February Update

Santa’s World Tour Included a Stop In New Jersey


For over 80 years, the Greater Newark Holiday Fund (GNHF) has provided services of care, hope and kindness to Northern New Jersey. Even the most impoverished and marginalized in the community find hope all year long thanks to a network of ten social service agencies in northern New Jersey who are best-in-class and pre-screened. Every donation is accounted for and filtered through their caring stewardship.

Over the years, The Holiday Fund has contributed nearly $12 million toward the betterment of thousands of families in the community. Annual donations have exceeded $300,000 a year; a tribute to the civic generosity of the people of New Jersey.

Santa Visits Again

During the 2019 holiday season, The Holiday Fund partnered with McCarter & English, LLP to brighten the holidays for nine students in need.

The McCarter & English Dear Santa Elves have been making children’s wishes come true in the city of Newark for 20 years, serving hundreds of youth in need by partnering with a local school district and providing holiday gifts for students of need.

This year, Santa asked GNHF to help the Wilson Avenue School (K-8) in the Ironbound Section of Newark that has an abundance of students that faced the potential of a holiday season without any gifts. GNHF and the team at McCarter & English worked with the same Chief Elf/Case Worker, Sonia Echevarria, who previously made wishes come true at Fourteenth Avenue School.

Santa signed an Affidavit confirming the children were on the Nice List (notarized, of course). Chief Elf Echevarria and the Elf Teachers assisted children in creating cards with their wish selections: an item of clothing and a toy for each student. Cards were then selected by the elves for shopping, wrapping, and labeling. Then came the careful job of loading the presents onto Santa’s sleigh for distribution at Wilson Avenue School.

There were many moments both sobering and humbling during the process, though nothing compared to the excitement and joy on the faces of the students who were holding in their hands the gifts that, previously, were just a wish on a card.

As planned, Santa (with his joyful helpers at the Greater Newark Holiday Fund and McCarter & English) managed to do it once again, and the holiday season was made brighter for nine New Jersey students.

The Holiday Fund Partner Organizations Serve All Year Long

Don’t forget — GNHF’s impact doesn’t just happen during the holiday season. The partnerships with affiliate organizations like Catholic Charities of Newark, Children’s Aid and Family Services, Urban League of Essex County and more, are strong and active all year long.

Your help is needed, not just during the holidays, but every day. Contribute to the important work of the GNHF Partner Organizations by giving online today.

Fresh Air Fund helps a young boy experience the outdoors

fresh air fund
Donations to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund can help to support a child not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year

Valerie is a single mother of two children whose eldest child was eligible for camp based on his age. The mother reached out to the Fresh Air Fund for a campership. Valerie never experienced camping but her son always wanted that experience for himself.

The Fresh Air Fund provides young people with an outdoor experience.

fresh air fund scholarship
The Fresh Air Fund provides young people with an outdoor experience.

She wanted her child to become more independent and felt that camping was the ideal activity. She knew that this experience would give him many opportunities that she could not. The mom’s income was meager and barely meeting the household needs. There was no extra money for outside activities for the children.

A scholarship was granted for her son to attend summer camp and he was selected to attend a residential camp for two weeks. A huge smile came upon his face as he was anticipating what camping would be like.  

The overnight experience gave him a sense of independence. While at camp, he interacted with other children, engaged in activities, was very energetic and never lost his smile. Upon his return from camp, his mom noticed how independent her son had  become. The mother is ecstatic.

The fresh air, the outdoors and various activities had such a positive effect on her son. He can’t stop talking about his experience. The parent was very thankful for the Fresh Air Fund. Valerie was thankful for the opportunities and the experience that her son received.

Donations to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund can help to support a child not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year.

Centenarian gets help from Catholic Charities to save her home

Rosanne Estwanick of Cranford meets regularly with a caregiver clinician in the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark New Jersey complimentary Caregiver Counseling Program. This program offers individual caregiver counseling to help alleviate the emotional distress (anger, frustration, guilt, isolation and depression) that many caregivers of elderly individuals experience.

Rosanne cares for her mother, Rose, who is 107 years old and very frail. During a recent meeting with Caregiver Clinician Margaret McGroary, MSW, LSW, Rosanne shared that her mother was going to lose her Cranford home. Rosanne grew up in this home, which the family has lived in since 1947.  Now, they were in danger of losing the house because the two women were unable to pay the property back taxes.  Rosanne lost her job at AIG and assumed her role as a caregiver to her mother full-time. Both she and her mother live on a fixed income.  

McGroary helped Rosanne organize a GoFundMe page and share her story with a variety of media outlets. Thanks to the attention the story received, Rosanne and her mother were able to raise over $22,000 toward back taxes.

Unfortunately, many caregivers face difficult decisions when caring for their loved ones. Most are unaware of resources and support available to help them. Many need help with estate planning and other paid services that are just out of reach due to the high cost for services. For Rosanne, saving her mother’s house has taken a huge burden off her shoulders, but she is already concerned about next year’s taxes as the house is located in Cranford where, like many of the quaint towns in New Jersey, property taxes are high.

The Caregiver Counseling Program gives caregivers the support they need emotionally while also helping to connect them to the many services available to the elderly in Union County.

Helping Young Mothers Thrive

Jaclyn had been working full-time, but still struggling to make ends meet. And despite her best efforts, she was evicted from her apartment.

Jaclyn CAFS 2019
Jaclyn received help from Children’s Aid and Family Services.

With a 3-year-old daughter to care for and nowhere to turn, she found a lifeline at Zoe’s Place, a program run by Children’s Aid and Family Services. A supportive home for pregnant teenagers and teen mothers and their children, Zoe’s Place provides assistance and guidance so individuals can access educational opportunities, job training, life and parenting skills, health care and employment as well as child care and individual mentoring.

Zoe’s Place provides free child care, and the young women who live in the home must either attend school or work full-time. In pursuit of a career path, 21-year-old Jaclyn went back to school to study skincare and makeup application. She enrolled her daughter, a bright, sociable child, in preschool, where she is thriving.

Jaclyn graduated from cosmetology school and is now a licensed esthetician. She recently began working full-time at a spa. She also is a certified makeup artist and promotes her services on social media with the goal of eventually owning her own salon.Jaclyn is grateful to have found Zoe’s Place and for the opportunities it has provided.

“I want my child to know she is safe and to have a good life. I want her to appreciate the gift we have been given and understand that not everyone has help like this,” she said.

It is because of the generous donations to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund that Children’s Aid and Family Services is able to provide housing and intensive support services for teenage mothers and their babies.

Visit the Greater Newark Holiday Fund on Twitter or Facebook at www.facebook.com/GreaterNewarkHolidayFund.

This story originally appeared on nj.com

Newark Day Center works to get student help he needs to achieve

He is currently undergoing an Individual Education Program/Plan (IEP), which is a written plan that describes the programs and special services a student is required to follow in order to be successful.

The process began after his teacher, Ms. Osborne, reported that Kyle would wander off during large or small group activities. However, he would gravitate toward puzzles, the block and discovery areas of the classroom. When asked cognitive questions he would sit and smile yet never communicate. As time went on, Kyle started to lash out when it came to directives in the classroom.

Ms. Osborne kept anecdotal notes on his actions and she brought her concern to the family workers and the social worker. As a team they communicated with Kyle’s parents and encouraged them to speak with the child study team of Newark Public School. As the IEP progressed, they recommended evaluations that included educational, speech and occupational therapy assessments and an autism consultation.

A variety of therapists were assigned to help, including a personal aide to work with Kyle in the classroom. Accommodations that worked best for Kyle included sitting close to the teacher, prompting, and reminders of rules and routine throughout the day. He began to show progress, which made the teacher and his parents very happy. His tantrums were lessened as therapists, his parents and teacher worked to help him. In time, Ms. Osborne reported that Kyle was improving more every day. He began to communicate and interact more.

He sits in the front with Ms. Osborne as she teaches group activities, which helps him participate in activities.

The IEP process was a success as it helped Kyle and his family prepare for grade school. Those at the Newark Day Center are happy they were able to help get Kyle on track with his learning and child development.   

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit holidayfund.org.

Family Service Bureau helps Essex man get his life back together

Like many teenagers, Sean began experimenting with marijuana and became a frequent user; however, it was not until his late 20s that he began using heroin. Around this time, Sean became involved in a relationship that turned abusive. The relationship came to a sudden end when Sean was arrested after defending himself from his abuser.

Upon his release from prison, he was referred to the Family Service Bureau of Newark for substance abuse treatment.

While the transition back into society was not easy, Sean did not use heroin again. Instead, he actively participated in his treatment, attending groups and individual counseling since early this year. During his time at the Family Service Bureau of Newark, Sean has found stable housing and regained employment and he now works to serve his community.

Though there is a strong stigma against counseling within the African American community, Sean has been open to the support and growth that counseling has provided for him. Sean has rebuilt his relationships with his family members and friends and he has started to develop a better understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like.

During his time in counseling, he has faced some recent losses, which has been challenging for him to cope with. Despite these losses, Sean continues to find ways to be a positive person and maintains his recovery. He has been able to see the benefits of attending counseling as he has learned to use it as a form of support in order to prevent himself from relapsing.

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit holidayfund.org.

Newark Day Center, Fresh Air Fund help create memories

The sisters are energetic and smart and looked forward to attending camp. They loved learning new things, and meeting and making new friends while reconnecting with their old ones.

A break from the city and into an environment where they can run and play freely is what Janet was seeking for her daughters, but her household income was meager.

She had fond memories of going to camp herself as a child and loving it so much that she was never ready to return home. She wanted that same experience for her children. With the aid of the Fresh Air Fund it was made possible for the girls to have two weeks of day camp.

Niyea and Naziah enjoyed the bus ride every day to the camp site where they were able to see different farm animals and a pond along the way.

Once at camp they interacted with other campers in various activities, such as bike riding, nature/science, swimming, drama, board games, music and so much more. Niyea and Naziah often include their little sister while talking about their day to day activities.

Janet was pleased that her daughters enjoyed attending camp, and for the chance to be out of the city and in the quietness of nature, being a kid and not worrying about their surroundings. The girls would always have a lifetime of memories thanks to Fresh Air Fund.

A contribution to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund will continue to help support children and families during the holiday season.

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit holidayfund.org.

Catholic Charities helps woman overcome alcoholism, mental illness

“I recall going to the doctor and my doctor immediately sent me to a detox unit. I got involved in an AA meeting where I learned about my alcoholism and addictions. They showed me what alcohol was doing to me physically and provided educational techniques on how to keep my sobriety,” said Gorrin, who lives in a MCG Residential program.

At the end of November 1990, Gorrin and her husband had gotten divorced and she was having a difficult time adjusting to being the single mother of a teenaged boy.

At the same time, she said, her son was rebelling for reasons that included attending a new school, his parents’ divorce, and new people in his life.

Things soon got worse. She learned that she had breast cancer and would need surgery shortly after Christmas. Following the surgery, she was physically well, but emotionally depressed. She said that before her divorce, she would drink occasionally. But one day she was feeling insecure, picked up a drink, and didn’t stop. Once she completed the MCG Residential program, Gorrin was referred to the CCAN/MCG MICA program, where she met her first case manager.

“She was more than a staff member, she was a good friend, no matter what time I needed her, she was there.  She took me to the hospital for additional support and while I was in the hospital, I was referred to CCAN/MCGBH Partial Care program where I began to learn about my second Illness (bipolar disorder),” Gorrin said.

Today, Gorrin knows more about herself and has an improved relationship with her son. The two speak every day and occasionally see each other on weekends. She also has improved her communication with her ex-husband.

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit holidayfund.org.

Nutley Family Service Bureau Food Pantry shows the face of food insecurity

My friends and colleagues at work and church tell me that I am always trying to be super woman, trying to carry the world on my shoulders. As a mom and wife, I strive to protect and care for my family of seven and provide my children what they need.

Unfortunately, circumstance has brought my family to a point that what I could do was not enough. My husband lost his job last year and since then has been working temporary jobs with brief gaps of unemployment. This created a snowball effect of never catching up to bills, being in danger of losing our apartment, and the quandary of how we were going to get our oldest to college — our oldest who had more than earned her share of achievements in school. It was a very stressful time and being a working professional, I felt embarrassed and humbled to ask for help. But God intervened, and I am so glad I did ask.

The help we have received from Nutley Family Service Bureau has given my family a moment to catch our breath, a safety net for the times we needed some food, school supplies and gifts for the children. It is quite something to see the relief in your child’s eyes when they see you come home with backpacks filled with supplies for the school year, or when you take them shopping from gift cards you received from “The Three Kings” at Christmas. My children know we work very hard and thus expect just what they need. It is a huge joy when they are able to once in a while receive what they want.

And my children, being older, know that help comes from this organization. My husband breathes a sigh of relief when there is one less thing to worry about, one more thing to be grateful for.

It shows them that kindness is very much alive and this, I hope, inspires them to do great things one day that will leave another family with that glimmer of hope we received.

Thank you for all you do.

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit holidayfund.org.

YCS helps single mom achieve

Veronica Artis-Bryant was 20 years old and a sophomore at Stevens Institute of Technology when she found out she was pregnant.

“It was a frightening time for me. I didn’t know where to turn or what I needed to do to be sure my baby would be born healthy,” she said.

Veronica was especially concerned about what to expect when giving birth. Her sister knew a nurse in the Essex YCS Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) program and recommended the program to her. NFP provides comprehensive, in-home support by a registered nurse to first-time inner-city, pregnant women. The same nurse continues to support the mother and baby until her child’s second birthday.

“My nurse, Karen Burton, has been an important part of my life ever since (we met),” Veronica said. With Karen’s support, Veronica delivered a beautiful healthy baby girl named Sanai Lily, in December 2016.  

In addition to advising Veronica with all her medical concerns, Burton helped her find day care for the baby when she returned to work and school. She has been there to answer Veronica’s questions about the baby’s development, and has been a compassionate ear when Veronica is troubled by relationship issues.

“Karen has been with me every step of the way and because of her recommendation I was offered a paid internship with a local business that specializes in the production of high-end hardware.

“I was so excited. Someone believed in me,” Veronica said. “She said the internship has boosted her self-esteem and given her confidence to pursue a major in mechanical engineering and design.  

“Karen is so much more than a nurse. She is my friend. I share everything with her and trust her advice and judgment,” said Veronica, adding, “I am proof that with a little support and encouragement a young Newark mom can make it.”  

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit holidayfund.org.