Breaking through the silence of autism: Sadiq’s story

“I want water flavored.”

Those were the first words that 7-year-old Sadiq said to his mom, Bethany, using his augmentative communication device.

Sadiq is on the autism spectrum and is completely non-verbal. However one day, as he sat next to his mom who was ordering groceries online, he grabbed her hand to signal her to return to the previous screen containing his favorite treat.

Upon hearing about this, the therapists and teachers at the YCS Sawtelle Learning Center did an evaluation to see if Sadiq could do even more with an augmentative device. The results were encouraging, and they began teaching him how to use the device at school.

When the state ordered a shutdown in March, Sadiq’s in-person lessons had to stop. In order to sustain his progress, YCS staff prepared individualized lessons that his parents could implement 3-4 times a day at home. Even then, mom Bethany knew that Sadiq would regress without the one-on-one therapy sessions provided at the Sawtelle center.

In September, Sawtelle staff made the decision to keep the school open full-time for any family that requested in-person learning for their child. The Abrams were elated. As a result, Sadiq has made great strides despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“It means the world to me that Sadiq will have the ability to fully communicate,” said Bethany. “We now have a window of hope.”

A long journey home: Jeffery Mathews’ story

Everyone deserves a place to call home.

When Jeffery Mathews first signed up for the Urban Senior Jobs Program offered by ULEC, he didn’t tell anyone that he was homeless. He had been sleeping in Lincoln Park and Penn Station, where many other homeless people slept. He felt ashamed.

The staff at ULEC reassured him that there was no reason to be ashamed, and immediately found a short-term solution to take Jeffery off the streets while he continued to train for employment.

Jeffery was committed to his training to become a maintenance assistant, and quickly found work at a local brewing company.

A month later, he was interviewed by a subsidized rental apartment complex in Newark. Jeffery completed the application and became eligible for a housing unit there. With some help from a corporate funder’s grant, Jeffery was able to pay for the security and first month’s rent.

When Jeffery finally got the keys to his own apartment and entered it for the first time, it felt as though he had hit the jackpot.

He was finally home.

The Urban League of Essex County changes the lives of many others just like Jeffery. Your donation to the Holiday Fund sustains employment and housing programs that provide hope to the most vulnerable in our community. Give to help those in need today:

The Nutley Family Service Bureau helps single mothers through food programs

Every meal with your family is precious. Never take it for granted. 🙏

For some families, it’s a huge deal to be able to have a meal together.

The rising costs of food, clothing and housing has made it difficult for many people to even put food on the table.

That’s what Rebecca, single mother of 2, found herself struggling to do. Despite her best efforts, she was having trouble making ends meet and found herself 1 car repair away from economic devastation.

The Nutley Family Service Bureau Food Pantry has been a life saver for Rebecca. With her biweekly food distribution, she is able to feed herself and her children even when times are tough. She receives fresh produce, dairy products, bread, meat and shelf-stable groceries with every bag.

When you support the Holiday Fund, you help sustain food programs like these. Give to families in need today:

Newark Day Center’s parent aide program helps family navigate through a serious accident

Accidents can entirely disrupt a family’s daily activities and long term goals.

When Naomi and her daughter were hit by a car while walking across the street, Naomi broke both of her legs and needed to recover at the hospital, away from her family. On top of that, she tested positive for COVID-19, which meant she had to stay for longer. Her husband Ed needed help to continue managing the household, the kids’ activities, and his studies at the same time.

Newark Day Center sent a parent aide to help the family out. The aide assisted with daily household functions, helped both parents stay on track with their studies, and kept the kids company when Ed went out for errands.

The family was able to navigate smoothly through the accident, and they are now doing well and staying healthy.

Jewish Family Services supports an elderly couple who are both Holocaust survivors

“Mr. & Mrs. S are both Holocaust Survivors who met at a dance as teenagers after the war.”

“They depend on JFS Holocaust Services. Before the COVID19 crisis, Mr. & Mrs. S attended adult daycare together and received cleaning services as well as supportive counseling and other assistance as needed. Recently, Mr. S broke his hip. Their daughter reached out requesting homecare assistance so he could recover at home. Mr. S is now getting stronger and Mr. & Mrs. S are connecting with others through virtual socialization. Their daughter appreciates the support for her parents and herself.”

Story taken from the Jewish Family Service’s website.

Your gift to the Holiday Fund supports programs for the elderly like Mr. and Mrs. S. Learn more about the impact you can make at

Family Service League advocates for the rights and recovery of sexual assault victims

At the end of her first semester of college, Brenda went out with her classmates to celebrate with a few drinks at a local bar. Later that morning, she woke up feeling very sick, partially dressed, with no recollection of the events of the evening. She felt very scared and confused.

After reaching out to a local hospital, Brenda was connected to a sexual assault advocate from Family Service League. The advocate accompanied Brenda as she went through a forensic medical examination.

Brenda was able to talk with her advocate about her concerns regarding the events of the night before. She was given information/referrals to local support services, as well as her rights and options as a survivor.

In the examination room, Brenda held on to her advocate’s hand the entire time. Afterwards, she was given a change of clothes, undergarments and something to eat.

Although Brenda chose not to report the incident to the police, she knew she could do so at any time in the future. It was a difficult experience, but she felt heard and supported by her advocate.

We’re proud to be able to support the Family Service League’s efforts in caring for sexual assault victims. A donation to the Holiday Fund goes a long way towards supporting the healing process and recovery of survivors of sexual assault. Give today at

Family Service Bureau helps young girl adapt to her new blended family

Adapting to a new family can be hard, especially for young children in blended families.

A 12-year-old girl was referred to the Family Service Bureau for that reason. She was a part of a newly established blended family and found it extremely difficult to acclimate. Her biological father left the country when she was 8 years old, leaving her, her younger brother and mother behind. Once the mother remarried, the girl’s behavior changed, and it became difficult for her to communicate.

A clinician from the Family Service Bureau held one-on-one therapy sessions to identify the young girl’s concerns and fears about the family’s restructuring, trust issues and communication problems. During these sessions, the girl learned skills and techniques to deal with those issues.

The rest of the family was involved as well, through group sessions that focused on improving the communication and interaction of all family members.

Within 6 months, the family dynamic had improved to the point that they no longer needed the agency’s services. 🎊

A little help goes a long way. The Family Services Bureau’s work is made possible by supporters like you. Visit to learn about how you can make a difference today.

Story taken from

How Christopher learned to become a Strong Father

Meet Christopher, a father who once had trouble keeping his life together, now helping other fathers overcome their weaknesses:

“When I came to Family Connections, I hadn’t had a job in 2 years. I had no driver’s license. I had family problems, anger issues, substance abuse issues. And most of all, I wasn’t taking care of my kids.”

“In the Strong Fathers program, I learned about my weaknesses – no motivation, never getting things done. They taught me about setting goals and I found I could set goals and do things one by one. I started getting things done and it made me feel good about myself.”

“Before, I didn’t want other people to tell me what to do. But my counselor made me believe I could change. He’s my inspiration. He helped me with my anger, so now I catch myself before it happens. I let things slide off my back.”

“He also connected me to a job. And most of all, he taught me patience with my children.”

“I’ve been clean for a year now. I got my license, got a job, got a car. And I got joint custody of my children. I have confidence in myself now.”

“I had to do it for my children. They’re my motivation and my strength. I’ve graduated from Strong Fathers but I still go in to help the other men. I get support and direction and structure. Every time I go there, I learn something.”

“People say I’m a role model now. But I don’t see myself as a role model. I’m just a man, trying to take care of his kids.”

The Strong Fathers program by Family Connections is a substance abuse treatment and parenting skills training. The organization is one of the 11 partner agencies of the Holiday Fund. Your donation makes life change possible. Help more fathers like Christopher turn lives around. Go to to learn more.

Story taken from the Family Connections website.

Seeking a birth mother and finding a family

“After being given up for adoption when she was 7 years old, Susan turned to Catholic Charities as an adult and reunited with her birth family.”

“She had enjoyed a happy and secure upbringing with her adoptive family. But 50 years later, following the birth of her first grandchild, Susan began to wonder more about her own birth and the circumstances surrounding of her adoption.”

“She reached out to Catholic Charities Adoptions Division and learned about her birth mother, Ruth.”

“Ruth had been a 36-year-old widow who found herself struggling financially to raise and care for 5 children. So Ruth sought the assistance of Catholic Charities to place Susan, the youngest, for adoption.”

“The Adoptions Division was able to find her four siblings. Sadly, they shared that Ruth died many years ago without ever informing them about Susan.”

“Through the support and counseling of their social worker, Susan’s siblings agreed to communicate with her. Since then, the 5 siblings have all become good friends as well as proclaimed sisters.”

“Although Susan regrets never having the chance to meet Ruth, she has come to know her through countless pictures and stories. For her, the holiday season is now so much more meaningful when shared with a now larger, loving family.”

Families lives are changed every day thanks to the help of Catholic Charities, one of our 11 partner agencies. Click here to support their fantastic work with a donation to the Holiday Fund:

Story taken from

Young mother overcomes all odds to secure a bright future for herself

Naysha (20) hasn’t had an easy life. She was in and out of foster care as a child, her brother was murdered, and she became a mom at 15. 

Despite her complicated circumstances, she was committed to staying in school and being an incredible mom. 

In the past few years, Naysha graduated high school as a Valedictorian, received a scholarship to Rutgers. A few months into her college journey, however, she hit a few more hurdles — a wait list to her desired program at Rutgers, homelessness and a lack of support from family and friends. 

Naysha got in touch with Children’s Aid and Family Services (CAFS) and has been receiving support from their Mobility Mentoring program and her mentor Tisha Mender, who helps Naysha set achievable goals and objectives. Mobility Mentoring also provided Naysha with a laptop, a scholarship, and assistance with purchasing school uniforms.

Over the years, the agency has also provided extra support to Naysha’s child Kameron. CAF’s Baby Basics program has provided diapers, wipes, baby clothes, and holiday gifts for Kameron. 

Naysha is poised to build a brighter future. We are so proud of you, Naysha! And we are so honored to be contributing to the work of CAFS

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