Feed the Need Challenge 2016
If you have been involved with CUMAC for any number of years, you probably think of March and April as “Feinstein Time” – we know we certainly have for a while. Whether or not you are familiar with the Challenge that used to happen around this time of year, we have some exciting news you need to hear. This year, an anonymous foundation has pledged a $5,000 grant to CUMAC if we can raise $90,000 during our spring Feed the Need Challenge.
Why no Feinstein?
Last year, after disseminating our publicity, we discovered the Feinstein Foundation had quietly decided to discontinue their annual million dollar challenge. Of course that didn’t affect any of the generous donations our supporters sent in to CUMAC – those still went to feeding and supporting our clients – but it did mean we did not receive a grant in the summer augmenting the original gifts, as we had in years prior.
What’s this new campaign?
Knowing that we would no longer have the support of Feinstein in 2016, we began looking for ways to offer a similar challenge. A generous, anonymous foundation decided to give CUMAC the opportunity to earn a $5,000 grant (which is more than we have earned for the past few years of the Feinstein Challenge as more and more groups split the $1 million). We have to raise $90,000 between March 1st and April 30th to earn the grant – a number that sounds large, but we know we can hit with the combined generosity of our many friends and supporters.
What will my gift do?
Every single dollar donated to the Feed the Need Challenge will provide nutrition, support, and caring to your neighbors in need. CUMAC can still provide a meal to alleviate hunger for only 57 cents, so a donation of $50 is enough for CUMAC to feed a child for an entire month. A $100 donation can keep our vehicles on the road for a week picking up fresh produce and other food to nourish our clients; $1,000 can provide an entire month of comprehensive, supportive housing to one of the disabled residents of our Place of Promise. Finally, your gift during March and April will get us closer to earning a $5,000 grant that will help carry us through the summer – a typically challenging time for food pantries.
How can I make sure CUMAC earns the $5,000?
If you have typically given $50 during Feinstein, would you consider $55 to Feed the Need this year? If your church or civic group collected $1,000 last year, can you make $1,100 your goal this year? If you have any friends or are associated with any businesses, clubs or other groups that have not made a spring donation to CUMAC in the past, but would love the opportunity for their kindness to have its greatest impact, please be sure to share the news of our Feed the Need Challenge with them. The Feed the Need Challenge is a wonderful time to make an inaugural gift count even more!
Remember, every single dollar donated to CUMAC has a huge impact on alleviating hunger in our community. Making a gift between March 1 – April 30 will do that now, and help CUMAC to earn a grant to support our work throughout the year.
Grandma Gets a Bed
CUMAC has been a place to go for help in our community for over 30 years. One need that comes up time and time again is for disaster relief.
In our community, disaster is defined in many ways. Fires are common in our old homes, flooding occurs any time rain or snow raise the Passaic River. We get calls from people getting out of the hospital with nothing but their hospital gowns on, referrals for families moving from shelters into permanent housing without a single possession to bring into their new home. Often we have people come to us in the middle of winter with flip flops or tennis shoes on because that’s all they have, without jackets, or looking for a warm blanket to get through a cold night without heat or electricity. Always we’re happy to share the household goods and clothing that come to us by way of donation.
Recently, disaster took the form of a struggle with happy undertones as a family came together under one roof. Last week a young lady came into CUMAC and mentioned a new turn of events in her family. A grandmother had taken her son, grandson and great-grandkids in after they had gotten kicked out of their apartment. All of the sudden 12 people were sleeping under one small roof! A typical Italian grandma, she insisted that her loved ones take what few beds there were. She was sleeping on the floor with just a blanket. She wasn’t complaining, but our young visitor said her heart was broken for the “poor little old lady on the floor.”
Fortunately we had just the thing to help. A few days before volunteers had tested a large shipment of air mattresses and we had them in storage ready to go out. We were able to send her home with a full sized bed, as well as extra pillows and blankets for the family. She also left with food for everyone, a huge help for a seriously expanded grocery bill. It was enough to make life a little easier and more comfortable while the large family banded together during tough times.
A few days later she came back laughing. The grandma loved her new bed and was so happy to be comfortable off the floor! But her small grandkids loved grandma’s new bed too and she was always waking up surrounded by little bambinos.
CUMAC operates in a city and during a time where any small challenge can totally derail a family. A broken down car without money to fix it can mean a breadwinner gets fired. Getting locked out of an illegal apartment can mean losing everything you own and finding yourself on the street. A child’s illness can mean giving up food in order to purchase medicine. These are the stories we here every day. We are so fortunate to have a network of supporters who understand how powerful every donation, every volunteer day, every purchased event ticket and every act of kindness can be as a means of turning lives around or just helping somebody through a rough patch. Thank you for making stories like this one possible.
At the moment CUMAC badly needs volunteers to inventory, test, and assemble household items before they go out to families like our grandma’s. If you’ve got the time, we can train you and get you started. We would love to share more information! Simply reach out to our volunteer coordinator at email@example.com or 973-742-5518. Want to help, but don’t have the time to volunteer? Consider donating new and gently-used clothing and household items to CUMAC’s Community Closet.
Wish List 2015
Thanks to our amazing donors, we were able to fill the wishes of close to 1200 local children in need this past holiday season. The children served through our special program are those often coping with severe chronic illness, struggling to settle into a shelter setting, or trying to thrive despite a poverty stricken home. I continue to be quite moved each year by the ways in which these gifts touch lives and hearts. We had some amazing groups that participate every year and we are so grateful for you and your dedication to this project!
This year we also had a handful of new groups and their contributions were truly incredible. All of the gifts we were able to deliver showed tremendous thoughtfulness and generosity from our donors. I received very touching thank you cards from some of the recipients that reminded me just how important this program is to those in need of some holiday cheer. For those who participated, please know that your kindness truly changed lives this holiday season. Thank you for making wishes come true!
Ely's Extraordinary Journey
Ely started working with CUMAC in the summer of 2014 through the Pathways to Work program. It wasn’t an easy time for Ely. She had recently given birth to her first child, Josiah, and this was the first time she had ever been away from her son. The first few days were especially tough, but she knew in her heart that starting with CUMAC was the best thing she could do for her family. She had been struggling to find a job, and being part of the Pathways to Work program would give her an opportunity to gain job experience, to work on her professional skills, and to better support her family. And so her journey with CUMAC began.
After a couple of days of seeing different aspects of CUMAC’s work, assisting with everything from packing bags to sorting clothing, Ely was assigned to CUMAC’s pantry and referral office where she quickly found a home. Her first job: helping with the distribution of food in our pantry. Ely says she was a little intimidated at first — CUMAC’s pantry can be hectic at times — but her fears were quelled by the supportive team around her.
Fast forward to 2016 and Ely can hardly believe how much has changed in just 17 months. When she started with the Pathways to Work program, she was in a different place in her life. She was unemployed and didn’t have much confidence in herself. Fortunately, she had plenty of encouragement and Shanee Alston, Pantry Supervisor for CUMAC, started working with her regularly. Ely felt uncomfortable using computers at first, but the support she received in the referral office gave her a boost of confidence. With Shanee’s guidance, she mastered PATH, an innovative software developed specifically for members of the Community Food Coalition to track client usage, and other computer programs. The experience was eye-opening for Ely.
“I’m not so nervous anymore. I’m more open,” she says with a smile. “I’m more willing to try new things and I see myself now in a much more positive way.”
Ely’s not the only one who has noticed the change. Our staff has seen just how much she’s grown, and continues to challenge Ely with new responsibilities around the building. She now assists all aspects of pantry operations, leads our mobile pantry efforts and has even started training others.
“In the short time that Ely has been at CUMAC, she has become a leader,” says Rose Peligri, CFC Coordinator for CUMAC. “She offers tremendous support to her co-workers and has learned CUMAC's procedures and the PATH database so efficiently that she is now able to train other pantries throughout the county on effective pantry procedures and the PATH system.”
Along with her leadership and willingness to take on new projects, Ely is constantly giving her co-workers and clients a reason to smile. “Ely is a blessing” says Shanee. “She has a huge heart, a sympathetic ear and strong shoulder, our clients really enjoy sitting with her.”
Though she loves all of her new duties, Ely’s favorite part about working at CUMAC is the time she gets to spend with clients. She knows well that those who are visiting our pantry are often facing their last resort. When hunger is at hand, it can be a scary and often stressful experience, but that’s why Ely loves being a face for CUMAC. She gets the chance to welcome our clients, answer their questions and provide them with any help they may need along the way. Sometimes, just offering a listening ear or a few words of encouragement are enough to turn a client’s day around. This brings Ely and the rest of our pantry team great joy and the smiles and thank you’s they so regularly receive are a constant reminder of how important CUMAC is to the community it serves.
Ely is now an AmeriCorps member and couldn’t be more excited about her position. She looks at her future with optimism and excitement. When asked about her experience with CUMAC she says, “CUMAC has changed my life a lot. They’ve put me in a positive place in my life and have shown me so much. I’ve grown because of CUMAC.”
Each year the Pathways to Work program provides dozens of our fellow community members with the support and resources they need to grow both professionally and personally. It’s amazing to see the way it touches so many lives. We’re proud of everything that Ely has accomplished in her short time with us and thrilled to call her a member of our team.
Ely, thank you for all that you do to help fight hunger in our community!
Around the Community
Thank you to Maya Gunaseharan and our friends at Dwight Englewood School for making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day even more special this year. Dozens of volunteers came together in the Dwight Englewood gymnasium on January 18 to honor the great Dr. King and to feed the hungry. Together, they packed over 14,000 nutritionally packed meals for our neighbors in need, giving a huge boost to our pantry at a time of year when donations decline. Thanks to all who used their day off to make a difference!
On December 4, the Order of Saint John hosted a holiday gala at the Columbus Citizens Foundation in New York City to benefit CUMAC. It was a wonderful event and we are so grateful to have been a part of it. Proceeds from the gala are already helping CUMAC in some exciting ways. Recently we were able to connect a new walk-in refrigerator that will help our staff store and distribute more perishable food items for our clients. At a time when client needs continue to grow, we are thrilled to have more ways of keeping our food fresh and ready to serve. Thank you Order of Saint John for being such a wonderful partner!
16 year-old Derek Ravensbergen is fighting hunger in a big way. As part of his Boy Scout merit requirement (and with the help of some friends), Derek is transforming unused space at the Calvary UMC in his hometown of Dumont into a garden that can grow fruits and vegetables for those in need. After months of hard work, assisting with everything from seeking supply donations to knocking down an old tree to installing an irrigation system, Derek's project is near complete and he plans on donating all of the produce from the 40' x 20' garden to CUMAC. Thank you, Derek. Keep up the great work!
Welcome CUMAC's Newest Staff Member
Join us in welcoming Javin Ward to the CUMAC family! Javin was recently hired as Warehouse Assistant to aid CUMAC's warehouse operations. With CUMAC now collecting and distributing nearly 2 million pounds of food each year, we are thrilled to have his talents around the building. We’re expecting yet another busy year in our warehouse, but Javin says he’s up for the challenge. “I’m grateful to be in the position that I’m in,“ says Javin. “To help people who are hungry and better my community, it’s a blessing.” With his skills and leadership, we are confident that CUMAC will be able to reach more people than ever this year. Welcome to the team Javin!
Beatles Night II — Saturday, April 23
Beatles Night is back and better than ever! Come out on Saturday, April 23 to hear the legendary YouChoose Band playing songs by request all night long to raise money and awareness for CUMAC. The fun starts at 6pm at the Ukrainian Cultural Center of NJ and tickets are just $30 in advance! Your ticket includes a night full of your favorite Beatles tracks and a delicious dinner provided by Jersey Mike's. We'll also have a special section for younger members of the audience so feel free to bring your kids! Song requests are $50 and include one complimentary ticket to the show! Learn more here.
Devils Fundraiser Night — Saturday, April 9
Calling all hockey fans! Our team is partnering with the NJ Devils this spring for another CUMAC fundraiser night! Join us at the Prudential Center on Saturday, April 9 as the Devils face the Toronto Maple Leafs. A portion of every ticket we sell will help fight hunger in our community so don't forget to bring your friends and family. Every ticket can help make a difference! April 9 is also Fan Appreciation Night so there will be fireworks following the game. Tickets are just $45 and all attendees will receive a special gift from the Devils. To buy your tickets please visit our event page.
CUMAC provides critical support to our neighbors struggling with hunger each and every day. We rely heavily on donations to accomplish our work. With your support, CUMAC's pantry is serving over 3,000 people every month, and our other community programs like the Community Closet and Pathways to Work are providing our neighbors with the resources they need most. It's all thanks to supporters like you!
Please consider making a donation today. Your gift in any amount will help ensure we can assist all who come to us in need.