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! 

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.