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.

7 Simple Ways To Give Back This Holiday Season

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The holidays are a special time of year when we take a break from our busy lives to appreciate the little things. As we stop to enjoy our loved ones, exchange gifts, and share delicious meals together, it’s also a great time to remember our neighbors in need and do something to make our community a better place. At CUMAC, our team will be working hard this month to ensure that all of our clients have the holiday season they deserve. If you would like to spread some holiday cheer with us, here are seven simple ways you can help make a difference:

1. DONATE – Consider giving to CUMAC this month to support our life-changing programs! Thanks to a special 2-for-1 match in memory of Elizabeth Soechting, every donation in December will allow our team to serve even more of our hungry neighbors. That means $50 can become $150! Donate today to help us reach our goal and triple your impact! Offer ends 12/31. 

2. HOLD A FOOD DRIVE – Many families around our community are struggling to make ends meet and rely on CUMAC to keep food on the table. Food drives are a great way to ensure that we can feed these families and all who come our way! Need help organizing your collection? Contact our office or check out these collection tips.

3. COLLECT COATS - Do you have any unused coats or winter clothing just sitting around your home? Donate your new or gently used items to CUMAC! At this time of year we see countless community members struggling to stay warm. Help keep our clients comfy this season by donating or collecting coats, hats, scarves, and other winter clothing. Something as simple a pair of gloves can make someone’s day!

4. VOLUNTEER – “Many hands make light work.” Spread some holiday cheer by donating your time to CUMAC this December! Our pantry is serving thousands of our neighbors in need every month, which means help is regularly needed around our building to sort and pack food and other resources. Whether you’re volunteering for an hour or a full day, it all makes a difference! To learn more about volunteering visit our opportunities page

5. STOP BY ABMA'S FARM – Our wonderful friends at Abma’s Farm (located in Wyckoff, NJ) have a Giving Tree to help struggling families this season. Visit Abma’s any time this month for delicious foods, and remember to buy an ornament for the tree while you’re there! Proceeds from the Giving Tree (through January 6) will be matched by Abma’s for purchase of fresh, local food for our clients! How great is that? Read more on their website. Thank you Abma's

6. VISIT CUMAC, BRING A FRIEND —There’s power in numbers. And with hunger affecting 1 million people in New Jersey, we’ll take all the help we can get! Stop by our building for a tour, see our programs in action, and learn about ways you can be a light for our community. To schedule a tour, call or e-mail our office.

7. GIVE WHILE YOU SHOP – Many of us will be finishing (or starting) our holiday shopping in the next couple of weeks, why not help the hungry while you’re at it? If you’re online shopping for gifts, consider using AmazonSmile or Goodshop. A portion of every purchase will be donated to CUMAC’s programs! 

Whether it’s during the holidays or any other time of year, remember there’s never a bad time to give back. Through small acts of kindness we can all make a big impact. Happy holidays everyone and thank you for all that you do!

One Afternoon In Our Pantry

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A mother walks into our pantry with her young daughter and son the other day. They’re tired and haven’t had a decent meal in days. After hours of searching for help, the family found their way to CUMAC. We quickly learn that mom lost her job a few months back, and eventually the family had to give up their home. Forced to move from shelter to shelter, they’ve faced weeks of stress and uncertainty. They need support like never before and fortunately our team is ready to help, and not just with food, but with kindness and love.  As their grocery bags are prepared, Jeni, one our team members, gives the children a package of apple slices to snack on. The young boy smiles, his face lighting up in joy with each bite. Our team then brings out food, hygiene products and other essentials for the family. Halloween was just a few days away, so our staff even brought out two costumes for the kids to brighten up their day. The boy wastes no time and immediately puts his costume on, right there in the pantry.

For a brief moment, all desperation and concern leaves the room. The mother lets out a huge sigh of relief. “You have no idea how much this means, you made my day” she says with a big smile. “That’s what we’re here for” says Jeni. “You’ve always got somewhere you can go.” She then refers the family to CUMAC's case manager, where they can get additional support and resources. The mother gives Jeni a big hug, and Jeni invites her to come back soon.

Before the family leaves, the mother stops for a moment, tears in her eyes. “Thank you” she says to Jeni. “It’s been a really bad day. This means so much.”

No one should have to worry about how they’re going to feed their families or how to keep a roof over their head. Sadly, for too many of our neighbors, hunger and homelessness are a constant threat. Luckily, with CUMAC, our neighbors never have to feel like they’re alone. Our staff is here, day in and day out, to ensure that families like this one get the care and support they need most. Thank you for making it possible.

Want to help us feed people & change lives? Sign up to volunteer, hold a collection or make a donation. Together, we can build a stronger, healthier community! 

Home, Sweet Home

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After several months of hard work and planning, we’re excited to announce that Place of Promise, CUMAC’s supportive housing program, officially has a new home! As many of you already know, we decided to move the program to a new location in an effort to give our residents more space and better amenities. We first mentioned our plans to move in our newsletter and we were blown away by the outpouring of support in response to the article. Many of you answered our call by donating household items, furniture, glassware and so much more.

Thanks to your support, Place of Promise is fully furnished and truly feels like a home. We’re now a few weeks in and our residents couldn’t be happier! Our residents love their new space and wanted us to let you know that they are so grateful for all the wonderful donations and household items.

“What a gift this has been” says Bob, one of our residents. “It’s the kind of home I’ve always wanted.” Another one of our residents told us that he’s never felt safer. “We’re in a nice neighborhood now and that makes me feel good at the end of the day. We can sit outside, enjoy the weather, without having to worry. It’s a good feeling.”  Another resident put it simply: “If this isn’t a blessing, I don’t know what is."

We look forward to giving you more updates from Place of Promise in the weeks ahead. From the residents and all of our staff, thank you for your continued support of programs like this one. Together, we’re changing lives! 

For more on Place of Promise visit our programs page. Do you have new or gently used items you're hoping to donate? Learn more about donating to CUMAC by visiting our Community Closet page.

One Small Idea Can Make A Big Difference

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Brett and Esther Zuckerman live in Ridgewood, NJ with their two children, Ellie and David. The Zuckermans are an active family and are always looking for ways to give back. They’ve held coat drives, volunteered at local agencies and assisted with special events around our area. Recently they discovered CUMAC and decided to support our work in a unique way.

Brett’s father worked for a fine glassware company and over the years he developed a huge collection that was stored in his basement. The glassware wasn’t being used, and so the family decided to have a special sale and donate the proceeds to CUMAC.

The Zuckerman family made signs, set up tables full of items, and even put up a huge Tiki man in front of their house to draw attention to the sale. They also set up a stand where the kids sold lemonade and homemade brownies throughout the event from their driveway. It was a long day for the Zuckermans, but they told us that it was completely worth it. The event had a great turnout and the family was amazed by the generosity of their customers. Many people paid extra for the glassware after learning it was for CUMAC, some stopped by just to make a donation.

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“I kept telling my kids that you feed a person a meal, it's just a one-time event” says Brett. “But if you give a family a bag or two or three of groceries, you can feed them for a week and give them some control of their lives.” That sentiment kept their family motivated all day long. When the event was finally over, the Zuckerman family raised over $1,100 to feed people & change lives. We were blown away. Thanks to this amazing family for their incredible generosity and for reminding us that we all have the power to make a difference!

Partners In Our Work

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“Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, they just have the heart.”  – Elizabeth Andrew

Many of us struggle to find the balance between our professional life, our social life and our philanthropic life. We want to give back to our community somehow, but don’t necessarily have the time. Fortunately, with the help of corporate volunteer programs, getting involved is now becoming simpler than ever for many. At companies across the country individuals are being given the opportunity to take time from their regular work day to provide hands on service throughout their communities. The benefits have been enormous.

Through corporate volunteering, individuals have the chance to not only help organizations improve, but they also help themselves and their company improve. Here are some key reasons why you should get your workplace to volunteer: it grows your company’s visibility and it encourages professional development, leadership and team building.

For corporations like Columbia Bank and NEC Financial Services, free time is not something they necessarily have; it’s what they do with it. In recent months, both companies have been putting their best foot forward to make time to give back to their community.

Along with their financial support, Columbia Bank has organized a new program which challenges employees to routinely volunteer. Employees are on site at CUMAC every two weeks for a full day to assist with various projects.  New staff members are also encouraged to volunteer with the team, both as a team building experience and as a way to introduce them to Columbia's philanthropic priorities. The groups may vary in size, but their efforts to complete projects are immeasurable. They approach each project with enthusiasm and strategically to assure that each person is a part of the process.

NEC Financial Services has been an asset through different areas at CUMAC. Along with volunteering, the company has regularly held food drives and collections. On various occasions, NEC has consulted with CUMAC regarding building projects that would be beneficial to our daily operations, along with providing further assistance through grant funding from its affiliate, NEC Foundation of America. Just minutes away from the NEC office, CUMAC has become sort of a home away from home for their team, giving staff an opportunity to provide volunteer support directly to their community on a regular basis.

These companies are going above and beyond to create a culture of giving and we’re honored to call them partners in our work. Although only two corporate groups were mentioned, CUMAC would like to thank all our corporate volunteers for taking the time to help CUMAC fight hunger.  

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!