Welcome from CUMAC's New Director
By Mark Dinglasan
Let me start off by sharing how grateful I am for the love and joy I’ve felt since joining the CUMAC family. After 11 years away from New Jersey, it’s wonderful to come home and be part of such a great organization and mission.
I had my first sobering and powerful experience within my first week at CUMAC. I was fortunate enough to work in the pantry for the day as a runner. A young man came into the pantry in the middle of the day and was impressive and polite. He addressed everyone as sir and ma’am, made eye contact, said thank you. I was very impressed with this young man. As I observed him I was taken aback when I looked down at his shoes. Instead of socks, he had worn out and dirty plastic bags around his feet.
It was in that moment that I found myself wondering what his life experiences were, where he lived, did he even have a home?
I’ve worked with and seen many individuals with plastic bags for socks and even shoes and they were often homeless or very close to it. I thought about who his parents must be, wondered what his thoughts about his future were, and did he have a safe place to go home to that night. I froze for a bit with these thoughts in mind and then the young man left our pantry.
I cannot vividly remember his face, but the pantry staff and I have spoken and we’ll keep an eye out for him again. I can still however, vividly remember his plastic bag socks. Having worked with youth for so much of my career, I find that image to be the driving force behind the last few weeks at CUMAC as I develop the strategies and initiatives that the staff, board of directors, and I will employ to continue and expand CUMAC’s mission. I have this big crazy dream that one day that young man will come back and I’ll get to know him better. I dream that one day CUMAC will be able to bring him into one of our existing programs or maybe offer him a new program where we can teach him to write a resume or help him find work. I dream that one day, maybe he could possibly be on the CUMAC staff, reaching back and lifting up another young person.
I’m able to dream like this because of the heart, passion, dedication, and love that I feel every time I walk into CUMAC. Onward and upward my friends, let’s dream big together as we give back to our fellow man. Who knew so many thoughts could come from two plastic bags, right?
Mark Dinglasan is CUMAC’s Executive Director. To learn more about Mark and how he got involved with CUMAC see our welcome announcement.
Home, Sweet Home
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 last 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!
Volunteer Spotlight: Willie
By Adrian Diaz
Willie has been volunteering with CUMAC for over a year. You can usually find him here first thing in the morning, helping wherever the need is greatest, which is often in our pantry. CUMAC’s pantry is a very busy place, especially in the morning. It’s not odd to see a line down the street when we open our doors. Unfortunately, mornings are also a time when CUMAC is often short on help, which can make keeping up with our clients a challenge. “Some mornings if it weren’t for Willie we’d have to open late” says Shanee, our pantry supervisor. “He’s been a big help.” Whether he’s setting up the pantry, cleaning out freezers, stocking up our bread and veggies, or running food out to clients, you can always count on Willie to get the job done.
Willie has a special connection to CUMAC because he’s also a client. He’s been visiting our pantry for a few years now and the groceries and support he receives at CUMAC have made a huge difference in his life. With food on the table, Willie is happy and able to focus on other things like taking care of himself. “When I was really struggling with my health you were there” says Willie. “It means a lot to me.”
Wanting to give back to an organization that has always supported him, Willie decided to fill out a volunteer application while visiting our pantry one day. He’s been part of the CUMAC family ever since. Along with volunteering with our programs, Willie graciously offers to pick up groceries for those who aren’t able to get to CUMAC. He regularly brings back items for friends and neighbors if they can’t take the trip as a way of giving back. “He’s one of the kindest and most caring people I know” says Shanee. While we continue to be amazed by this kind volunteer, Willie says he just wants to see other happy.
Willie still faces health issues and that hasn’t been easy for him, but he continues to keep a great attitude about life and has found solace in helping others. “I wake up and I look forward to coming here” says Willie. “It makes my day. It’s like therapy for me being able to give.”
Thank you, Willie, for being a bright spot in our day. You are truly an inspiration!
Back To School!
The start of a new school year can be exciting and full of possibilities, but for many low-income students it’s often stressful. With families living on a tight budget and unable to afford school supplies, kids are often forced to go back to school without the resources they need.
At CUMAC, we believe that every kid should have the tools they need to learn. We’ve committed to helping over 500 students through our school supply drive this year and we’re well on our way! Hundreds of backpacks have already been given out in our pantry and with a few days left in the drive we hope to serve hundreds more.
“The children who come through our pantry light up when they are handed the bags” says Jenn Miller, coordinator of this year’s school supply drive. “The feeling of seeing those happy children is priceless.”
In an effort to reach even more students this year, CUMAC is also sharing supplies with Passaic County Women’s Shelter, CAPCO, Straight and Narrow Family Success Center, St. Paul’s CDC, and School #15. Volunteers have been working nonstop packing bags to ensure that we can serve all who come our way. We’d like to send a special thank you to these volunteers and all those who have donated to this year’s drive. Together we’re giving hundreds of kids the opportunity to learn and succeed this year. Thank you!
Time To Take Action
By Akeera Weathers
Jeff Bridges once said, “One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that we as individuals can make a difference. Ending hunger is America is a goal that is literally within our grasp.”
Hunger and poverty has been rapidly spreading through communities across the county for decades. It has been recorded that 42.2 million Americans live in food insecure households. 13.1 million of those households include children. If these numbers startle you, especially the amount of children who go without a healthy meal, I have a solution. CUMAC is gearing up for our annual Action Against Hunger Food Drive which will take place on Sunday, September 24. On this day dozens of volunteers will be stationed at various grocery stores soliciting customers to help be a solution to hunger. Meanwhile, more volunteers will be on site helping unload and sort thousands of pounds of food. This food will not only help us to continue to be of service to our 2,500+ clientele, but to also provide food for our partner pantries as well.
If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with the Action Against Hunger Food Drive please visit our event page or give us a call 973-742-5518.
Together, We're Making A Difference
Michael is 6 and when he grows up he wants to be a police officer who protects people. Michael lives with his 3 siblings and his mom. With mom working part time and going to school, sometimes Michael winds up at CUMAC’s food pantry to pick up groceries for the week. Thanks to your generosity, his family’s groceries include big bags of healthy fruits and vegetables, along with meat, dairy and nonperishable goods—enough to help ensure that Michael grows up strong, excels in school, and goes on to accomplish all the dreams he is setting for himself. Help ensure that we can serve kids like Michael by making a donation today. Every gift can help change lives!
Battle of the Bands
20th Annual HELP Dinner
The Halloween 5K to Scare Hunger Away is back!
We’re excited to announce that the Halloween 5K to Scare Hunger Away is back! This year’s race will be held on Sunday, October 29 at the Garret Mountain Reservation, and will include costume contest, trick or treat stations, a certified USTAF 5K course, kids Fun Run, food and more! It promises to be a day to remember and a portion of the proceeds will help fight hunger in our community. Come join the fun! To sign up visit www.scarehunger5k.com.
We're looking for runners & walkers to join our race team to raise awareness & funds for CUMAC! Each team member will…
• Receive a custom Team CUMAC jersey
• Get special invites to team events and celebrations
• Have access to fundraising resources and staff support
• Help feed people and change lives
To join Team CUMAC or to learn more please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save The Date
25th Annual Action Against Hunger Food Drive
Sunday, September 24
Registration is open!
Battle of the Bands
Saturday, September 30
Tickets on sale now!
Halloween 5K to Scare Hunger Away
Sunday, October 29
Sign up today!
Tuesday, November 14
Get your tickets or become a sponsor!
Holiday Wish List
Contact our office by August 31!
Thank you for helping us feed people & change lives!