National Give Something Away Day

Many people struggle to balance their work life and social life which leaves little room for philanthropy. They often state, “If I had more time in a day or days in a week I could get more done”. What if I told you there was a way to include philanthropy in your schedule without much interruption.

July 15th is recognized as “National Give Something Away Day”. The day was created to give people the opportunity to share their plentiful bounties with others without expectations or limitations. There are a number of simple ways to celebrate this day. Listed below are a few ideas that could help you get started:
 
•    Give your time volunteering
•    Give clothing and/or shoes (all sizes)
•    Give a bag of groceries
•    Give a bag of hygiene products
•    Give a backpack full of school supplies
•    Give plastic grocery bags
•    Give baby items (food, diapers, wipes or formula)
 
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate National Give Something Away Day, this is your perfect opportunity. Share this day with family and friends via social media to encourage them to join in on the celebration by using #cumacfeeds #givesomethingawayday or #hungerhelpers.

For more information about CUMAC operating hours or other ways of giving, please visit our opportunities page or give us a call (973-742-5518). 
 

Thank You, Pat

Rev. Pat Bruger began her journey as an advocate and leader for the hungry in 1991, when she became only the second paid Executive Director in CUMAC’s history. This week, after 26 years of feeding people & changing lives, Pat is retiring from that position. While Pat will certainly be missed, she's developed a strong foundation for CUMAC, and our team is prepared to take the organization into the future.

To honor Pat and her incredible career, our staff surprised her this week with a special farewell celebration full of pizza, ice cream and lots of love. It was the least we could do for a leader that has done so much for our staff and community. 

Pat, words can’t express what you mean to CUMAC. Your hard work and dedication have helped provide millions of meals for the hungry and changed countless lives — ours included. Thank you for your leadership and for turning CUMAC into the organization it is today! 

To read more about Pat and her career, check out this article from the Paterson Press.

Eat Your Veggies!

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I can still hear my mom’s voice “Eat your fruits and vegetables, they are good for you!”  And as an adult, I echoed those same sentiments to my boys.  Lucky for me and my family, fresh fruits and veggies have been part and parcel of daily life. Now, with thanks to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables will become a staple among pantry clients in the Passaic County community. 

During the past several months, CUMAC has become a distribution hub in Passaic County for fresh produce. The Food Bank has arranged for produce distributors to deliver several pallets of produce to CUMAC’s warehouse twice a month.  In turn, CUMAC shares that produce with its clients, pantry partners and food coalition members to enable individuals and families throughout the County to receive fresh produce. “Last week the fruit we received was in terrific condition.  It was ripe, delicious and our clients were so pleased,” commented Joanne from a local pantry.

In a county where large segments of the population are food insecure and cannot afford fresh, healthy food, this program has generated excitement and positive energy.  Providing wide scale access to nutritious foods will enable CUMAC to help individuals and families, living with hunger and poverty, make improvements to their meals and quality of life. The produce program has been very well received and now moms in Passaic County can say more regularly “Eat your fruits and vegetables. They’re good for you!”
 

Volunteer Spotlight: Ayla

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Ayla is a student who has a passion for wellness and making her community a happier place for all. Over the last year, she has worked in just about every CUMAC department. Week in and week out you’ll find her somewhere around CUMAC’s building, assisting with everything from packing bags and sorting food to stuffing envelopes and office projects to community outreach and education. What’s really remarkable is that you won’t just see Ayla helping out with a volunteer project; you’ll often find her guiding others, teaching new volunteers or facilitating projects. Over the last year, she has really become a leader around our building, and having her around has provided our team with the flexibility to focus on multiple projects and accomplish more as a staff. Words can’t express how important that is when your programs are serving thousands of people in need every month.  

As president of Montclair State University’s Dietetics Organization, Ayla has also helped organize several food and clothing collections and has rallied students around campus to get further involved. During times of great need, she’s responded quickly and efficiently to ensure that help is on the way. We are lucky to have such a dedicated volunteer on our team.

Thank you Ayla! Your efforts continue to inspire us every day. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Stu

At times of great need, it’s comforting to know that there’s someone you can count on. For CUMAC, that someone is a volunteer by the name of Stu. Over the last year, Stu has gone above and beyond his volunteer duties to help CUMAC feed people & change lives. What’s truly special about Stu is his readiness to tackle any situation. He’s always game to help where the need is greatest — some days that means hitting the road with our driver picking up thousands of pounds of food, and other days that means hours of working in our pantry or packing bags in our basement. For Stu, no task is too challenging, and he’ll often come in early or stay late to ensure that CUMAC is able to serve all who come our way.

At the core of Stu’s dedication is a strong belief none among us should go hungry. He’s passionate about helping those around him and that can be seen every time he comes to CUMAC. Knowing how large of problem hunger has become in our community, Stu is intent on doing everything he can to make a difference. His willingness to jump in wherever needed has made him an invaluable part of our team, and has allowed our team to reach even more of our neighbors in need. Not to mention his sense of humor and fun conversations always keep the mood light, even on the most hectic of days. Thank you Stu for all that you do! 

A Case For Volunteering

aKEERA, cumac's Community enagement coordinator for volunteers 

aKEERA, cumac's Community enagement coordinator for volunteers 

I’ve been told that millennials are the most selfish, disconnected generation in history. While for some people this may be true, others do not fit the stereotype casted by ‘Generation X’ and ‘baby boomers’. According to a recent report, millennials are 65% more likely to give to charity and volunteer as a result of peer influence. In fact, a previous report showed, “70 percent of millennials spent at least an hour volunteering their time to a cause they cared about, with more than one-third volunteering 11 hours or more. Forty-five percent participated in a company-wide volunteer day. Thirty-two percent used paid time off to volunteer and 16 percent took unpaid time off to volunteer.”

Some of you may be asking yourself, “why does she care”, while others of you may have made the connection that I am a millennial. As someone with over four years of non-profit experience I can contest to the stereotype which previous generations have labeled us. I’ve always considered my peers the ‘generation of change’. We are likely to be the group to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty to be the change we would like to see in our communities.

Over the years, volunteerism has become one of my greatest joys. Oppose to what generations before me may think, my interest in volunteering was not motivated to make myself look good on college applications. I didn’t want to brag about my “good deeds” during job interviews, I genuinely wanted to make a difference. Through these experiences I’ve learned four key factors that I believe everyone should consider about volunteering.

1.      Learning Experience: At times we become so consumed with our reality that we ignore things going on around us. Volunteering allows you to step outside of your comfort zone and forces you to put yourself into the reality of others. While gaining new insight about surrounding communities and other issues, you also gain new insight about yourself. This could come in the form of learning a new skill that you did not know you possessed or encouraging an interest in a hobby or topic that you may have not considered before. If an experience or situation encourages you to ask further questions or influences you to become part of the solution then you have learned the importance of volunteering.

2.      Build new relationships: It does not matter if you are young or old, building relationships are vital. During your volunteer time you will come across people who may share your core values, your interest in hobbies or in most cases your reasoning for volunteering. A small conversation could lead to lifelong friendships or professional relationships. Just as volunteering, building new relationships is all about taking something small and manifesting it into something bigger.

3.      Feeling of accomplishment: Volunteering isn’t always easy. Some days are more strenuous than others, but once all is completed and you take a look at all you’ve done you begin to feel a sense of accomplishment. For many people, me included, no amount of money could compare to the joy gained from volunteering.

4.      You make a difference: Ancient Greek author, Aesop, once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” It doesn’t matter if you put in minimal hours of volunteering or maximum hours; the only thing that matters is you gave!

When volunteering your age does not matter, your heart does. I challenge every person who is reading this to find an organization that you connect with and answer their call to action. For anyone interested in alleviating hunger within the Paterson area, visit CUMAC’s website for various volunteer opportunities. Can't make it to CUMAC? Consider holding a collection or food drive. For all other interest please visit Volunteer Match.

Do you love volunteering? Share your thoughts with us below!

National Volunteer Week

Happy National Volunteer Week! We'd like to take a minute to say thank you to all the wonderful people that donate their time to CUMAC and other nonprofit organizations around the world. Because of you, our community is a better place and that's something to celebrate. 

In honor of this special week, we asked some of our volunteers what they love about volunteering with CUMAC. We hope their words inspire you the way they inspire us! 

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"Volunteering at CUMAC has allowed me to make an invaluable connection with the Paterson community. CUMAC brings different kinds of people together to create something bigger than ourselves" 

- Rebecca

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"Dedication, compassion, can do attitude, mission to serve, no other organization I’d rather volunteer for. These are the words that come to mind when thinking about CUMAC and the work they do. Volunteering for CUMAC has been such a rewarding learning experience for me. The staff, who comes from which all walks of life, always shows a constant positive attitude in helping CUMAC and the citizens they serve. To work in a warm, caring environment where helping citizens is a priority is a real joy and a personal reward for me."

- Stu

"Volunteering at CUMAC has been a blessing to our church. It has allowed our young people to see life outside of our comfortable suburb and to see the needs of our neighbors. CUMAC has offered us opportunities to serve and be productive in a meaningful way. We have been involved with this organization by collecting food and supplies, playing music at fundraising events, serving food at charity functions, and going to the center to sort food. The dedicated staff continues to guide us and provide us with these opportunities. The best part of our involvement with CUMAC is both youth and adults are working together for a common cause on an even playing field, which has drawn us closer as a church and helped our various members get to know each other better, united in a making a difference together."

- Kate

 
 

"There is so much that I love about CUMAC. I spent a good portion of my childhood in Paterson, I've seen the decline even from then to now, and I can only imagine what it was years and years ago. But the city of Paterson will always have a special place in my heart. To volunteer at CUMAC, I feel like I'm giving even the littlest bit of myself back to a community I love. It humbles me so much every single time I'm there. I love all of the workers, and I'm so grateful to be even the smallest part of the CUMAC family."

- Schuyler

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 "I volunteer because I love helping people.  While I was working in NY I was heartbroken at the amount of homelessness that was everywhere I turned.  I knew that I had to do something, so I started volunteering.  It has been such a rewarding experience. The people I meet at CUMAC are incredible and truly go out of their way to do everything possible to ensure that the community is fed and cared for.  It's the caring for that is so important.  People need to know that we care it means so much to them.  In a society where there is so much abundance there should not be so much need.  I will continue to do what I can to end poverty and hunger."

- Cheryl

 
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“After several years of “quiet” support for CUMAC I responded to a call for help and began assembling donated items for the thrift store, which lead to putting in a tomato garden, which lead to soliciting items at garage sales for the Community Closet and I’m sure there are many adventures to come as I am sold on the things they do and I see it on a weekly basis. It is a different experience seeing things on the front lines. People are what makes life fun and CUMAC is a positive assemblage of energetic people delivering a great product…happy for the association.”

- Al

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"I was introduced to CUMAC, through my mother and the United Methodist Women from Butler. Volunteering at CUMAC and helping to spread its mission over many years has been a blessing of great joy, given and received."

- Don

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"Ten years ago, when I first started attending FLUMC, I had the opportunity to participate in a Saturday work day at CUMAC. This was my first exposure to CUMAC and from that day on, I was hooked.  I have since participated in many more CUMAC work days over the years and helped organize various collections for whatever was currently in need (food, coats, hats and gloves, school supplies, baby diapers, hygiene kits, Easter Baskets, Christmas Wish Lists).  Seeing all the good that CUMAC does, all the people that are helped every day and the tireless dedication of the CUMAC staff and volunteers are an inspiration.  I am so grateful for everything that I have in my life and volunteering at CUMAC is a way to give back, to help others and make a positive difference in somebody else’s life."

- Joan

"I volunteer at CUMAC to continue to do the work my beloved sister Joyce wasn’t able to finish. She was a kind and caring person who was active in community service. She passed away in 2003. I dedicate my work for CUMAC to Joyce, so her love and kindness towards people lives on."

- Mel

To all our volunteers, any reason you donate your time for others is a good one. Thank you for all that you do. Our work wouldn't be possible without you! 

Interested in volunteering with CUMAC? Contact our volunteer department. Want to tell us about your volunteer experience? Leave us a comment below! 
 

Be The Light

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“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.”  – Roy Bennett

For those of you who don’t know Teresa, she is CUMAC’s Community Closet Manager. She’s full of positivity and energy, and will always find a way to brighten your day. I stopped in the thrift shop last week to visit Teresa and see how her day was going. We were chatting for a few minutes when all of a sudden someone walked through the doors. Teresa greets the man with a big hello, and his face immediately lights up with joy. His name is Fernando, a kind man with a big smile. He stopped to talk with us for a few minutes and in our short conversation I couldn’t help but feel moved by his story.  

Like many others in our community, Fernando has fallen on hard times and struggles with homelessness.  He first came to CUMAC a few months ago in need of warm clothing on a bitter cold day, and Teresa has been helping him ever since. The Community Closet has provided Fernando with socks, shoes, clothing, coats, hygiene products and other essentials over the last few months — items that have helped him stay comfortable during this difficult time in his life. Teresa has also given him an open invitation to come back whenever he is in need. He’ll pop in every now and then, sometimes for help, sometimes just to say hello.

“When I come here, I’m happy” Fernando says. “Teresa, she’s a good woman and has a big heart. She always helps me out.”

Fernando then went on to tell me about some of the other ways Teresa has been there for him, like when he recently lost his ID and didn’t know where to go. Teresa was around to guide him — she told him exactly where to go and he was able to get an ID right away. “It was a lifesaver” he tells me with a smile.  It’s small moments like this that make the Community Closet such a special place. The stories, the care, the greetings, the smiles, the hugs, the conversations, the warmth –  these are the things that help change lives every day.

For Teresa, there’s no greater feeling than lifting up someone in need. When someone walks into the thrift shop she welcomes them with open arms and they’re treated like part of the CUMAC family.  I think that’s why they’re often so happy to see her. Despite all the challenges that Fernando is facing, he’s always at peace when he comes to the thrift shop and that gives us all a reason to smile.  

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CUMAC's programs are made possible through the generosity of our donors. For ways you can support CUMAC's Community Closet, visit our donation page.

Meet Our New Volunteer Coordinator

Join us in welcoming Akeera Weathers to the CUMAC family! With Stephanie Ames now leading CUMAC’s Development team, Akeera has taken on Stephanie’s former position as Community Engagement Coordinator, Volunteers. Having several years of experience in recruiting, training and supervising volunteers, Akeera is up to the challenge of managing a volunteer department that handles close to 3,000 volunteers every year.  

In the short time Akeera has been with CUMAC, she has already seen how important volunteers are to CUMAC’s work. “CUMAC would not be where and what it is today if it were not for volunteers who strongly believe in CUMAC’s mission” says Akeera. We couldn’t agree with her more.

Every day you’ll find volunteers around our building, giving our programs the support they need most. Last year, volunteers donated tens of thousands of hours of time, allowing CUMAC to serve over 40,000 people in need. Without our volunteers CUMAC’s work simply wouldn’t be possible.

As a graduate of William Paterson University, Akeera is especially excited about working in a community that’s so near and dear to her heart. She also looks forward to using her many skills and talents to help an organization that she truly admires. “When people walk through the doors of CUMAC they are welcomed without judgment and eager hearts. CUMAC is a place of hope.” Under Akeera’s direction, we know great things are ahead for CUMAC and our volunteer department. Welcome to the team Akeera!

When Times Get Tough

Angela has been coming to CUMAC for a few years now. She is a kind woman, and always lights up the room with her smile and positivity. Despite working full time, Angela often finds herself struggling to make ends meet. CUMAC's pantry has helped Angela keep food on the table for her and her son. Our Community Closet has also allowed Angela to buy clothing or houseware whenever she needs it, even on a tight budget. However, Angela recently received a phone call that turned her whole world upside down. 

Angela’s father, “Papi”, suffered a massive heart attack, leaving him in critical condition. For Angela, the entire event came as a huge shock. At just 51 years old, Papi had always been a picture of health. “He was healthy all the time and he was always there for us” says Angela. After the heart attack, he was rushed to the hospital and needed surgery right away. Though doctors were able to save him, the surgery left him weak and unable to use his right arm. “His heart stopped twice in the hospital. They saved him.” says Angela. “I have to thank God.”

After months of therapy and recovery, Papi finally came home. However, he was still too weak to work and his family started to worry about his extra medical expenses. Thankfully Angela knew exactly where to go for help. Using CUMAC’s disaster relief services, Angela was able to leave CUMAC with a shower chair, a cane, a walker, a special pillow that accommodates new medical needs and many other items to make her father’s recovery as easy as possible.  Her family says those items would have been too expensive in stores, much more than they would have ever been able to afford. 

Papi has a long road ahead, but he continues to be in good spirits. Since coming home he’s needed another surgery, but he’s currently in rehabilitation and Angela and family are thrilled to see him progressing every week. With his new supplies, he has the support he needs to be more independent and they are thankful for that.  

Every time Angela comes to visit our Community Closet now she’s greeted with a big hug. As Angela and her family continue to tackle the challenges they face, Teresa and our team are always ready to lend a helping hand or a listening ear. “CUMAC is a blessing to a lot of people in need” says Angela. “I’m grateful for CUMAC and to all people who work here, helping people. I’m very grateful.”

Through your donations, CUMAC is able to help clients like Angela and her family. It warms our heart to hear stories like this. Thank you for making it possible.
 

A Conversation With Kayann

It is with great pleasure that we introduce Kayann, CUMAC’s newest team member. Kayann was hired in December through the AmeriCorps program and we are excited about the wonderful talent she brings to our team. If you’ve been around our building recently you’ve most likely seen Kayann giving tours, leading volunteer projects or helping out in the office. Wanting to get to know our new Volunteer Liaison, I sat down with Kayann to learn more about her life and what led her to CUMAC. I walked away amazed by her story.

Several years ago, Kayann and her family fell on hard times. After losing her job, Kayann struggled to pay the bills and couldn’t afford to keep their apartment.  “We fell into a long cycle of being homeless, on and off, that lasted for a few years” says Kayann. The instability created by not having a place to call home was hard on their family, and Kayann often didn’t know where they would stay or how she would feed her children. Fortunately, Kayann found CUMAC, and the groceries she received allowed her to keep food on the table during times of great need. She remembers how scared and embarrassed she was when visiting CUMAC for the first time. She had never needed help in her life and suddenly she was no longer able to provide for her family. It was terrifying. But Kayann’s concerns disappeared the moment she walked through CUMAC’s doors. She remembers the care and attention of the staff, that immediately made her feel at home.  

“Not having a home, there were opportunities I had to pass up” says Kayann. “Commuting was a nightmare because I didn’t know where I was going to be from night to night, or how was I going to get to work the next day.” This made finding and keeping a job extremely difficult. At times she worried her family’s situation would never improve, but Kayann remained sanguine. Finally, after years of instability, she and her family found a place to call home. She hoped a job would soon follow. She searched for jobs constantly, but had little luck. Still, she kept applying. Months later, she eventually found herself back at CUMAC — this time for an interview. She’s been helping us fight hunger ever since. 

For Kayann, working as our volunteer liaison has been an incredible learning opportunity. With just a staff of 20 and limited resources, CUMAC’s work is largely made possible through the efforts of our volunteers and our supporters. As a client, Kayann never realized how many people were fighting hunger in her community. “It’s given me hope. You might think that nobody cares about anyone and then you see all the volunteers, big groups, coming here on their own, holding food drives and wanting to help. It changes your perspective.”

Kayann’s time with CUMAC has also been an enlightening experience for our volunteers. Being able to hear firsthand from Kayann about hunger helps shine a light on a silent crisis affecting over 1 million people in New Jersey. It also gives many a new appreciation for the project they’re working on. Kayann tells us that she’s really enjoyed the opportunities to educate others and have meaningful conversations around hunger and homelessness. “I always hated telling my story,” says Kayann. “But now I realize there’s power in telling others.”

Over the last two months we’ve seen Kayann really grow into her position. She says that support from the staff has boosted her confidence to new heights. She’s passionate about her role and excited for what lies ahead. She tells us that she’s interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit world, and would like to use her new found voice to become an advocate within her community. 

“This has been really good experience for me and for my children —especially for my oldest. I feel great setting an example for her. I get up, go to work, and I think it shows her that you just keep going, no matter what. I hope that I’m a good role model and they see that mommy didn’t give up even when she was scared or upset. I hope that sinks in with her and with all my kids.”

When I ask Kayann about what CUMAC has meant to her, she puts on a big smile. “I love how everyone is treated with such dignity. I know what it feels like when you’re down and low. At CUMAC, you feel like you’re not being judged at all. You’re just getting the help you need. It’s almost like neighbor to neighbor. You need a bag of food? Here you go! And that touches me in a way that’s very powerful. It means a lot to me.”

Kayann, thank you sharing your story and for all that you do to help feed people & change lives. We’re lucky to have you on our team! 
 

CUMAC says goodbye to long time Development Director

Lynne Bruger, on left, with Leigh Ross at cumac'S HAVE-A-Heart aUCTION

Lynne Bruger, on left, with Leigh Ross at cumac'S HAVE-A-Heart aUCTION

After more than 14 years at the forefront of CUMAC’s efforts to feed people and change lives, Development Director, Lynne Bruger, has announced that she is stepping down from her position with CUMAC and pursuing exciting new opportunities to serve within the nonprofit community.

Lynne originally came on staff in 2002 after many years as a volunteer and has held multiple positions within the agency. During her nine years as development director she has consistently grown fundraising efforts to meet exponential program growth. 

With enthusiasm, a heart to serve our friends in need, and a can-do spirit, Lynne started out as a one-person Development Department: coordinating events, writing and disseminating communications, managing seasonal collections, writing grants and spearheading all other fundraising efforts in support of CUMAC’s mission.  In recent years, she has helped to create and lead a robust development team, which now includes three Community Engagement Coordinators -for events, communications and volunteers- as well as a Major Gifts Officer.  

CUMAC would like to thank Lynne for her many years of service on behalf of the community it serves. Her talent and ability have helped to foster unprecedented growth in the number and breadth of programs CUMAC offers to the community. 

Her compassion for CUMAC’s clients has been a guiding force.  Lynne’s coworkers and colleagues will miss her leadership and creativity, but look forward to her continued involvement as a volunteer and supporter and wish her luck in her new endeavors.  Be sure to keep your eye on CUMAC’s blog as Lynne will be saying goodbye in her own words here shortly. 

Effective January 30, 2017 CUMAC’s current community engagement coordinator volunteers, Stephanie Ames, will be stepping into the role of development director.  Stephanie’s transition comes after 8 years as an active member of the development team and more recent work as a contributor to CUMAC’s four year strategic plan. 

Happy New Year from CUMAC

Happy New Year to all! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season. As we gear up for another exciting year of feeding people & changing lives, we hope you’ll join our team and take action against hunger in 2017.  If you have room for another New Year’s resolution, why not make a commitment to your community? With 1 in 8 New Jersey residents struggling to keep food on the table, your support is needed more than ever.  Here are some fun ways you can make a difference with CUMAC this year...

Compete in the Souper Bowl – CUMAC is holding a special competition this month called the CUMAC Souper Bowl! We will be collecting food and funds every day leading up to the Super Bowl. We will assign individuals and groups to teams, keep track of totals and will announce a winner on Super Bowl weekend! To learn more about the competition or to register your group, visit our official Souper Bowl page. Help us tackle hunger this season and sign up today

Become a Collection Coordinator  CUMAC offers all of the training you'll need to hold a fun and rewarding grocery store food collection.  As a collection coordinator you'll act as a critical link getting food to those who need it most. To learn how you can become a collection coordinator contact our volunteer department at 973-742-5518 or volunteer@cumacecho.org. 

Support a CUMAC Event — CUMAC events are a great way to get connected and help contribute to our mission. To start the new year CUMAC is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Have-A-Heart Auction on February 25. Some other events to follow will include a youth night, a young professionals networking event, and of course save the date for Rev. Pat Bruger's retirement celebration on Thursday, April 27. Check out our event page for more details! We always need volunteers and donors to help with events and seasonal programs such as Easter Baskets, School Supplies, and Wishlist. Please contact Jennifer at jmiller@cumacecho.org if you are interested in participating.

Join Team CUMAC – Turn your miles into meals this year! Whether you are running your first race or a lifetime competitor, all runners (and walkers) are welcome to join CUMAC’s race team. Simply register for your event, contact us about your race, and start spreading the word! Encourage friends, co-workers and family members to contribute on your behalf and watch your impact grow. Sign up today.

Hold a collection CUMAC served over 40,000 of our neighbors in need in 2016. Help us do more this year by collecting food and essential items like… 
•    Clothing
•    hygiene products
•    plastic grocery bags
•    small coffee cans
•    egg cartons

CUMAC is especially low on coffee cans, egg cartons and diapers (size 3+) right now. Hold a collection this year to ensure that our pantry and programs can serve all who come our way.  

Become a Virtual Volunteer – If you don’t have chance to volunteer at our facility, why not help CUMAC from home? Did you know that you can earn money for charity by taking a survey with OP4G or shopping online with GoodShop and AmazonSmile? Those are just a few of the fun ways you can help fight hunger as a virtual volunteer. See the full list of opportunities here.  

Hold an event for CUMAC — Can’t make it to one of our events? Hold one of your own! Every year, individuals around our community are finding fun, new ways to fight hunger — from turning birthday parties into food drives to organizing rock concerts, the possibilities are endless with events. Need some inspiration? We can help! Contact our office to learn more. 

Spread the Word —  Hunger affects over 1 million people in New Jersey. Tell your friends, family and co-workers about this silent crisis and how they can get involved. Your voice matters! Get the latest hunger news by signing up for our mailing list, following us on social media, or visiting the CUMAC blog. 

We're looking forward to another year of serving our community and hope you are too. Join the fight against hunger and make 2017 a year to remember! 

 

 

A Morning With Bert

Bert has been helping CUMAC feed people & change lives for over three years. As our driver, he travels around the area every day to pick up and distribute food for our neighbors in need. Depending on the time of day, you might see him collecting donations from a food drive at a local business, dropping off items to one of our partner pantries or rescuing food from a local supermarket. Collecting and dropping off so many donations is not an easy job. Bert typically has an assistant helping him on his route. However, this month we were short staffed one day so I volunteered to join him for the morning until more help was available. I’m glad that I did. I thought I’d share some of my experience with all of you. Here’s what a morning with Bert looks like… 

8:00am: Bert arrives at CUMAC. He makes himself a cup of coffee and gets to work. After checking the trucking schedule, he plans out his day and catches up on any unfinished paperwork.

9:00am: After tying up some loose ends, Bert grabs his clipboards and heads for the parking lot. It’s pouring out and the wind is starting to pick up. He hopes the traffic won’t be too bad today. 

9:10am: Our day begins. We hop in the truck and buckle up. Bert turns the key, but the engine is slow to start. After a few seconds, it finally gets going. Bert sighs in relief and turns to me. “If you’re going to do the job, you need the right tools. A truck is number one,” he says.  “We’re going to need a new truck sooner than later” he tells me. “I’ve been taking good care of this one, but every truck has its lifespan. This truck has been on the road for a long time.” Bert quickly checks the truck’s mileage and we hit the road.

9:30am: Despite the weather, the traffic is surprisingly light and we get to BJ’s just in time to secure the final open spot on their loading dock. Bert tells me that it’s important to get to the store early to avoid any lines. He knows that well because BJ’s is a regular supporter of CUMAC, donating food two to three times per week to our pantry. We enter and Bert is greeted with countless smiles and good mornings. After a quick chat with the staff, we’re shown where our food is located. With the help of their team we’re able pack the truck in just a few minutes. We’re off to a great start! As we walk out, we notice three vehicles waiting in line for our spot. Bert smiles. “Good timing” he says.

10:14am: Our truck heads down the road to Trader Joe’s in Paramus, another partner that has been supporting CUMAC for years. Different store, same staff reaction: Bert is greeted with a rush of hugs and handshakes. Bert explains the pick up process and we get right to work, loading the vehicle in a way that will leave us with enough space for the remaining donations. Bert tells me that taking a couple of extra minutes to pack strategically always saves him time in the long run. So we carefully pack box after box, nearly a thousand pounds of fruits and vegetables included. What a workout! 15 minutes later the truck is fully loaded.  We take a quick breather and head out the door. Bert tells me he’s happy for the extra help today. 

It’s crazy to think that years ago much of this perfectly good food would have been thrown away. Fortunately, nowadays more stores are taking action against hunger (and food waste) by donating their extra items to places like CUMAC. Our team and clients are happy about that!

It’s 10:34am, our truck has an abundance of food and the weather is starting to improve. There’s plenty to smile about as we get ready for our next stop. As we hit the road, I joke with Bert that he should run for mayor. Everywhere we go people are thrilled to see him and that’s no surprise. Bert is one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Even on his busiest days, he always has time to ask you about your day or make you laugh. He truly cares about those around him. Picking up donations every day, Bert tells me that many of the staff and donors have become his friends. If Bert takes a day off, he hears about it immediately. “Where were you yesterday?” they’ll ask. “We missed you!” It’s no surprise that he is a favorite for so many. Bert loves coming to work every day and getting the chance to thank and talk to those who make CUMAC’s work possible.

As we head to Wyckoff, Bert and I discuss an array of topics – hobbies, food, and philosophy to name a few. He tells me about his previous work as a service manager in the auto industry and the trucking company he once owned. We also talk about Bert’s family and how his dad would always help those in need in their hometown in Brazil. His father’s kindness toward others has always stayed with him he says. Bert is happy to have a job that allows him to help his community in the same vein. With so many of our neighbors struggling to get the resources they need, Bert hates turning down a pick up and he’ll often jump through hoops if it means someone can be helped. He may have to rearrange his schedule, come in early or stay late, but he always finds a way to get the job done, even with CUMAC down a driver and short on help

10:49am: We arrive at the Grace United Methodist Church in Wyckoff, another incredible partner in our work. A lovely woman named Christine, who is in the middle of packing shoes for needy children in Haiti, takes a break from her project to show us where to go. The church’s shelves are packed with donations. Bert and I take turns running out the items. We load over 40 bags of clothing and hygiene products, as well almost 200 pounds of food!  Before we wrap up, we chat with Christine for a couple of minutes and she tells us about the project she’s working on. We wish her luck and say our goodbyes. One more stop to go. 

Bert unloading truck.jpg

11:14 am: We buckle up and head to Costco. More fun conversation with Bert. He tells me that the next trip is different than the others because we’re not only picking up food for CUMAC, we’re also picking up food for another agency who has trouble getting to Hackensack. Bert makes pick ups like these all the time as part of our depot services. CUMAC’s Depot assists a collection of over 40 agencies in our community by picking up, storing and/or delivering food and other resources for them. With hunger affecting over 1 million NJ residents, our team realized a long time ago that we must work together to help stop food insecurity in our area. The Depot allows us to do that every day. 

11:39am: We arrive at Costco in Hackensack, a store that has been regularly supporting CUMAC for several years, and our food is waiting for us. Their staff surprises us by offering a full pallet of milk. Bert is thrilled with the news and gladly accepts. In order to accept the milk we’ll need to make more space in the truck so we start rearranging the donations to squeeze in another pallet. After a few minutes, the space is clear and the extra pallet slides right in. Bert and I thank their team for the donation and head on our way. We’re making great timing!

As we head closer to CUMAC, Bert turns to me and smiles. “We’re heavy today, my friend. We had a good day.” It takes a second for that to sink in with me. I stop and pay closer attention. The truck was heavy, and now that he mentioned it I could feel all the weight as we cruised closer to our destination. Bert is all smiles because there will be lots of food to share with our clients this afternoon. Next stop: CUMAC. 

12:37pm: We’re finally back at our building. We arrive to the smiling faces of our team. Our parking lot is now full and the warehouse is in full swing. We begin to unload today’s pick up, and with volunteers and staff around to help, the truck is empty in no time.

I head back to the office, but Bert’s day on the road is far from over. Heyward, our Warehouse Assistant, will join him for the afternoon and good thing — Bert has several more stops to make. This afternoon he’ll be picking up items from a few local food drives, and gifts for our Wish List program.

I only spent a few hours on the truck with Bert, but the experience gave me a new found appreciation for what he does every day. It also reminded me of just how much of what CUMAC accomplishes revolves around teamwork. From the groups and businesses donating food to the volunteers unloading our trucks, our community is collaborating in an incredible way. Thank you to BJ’s, Trader Joe’s, Grace UMC, Costco and all our supporters for everything you do to help us keep our community hunger-free.  Last but not least, I’d like to say thank you to Bert for all his hard work and dedication. Through his tireless efforts, CUMAC is reaching more people than ever. We’re truly lucky to have someone like him at the wheel!

It’s amazing what can be achieved when you’re working together. Want to help CUMAC feed people & change lives? Donate today or join our team

Big Things Come In Small Packages

You’re never too young to make a difference. That’s something we learned when we met Maya, a 9-year-old from Glen Rock, NJ, who has a passion for helping others. After realizing that she had more than enough "stuff" in her life, Maya has, with the help of her family, turned her birthday into an opportunity to feed the hungry. For her birthday party this year, Maya asked her friends and family to bring nonperishable food items instead of presents. Together, they collected 158 pounds of food to donate to CUMAC’s pantry programs!

Maya was thrilled to see so much food come in for her hungry neighbors. This marks the third year in a row that she has celebrated her birthday with a special collection for CUMAC and we couldn't be more grateful. She’s even started encouraging her friends at school to do the same. Stories like this remind us that we all have the power to make a difference. No matter how young (or old) you are.

Thank you Maya for feeding people & changing lives with us! Your kindness and generosity continue to blow us away. 

Wish List 2016

Wish List 2016 Collage (Website).jpg

For over two decades, CUMAC’s Wish List program has helped holiday dreams come true for thousands of kids in our community. Through the program, area youth are matched with donors who want to fulfill their holiday wishes. This year, CUMAC will be giving out gifts to over 1,000 children living in shelters or dealing with illness, poverty or other difficulties and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s a huge undertaking, but with the help of our supporters we will ensure that each one of these kids has a reason to smile this holiday season.

This is Jenn Miller’s first time coordinating Wish List and she is having a blast. “I have the best job,” she tells us. “Over the last few weeks, gifts have poured in from baby dolls and bikes to Frozen and Spiderman. I’m beyond pleased that every donor has filled each child’s wish and then some!”

With so many donors and kids to worry about it, Wish List takes countless hours of hard work and collaboration. Constant e-mails, phone calls, scheduling and organizing are necessary to make it all come together. Fortunately, Jenn has had some help this year. One of our all-star volunteers, Kathy, has been with her every step of the way, spending several days each week helping her to prepare, check and pack the presents.  

Several hundred gifts have already been delivered to our partner agencies this month, and we expect hundreds more to go out in the days ahead. Wish List is truly a special program and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to reach so many every holiday season. Thank you to all the donors who are helping bring joy to youth in our community. We couldn’t do it without you! 

 

Want to help CUMAC feed people & change lives? Volunteer with us or make a donation this holiday season.

Thanksgiving Reflections

Ahhhhh, it is quiet.  The calming, peaceful sound of quiet.  It is 3:30pm on the day before Thanksgiving.  The pantry is closed, cleaned, dark and quiet. Most of the staff has left the building, headed home to enjoy the holiday with family and friends.  It is a well-deserved rest after a frenetic three days of serving food and turkeys to more than 1000 people.  To be exact, 1015 turkeys were given to low-income individuals and more than 750 people received canned goods, produce, bread and other groceries to go with those turkeys.  Thousands and thousands of pounds of food was received in our building, processed and distributed to our clients. All in three short days.  I feel blessed by the quiet.  

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, our food supplies had dwindled to disturbingly low levels. The basement contained a mere two pallets of food, peanut butter, a CUMAC staple, was nonexistent and our frozen meat supplies were at a bare minimum.  And the turkeys! Where were the turkeys? Although, we never really know how many turkeys will be donated or when exactly they will arrive in our warehouse, we generally count on the fact that we will have turkeys and other food to serve our clients for Thanksgiving.  With the busiest time of CUMAC’S year fast approaching, the food scarcity concerned me.  Peanut butter was not the only thing that was nonexistent…..sleep was too.

I have seen this pattern before.  In the world of feeding low income families and for those who live in poverty, constants are rare, consistency is not reality.  Food flows into our warehouse; it is unpacked, organized, shelved, bagged, and moved to the pantry where it flows out into the hands of our clients.  That sentence makes the process seem very simple and smooth, when the reality is not simple or smooth at all. At times, the amount of food and resources we receive is more abundant than others. There are weeks when our warehouse is full and weeks where it is almost empty. Communicating our message of feeding people and changing lives is always top priority.  Recruiting partners is crucial to our life sustaining mission. When food is plentiful, we are busy organizing the flow in and out to our clients.  When donations are down, we are busy reaching out to our many partners and supporters informing them of the urgency. Similar to the clients we serve, we have learned to juggle resources and to sometimes do with less or without.  CUMAC relies on the generosity of our many, many individual donors and church and corporate partners, who are very often asked to respond to emergent needs, to donate food or funds to enable us to keep our doors open and our staff feeding people.  We are grateful for those partnerships.

As the days immediately before Thanksgiving unfolded, we gave turkeys and food to our clients.  Every night, when the pantry closed, we counted turkeys and wondered if we would have enough to give to everyone who asked the next day.  We were never quite certain that we had a sufficient amount.  But the turkeys kept coming in and we kept giving them away.  CUMAC was bustling with activity. Staff working hard; serving food to those in need.  People in……people out…..turkeys in…. turkeys out.   It was chaotic, loud, hectic, energizing, amazing. Now, at 3:30 on Thanksgiving eve, I sit in a quiet pantry feeling blessed by the quiet but more importantly, I am blessed by the chaos. 

Thanksgiving at CUMAC.jpg

Finding Home

Alphanso came to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica over 30 years ago. After a few years of moving around, he settled in the city of Paterson, where he has been living for over two decades. The transition from Jamaica wasn’t always easy for Alphanso — he’s had his fair share of bumps along the way — but he’s been able to build a life here and for that he is grateful. If you ask Alphanso, he’ll tell you that he is a lucky man. Since he’s lived in Paterson, he has always had a job and a place to call home. Unfortunately, Alphanso recently fell on hard times and was forced to leave his apartment days before Thanksgiving. Unsure of what to do, he started looking for a new home but struggled to find any options. He soon realized how difficult it is to find affordable housing in a city as populated as Paterson. With nowhere to go, Alphanso resorted to sleeping in his car. He left his vehicle running all night to stay warm in near freezing temperatures. The experience was terrifying. He tells us that he was afraid that the car would run out of fuel one night, and that he might freeze to death. Fortunately, the gas tank never went empty. He was able to continue his search and finally found his way to a local social service agency, where he was referred to Isaiah Jenkins, CUMAC’s Case Manager. With few options and even less fuel, Alphanso called Isaiah and prayed for the best.

That phone call changed everything. Once Isaiah heard about Alphanso’s problems he jumped into action. With years of experience as a case manager, counselor and advocate in the area, Isaiah knew what to do and who to contact. Within hours, Isaiah found somewhere for Alphanso to stay for the night. It was only temporary, but it was better than sleeping in a cold car. He also found a local senior program where Alphanso could stay for a few hours during the day while his living situation got settled. Slowly, a plan came together and Isaiah was there every step of the way. He would drive Alphanso around, picking him up and dropping him off from programs every day and night. He would even bring him to CUMAC or take him around town to do his laundry, get his medication or take care of other essentials. This went on for days as Isaiah continued his regular responsibilities with CUMAC’s clients and residents. It’s this kind of commitment to our neighbors in need that makes Isaiah truly special. His behind-the-scenes work goes beyond anything you might find on his resume, and you often don’t realize just how much he does for those around him until you’ve talked to someone he has helped.

After countless car rides and phone calls, Isaiah finally found Alphanso a spot at a local men’s shelter. Alphanso tells us that this experience has been nothing short of a miracle. “Isaiah is a savior, man. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be dead right now” he says. “I would’ve died in the cold, because I had nowhere to go.”

Isaiah was thrilled for the opportunity to provide Alphanso with some comfort and stability at one of the darkest times of his life. “That could be me. That could be any of us” says Isaiah. “I had to help.”  Because of his support, Alphanso will now be attending a local senior program every day, where he can socialize with other seniors, participate in different activities and enjoy a warm meal. At the shelter, Alphanso won’t have to worry about keeping a roof over his head either. With that burden off his shoulders, he now has the opportunity to save some money for a new apartment and get back on his feet.   

Alphanso and Isaiah (right)

Alphanso and Isaiah (right)

"CUMAC is good place, with good people” says Alphanso. “Isaiah never gave up on me and he treated me like a brother when I had no one. I will never forget that. There are still good people in this world. God bless you all.”

Alphanso’s story is similar to so many others we have served. Here is a man who never needed any help, who worked his entire life, and all of a sudden, at the age 75, finds himself in the most terrible of situations. With so many of our neighbors living paycheck-to-paycheck, we know all too well how easily one’s life can be turned upside down.  Fortunately, clients like Alphanso don’t have to face these challenges alone. When you have nowhere to turn, CUMAC is here to help. Lives are being changed every day thanks to our incredible staff and supporters like you. 

Want to help feed people & change lives? Get involved or donate today!

Spe et Labore: With Hope & Labor

On Friday, September 30th CUMAC closed up programs and took the staff on a local field trip. The goal for the day was just to get to know each other, and the city in which we work (and for some, live) a bit better.

Our first stop was to Paterson’s Great Falls.  This area received National Park recognition in 2009 and has seen a bit of a revival since. There are picnic areas and walking paths, and plenty of space to simply absorb the awe of the 77 foot high falls. On the day of our visit, it was grey and drizzly, but that did not stop staff from marveling at the powerful falls and surrounding views. A highlight of this stop was a personal victory for staff member Teresa, our beloved Thrift Shop manager.  Teresa has a sometimes debilitating fear of heights, however arm-in-arm with Executive Director Pat, and surrounded by her CUMAC family, she faced that fear and walked across the pedestrian bridge above the falls – twice!

Rev. Pat Bruger walking with Teresa over a bridge at the Great Falls

Rev. Pat Bruger walking with Teresa over a bridge at the Great Falls

Second, we took a short walk down the hill to The Paterson Museum.  There is a ton of information and visual interest packed into the space, and we highly recommend visiting on your own if you have the chance. We quickly learned that it was fitting we had just been to the Great Falls, as they are literally the driving force behind much of Paterson’s rich history, dating all the way back to its original inhabitation by the Lenape native people. As tour guide Robert Veronelli stated, “water is life” and the falls, and the Passaic River which they empty into, have represented nothing short of that for Paterson. The Passaic was a drinking and irrigation source for the Lenape; it was a vital trade route for over a century; it was the power behind turning Paterson into America’s first planned industrial city; and the hope is that the Falls will serve as one of the primary draws allowing Paterson to once again reinvent itself, this time as a tourist destination, and experience economic resurgence. In sharing that vision for the city, our guide Robert also shared that Paterson’s motto is “Spe et labore,” which translated from Latin means “With hope and labor.” As staff who work day in and day out to bring hope to the hungry and the struggling, those words resonated. We were reminded of our spot, of CUMAC’s role, in this great city.

The CUMAC staff at the Paterson Museum

The CUMAC staff at the Paterson Museum

Our final stop was to visit our friends at City Green. The Howard Sterling Memorial Garden that CUMAC christened in our parking lot in May was funded in part by a City Green “Dig In!” grant. While the City Green farm that we visited is in Clifton, they have supported the creation of dozens of community gardens throughout the city of Paterson, provided educational programming around gardening and healthy eating, and hosted farm markets in urban centers to offer affordable access to locally grown produce. While at City Green’s facility we got to experience some of their education programs first-hand, visit with their wildlife (goats and chickens abound!), and taste the fruits (or vegetables, to be exact) of their labor via a delicious cooking demo. We were grateful for the reminder of the importance of not just feeding people, but making sure we are providing the most nutritious food possible, and consider our friends at City Green an invaluable partner in food justice work.

Some of the CUMAC team cooking a meal together at City Green

Some of the CUMAC team cooking a meal together at City Green

Hunger isn’t going away overnight. But our day out of the office reinvigorated our drive to work together and continue serving our neighbors in need in this beautiful city. We are confident that with the collective “hope and labor” of our staff, board, volunteer force, donors, and many, many partners we will alleviate hunger and change lives.

A Little Extra Goes A Long Way

In CUMAC’s warehouse, it’s a well known rule of thumb that if you leave your belongings unattended amidst all of the donations, they will inevitably (and accidentally!) make their way to the pantry, the Community Closet, or one of our other programs to fill a need.  I’m often heard telling our volunteers not to leave their coats unattended because they’ll wind up in the thrift shop and I’m always taping enormous orange signs to volunteer lunches so that they don’t wind up being given out in the pantry. Amazingly, this request often galvanizes volunteers to say “keep the coat, somebody needs it more than me!” or “that’s OK, I’ll share my lunch!”  This past month, a large volunteer crew had ordered a catered lunch and surprised me by setting aside the lion’s share of it “to share as needed.”  This offer came just in time to make a big difference.

We have a young mom of 4 who works in our pantry and goes to school part time while raising her kids solo.  She has a heart of gold and goes above and beyond to help everyone she meets. On this particular day, she had been so busy that she hadn’t had time to grab lunch, and when I offered sandwiches she grabbed one and looked absolutely relieved to have a quick meal.  I was walking by the pantry a few minutes later when I saw Jeni handing off her sandwich to a tall gentleman. Immediately I knew Jeni was doing what she does best.  With her big heart she was passing on food to somebody who needed it more than her along with a big, cold bottle of orange juice.  Knowing what would come next, I popped into the office, filled a big cup with juicy watermelon pieces, and left it with a fork on her desk.  Not surprisingly, by the time I passed by again the watermelon was being enjoyed not by Jeni, but by her new friend, now settled in to a comfy chair eating his snack.

Mike* had come in off the street that day to see if we had any food to eat.  When Jeni offered him groceries he replied “Nah, can’t do those. I live in my shop.” He’d been to CUMAC a few times before, but would never take groceries with him, apparently that was why.  That day he told Jeni that a year and a half ago he was involved in a freak accident.  A car had come off a trailer carrying cars (the type you always try to avoid driving behind on highways).  It fell on top of him and he was trapped for two hours before somebody heard him yelling.  He’d had trouble working since and because he was at odds with his family he didn’t really have anyone to turn to during that time. Suffering physical pain and mounting medical bills, he would up spending nights in the car lot and shop he worked in up the street from CUMAC.

Since that day Jeni shared her sandwich, Mike comes back sometimes to say hi and to see if there’s any ready-made food.  He’s admitted that without the staff in the referral office he’d be going hungry.  There have been days he’s gone without food, but now because of CUMAC he gets the help he needs.  We’ve been blessed to count him as a friend and his visits are always much enjoyed by staff.  We’re happy also to have the generosity of our volunteers and donors, which allows us to open our doors to all of our many friends who –just like Mike- need a little extra love and support to get through the day.  

*Name replaced. 

Want to feed people & change lives with CUMAC? Consider holding a food drive or making a contribution this month. Every donation can help clients like Mike stay hunger-free.