By RAYMOND L. SMITH
BROOKFIELD - More than 1,600 northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania residents crowded in Yankee Lake Ballroom to be a part of what has become an annual rite of spring that provided 14 scholarships to area students.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Raymond L. Smith
Performer Chris Higbee sings during the opening ceremony of the program.
The 25th annual Strimbu Memorial Fund awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to area students and raised money for economic and charitable grants.
To mark its 25th year, organizers held a raffle for a 2014 Chevy Camaro SS as part of the fundraising. Money raised will be used to further to work of the late Tom and Nick Strimbu Jr. with scholarships.
A total 14 $2,500 college scholarships and one $25,000 scholarship were presented to students from schools in Trumbull County and in Pennsylvania.
$2,500 Leadership Scholarship winners from Trumbull County:
Danielle J. Ford, Joseph Badger High School;
Leah M. Bayer, Brookfield High School;
Kelly A. Kovacevich, Mathews High School;
Michael W. Ronga, Warren JFK High School
"We usually have between 1,500 and 1,550 people purchase tickets for the barbecue, but this year we sold 1,600 tickets," Paul O'Brien, the president of the Strimbu Memorial Fund board. "We sold so many we could not sell any at the door."
The Strimbu family, which began the Memorial Fund in 1990 after Nick Strimbu Jr. died, describes the annual party as the first major event of the spring season. Since its inception, the Strimbu Memorial Fund has raised millions and has grown to having more than $1.2 million in assets.
It has provided more than $2.1 million in scholarships and support of a variety of economic development and charitable causes over the years.
O'Brien said the fund's motto is "We aspire to give people a hand up, not a hand out."
"We could not have continued to do this without the support of my family's friends, owners of companies that believe what we are doing, and the community," Nancy Strimbu, a daughter of Nick Strimbu.
Supporters of the fund provided thousands of dollars of gifts and services, so the majority of the money earned through the barbecue and through its oral and silent raffles can be used for the company's charity and economic development work.
This year's barbecue is unique because several of the scholarships given to students are being done so in memory of family members who participated in the barbecue since its beginning, but have since passed away.
"This is annual event is special, not only because of the work that is done through it grants and because of scholarships, but it is annually the first major event of the summer for many people in the area," Nancy Strimbu said. "It brings people together who may only see one another this one time a year."