$1 Million Gift For Count Basie

July 17, 2015
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Gift From Charles Lafitte Foundation

to Benefit Young People, Teachers

RED BANK – A day on the greens raised lots of green for the Count Basie Theatre, beneficiary of the Charles Lafitte Foundation’s 12th annual Charity Golf Classic held June 29 at Baltusrol Golf Club, Springfield.

The event netted a record $1 million. The theater will create an endowment to fund programs that will make the arts accessible for young people of all backgrounds.

A $1 million donation from the Charles Lafitte Foundation will enable the Count Basie Theatre to significantly expand its arts program for young people. Photo courtesy Count Basie

A $1 million donation from the Charles Lafitte Foundation will enable the Count Basie Theatre
to significantly expand its arts program for young people. Photo courtesy Count Basie

The $1 million endowment will allow the theater to continue its mission of arts education and outreach in perpetuity, said Jonathan Vena, marketing director for the Basie. That includes the busing program, inaugurated in 2013-14, which has brought more than 7,500 students from Abbott, Title I and other area school districts to the theater.

“The importance of busing in children is two-fold, “ said Count Basie CEO Adam Philipson. “The program brings students to our historic theatre and allows them a comfortable opportunity to experience a live event – in many cases, for the very first time. The bus-in program is also an opportunity for these students to learn from the experience, as we provide them with pre- and post-show materials and teaching artists to make the experience as impactful as possible. “

The endowment will also fund scholarships for students in need who participate in the Basie’s Performing Arts Academy, where they can learn acting, dance, musical theater, public speaking and participate in musical performances through Rockit, Central Jersey Youth Chorale and Jazz Arts Academy.

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Since 2001, more than 15,000 students have gone through the academy’s classes, workshops and summer camps. Each year, the golf classic benefits a charity working in education, children’s advocacy, medical research or the arts. Funds raised are matched dollar for dollar by CLF, and over the past 12 years, the event has raised nearly $6.5 million for organizations that include Parker Family Health Center, Monmouth Council of Girl Scouts and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“We spend quite a bit of time vetting the organizations,” said Jennifer Vertetis, foundation president.

Red Bank’s Count Basie was selected this year, she said, because “access to the arts is very important for all children. The programs they put on for children have been very successful in the past and we wanted to make sure that that can continue and grow stronger.”

Also benefiting from the endowment is the Basie’s partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“The Kennedy Center offers a professional development program for teachers interested in learning how to integrate the arts into their existing curricula. For the past three years, the Basie has collaborated with the Red Bank school district to make these tools available to them, and our hope is to expand the program to other area districts,” said Philipson.

“These are terrific programs that support kids,” said Tom Widener, chairman of the theater’s Board of Trustees, who noted that Jacquie Lee, a young singer from Colts Neck who rose to fame as a runner-up on The Voice television show, got her start in music at the Count Basie’s performing arts program.

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“We are incredibly grateful to the Charles Lafitte Foundation and all of the other supporters of the Golf Classic,” he stated. “The money raised will have a tremendously positive impact on our education programs, which are the soul of the Count Basie Theatre.”

Jeffrey Citron, an entrepreneur who founded the Holmdel-based communications company Vonage, and his wife Suzanne founded CLF in 1999. The annual golf classic is their only fundraiser.

Giving is a family affair for the Citrons, who named their foundation after their beloved black Labrador retriever. Their daughter Kyra serves as director of the foundation’s Kid’s Corner, which empowers children to serve their communities and become grant makers.

“The Citrons have always believed in giving back. Both Jeffrey and Suzanne came from backgrounds where they didn’t live privileged lives,” said Vertetis. “When they were lucky enough to be able to give back it became an important mission entire family.”

Vertetis noted that the Count Basie organization was a big part of the record success of this year’s golf classic. “We have a very loyal group that supports us year after year, and added to that were the Count Basie supporters,” she said.

Widener credited the hard work of Count Basie staff for making the event an overwhelming success.

“Once we were told we would have the opportunity, the staff worked very hard to maximize it,” he said.











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