Tulips (c) Cynthia Farr-Weinfeld

Simple Gifts

2024 Boo Bash Fun-Raiser Saturday, October 19

Save the date for the 2024 Boo Bash Fun-Raiser: Saturday, October 19, 2024, at the Italian Heritage Center. Stay tuned for more information!

2023 Boo Bash was "bussin"!

Many thanks to all those who attended, helped out, donated and supported this year's very successful Boo Bash Fun-Riaser. Even though the crowd was somewhat thin due to illnesses, family emergencies, the crappy weather and other conflicts, a great time was had by all attendees, who sported some awesome costumes!

In a very tight race for best costume, Tzeana "Barbie" Gross edged out Neena "Rocket Raccon/Trash Panda" Sodhi, who came to the Bash from a galaxy far far away (North Carolina). Most creative went to Liz "Mary Poppins" Cataldo, who went "all in" as the magical nanny.

Two pairs of sisters, Sue Camp Hilgton and Jan Camp Sweeney, and Diane Vaughn and Carole Barbeau, who came as 1920s flappers, vied for best group and wound up in a tie. Christina Irace wone the funniest costume as Kandy Korn.

The silent auction was one of the best ever, netting more than $1,400 from a very generous crowd. The even took in a total of about $14,000 for Simple Gifts, seond-best in our 11-year history.

Thanks also to the superb staff of the Italian Heritage enter, who again supplied excellent food and service, as well as our fabulous DJ, Nicole Gudroe, who came all the way from the Bangor area.

Annual Boo Bash a Fun-Filled Extravaganza

“Fantastical” costumes were the theme of this year’s Simple Gifts wild, crazy and highly successful fun-raiser, held on October 22nd at the Italian Heritage Center. With concerns of the covid epidemic diminished, inspired partygoers filled the Davinci Room with some of the most outlandish and creative costumes ever seen in the event’s ten-year history.

Perennial celebrity host Shannon Moss once again emceed the festivities which featured zoom attendees from as far away as California. This year’s event featured certificates of appreciation presented by the board to the many local sponsors, individuals and organizations who have consistently supported Simple Gifts mission, including Maine Medical Center, New England Cancer Specialists, Belissimo Hair Salon, The Italian Heritage Center and Shannon Moss.

A very moving rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was performed by Ingrid Ayer-Richardson and Dale Hart, accompanied by Anthony and president Mary Irace on the ukulele. The highly competitive costume competition was won by Arina Ray as a very spooky (and computer savvy) milkmaid.

In a very tight battle for best group costume, a group of four “Bridezillas”, consisting of Maria Connolly, Robin Letarte, Jaime Clark and Chrissy George-Spinato edged out the six Disney villainesses of Belissimo Hair Salon, and a couple of crybabies.

Shannon and Simple Gifts president Mary also handed out a plethora of awards for some very silly categories including the coveted award for “best elf” to Tzeana Gross. The event raised over $12,000 for the Simple Gifts. With gas prices still close to $4 a gallon the need for the gas gift cards, which Simple Gifts provides for families to visit hospitalized loved ones or for patients to travel for medical treatment, is greater than ever. Many thanks to all who participated.



The Italian Hertiage Center was hoppin' on Saturday, October 23, for the Simple Gifts annual Boo Bash Fun-Raiser.

A small but lively crowd was on hand to boogie and "get low" to the sounds provided by DJ/Coach Aaron Filieo in his ninth consecutive appearance. "Zoombies" appeared virtually from as far away as Washington State and California.

Shannon Moss was on hand to host and judge the live costume contestants along with Eddie "Jack" Ezzard, who judged the winning Zoombies. Jan Sweeney won the live contest as The Dancing Queen, and best group went to the Tibbets/Cloutier Family as "Doctors Strange," with the Muteba family coming in a close second as the Pet Shop Family.

Best Zoom costume was won by our very own Zoom Meister Beth Zarecki as a teal Toni Tenille and best virtual group winners were Judy Brackett and Bill Smith, who impersonated each other as Budy and Jill.

Alex Zarecki again took home the gold for most distant participant, from Seattle, Washington.

Donations are still coming in, but all indications are that receipts will eclipse the previous record gross of $12,600.

Many thanks to all our generous sponsors, contributors, attendees, and the staff of the IHC.

Annual Boo Bash a "Virtual" Success

Simple Gifts' 8th Annual Boo Bash was held both at the Italian Heritage Center and on the Internet. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we raised nearly $12,500.

The event was attended by both live participants and online participants coast to coast. Despite the requirement of face coverings, social distancing and a prohibition on dancing, both live and virtual attendees had a fun time! Prennial hosts Shannon Moss and Ed Ezzard, "the Maine Jack Nicholson," appeared via Zoom and chose winners for Best Costume, live and virtual. Virtual costume wearers joined in from as far away as the west coast.

The most distant contestant was Alexander Zarecki from Seattle, Washington. Winners of Best Costume - Virtual were Rachel Brace from Millbridge, Maine, with runner up Des Dearborn, of Lexington, South Carolina. The Tibbetts family won Best Online Group Costume. Liz Cataldo, from Pepperell, Massachusetts, won Best Costume - Live, and Brian and Janice Sweeney and Sue Hilton won Best Costumes for Live Group. Bill Smith, from Philadelphia and Readfield, Maine, won runner up Best Costume - Live.

2020 Benefit Concert postponed--makeup date TBA!

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, our May concert will be rescheduled to a later date. Stay safe--and stay tuned for more details!



2019 Boo Bash a Bigger Blowout Than Nor'Easter!

With the powerful winds of a Nor'easter cutting power to the Italian Heritage Center from Thursday into the Saturday morning of the Bash and predicted power restoration by CMP not until 10 pm that evening, prospects looked dim that the annual Bash could possibly go on as planned. However, the power came back on about 11 am and a dedicated group of decorators and volunteers swung into action at the last minute to make this year's Bash come off without a hitch. Many thanks to IHC President Cammy Reali for keeping us informed up to the minute and accommodating us in a most stressful and difficult situation.


As always, hosts Shannon Moss and Eddie "Jack" Ezzard added their special flavor and sparkle to the event, which featured some of the most outrageous costumes ever. This year featured eight separate award categories, including best costume by anyone over the age of 95 (handily won by Dina Irace, age 97, making her seventh straight Bash appearance).


Santa and his/her dancing elves easily won the best group costumes, with Mike Irace as Bender the Robot winning most creative (and best use of duct tape). Overall, best costume went to Joanne and Barry Tibbetts as the Grammar Police.



The Bash took in over $10,000 in admissions, donations, sponsorship and silent auction, with our biggest silent auction ever.

Thanks to all sponsors, donors, attendees and volunteers who made this year's Bash a huge success--and especially to the intrepid crews of CMP who worked tirelessly to save the day!


Trinity Concert Rocks Again

Many thanks to all the members of Oompahlele, Northern Pitch, Pretty Girls Sing Soprano and Seagrass for lending their time and talent to our Concert Fundraiser on April 13, which raised about $1,650, and a big thank you to the Trinity Episcopal Church for allowing us the use of their beautiful venue with its amazing acoustics.

Next up is the annual Boo Bash on October 19.

Start working on your costumes!


IHC Rocks with Sixth Annual Boo Bash

The Italian Heritage Center on Saturday, October 20, again hosted party goers in creative and festive costumes for the Sixth Annual Simple Gifts Fun-Raiser Boo Bash.

Celebrity host Shannon Moss, as the Pirate Queen, emceed the affair accompanied by celebrity guest, Eddie Ezzard as super L.A Laker fan Jack Nicholson.

In a very tight competition for best costume, the prize was awarded for the second straight year to the Dearborn family with their Peter Pan theme, with Dez as Tinker Bell, Nate as the Captain Hook, and little Colin as Peter. Tzeana Gross as a Copse Bride and the Tibbetts family as Disney Villains were a close second and third. ( It’s always tough to try to beat out a costumed toddler!)

A special dance award was spontaneously awarded to young Garrett Vogl of Jay, who wowed the crowd with his spectacular dancing as the Wolf Boy.

The event was another great success– raising almost $9,000!

Many thanks to all our generous sponsors, especially the New England Cancer Specialists who have been Simple Gifts Angel Sponsor at the $2,500 level for the past five years, contributors, attendees, Aaron Filieo our DJ, our photographer Amanda Betts, Curry Printing and the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein for promoting the event again on the Time and Temp building.

A very special thanks to all who helped decorate the Italian Heritage Center.


Trinity Episcopal Church Rocks at Benefit for Simple Gifts

An enthusiastic crowd of about 150 people turned out for the concert fundraiser on March 3.

The fun ukulele group Oompahlele opened the show with a moving version of "Over the Rainbow" and ended its set with a raucous rendition of the "Theme from Rawhide." Pretty Girls Sing Soprano followed with their beautiful harmonies and received a standing ovation after their closing number, "Ain't No Grave." Seagrass then rocked the sanctuary with the likes of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and other bluegrass tunes.

All three groups joined in the finale, "Ring of Fire."

At $10 a ticket, a better entertainment buy will not be found anywhere.

In all, after expenses, over $1,300 was raised for Simple Gifts.

Many thanks to the three musical groups, the pastor and staff of Trinity Episcopal Church, and all the facilitators and volunteers who made this event a success!

Fifth Annual Boo Bash another huge success!

Simple Gifts 2017 Boo Bash was another great success– raising over $10,000!

The Italian Heritage Center on Saturday, October 21 hosted party goers in creative and festive costumes. Celebrity host Shannon Moss, decked out as a Cleopatra, emceed the affair accompanied by celebrity guest, Eddie Ezzard as a vacationing Jack Nicholson.

Best costume was awarded to the Dearborn family with an Alice in Wonderland theme with Dez as Alice, Nate as the Mad Hatter, mother Claudia as the Queen of Hearts, and little Collin as the Rabbit.

The event featured a new video about Simple Gifts produced by Groff Films with comments by board members, social workers and a recipient.

Many thanks to all our generous sponsors especially the New England Cancer Specialists who have been Simple Gifts Angel Sponsor at the $2,500 level for the past four years, all sponsors, contributors and attendees, Aaron Filieo our DJ, our photographers Amanda and Jarod Betts, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein for promoting the event on the Time and Temp building, and a very special thanks to all who decorated the Italian Heritage Center.




Trinity Concert Fundraiser Fun and Successful

The first ever concert fundraiser for Simple Gifts was held at Trinity Episcopal Church on March 18, and was a huge success. About 125 people attended to hear performances by Oompahlele, EckoVox, Pretty Girls Sing Soprano, and Seagrass.

The sanctuary was a beautiful backdrop, and the sound produced by the four groups was awe-inspiring.

The show ended with members of all four groups and many of the attendees joining in a rousing rendition of "Wagon Wheel," after which the performers received a standing ovation.

The benefit raised about $1,200 for Simple Gifts.

Many thanks to the board and to all others who helped out, but especially to the church for letting us use the facility, and to the Portland Phoenix and WGAN radio, for promoting the event free of charge.


Fourth Annual Boo Bash was a huge success!

Simple Gifts' 2016 Boo Bash was the most successful ever, raising over $10,000!

Held for the first time at the Italian Heritage Center on Saturday, October 15, the event hosted partygoers in creative and festive costumes.

Celebrity host Shannon Moss, decked out as a beautiful 20’s flapper, mc’ed the affair accompanied by celebrity guest, Eddie Ezzard as the ubiquitous Jack Nicholson.

Best costume was awarded to Greg and Sue Sawyer and Mary Ann and Rick Emmert whom came chained together as a  “prisoners of love” chain gang.

A very close second was Mary Tibbetts, who came as Harley Quinn from the movie Suicide Squad.

The event featured a personal and moving speech by May Bubar, designer of the Boo Bash program, and an early Simple Gifts recipient, who attended with her husband and three children as special guests. May spoke of her time at MMC and the support that Simple Gifts gave her family during this difficult time!

Many thanks to all our generous sponsors especially the New England Cancer Specialists who have been Simple Gifts Angel Sponsor at the $2,500 level for the past three years, all contributors and attendees, and a very special thanks to all who decorated the Italian Heritage Center.




Bangor Savings Bank Award

Bangor Savings Bank Donation

Assistant Vice President Linda Cohen of Bangor Savings Bank Mill Creek branch presents a $1,000 check to board members Tony and Mary Irace in May 2015. Simple Gifts was one of six non-profits to receive an award from Bangor Savings Bank Foundation's Community Matters More program.

Rotary Donation

In July of 2016, South Portland/Cape Elizabeth Rotary made a $1,000 donation to Simple Gifts. Pictured from left to right are Vice President Sue Hilton, Rotary President Bill Anderson, and Simple Gifts President Mary Irace. Thank you, Rotarians, for your generous support!

Rotary Club check presentation 

In each of the past four years, from 2012 through 2015, Simple Gifts was awarded a $1,500 grant by the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Foundation. We are grateful for their generous support since our very first year of operation!

Here are some of the "simple gifts" we've given out over the past several years

  • A dad in the Bangor area with a wife and two young children who received cancer treatment at MMC and additional surgery in Boston received $100 in gas cards and a $100 Hannaford gift card as he was concerned about having the gas to return home from Boston and feeding his family until he could return to work.
  • A retired veteran was critically ill and his wife was struggling with gas money and rides to the hospital to be by his side. Simple Gifts stepped in on several occasions to provide them with gas cards to make the visits possible.
  • Danielle, a, social worker at MMC Pediatric Associates, noticed a family with four children (the youngest a 20-month-old with a chronic gastrointestinal illness) needed grocery and gas gift cards and also six pairs of boots for the family for winter). Simple Gifts provided a $100 grocery card and $25 gas card and partnered with Lamey Wellehan’s Store to provide the six pairs of boots for the family.
  • A woman needing life-saving cardiac treatment was rushed down to MMC from Madawaska by ambulance and Simple Gifts provided 15 $5 MMC cafeteria vouchers ($75 in all) so her daughter could eat while she kept vigil by her mother’s side. Also Simple Gifts gave a $100 gas card so a neighbor from Madawaska could bring them back home by car after her cardiac treatment (they had no car as they had come by ambulance and the bus trip would more difficult and expensive).
  • A wife, who works as a waitress, travelled 60 miles round trip for 50 days to visit her husband in the hospital as he received treatment for Acute Myloid Leukemia. Her husband had to take an unpaid leave from his janitorial job. They are praying for a remission so he can have a bone marrow transplant (Dana Farber found a match). Simple Gifts gave them a $100 gas card and a $100 Hannaford grocery card.
  • A woman at Cary Medical Center in Caribou received $175 in gas cards to go for cancer treatments at Eastern Maine Medical.
 Thanks so much to all our donors for their support!