By TIM KELLY
The Republican Women of Cape May County served up a double-dip of local political activity Wednesday at their September meeting at Sea Isle City’s La Fontana Coast restaurant.
The group played host to the awarding of the coveted 2019 Gerard A. Desiderio Sr. Republican of the Year Award, bestowed upon Diane Wieland; and the group made a significant donation to the Cape GOP war chest to be used in the upcoming elections.
Wieland is the longtime director of the Cape May County Department of Tourism, for which she has worked for more than 44 years. She was honored for her service to the Cape May County Republican Organization.
“Her volunteer work and service to the Republican party in Cape May County has been exemplary and has been ongoing for many years,” said Republican Women of Cape May County President Melissa Roy. “Diane has given us more than 40 years of service and she is very deserving of this recognition.”
Roy stressed her group does not sponsor the award or help select the recipient. She said they were pleased, however, to provide a public venue for its presentation. The award is named for longtime GOP activist Gerard Desiderio, late brother of Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard C. Desiderio.
“We were very happy to host this presentation on behalf of Sea Isle, the Desiderio family and of course for Diane,” Roy said. “We were honored to be a part of it.”
The group’s September gathering is always its most anticipated, said Roy, because the group takes a summer hiatus as many members are busy working in the region’s mostly seasonal tourism economy.
“This is our biggest meeting of the year, and (Wednesday’s) meeting was one of our best attended yet,” Roy said, estimating approximately 85 people attended the festivities.
“I’m very pleased to be presenting this award in honor of my brother, who served the Republican Party as director from 1990 to 1996,” said Leonard Desiderio. “We don’t take this award lightly in Sea Isle and believe it should go to someone who truly deserves it. Diane is recognized across the state as the foremost authority on tourism.”
Wieland said she was humbled to receive the honor and reflected back on her time working for the Republican Women and for the Cape May County Regular Republican Organization.
“I want to thank my family who is here tonight,” Wieland said. “It all began more than 40 years ago with us stuffing campaign envelopes at our house.”
She said that activity led to more involvement, such as organizing fundraising events, presenting scholarships to women, enabling them to resume and complete their education, putting together a countywide Toys for Tots drive, helping to support the Cape May Court House campus of Atlantic Cape Community College and much more.
“Over the years we have raised tens of thousands of dollars to help Republican candidates,” she said to applause.
Desiderio said: “The Republican Women are the backbone of the Cape May County Regular Republican Organization. Diane has been a big part of that. This group is our secret weapon in the elections. It’s a privilege to present the award in honor of my brother to the First Lady of Tourism.”
The meeting’s other highlight was the presentation of a check for $10,000 to the Cape GOP, proceeds from the group’s fundraising activities.
The money was handed to a grateful Cape May County GOP Chairman Marcus Karavan, to be distributed as the party leadership sees fit to aid in the election campaigns of its various candidates throughout the county.
“Ten thousand dollars might not seem like a lot of money, especially compared to what our opposition seems to be spending,” said Roy. “To us, it represents quite a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”