It's National Volunteer Month!

April is National Volunteer Month so we would like to take a minute to thank all of the wonderful volunteers that share their time and talent with us! Week in and week out, you’ll find these kind individuals and groups around our building, working together to ensure that our neighbors have the resources they need to stay healthy and hunger-free. Last year, 1827 volunteers donated over 6,500 hours to CUMAC! With their support, our team was able to serve over 50,000 of our neighbors in need and distribute over 1.5 million meals. Talk about impact! Whether our volunteers are packing bags of hygiene products or sorting through fresh produce, their hard work and dedication never fails to amaze us.

To celebrate National Volunteer Month, we asked some of our volunteers what they love about giving back. Here’s what they said…

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“I love bringing the youth group from our church to CUMAC to volunteer because it gives us a tangible way to be better neighbors. Youth learn about hunger in our community and are inspired by example of CUMAC’s staff who take the time to teach us about their work, show us hospitality, and we always have fun, too.”

- Katrina, Union Congregational Church

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“I like to volunteer because I like to help people that are less fortunate than me.”

-  Sergio

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“Nothing glamorous about why I volunteer. I volunteer for the selfish reason that it makes me feel good.  Gives me a purpose.  If I could not volunteer I would shrivel up into a depressed person. Not to mention that volunteering at CUMAC involves a lot of laughing!  AND I get to be with my sister-in-law!”

-  Andrea

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“It’s such a special experience getting the opportunity to be of service to others. CUMAC has become a place where I can turn off the busyness of everyday life and focus on giving back to those in need. The staff and other volunteers help to provide a great environment for this.”

 - Justin

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“I love volunteering at CUMAC because everyone there appreciates the work the volunteers do.”

- Nancy

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“Our church always look forward to the smiles of everyone at CUMAC each month and we are honored to volunteer at CUMAC, to help with your goal in feeding people and changing lives.”

-  Amanda, Cornerstone Church

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"I have been inspired by Andrea, the CUMAC team, and all the people that walk through the door on a daily basis. I volunteer to be part of a community that strives to improve the lives of others."

- Carol

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“I started coming to CUMAC with my church as part of a Lent Challenge a few years ago. We were going to volunteer for 6 weeks. When I came, I loved it. The people here are so nice and it’s very rewarding. I just figured I’m going to keep on doing it. I’ve been coming here ever since. When I give my time, it makes me feel good. And it’s nice to know that I’ve done something good for someone.”

- Ruth

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“I volunteer at CUMAC to help provide food to those in need.”

- Mark

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“Volunteering is what keeps me connected to my community. It allows me to give back what I can while making connections with those who value kindness towards others and compassion.”

- Mia

To all of our volunteers, new and old, thank you for feeding people & changing lives with us. Your impact shows what is possible when we work together!


Want to help make a difference? National Volunteer Month is a perfect time to get involved! Our team is looking for volunteers to help in our warehouse on weekdays, especially in the mornings. If you’d like to get involved please call (973-742-5518) or e-mail our Program Coordinator, Akeeera Weathers.

Can’t get to CUMAC during the week? Join our race team! Team CUMAC will be running/walking in a special event on June 8th called The Yum Run. Call or e-mail us to learn more.

Pathways To Work: Anthony's Story

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Meet Anthony. He’s a Paterson native and a father of two boys. He loves writing, comic books, and hanging out with his family. Anthony has spent most of his adulthood working in warehouse operations and enjoys the challenges that come with it. He never graduated high school, but Anthony has always worked hard, done well for himself, and provided his family with everything they need. One day, everything changed for Anthony. After 14 years with his employer, he became a casualty of budget cuts and lost his job. The news turned his whole world upside down. To get by, he worked odd jobs and late nights, but couldn’t seem to find a steady position. As time passed, Anthony’s savings started to run low and he had to budget carefully. Soon, his worries turned into panic. For the first time in his life, Anthony was struggling to make ends meet.

Determined to get this life back on track, Anthony joined CUMAC’s Pathways to Work last year, and quickly immersed himself in the program. Since then, he has worked in several departments to gain job experience, and completed our forklift certification training to add even more skills to his resume. At the same time, he’s been studying regularly to get his high school diploma. Our Pathways program now offers tutoring for GED prep and college readiness so Anthony has been working closely with CUMAC volunteers to prepare. He tells us that the extra support has made a big difference and he’s now looking forward to taking his exams. “I’ll have my high school diploma once I finish” says Anthony. “It’s something I thought I’d never go back to, getting my diploma, but I’m glad I’m doing this. It’s been a great experience.” 

Along with providing resources to become a more qualified job candidate, CUMAC has also assisted Anthony with the job search process through mock interviews and special workshops. “CUMAC took the time to help us do resumes, which I appreciate because now I know how to write a resume” says Anthony. “I never knew how to do one. Now I’m sending out my resume and I can feel better about how I’m presenting myself.”

Tutoring for GED prep and college readiness is just one of the opportunities now being offered to members of our Pathways program

Tutoring for GED prep and college readiness is just one of the opportunities now being offered to members of our Pathways program

On top of all his training and development, we’re thrilled to share that Anthony was also able to move into a new apartment with his family recently. At first, he was worried about the move. Anthony and his sons had been staying with some family until they could get back on their feet. Living on a tight budget, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to afford the additional expenses that come with living on your own. Teresa, our Community Closet Manager, helped ease his fears. When she heard about Anthony’s dilemma, Teresa provided him with a new mattress, box spring, couch, table, chairs, kitchenware, dishes, and other essentials. Additionally, our team helped transport the items to Anthony’s new place to make the move a little easier. Anthony is still getting settled in his new place, but he says that CUMAC helped make his apartment feel like a home, and that’s something he will never forget.

Anthony assisting in CUMAC’s warehouse after his forklift training and certification

Anthony assisting in CUMAC’s warehouse after his forklift training and certification

When Anthony first joined the Pathways program, he will tell you that he was quiet and discouraged. In many ways, the trauma of the last couple of years kept him from imagining a brighter future. He often felt like giving up, but the CUMAC team was always there to give him the boost that he needed. For Anthony, that support was vital. As the months have passed, we’ve seen him flourish. “The team has been pushing me, encouraging me, and that’s really helped me to spread my wings” he says. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot. CUMAC has really helped me break out of my shell.” With more confidence in himself, Anthony continues to take on more responsibility around the building and impress our team with his abilities. Along with supporting our day-to-day operations, he now helps train new Pathways members, and even leads groups on various projects.  

Anthony hopes to get his diploma this spring and continue working toward a career that he loves. In the meantime, he’s making the most of his time with Pathways, a program that has inspired him in many ways. “CUMAC has helped me get into a better place in my life. Everyone here is like family. If you need to talk, they’re there to listen, to help. I have a much more positive outlook on everything now. I smile more. I’m happier. I’m more open. I used to look forward to calling it a day, now I look forward to tomorrow, to the future. It feels good.”

Pathways to work is providing our neighbors with the skills and resources they need to thrive. Thank you for making programs like this possible.

STORY UPDATE: We’re happy to share that Anthony passed his HiSET exam and has earned his high school equivalency diploma!

 
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Anthony is now dreaming big about his career and we couldn’t be more excited. With his talent and work ethic, we know that he has a bright future ahead. Way to go, Anthony!

Going Beyond Hunger

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CUMAC held a series of focus group sessions last summer to better understand the needs of our community. The most critical discovery from CUMAC’s research was identifying a major gap in access to healthy food and resources among our clients. To help address these issues, CUMAC is excited to announce the launch of our Beyond Hunger Initiative, which includes 3 key objectives:

-        Have a healthy food pantry

-        Have an effective job readiness program

-        Be a vibrant place to work and receive clients

By becoming a one-stop access point for healthy food, nutrition education, health screenings, and other supportive services, we are working to enable individuals living in impoverished communities to overcome hunger and related health issues while working to break the chains of generational poverty.

1. Have A Healthy Food Pantry

As part of Beyond Hunger, CUMAC’s food pantry is transitioning to a health-focused, choice marketplace this year. Thanks to the generous support of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller, New York Commandery and Union Congregational Church, construction on the new pantry will begin this spring.  Planning is now underway and by mid-summer, CUMAC’s marketplace will resemble a grocery store, where clients will be able to “shop” for what they need. These items will include fresh produce, lean meat and other quality proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy, legumes and other healthy foods. While we work to transition to a choice marketplace, CUMAC is working with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the New Jersey Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to upgrade the contents of the pre- bagged groceries we distribute to promote better nutrition by prioritizing those same healthy items. By providing healthy food we are working to help clients overcome hunger while addressing the myriad of health issues associated with food insecurity including diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other diseases. CUMAC’s pantry is already providing 30,0000 people with healthy groceries and another 19,000 people with surplus produce every year. With a larger, more efficient space, our team will be able to expand healthy food access and assist even more of our neighbors in need.  

Along with making healthy foods more readily available, our new marketplace will address health disparities by providing clients access to live food demonstrations, health screenings, and other supportive services. Many of these resources are already being offered in our pantry, and the new space will allow us to share these opportunities with a larger audience on a regular basis. Serving thousands of people every month provides our team with the unique opportunity to make a real impact on the wellness of our community. By collaborating with various community partners to offer wraparound services, we will help ensure that our clients have all of the resources they need to thrive. 

Summit Medical Group Foundation visited CUMAC earlier this month to educate our team about Diabetes. Summit covered everything from warning signs to prevention methods. It was helpful for our staff, who often work with clients at-risk for the disease.

Summit Medical Group Foundation visited CUMAC earlier this month to educate our team about Diabetes. Summit covered everything from warning signs to prevention methods. It was helpful for our staff, who often work with clients at-risk for the disease.

2. Have an effective job readiness program

As you may already know, CUMAC recently relaunched its Pathways to Work program. Pathways is a comprehensive training program for those struggling to find gainful employment. CUMAC is taking steps to bolster this program, which serves an average of 35 participants annually, to create lasting change in our community. Pathways is now offering participants assistance with resume writing, onsite tutoring for GED prep and college readiness, mock interviews, networking options, forklift training and certification, and resources to aid with the job search process. Through a combination of onsite training, skill building, and access to resources, Pathways creates a scalable and sustainable model for job readiness training that leads to opportunities for careers. The revamped program is already making an impact. We’re proud to share that nine of our participants found full-time positions in 2018 and we are hoping to grow those numbers in the months ahead.

3. Be a vibrant place to work and receive clients

As a final component of Beyond Hunger, we will continue to invest in our team, those we serve, and our infrastructure to make CUMAC a vibrant place to work and receive clients. In 2018, our staff made efforts to address major facility and equipment needs, and that will continue in the months ahead with our new marketplace. CUMAC is also committed to providing an empowering work environment that reflects the community we serve. CUMAC will continue to hire from our community and provide salaries that are above minimum wage with full medical benefits. Additionally, all staff will have opportunities to better themselves through professional development, financial literacy training, and access to education. Through the combined efforts of the Pantry, Pathways to Work, and providing a vibrant workplace, CUMAC is helping to empower our community with resources and services that can break generational cycles of poverty.

As we continue to feed people & change lives, our team is full of hope and determination for what lies ahead. Thanks to all of our friends, supporters, and community partners that our making this new initiative possible. Together, we’re working toward a future beyond hunger.

Speak Out For SNAP

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of our nation's greatest tools in the fight against hunger. The program provides nutrition assistance to millions of low-income individuals and families who are struggling to keep food on the table. The administration recently proposed a rule that would take away SNAP eligibility for 755,000 unemployed and underemployed adults, cutting benefits by $15 billion over the next decade. With 1 in 8 Americans already struggling with food insecurity, these cuts would be devastating, and would leave hundreds of thousands of additional people at-risk of going hungry. Do you have a minute to help? Leave a comment today to protect this vital program. The 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule ends on April 2, 2019. Submit your comment here.

Already left a comment? Spread the word on social media using #SNAPmatters and #HandsOffSNAP

Thank you for fighting hunger with us!

Facing the Government Shutdown

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As the government shutdown continues, thousands of furloughed federal workers and their families are wondering where their next meal will come from. If you or someone you know is being affected by the shutdown, please know that we’re here to assist you. Just bring your federal ID to CUMAC’s pantry and our team will provide food and other essentials. Our pantry is open Mondays from 11am-2pm and Tuesday-Friday from 12:30pm-3:00pm. Fruits and vegetables are also available, Tuesday-Friday from 9:00am-11:30am. Please help spread the word!

Questions? Please contact our pantry supervisor, Shanee Alston, at 973-742-5518 or salston@cumacecho.org.

Celebrating With Kindness

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Lucy may only be in elementary school, but she’s fighting hunger in a major way. This awesome 9-year-old recently used her birthday party as an opportunity to make a difference in her community. Instead of having gifts at this year's celebration, Lucy asked her friends and family to make a donation to the hungry.

Lucy told us that she was inspired by some of the lessons that she's learned at her Hebrew school at Barnert Temple about kindness. After hearing about the importance of giving back, she wanted to find ways to take action locally. Realizing that she didn’t really need anything for her birthday, Lucy decided to turn her big day into a big collection. The response was incredible. We're happy to share that her birthday party raised over $1,000 to feed our neighbors in need!

The other day Lucy stopped by CUMAC to drop off some donations and she tells us that she's already brainstorming new ways to help others. She can’t wait to come back to volunteer and she wants to get her Girl Scout troop involved as well!

 Lucy, you continue to amaze us with your generosity and thoughtfulness. Thank you for all that you do to make your community a better place.

Holly Jolly Fun!

Hundreds of youth from our community visited CUMAC this month for our Holly Jolly Holiday Party! It was a day full of fun and festive activities, and the kids were all smiles. Thanks to the Toy Foundation, our community partners, volunteers, and staff for making the celebration possible!

Check out some highlights below:

Supporting Our Neighbors In Need

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In the early hours of a cool November morning, a fire breaks out at an apartment building here in Paterson. The blaze, which consumes two apartments and destroys several others by smoke and water, leaves 21 residents displaced. A young couple from that apartment building walk through our doors. Hours earlier, this couple and their two small children lost their home and everything they own. They are in shock and afraid. They're staying with some family for now, but they are in major need of support. 

Our team jumps into action. We gather food, clothing, hats, scarves and coats, as well as pillows, bedding, kitchenware, and other essentials. For our new friends, these donations bring much-needed relief, and hope for a better tomorrow. While nothing can undo the damage of losing one's home, this family will have the support they need to stay hunger-free and start their recovery. Your support makes it possible. Thank you for helping us serve our neighbors when they need it most!

Every year, thousands of families face disaster and struggle to get back on their feet. CUMAC is here to help. Consider donating new or gently used clothing, household items, and/or small furniture to our Community Closet. Call (973-742-5518) or e-mail our office to learn more about our disaster relief program. For more ways you can support our work visit our donation page.

Spreading Holiday Cheer

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This holiday season CUMAC is partnering with the Toy Foundation (TTF) to provide toys to hundreds of kids in need in Passaic County. The toy giveaway will be a part of CUMAC’s inaugural Holly Jolly Holiday Party, a community event taking place on December 14 and 15 at the organization's facility in Paterson, New Jersey.

Several of CUMAC's community partners will gather to take part in the celebration, which is by invitation only. The agencies will bring the children they serve, ranging in age from 3 to 14, for a day full of fun and excitement. The Toy Foundation will be providing more than 1,000 toys for this event, including board games, plush, puzzles, ride-ons and much more. 

“The Toy Foundation is pleased to be partnering with CUMAC to change the lives of children and families facing adversity” says Jean Butler, the Toy Foundation’s Executive Director. “We make it our mission to help brighten Christmas for as many at-risk youth as possible, through the joy of play.  Our heartfelt thanks goes to the toy community for helping to make this holiday toy giveaway such a success.”

Along with choosing a favorite toy, youth in attendance will enjoy festive snacks and activities, including photos with Santa, arts & crafts, a winter clothing giveaway, and some fun surprises. 

“More than providing toys, it's important to provide children with rich experiences that they're able to remember for years to come” says Mark Dinglasan, CUMAC Executive Director. 

“Thanks to the Toy Foundation and all of our wonderful corporate and community partners, CUMAC will be able to transform its facility into a holiday play land where children and families will be able to eat, play and laugh and we hope it enriches their holiday season. We're so grateful to the Toy Foundation and all of our friends.”

To learn more about the event or how you can get involved please call 973-742-5518 or e-mail our team.

About the Toy Foundation

The Toy Foundation (TTF) is a 501(c)3 children’s charity whose mission is to provide joy and comfort to children in need through the experience of toys and play.  TTF serves children who are coping with serious illness, enduring temporary home placements in the foster care system, suffering from abuse or neglect, experiencing separation from a deployed military parent, or dealing with devastating natural disasters. To date, TTF’s signature program, The Toy Bank, has provided more than $200 million in toys to 25 million children in need around the globe, thanks to its generous toy donors.

About CUMAC

CUMAC provides a range of services for community members struggling with hunger and poverty. CUMAC’s programs include a food pantry that serves over 2,500 people monthly; a food depot that handles over 1.4 million pounds of food and other resources for a network of over 30 agencies; a disaster relief program; a thrift shop that provides high quality, low cost items to the community; the Pathways to Work program that offers job training to those seeking gainful employment; Place of Promise which provides a permanent supportive housing program for the chronically homeless; seasonal projects that gives school supplies and other items to thousands of children in need; and the Community Food Coalition, a collection of pantries working together to stop hunger in New Jersey. 

Giving Thanks, Giving Back

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Thanksgiving is around the corner and for many of us that means loved ones, laughter, and plenty of delicious food. Unfortunately, for many of our neighbors, Thanksgiving can be a time full of stress and fear. According to a recent study, 1.2 million New Jersey households are struggling to meet their basic needs. In other words, more than one third of our neighbors have trouble affording essentials like food, housing, and healthcare. As you can imagine, during the holiday season, it only gets more challenging for families living on a tight budget. Many of our neighbors are forced to make hard decisions to make ends meet, and that can often impact their health and well-being.

Fortunately, our neighbors don’t need to face their struggles alone. CUMAC's food pantry provides groceries to more than 2,500 low-income and food insecure individuals per month. Our daily distribution of produce and fresh items reach an additional 4,000 people monthly, which means we’re helping keep our neighbors hunger-free and healthy. With the holidays fast approaching, we expect to serve even more clients in the weeks ahead.

Clients waiting outside of CUMAC’s food pantry during Thanksgiving Week 2017

Clients waiting outside of CUMAC’s food pantry during Thanksgiving Week 2017

As you reflect on your blessings this season, we ask you to please remember those who may be less fortunate. Our team will be working hard to ensure that everyone who walks through our doors this month gets the support they need and we hope you’ll join us. What better way to show your gratitude this season than through an act of kindness? Consider giving back this month by making a donation, volunteering your time, or holding a food drive. Together we can ensure that every family in our community has a Thanksgiving to remember!

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Thank you for making our work possible. This Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for supporters like you.

Building A Healthier Community

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This year CUMAC has been taking steps to ensure that we’re doing everything in our power to keep our neighbors healthy and hunger-free. As part of this process, and for the first time, our staff held focus group sessions with our clients this summer. The sessions, which were hold over the course of several weeks, provided some valuable insight, allowing our team to better understand the needs of our community and the challenges our clients face. The focus groups also resulted in some great suggestions about our pantry process. With this feedback in mind, our team is already taking steps to bolster our grocery bags, adding items that our clients find most helpful. We’re also improving our pantry layout to streamline our food distribution process. Overall feedback was positive from the sessions, and many of our clients stated that our pantry allows them to eat healthy on a regular basis, something that is greatly appreciated.

Along with changes in our pantry process, our team is using feedback from our focus groups in other ways. With the help of our community partners, we’re continuing to create more opportunities to educate and empower our clients throughout the year. Recently, CUMAC teamed up with Summit Medical Group Foundation to provide free health screenings in our pantry. We had our first health screening day this month and it was a huge success! Clients and community members had the chance to visit our pantry to have glucose levels, BMI, and blood pressure checked for free. For many of those in attendance, it was the first time they had received a screening in years. In the coming months we’ll be working with Summit Medical to hold more screenings and health initiatives.

Another way CUMAC is utilizing client feedback and encouraging healthier living is through fresh food available in our pantry. As you already know, CUMAC gives out fresh fruits and vegetables every day. But thanks to our amazing partners, we’re providing more produce than ever, giving our clients the opportunity to have a healthier, balanced diet throughout the month, regardless of their income or location. To take this a step further, CUMAC is partnering with ShopRite of Passaic and Passaic County Community College to show our clients different ways they can use the produce shared in our pantry. Through simple recipes and cooking demonstrations featuring these items, clients are learning more about everything we serve. Just the other day, resident Shop Rite dietitian, Andrea Reina, made fresh pico de gallo with our clients to give them a simple way to use the large haul of tomatoes and peppers that were recently donated. Working with these groups has been a wonderful experience so far and we’re thrilled to see that it’s breaking down barriers and making our clients more comfortable trying new types of fresh food. With an ever-changing lineup of produce in our pantry, it’s wonderful to have partners that can make recommendations and share their expertise.

Registered Dietitian, Andrea Reina, of ShopRite with healthy snacks to share

Registered Dietitian, Andrea Reina, of ShopRite with healthy snacks to share

Summit Medical Group Foundation visit CUMAC with mobile unit

Summit Medical Group Foundation visit CUMAC with mobile unit

Client getting a health screening in CUMAC’s pantry

Client getting a health screening in CUMAC’s pantry

As we continue to serve our community in new and exciting ways, friends like you make it all possible. Thank you for helping us feed people & change lives. Together we’re building a healthier community for all.

Changing Lives On The North Side

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It’s a warm spring day and CUMAC’s van pulls up to the corner of N 1st and Arch Street. A handful of clients stand outside, eagerly awaiting the mobile pantry’s arrival. Our team is greeted with warm smiles and hellos. They begin unloading their equipment and get to work. Every Wednesday you can find CUMAC’s mobile pantry on the north side of Paterson. It’s part of CUMAC’s ongoing efforts to reach underserved populations and ensure that none of our neighbors go hungry. For many residents in the north side, transportation is limited and that makes accessing community resources a huge challenge. Having services brought directly to our neighbors provides them with some much-needed relief.

“This is a real blessing. I don’t know what I’d do without CUMAC” says one of our regular clients as he waits to pick up his groceries. Our team starts to process his paperwork, but it feels more like friends catching up. They talk about their lives and share stories while Jeni types away at the computer.

Our client talks about his recent trip to the hospital, while our team carefully listens. Fortunately, he’s fully recovered and feeling much better. After a few minutes of chatting, our client thanks our team one last time, picks up his food, and goes on his way. As he walks out, I think about what I just witnessed. It’s hard to describe, but it just feels like community. That kind of attention and care is something that’s commonplace at CUMAC. Whether it’s in our building or on the streets of Paterson, CUMAC strives to serve our clients well and make them feel supported.

As the morning goes on, clients filter in and out. Jeni and Marvin handle the intake process, while Isaiah stands ready by the CUMAC van, distributing groceries. Isaiah loves making our clients smile, so you’ll always hear him cracking jokes and finding a way to brighten their day.

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Between jokes, Isaiah carefully helps an elderly woman load her shopping cart, which she walks over from a senior residence down the street. “She wouldn’t be able to make it to CUMAC,” he says. “Nice that we can come to her.” Isaiah looks down the road as she crosses the street toward her apartment. She’s got a big smile on her face and a cart full of groceries to take home. She won’t have to worry about going hungry this month because there are people around her that care. That’s what being part of a community is all about, isn’t it?  

What's Cooking? Fun With Food In Our Pantry

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CUMAC is teaming up with our friends at Passaic County Community College's Food Service Training program! Led by Chef Robert Ekert, the PCCC team has been visiting CUMAC to teach our clients about cooking and food safety through regular food demos in our pantry. Recently, our clients have learned exciting new ways to use different types of produce and other rescued items that are given out daily in our pantry. Chef Robert even taught a class about what can be done with leftover bread! To everyone’s enjoyment, our clients learned how to make bread crumbs, croutons, pizza bread, bruschetta, and much more. Not only did this provide great dinner recipes, it was also a valuable lesson in how to reduce food waste.

Along with sampling different foods, clients have received valuable lessons in food safety and knife skills through our food demos. PCCC will first teach a lesson, then do demonstrations for all to see. After each demonstration, clients have the opportunity to ask questions about the lesson and other topics. For clients and staff alike, having the opportunity to ask professionals about food has truly been an enlightening experience.

It’s no surprise that the food demos, educational and delicious, have been a huge hit in our pantry. As CUMAC continues to grow, our staff will be providing more learning opportunities like this for our clients. We hope that these demos will encourage our clients to work on their cooking skills, experiment with different foods, and make the most of the items they receive in the pantry.

We’d like to send a big thank you to Chef Robert and our friends at PCCC for sharing their knowledge and passion with us. We look forward to more food demos in the months ahead!

To learn more about PCCC's program please call Jim Hornes, Director of Food Service Training, at 973-684-5757.

National Volunteer Week 2018

It's National Volunteer Week and we'd like to take a minute to thank all the incredible volunteers that help make our work possible every day! At CUMAC and across the country, volunteers are committed to making a difference in their communities and we are constantly being inspired by their actions.

In the spirit of this special week, we asked some of our volunteers why they love to give back. Here's what they said...

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"CUMAC is a really great organization that serves people with as much care as they treat their team members and coworkers. It was great being shown the facility on my first day of volunteering and being assigned a leader to shadow and help with stocking the pantry, creating food bundles, or any needs they had. Everyone greets you with a smile, they provide opportunities for part-time workers to get work experience and they host creative and effective fundraisers with the broader community of partners and interested individuals to serve the Paterson community. I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve with them."

- Kevin

 "We love volunteering at CUMAC! Annually I organize a volunteer trip for a group of teenagers and adults from the United Methodist Church of Summit where I serve as Director of Christian Education. We are always impressed by the incredible work CUMAC does to help our neighbors in need. We have helped sort food, catalog thrift shop donations, sort shoes, and assist with mailings. We also bring a collection of food to donate when we come. Our day at CUMAC is always a fun and meaningful volunteer experience. We leave feeling proud and grateful for all CUMAC offers and for the opportunity to participate in these wonderful ministries . Thank you CUMAC!" 

- Sherri, UMC of Summit

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“I have a passion for giving back to the community and CUMAC has provided me with the opportunity to help others who need assistance and service. The managment, staff, and volunteers are all wonderful to work with, and the teamwork and positive attitude in the building makes it a great working environment."  

- Roy

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"CUMAC has brought a lot of change into my life and I got a great experience from helping others as a volunteer. I love CUMAC because it has brought so much awareness to me about the issue of hunger. I had the chance to fundraise for a 5K, volunteer in the pantry, and donate food to families in need thanks to the incredible platform this nonprofit provides."

- Lucy 

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"Since finding CUMAC, I feel that I am a small part of a family — helping other families less fortunate." 

- Fred 

"I love that CUMAC is open to anyone and everyone volunteering at their warehouse to help alleviate hunger around the Paterson, Passaic County, and northern New Jersey areas! I started volunteering at CUMAC alongside the Montclair State Dietetics Organization back in 2013 and have loved it ever since. My passion for nutrition greatly flourished from volunteering here due to the community aspect and knowing that families who need proper nutrition and education will be able to get it with the help from CUMAC. My fondest memory with CUMAC is being able to lead the Action Against Hunger food drive with the help of MSDO members! I am grateful that CUMAC and their wonderful team is part of the backbone in my passion for becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist."

- Merilyn

"It wasn't until I came here with my church that I really got to experience what a great operation this is, the wonderful people, and all the incredible things they do -- not just for Paterson, but around the area. I was working at the time and I decided that when I retired this is what I wanted to do, this is kind of what I wanted to grow up to be. I wanted to be a CUMAC volunteer. They do wonderful things with wonderful people and it's amazing to see how many lives they touch."

- Linda

Whether you volunteer once a week or once a year, your time makes a difference. Thanks to all the volunteers, old and new, who are fighting hunger with us. Our work wouldn't be possible without you!

Want to help CUMAC feed people & change lives? Call (973-742-5518) our office or check out our volunteer page

Healthy Foods, Healthy Homes

It’s 9:30 am and our driving team is getting back from their first route of the day. “500 pounds of fruits and veggies” says our driver, Bert. “Nice way to start the morning!” This may seem extraordinary, but for the staff of CUMAC, it’s business as usual. Every day you can find our trucks on the road picking up food to help feed the hungry. Those fruits and veggies, rescued from a local supermarket, are quickly brought into our warehouse, where they are sorted and packed into grocery bags by our team of volunteers. By 11:00 am those bags are moving into our pantry, going straight to clients who desperately need them.

bert, cumac's senior driver, holding fresh produce from his morning pick up.

bert, cumac's senior driver, holding fresh produce from his morning pick up.

Those bags are supporting clients like Mary, a grandmother in her 60’s with diabetes. Thanks to the fruits and vegetables Mary receives in our pantry, she’s able to stick to a healthy diet even on a fixed income. “It helps with my grandkids too” she tells us. “They love the apples and oranges.”

Those fruits and vegetables also help clients like Michael, who rely on CUMAC to make ends meet. Despite working a full time job, Michael is living paycheck to paycheck.  Fortunately, trips to CUMAC always bring him some relief. With just a single hot plate in his apartment, cooking isn’t always easy for Michael so he especially appreciates the fresh produce he can get in our pantry on a regular basis. “You have no idea how much those groceries mean” he tells us. “It helps a lot.”

Last year CUMAC provided 35,000 people with food through our food rescue efforts alone. This year we hope to reach even more people. We’d like to thank all of our supporters for making it possible. When you donate to CUMAC, you help fuel our trucks, you power our refrigerators, and you help ensure that thousands of families around our community have the ability to provide fresh, nutritious meals. Together, we’re creating a happier, healthier community. Thank you for making it possible! 

This story originally appeared in CUMAC's winter newsletter. To read more click here.

Souper Bowl 2018

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It was a close competition, but we're excited to share that Team Green is the winner of CUMAC's Souper Bowl Challenge! Several groups participated in this year's competition, and together they collected over 3,000 pounds of food and hundreds of dollars for CUMAC in just 3 weeks! The best part about the Souper Bowl? There are no losers! All collections, large or small, will help feed families in need this season and that is something we can all celebrate. 

We’d like to send a special thank you to Midland Park United Methodist Church, Charles Olbon School, Delta Phi Epsilon at William Paterson University, EOF Rising Leaders at Brookdale Community College, Union Congregational Church, Maxell, and everyone who helped tackle hunger with us!

Community Food Coalition In Action

With nearly 1 million people struggling with food insecurity in New Jersey, our team realized a long time ago that we can’t stop hunger alone. Under CUMAC's leadership, the Community Food Coalition(CFC), a collection of nearly 20 pantries and agencies around the area, have been working together to fight hunger in our community. CFC agencies meet every other month to discuss needs, issues, and ways we can collaborate. Through teamwork and communication, we're excited to share that the CFC is making great strides.

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The coalition met earlier this month and there was plenty to discuss. Several CFC agencies have recently switched over to new software, which allows them to handle client intake electronically, something that CUMAC has been doing for the past couple of years. This new system, provided by the Community Foodbank of New Jersey,  is exciting for our partner pantries, but there's also a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately, the meeting is an opportunity to ask questions about the software and learn more about the process. It's also a chance to get some feedback about the program. Initial responses have been overwhelming positive. 

“I hate paperwork” says one CFC member when asked about her pantry's old intake process. “This software makes life simple for me.” Along with speeding up client intake and cutting down on paperwork, the new software gives pantries the option to easily track their data and receive comprehensive reports. As pantries try to plan ahead and better serve their clients, these reports make a big difference.

After discussing software, the meeting changes focus. CFC members engage on a wide range of topics: one pantry is now distributing diapers for the first time and wants to know best practices, another group has an excess of pallets and they’re looking for ways to get rid of them, while several others talk about the needs of their clients and some additional services that can be provided.  The hour quickly passes as pantries talk about their experiences, ask questions and give advice.

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The meeting ends with some thoughts about a healthy produce program, spearheaded by CUMAC, where fruits and vegetables from the Food Bank are shared with CFC members twice a month. The food is picked up and delivered, and allows pantries to get healthier items to the hungry on a regular basis.

“Our clients love it” says one pantry supervisor. “And it helps us be able to do more for our clients. We give them cans, now they’re getting fruits and vegetables, so they get excited. They’re walking out with 4 or 5 bags instead of 2 or 3. That’s enough to really feed your family.”

The produce program has been a huge hit with the CFC, and it’s just another example of how agencies are coming together to ensure that client needs are being met across the county and area. By regularly communicating, CFC pantries are in a better position to serve our community.

“I think the best part of the coalition is that all the different pantries come together and you can learn from each other. All the problems you have, you can talk about it here, and you might learn that other pantries have gone through the same problem, and there’s a way to resolve it” says Darrell Bell, pantry supervisor for St. Luke’s Baptist Church. “Or we talk about issues we’re all facing and how we can work together. Rather than making individual decisions, we’re doing things as a group. Now, throughout county we can all be on the same page. I look forward to these meetings. I really do. This is great group.”

We’d like to thank the CFC pantries for all that they do for the community. Together, we’re helping keep our neighbors hunger-free. 

Passaic County pantries interested in working with the CFC can call (973-742-5518) or e-mail Rose Bates to learn more about the coalition.

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Rebuilding Together

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In the early hours of a warm summer morning, Eddie wakes to the sounds of panic. There is screaming, then banging on the door. “It’s a fire! It’s a fire!” a voice yells. Eddie jumps out of bed and opens the door. The smell of smoke fills his apartment immediately and he sees people running down the stairs. Fear sets in and he hurries for dear life. Luckily, he escapes the building, along with the rest of his neighbors, but his home is completely destroyed, along with all of his belongings. 

With only the clothes on his back and with nowhere to go, Eddie ends up at a local shelter. While the fire lasted a few short hours, the aftermath is long and stressful for Eddie. He is homeless for over two months. It’s a difficult time for him, but he stays optimistic and hopes for the best. 

Eddie has been a Paterson resident for years. He is also disabled and living on a fixed income. Being on a tight budget every month, the fire left him struggling financially. Weeks after finally finding an apartment, he was still living out of a suitcase, unable to afford the extra expenses that come in the wake of the fire.

Fortunately, Eddie learns about CUMAC from a friend and decides to visit. He is pleasantly surprised when he arrives, greeted with big smiles and plenty of support. Eddie receives bags full of groceries from our pantry, as well as clothing, hygiene products, household items, and more from our Community Closet.

For Eddie, these resources are a huge relief, giving him the boost he needs to get back on his feet. 

Since then, Eddie has been slowly furnishing his new place. “It’s finally starting to feel like home” he tells us. He’s not able to cook at the apartment, since he doesn’t have a stove, so he loves being able to visit CUMAC for bags of food that are ready to eat. Eddie has also been trying to eat healthier because of his Diabetes so he’s particularly excited about the fruits and vegetables in the pantry, which are always a big help with his diet.   

“It took the fire for me to get here, but I’m glad I found CUMAC” he says. “It’s been a blessing. This place really helps people in need.”

Eddie can now enjoy his new home, and doesn’t need to worry about when life can return to normalcy. Because of supporters like you, we can provide neighbors like Eddie with vital resources and support every day and at the most critical times. While we can’t always prevent disasters from happening, you can count on our team to do everything in our power to make recovery easier on our clients. Thank you for making it possible. 

To support CUMAC's disaster relief program, consider donating new and gently used clothing, household items, and/or small furniture to our Community Closet.