Community Living Essex County receives $75,000 from Ruthven Apple Festival



Community Living Essex County (CLEC) received a nice Christmas gift a couple of weeks early.

The Ruthven Apple Festival committee presented the cheque from the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at Colasanti’s Tropical Garden last Wednesday afternoon. When all was said and done, proceeds amounted to a record $75,000.

“This money couldn’t have come at a more perfect time,” remarked CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero. “This is absolutely fantastic. It kinds of takes your breath away.”

The Ruthven Apple Festival committee presents the cheque to Community Living Essex County Dec. 13 at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens. This year’s festival raised a record $75,000.

Wallace-Gero said it is “one of the most exciting days of the year for Community Living Essex County” and that the money stays in Essex County and directly benefits those receiving supports and their families.

“This is used to help people in our community,” said Wallace-Gero. “This will help us ensure the quality of supports we give to people in the community will continue to be the highest.”

The festival has grown tremendously over the years, Wallace-Gero added, with much of the growth stemming from word-of-mouth advertising.

Tony DeSantis, manager of community relations and resource development with CLEC, said “we have a lot to celebrate” and called it a “wonderful event” to help kick off the Christmas season.

“Our organization is involved in so many different things,” said DeSantis. “We look forward to 2018 but we are closing out 2017 with a bang.”

DeSantis thanked the farmers, Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens and volunteers, noting “we work with so many volunteers to make this event happen.” He also thanked long-time committee member Ron Hicks, who passed away earlier this year. Hicks’ wife Laverne and daughter Shannon were on hand to help present the cheque.

Community Living Essex County executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero (left) accepts the $75,000 cheque from the Ruthven Apple Festival steering committee. Making the presentation is Laverne and Shannon Hicks, wife and daughter of long-time committee member Ron Hicks, who passed away earlier this year.

Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos expressed pride in seeing everyone coming together annually to put on the event. He said the festival has been running 38 years and “that is something worth celebrating.”

Colasanti thanked everyone as well, but also pointed out the work of DeSantis. He said the committee has a list of tasks to do and DeSantis is the one doing a lot of them.

“Tony is on 30-40 per cent of the job list,” said Colasanti. “I think that’s pretty incredible.”

Community Living Essex County is a non-profit, charitable organization that supports over 650 people with intellectual disabilities and their families across Essex County. For more information, visit or call 519-776-6483. People can also “Like” them on Facebook at or “Follow” them on Twitter at

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