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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

No-tie gala

You know those fancy black-tie fundraising galas that nonprofit groups love to put on?

Well, Hilbert College is now throwing a “No-Tie Gala.” The Hamburg school recently mailed more than 6,000 invitations cheekily telling potential donors to just stay home for an “evening with none of your closest friends.”

“We won’t be asking you to sit down for dinner or make small talk with people you really don’t like, all while wearing uncomfortable black-tie attire,” the unusual invite reads. “Your presence is not required! Grab your blanket, line up the Netflix queue and your favorite snack because you are about to experience a truly unique non-event.”

What gives?

The “No-Tie Gala” is actually a “virtual” event that will be held online on Nov. 6.

College officials said they were just hoping to have a little fun with their annual giving campaign to benefit student scholarships.

“People have so many commitments and events to go to. We wanted to give them a way to support Hilbert without coming to an event, and by having some fun at the same time,” said Gregg Fort, Hilbert’s vice president for institutional advancement. “In this post-recession world, you have to be a little different. The same old stuff doesn’t work anymore.”

She can stand the heat

Erie County Legislature Chairman John Mills has sponsored 49 separate hotdog roasts to raise money for the libraries in his district, so he must know a thing or two about a good grilling.

Maybe it’s why the Orchard Park Republican took time Thursday to ask the director of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library how she was faring during her time on the hot seat.

Mary Jean Jakubowski had just been raked over the coals during a meeting of the Legislature’s Community Enrichment Committee. Chairman Kevin Hardwick of the City of Tonawanda and other Republicans on the committee were grilling her over findings in a county comptroller’s audit of the library that suggested the library board had squandered $422,777 in taxpayer funds in a failed attempt to promote the library as its own taxing entity.

The highlight Thursday was a searing set of exchanges between Jakubowski and Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca, over whether she colluded with a New York City-based consultant to influence the 2011 county executive race, based on a string of emails Lorigo said he uncovered between Jakubowski and the consultant.

“How are you doing?” asked Mills, once it was his turn to do the questioning.

“Good,” Jakubowski replied, cheerfully.

“It’s a lot tougher than a hotdog roast, isn’t it?” Mills added.

Jakubowski laughed and replied: “I told Legislator Hardwick that I had my Kevlar suit on.”

A sisterly request

When developer Carl Paladino recounted his purchase of the Holy Angels Academy building on Hertel Avenue to reporters last week, he also recalled getting an unexpected call from his office while he was away at a meeting.

It was his secretary telling him there were Carmelite nuns in his waiting room anxious to speak with him.

Wondering if it was a sign from above, Paladino ditched his meeting, hurried back to the office and invited the three nuns to come in and have a seat.

He quickly discovered that they were part of a cloister of nuns who lived in a building behind Holy Angels and rarely left their residence. With some anxiety, the brash and often-uncensored developer asked how he might be of service.

That’s when the nuns informed him that there were two large trees behind the Holy Angels school building that were providing unwanted shade over their residence. They asked if he would be willing to remove them.

With palpable relief, Paladino told them, “Sisters, consider it done. There’s just one thing I need you to do – pray for me.”

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Jay Tokasz and Sandra Tan. email: