Donald Shauger To Serve as Grand Marshal of 2018 West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade
By Alexandra Gakos
February 5, 2018
More than sixty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
That desire to do good for others—and to give without expecting anything in return—is essential to the fabric of every community. It can have a lasting impact on those who need it most, often in ways that are immeasurable: perhaps it gives people the strength they need to face adversity, or perhaps it is just comforting for them, during their greatest time of need, to see the best humanity has to offer.
No one knows that more than Donald Shauger, executive vice president of The Shauger Group, Inc. (TSG), who came from humble beginnings in a single-parent family that struggled every day. Shauger felt fortunate for the kindness of friends, strangers, and the West Orange community, which helped his family through difficult times. Never forgetting his roots, Shauger has spent every day since then giving back to others in need and, particularly, to the community he loves so much.
In an incredible honor—and in recognition of Shauger’s lifetime of charitable giving—Shauger has been selected as the grand marshal of the 67th West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Largely because of Shauger’s tireless efforts to give back, Shauger was appointed by the parade committee to lead the 2018 parade, which will take place on March 11, 2018.
A historic event in the West Orange community, the West Orange Parade traces its history back more than 65 years. As grand marshal, Shauger will lead the parade through its West Orange route, accompanied by his three deputy grand marshals: Robert Lynch, Brad Squires, and Sean McGinley.
“The Town of West Orange—and the people of West Orange—did a lot for my family when I was growing up,” said Shauger. “Growing up in a single-family home had its challenges, especially because my mother had to support five kids and because my sister, Susan, was terminally ill. Everyone in West Orange looked out for one another, so I’ve always felt a special connection to West Orange community. I’ve always felt as though I was raised by the town, not just in it.”
“I was so honored to receive a call from the parade committee, telling me I had been chosen as grand marshal,” added Shauger. “It’s a moment I will never forget. I can guarantee you that, when I am marching up Main Street with my wife Lisa, my kids Marisa and Donnie, and the rest of my family, I will be reliving a lifetime of memories in West Orange—from childhood on—and it’s going to be hard to hold back the tears. From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank the parade committee for this honor.”
Shauger will be officially sworn in as grand marshal at the parade’s annual investiture ceremony, which will take place on February 18, 2018. On that day, Shauger, as well as the deputy grand marshals, will be formally presented with parade sashes and officially become members of the “parade family.” At the investiture ceremony, officials also honor former parade honorees from prior years. Shauger joins an impressive list of parade grand marshals, which include former New Jersey governor Richard Codey and New Jersey Assemblyman John McKeon.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in town who hasn’t heard of The Shauger Group or Donnie’s generosity,” said Mayor Rob Parisi, mayor of West Orange. “When I heard the committee wanted to recognize Donnie, I thought it was a great honor and an overdue recognition. Whenever you need anything, you can call Donnie. It’s important to any community to have someone you can count on.”
“The parade is thrilled to have Donnie leading it—our committee is thrilled,” said Parade Committee Chairwoman Sheila Parisi, whose grandfather was one of the founders of the West Orange Parade. “We’ve got a good one.”
A Historic Tradition
As part of the annual parade tradition, the grand marshal selects a chief of staff and aides for the day of the parade. Shauger has named his son, Donnie, who also works with him at TSG, as his chief of staff. Shauger has selected three aides, in order to symbolically represent three important facets of his life: religion, family, and friends. Father Jim Ferry, Shauger’s priest at West Orange’s Our Lady of Lourdes R. C. Church, represents religion; Therese Shauger, Shauger’s sister-in-law, symbolizes family; and Michael D’Aries, Shauger’s lifelong friend since kindergarten, stands for friends.
Each year, the parade transforms the town of West Orange into a mass of green. The festivities on parade day begin annually with a morning Mass, the location of which rotates yearly between a few local Catholic parishes. Fittingly, this year’s Mass will be held at Our Lady of Lourdes, where Shauger is a parishioner—and where Shauger and his wife, Lisa, who is president/CEO of TSG, got married in 1985.
Later in the morning, shuttle buses will transport parade participants to the start of the parade route: West Orange Town Hall. The parade will then run north along Main Street to Our Lady of Lourdes.
Each year, the parade attracts over ten thousand people, Irish and non-Irish alike, with many high-profile participants, including United States senators, governors, congressmen, and other elected officials. Groups—schools, local companies, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, Irish heritage groups, bands, and bagpipers alike—flock to New Jersey from other states just to participate in the annual parade.
“It’s an international celebration that reminds us of the many hardworking Irish immigrants—and also of the many other people who have built up the US,” said Father Ferry. “It’s a celebration of working people. In fact, The Shauger Group’s workforce is very well represented by the spirit of the West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”
Historically, the Brown Bear Pub, formerly the location of Quigley’s Tavern, has served as the final stop of the parade route. Marchers then typically congregate at the pub to enjoy music and merriment. As a child, Shauger shined shoes at Quigley’s Tavern; an industrious, hardworking youth, Shauger sought every opportunity to get to know others in the community and earn extra money to help his family. It is especially fitting that the parade route will end at a location that held such special meaning for Shauger during his youth.
Raised by West Orange
The youngest of five children, Shauger was raised in West Orange in a single-parent home. His mother, Laura, worked six to seven days per week, often for more than 13 hours per day to provide for her children. Watching his mother struggle to care for her five children, one of whom was terminally ill and died at only 25 years old, Shauger learned firsthand the value of hard work and perseverance.
Laura Shauger’s accomplishments in her life were the result of her fierce work ethic and desire to provide for her family: Laura worked hard to lift herself from under State aid and sacrificed day in and day out to support her beloved children. Exceptionally kind at heart, Laura not only put food on the table for her own children, but also gave any time and resources she could to help those less privileged than her; she often donated leftover food from West Orange’s Supreme Bakery, where she worked, to an orphanage.
“Seeing his mother work the way she did, Don learned a strong work ethic,” said Lisa Shauger. “We come from a community that values a strong family unit, a strong work ethic, and strong values. No matter how much money you had, you still had it all. Whether you came from humble beginnings or you were better off, there was never ever any sense of entitlement. We were raised to work hard for what we needed and wanted.”
With his mother sacrificing every day for her children, Shauger learned from her example the meaning of hard work, dedication, and a devotion to loved ones. At the same time, Shauger watched the community rally behind his family—West Orange families, especially those from Our Lady of Lourdes, made meals for the Shauger family. When Shauger’s sister, Susan, was sick, former West Orange mayor Samuel Spina spearheaded a fundraising effort to help support her healthcare; thanks to the generosity of Mayor Spina and others in West Orange, the “Sunshine Fund” helped cover Susan’s medical expenses. When Susan eventually passed away, the Sunshine Fund donations also helped pay for her funeral, which was held at Codey Funeral Home. The Codey family—in particular Donald Codey, former governor Richard Codey’s father—also went out of its way to help the Shauger family through that difficult time.
As a result, Shauger always had a deep understanding of what it meant to give back to others. Shauger felt a duty to help support his family—and to give back to the community that supported him.
“Support from neighbors was always one thing you could count on in West Orange,” said Mayor Parisi. “I think it’s where he has gotten his sense of community. I have no doubt Donnie feels a sense of repayment to the community, and people appreciate that.”
“He’s always been so passionate about West Orange,” said Therese Shauger. “He truly cares about it. I don’t know too many people who truly give back and care the way he does. I think that’s why they made him the grand marshal. It’s a real honor, and I think he was the perfect choice. He knows West Orange helped him become the person he is, and he always wants to give back. He loves the town. He never forgot it. He is West Orange.”
Always grateful for the lifetime of opportunities West Orange gave to him, Shauger has made it his mission to give back to the West Orange community, even from a young age. During his youth, Shauger served as governor of the Organization of Concerned Adults and Youth (O.C.A.Y.) of West Orange, Colgate Chapter, from 1978–1981. As governor, Shauger stepped up to help combat problems in West Orange’s Colgate Park: Shauger took the initiative to start a neighborhood watch group and civic association, which helped improve safety at the park and facilitate communication between police and citizens.
“He’s always helped people in need,” said D’Aries. “His thing is that West Orange ‘raised’ him. But, even from the time he was in high school, he started to give back to the West Orange community.”
”Before I really knew him, I would hear people call him ‘the governor’ or ‘Gov,’” said Lisa Shauger. “I was always so impressed with that. You knew this guy had it together. I met him at fifteen years old, and he was already a leader then.”
Also during his youth, Shauger became a prominent figure in the community after he, along with friends James Tiernan and Fred Voelbel, Jr., painted over offensive anti-Semitic graffiti, which had resulted from a 1979 vandalism incident in the Colgate Park area. The West Orange community rallied around the three youths for their brave stance against acts of hatred, intolerance, vandalism, and disrespect in the West Orange community.
“Donnie was always in charge,” said Mayor Parisi. “He was always the responsible one. Everyone used to tease Donnie because they figured he’d become mayor or governor. No one was surprised he became successful.”
“He was always the boss, the one in charge,” said D’Aries. “He’s a natural-born leader.”
Shauger was named the “Youth of the Year” in 1979 by the Optimist Club of Orange–West Orange. Always philanthropic at heart, Shauger volunteered in his youth with children with special needs; as part of O.C.A.Y., Shauger helped senior citizens by running errands, mowing lawns, shoveling driveways, and assisting with healthcare-related issues.
“He never forgets how West Orange impacted his childhood, and he does everything in his power to give back to that community,” said Marisa Shauger, Shauger’s daughter. “He does not do it for the recognition, but he truly does it because he wants to show his appreciation for how West Orange helped him and his family. My dad’s commitment to West Orange was never to benefit himself; instead, it was to benefit the town and community of West Orange.”
As leader of O.C.A.Y., Shauger played an important role in facilitating the opening of the Colgate field house. One of Shauger’s first jobs was performing maintenance work as a laborer for the West Orange Department of Recreation.
“He was one of those guys who would just go out of his way to help,” said John O’Connor, former supervisor/director of recreation of the West Orange Department of Recreation. “He’s a giver. You know he’s always going to do the right thing. If you need anything, you can always pick up the phone and call him, and he’ll do it for you. He is always looking to help someone without getting praise. We nicknamed him ‘Mr. Main Street.’ Now he’s ‘Mr. Main Street’ leading the parade. The West Orange community loves him.”
Working in West Orange, Shauger met one of his role models, George Curry, from whom Donald bought his first vehicle: a Mazda pickup. Without enough money to cover the cost of the pickup up front, Donald gave George and Catherine Curry fifty dollars per month until they had been repaid in full. That act of generosity of the Currys gave Shauger a much-needed lucky break—and an opportunity to get his business off the ground. With the help of his vehicle, Shauger was able to travel around, knock on people’s doors, and find driveway repair projects, particularly filling potholes.
As a child, Shauger also used to accompany George Curry shoveling snow at Washington Elementary School’s sidewalks on snow days. That gave Shauger his first taste of snow removal work, and today Lisa and Donald Shauger own one of the largest private snow removal companies in the state of New Jersey.
A Model of Success
Unsurprisingly, Shauger’s desire to give his family more than he grew up with fueled his tireless work ethic and drive to succeed.
What started as a small pothole-repair operation eventually blossomed into a multimillion-dollar property services and contracting company. Through their hard work and dedication, in 1981, the Shaugers founded TSG, which remains a family-owned and operated company. Recognized widely for its high-quality service, hands-on management, and family team approach, TSG offers a wide spectrum of diversified services, including construction, landscaping, snow removal, emergency response, and maintenance services.
“My father is a self-made man: his visions and innate drive as he started his own company, with one pickup truck potholing driveways, has now turned into one the largest private employers in East Orange,” said Donnie Shauger.
The Shaugers’ leadership has enabled TSG to thrive for the last 37 years as one of the largest private employers in East Orange. TSG houses over 200 company-owned vehicles at its state-of-the-art facility and, during its peak season, employs close to 180 employees. With an emphasis on building lasting relationships with clients and offering a broad array of expertise with a personal touch, TSG has earned a reputation as one of the preeminent contracting firms in the region.
“[Donnie’s] a reputable employer who’s employed hundreds of people from West Orange over the years,” said Father Ferry. “Because of his integrity and the growth of The Shauger Group as a business, he’s been able to provide a livelihood not only for his own family, but also for several others in the community.”
“His favorite expression is ‘There’s no “I” in teamwork,’” said Ada Ramos, TSG’s human resources/compliance manager, who has known Shauger since the time he was her paperboy. “He has integrity and humility, and he’s passionate about the community.”
Only a steadfast work ethic and constant perseverance could have enabled Shauger to build such a successful business from scratch. At the same time, Shauger has maintained various professional and civic affiliations. Shauger was appointed the deputy mayor of the Township of West Orange, serving under Mayor Spina from 1994 to 1998.
Shauger was also chairman of the Township of West Orange Planning Board and presently serves on the County of Essex Workforce Investment Board. Additionally, he was a member of several other boards, including the West Orange Recreation Advisory Board, Team Capital Bank (West Orange Branch) Board of Directors, East Orange General Hospital Foundation Board, and the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.
Never Forgetting His Roots
Shauger’s commitment to giving back to the community has never wavered. He donates time and money to numerous charities and fundraisers, including countless West Orange–based charitable organizations, such as the West Orange Cow Parade, the West Orange PAL, and the Codey Fund for Mental Health.
In memory of the Shaugers’ lifelong friend, former West Orange police officer Timothy Groves, the Shaugers established the Timothy Groves Memorial Scholarship (TGMS) within the West Orange Scholarship Fund in 2014. The TGMS benefits students in financial need who, like Officer Groves, commit themselves to charities and volunteer opportunities. The Shaugers contribute personally to the TGMS and raise money annually for the scholarship because, according to Lisa Shauger, “helping the youth is what’s going to sustain a community.”
Sheila Parisi noted the TGMS is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about Shauger’s impact on the West Orange community.
“When he started the scholarship in Timmy’s name, it was very touching,” said Parisi. “His heart is always in the right place. A lot of people can learn from Donnie.”
“Everyone knew and loved Timmy,” added Therese Shauger. “Timmy Groves gave a lot for West Orange. [Donnie] felt like he had to do something good for West Orange to honor somebody like him.”
Shauger has teamed up with former NFL punter Steve Weatherford to spearhead many philanthropic initiatives, including donations of smoke detectors, Thanksgiving turkeys, and grocery store gift cards to families in need; a luncheon to recognize Hurricane Sandy emergency responders; and Project Prom, an essay-writing project they created to help students overcome adversity.
Through TSG, Shauger regularly donates labor, equipment, and resources to various nonprofits, such as the Apostles’ House, a Newark emergency shelter for homeless and at-risk families. The Shaugers spend every Christmas at the Apostles’ House, bringing presents to the families and providing them with food. The Shaugers have organized two extreme makeovers of the Apostles’ House since 2007. The most recent renovation effort, which took place in May 2017, brought together several New Jersey companies, including the New Jersey Devils, as well as US Senator for New Jersey Cory Booker.
According to Therese Shauger, Shauger’s philanthropic efforts are endless, but what really sets him apart is what he does behind the scenes to help people and make a lasting impact on their lives.
“Everyone knows about the work he does at the Apostles’ House and everywhere else—but not everyone knows how much Donnie also does behind the scenes for others,” said Therese Shauger. “He does stuff nobody knows about. It’s not for show.”
Shauger’s longtime friend D’Aries echoed her sentiments.
“He’s always put other people’s needs ahead of his,” said D’Aries. “Donnie’s always been one to observe and do whatever you needed to have done. He’d always reach out behind the scenes without people even knowing it.”
The Shaugers have donated considerably to Our Lady of Lourdes. The church’s grotto was renovated by TSG in 2003 as a gift to the parish from the Shauger and Aufiero families. Year-round, TSG performs miscellaneous landscaping, cleaning, and repair work for the church. Additionally, TSG donates the services of a site technician to address the church’s minor maintenance concerns.
“It’s a sense of security and stability for us that The Shauger Group is always on our side,” said Father Ferry. “It means a lot. Every year, for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, I always call up The Shauger Group to put out special safety cones, mark out parking areas, mark out non–parking areas, check safety of the steps and masonry, etcetera. The parade comes at a busy time of year for property management companies and companies that deal with snow removal. The Shauger Group has unfailingly responded to all requests to make sure the property is safe and secure—all year long and especially at this time of year.”
Shauger’s commitment to giving back to the community has set an incredible example for his children—and has inspired them to try to follow in his footsteps.
“My dad has taught me the importance of hard work,” said Marisa Shauger. “He has also taught me the importance of giving back and the importance of being involved in the community. However, I think the most important is that my dad taught me to never take anything for granted and to always remember where you came from.”
“I truly believe my dad is the most generous, hardworking person I know,” added Marisa Shauger. “He puts everyone before himself. He started from absolutely nothing, but through his hard work was able to become extremely successful. The best part of it isn’t the financial position or any of that, but it’s the fact that my dad never stops giving back. He doesn’t help out in the community or with charities because he can or has the means to—he does it because he wants to. I am so proud to have him as a role model.”
Donnie Shauger admires his father’s “compassion for others” and “never-ending willingness to succeed throughout every aspect of life.”
“My father has always told me whatever you put into something you will get out of it,” said Donnie Shauger. “As I continue throughout the journey of life following that lesson, I will continue to always follow in my father’s footsteps.”
In recognition of Shauger’s dedication to improving the lives of those within the West Orange community, Shauger was named 2015 Citizen of the Year by West Orange Elks Lodge No. 1590 and was inducted in 2016 into the Colgate Park Hall of Fame on West Orange’s Old Timer’s Day. Now, Shauger will have the honor of West Orange Parade grand marshal to add to that list.
“It all just came full circle for him,” said Lisa Shauger. “It’s going to be a special moment in time for him. He can’t believe he’s grand marshal. I keep telling him, ‘You are, and you deserve it.’”
“They couldn’t have picked a better guy—they really couldn’t have,” said D’Aries. “This guy came from nothing, and he really rose up. He never forgot his roots. He’s the same individual he was back then: loving, caring, and kind. The parade committee couldn’t have picked a better person.”
Not only has Shauger never forgotten where he came from, but he also takes every day as an opportunity to share his story, especially to give hope to those who are struggling to get by.
As Shauger aptly stated, “I want to give the kid living in a single-parent home the opportunity to say, ‘Don Shauger did it. So can I.’”