Continuing its dedication to "Doing the Most Good", the New Brunswick Corps of the Salvation Army recently announced a new Thanksgiving initiative, and a new program called Pathways of Hope, during its annual Open House.
Gus Sleiman, Chairperson of the Advisory Board said the Open House "served to create awareness, as way to showcase our work and the sincere effort that we put into this community." Informing the public, and attracting donors, is an ongoing necessity for non-profit organizations like the Salvation Army.
"The Open House was a great success, and it was a special pleasure to have Mayor (James) Cahill attend and support the work of the Salvation Army," said Captain Ruth Andrade. "We still have a lot to do, but it was very good to see other organizations come to learn about what we are doing for our community."
One of the objectives of the event was to attract financial support. More donors are needed due to several factors. Although the City of New Brunswick is on the upswing on many indicators - for example, new development projects, steady growth in population and housing, and falling unemployment (4% in 2017) - the Salvation Army's effort to continue properly serving all the communities in its service area (which includes East Brunswick, North Brunswick, Milltown and Highland Park) requires they remain proactive.
"We have so many programs going on right now, especially for children, that many people don't know about," Captain Andrade added. "We have 50 children in the after-school program, and there is a need to hire employees to work with them, which is very costly. Our summer day camp provided a variety of activities and enrichment to 85 children. For families we offer a food pantry, and we're always looking for donations to support the community's needs."
The numbers speak for themselves. In 2017, the Salvation Army's New Brunswick Corps provided services to nearly 10,000 people at a total cost of $333,900. This included assistance for low-income families needing help with past due rent, utility bills, prescriptions, and housing vouchers. In the food pantry program, families and individuals are provided with bags containing food and beverages, donated by the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and others, along with personal hygiene kits, supplies for mothers and infants, and even food for pets. In 2017, they distributed 9,369 bags of food and 2,021 personal hygiene bags to over 2,000 families totaling 5,500 people. Seasonal programs include Back-to-School, Thanksgiving, Angel Tree, Adopt-a-Family... plus the After-School Program, Spring Break Camp, Summer Day Camp, and access to Camp Tecumseh for children.
Most of the larger donors typically sign up for specific programs; but given the growing number of families and individuals seeking assistance, the need to attract new donors is increasingly important.
"Our biggest donor is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, they are always here for this community, and they support the Salvation Army. They want us to succeed, to do good for our community," said Captain Andrade. "Rutgers University and Johnson & Johnson are also generous and supportive. But we are always looking for new partners. We have a new program, for example, Pathways of Hope, for which we are seeking donors."
Gus Sleiman describes Pathways of Hope: "This is a program we began offering last year. Most of the services we provide are on a one-time basis, but with Pathways of Hope we focus on breaking a cycle of poverty. Basically, we take a family and see it through a process of transformation where we help them to cover everything they need - it's like having a life coach - through jobs, their children's education, doctor's appointments, building their skills, credit, and eventually, hopefully, once they graduate from the program they are self-sustainable. Instead of despair, now they are living in hope, and slowly but surely, they transform into the community around them... and you start to see change in New Brunswick and in the neighborhoods. We assisted six families last year, and this year we'll have several more. It's a very intense case management process, it takes time, and money, but the end-result is very positive."
And the documented rise in families and individuals needing assistance is putting a strain on the organization's finances. "In the summer the Salvation Army generally sees a rise in families seeking assistance, so they need help to get back on their feet," said Captain Andrade. "Also, we're seeing families moving state to state. We see families coming to New Brunswick looking for new jobs and opportunities (drawn by the City's overall high growth and low unemployment numbers), and when they get here, they first look for assistance to help their kids go to school."
A reassuring note for potential supporters is that the funds they decide to donate will be put to good use. "I think it's important to point out that we are one of the only organizations where 82 cents out of each dollar goes directly to programs and services," said Sleiman. "This is one of the things that draws contributors to us, and of which we are very proud.
Our focus at the recent Open House was to create awareness," he concluded. "And we'll continue to do that. This year we're launching a new initiative: Giving Tuesday (November 27th), to raise funds and showcase what we do, when we'll be at the train station in the morning, at rush hour... we'll be out in full force, and you'll hear those bells!"
The Salvation Army New Brunswick Corps is currently hiring Bell Ringers for the Holiday Season, from November 16 through December 24, as well as accepting volunteers for the Thanksgiving, Red Kettle Campaign, and Adopt a Family/Angel Tree programs. To learn more about the Salvation Army New Brunswick Corps' programs and services, how to get involved and volunteer, or otherwise support their efforts, you may call Office Manager Erika Zavala or Captains Ruth and Aloir Andrade at 732-545-1477, or visit their website.