Members of Monday Mahjong Madness present a ceremonial check for $10,749 to the Coalition Against Rape and Abuse in Cape May County in 2018.

By Donald Wittkowski

The women who belong to the Monday Mahjong Madness club should never be underestimated for their skill in playing the Chinese tile-based game – or for their fundraising prowess.

Only half-joking, they noted that they are willing to “beg” even harder if that’s what it takes to raise money for the Coalition Against Rape and Abuse in Cape May County.

On Monday, the mahjong club presented a ceremonial check for $10,749 to CARA’s executive director, Claire Galiano, to benefit the organization that helps victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

“We chose CARA because what they do helps Cape May County. We also believe in women helping women,” explained Wendy Dougherty, of Strathmere, a fundraising organizer and member of the club.

The money from this year’s fundraising efforts far exceeds the $8,000 donation that the club made to CARA in 2017 and the $5,000 contribution in 2016.

“I guess we just went around begging more,” club member Chris Donohue, of Sea Isle City, said with a smile about the fundraising campaign.

Donohue, one of the volunteers who helped with the fundraising, said the mahjong club benefited from the generosity of an array of individual donors and local businesses, including real estate companies and restaurants. Even the Girl Scouts chipped in to help CARA, she pointed out.

The ceremony at the Deauville Inn also included the dedication of a memorial bench in honor of the late Lynda Brown, the restaurant’s co-owner who supported CARA.

The check presentation ceremony was held at the Deauville Inn in Strathmere, where the women meet each Monday to play mahjong. The women also dedicated a memorial bench at the Deauville Inn in honor of the late Lynda Brown, the restaurant’s co-owner who was devoted to helping CARA.

“It was a cause close to her heart and close to our heart,” Dougherty said of Brown’s support for CARA. “We took a vote, and that’s the organization we chose to help.”

Monday Mahjong Madness includes members from Ocean City, Sea Isle, Strathmere, Avalon and some of the mainland towns of Cape May County. The club’s fundraising campaign was co-chaired by Joanne Carino, of Strathmere, and Peg Schwind, of Sea Isle.

A fundraiser and luncheon held at the Deauville Inn on June 4 included donated gift baskets that were auctioned off to benefit CARA.

Galiano, who became CARA’s new executive director last year, praised the mahjong club for its philanthropy. She said the partnership between the two groups has allowed CARA “to do things we otherwise couldn’t do.”

“These women are the finest examples of humanity,” Galiano said.

Gift baskets were auctioned off during a June 4 fundraiser at the Deauville Inn benefiting CARA. (Courtesy Monday Mahjong Madness)

Money raised this year by the mahjong club will be used to create a technology room and learning center for children who are sheltered at the CARA facility.

New computers and interactive technology purchased with the money will turn what had been a children’s playroom into an advanced early learning center. It will help children from toddler age to 14 years old, some of whom have physical or learning disabilities, Galiano said.

“These children are victims of domestic violence or are the children of abused women,” she said.

Money donated by the mahjong club in 2016 and 2017 helped CARA buy rubber mulch for its children’s playground. The rubber is a safer surface for the children to play on than the wood mulch that was previously used for the playground.

CARA asks that the exact location of its facility in Cape May County not be publicized in order to protect the women and children who are sheltered or receive services there.

“It’s a very dangerous business that we’re in, so the safety of the clients we serve is paramount,” Galiano said.

In addition to providing shelter for victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence, the organization offers a range of social services, including crisis intervention, counseling, legal help and education programs.

CARA is also a county-designated food bank, supplying emergency food to its clients and community residents.