from the lake, including more than 1,500 tires.
The LHF participates in its first #GivingTuesday on December 3. The day that has continued to bring in a surge of support from donors.
The first connections between the LHF and local schools are established with ice safety presentations in local elementary schools. It is the first project of the Lake Education team, which aims to bring lake environment, history, and safety presentations and lessons into local schools.
The LHF website is totally overhauled. (Enjoy!)
The first ever Lake Hopatcong Block Party is held at Hopatcong State Park on May 10, with scores of local businesses and organizations and thousands of visitors all coming together to celebrate the Lake Hopatcong community and all it has to offer. The event would return in the years ahead as an annual festival to celebrate all things Lake Hopatcong.
The LHF wins several awards for the November lake-wide cleanup, including one from New Jersey Clean Communities and one from the Morris County Chamber of Commerce.
The LHF Gala and Auction is held at Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club, expanding on the previous year’s event with live and silent auctions and raffle baskets, all with items donated by local residents and businesses, as well as live music and a sit-down dinner. The highlight was the auction of an original painting by world-renowned artist Greg Hildebrandt of a historical Lake Hopatcong scene, which drew a winning bid of $18,500. An annual event is truly established!
The LHF purchases the Lake Hopatcong Train Station in Landing, with the intentions of rehabilitating the structure as the LHF office and a community space. A cleanup on November 22 brings more than 100 people together to get the interior swept up and the exterior and grounds spruced up and ready for winter.
The first Lake Hopatcong field trips are held at Hopatcong State Park, bringing hundreds of fourth graders to the park to visit stations that included a boat ride, streamwater macroinvertebrate sampling, a discovery hike, an Enviroscape presentation, and a visit to the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum. The LHF intends to expand on this program to include more schools and more grade levels in the years ahead, and the trips fit into the foundation’s long-term goal of getting a floating classroom (modeled on the Lake George program) on Lake Hopatcong.
The first two Lake Hopatcong Foundation scholarships are awarded to two local graduating high school seniors whose future studies were shaped by their experience on Lake Hopatcong. The first-ever winners are Riley Dixon of Hopatcong High School, who won the “lake environment” award, and Luca Monacelli of Roxbury High School, who won the “lake experience” award.
The LHF receives a $192,500 grant to help pay off the Lake Hopatcong train station, and holds its first events in the building, including the annual membership meeting and a summer barbecue. Other smaller grants to help with the rehabilitation and construction process have been secured as well.
Jennifer K. DeWitt joins the LHF staff as assistant development director, and soon fills in as acting development director as Lauren Rossi takes a year-long leave to be with her growing family. Jennifer comes to us from the Playwrights Theatre in Madison.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation continues its variety of projects and initiatives to support the lake environment and experience, continues its work to rehabilitate the Lake Hopatcong Train Station, and continues to plan its three major events: the Lake Hopatcong Block Party, the LHF Gala and Auction, and the Lake Loop. As more milestones are reached and LHF history is made, we will update this page accordingly.