Angela became a client at Family Connections in 2017 after being referred to the agency by New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency to address substance abuse and mental health concerns. Angela has four children who were all removed from her care due to her unstable mental health and ongoing substance abuse issues.
Angela became a part of three programs within Family Connections: Strong Mothers, Home Safe and ReConnections. The primary goals of Angela’s treatment within the three programs were to achieve abstinence, stabilize her mood and alleviate mental health symptoms, secure adequate housing and reunite with her children.
Angela was engaged and cooperative in all programs, attending Strong Mothers groups three times a week, Home Safe groups once per week and visiting her children weekly with ReConnections. She was clearly determined to be a better version of herself and get her children back.
Angela began to make incredible progress. She achieved total abstinence, engaged and cooperated with psychiatric treatment, learned skills to manage mood symptoms and secured adequate housing through the Home Safe program. All of her counselors were very proud.
Angela became hopeful and optimistic about a future for herself and her children for the first time. Through her hard work and determination, after two-and-one-half years of engaging in treatment services, Angela has been reunified with her children. She continues to receive support and therapeutic services from Family Connections, while gaining the tools she needs to eventually be totally self-sufficient.
Still just a baby, Joseph has already faced more challenges than most people do in a lifetime. His mother, Alexis, escaped an abusive relationship during her pregnancy with little more than the clothes on her back. Although Alexis was able to move in with a family member and find a full-time job, she still struggles financially. She now receives free diapers and other baby essentials from Baby Basics, a program of Children’s Aid and Family Services.
Joseph was born five weeks prematurely after Alexis went through an extremely difficult pregnancy. The baby spent one month in the NICU at the hospital and was diagnosed with Bartter Syndrome, a rare disease that affects kidney function. “Joseph was taking six different prescriptions when he came home and needed to see a kidney specialist several times a month,” Alexis said. “And whenever he ran a fever, I had to take him to the emergency room right away.”
As a result of his condition, Joseph needs frequent diaper changes, which causes even more strain on Alexis’s limited finances.
“Even though I work full time, I was spending almost all of my money on diapers,” Alexis said. “The Baby Basics program has been a big help. I can save some money now and I’m very grateful.”
Alexis works hard to ensure her baby has a good childhood, and she lights up when she talks about him. “He loves playing with animals and toy cars. Despite everything he’s gone through, Joseph is the happiest baby. When he smiles, everyone feels better,” she said.
Children’s Aid and Family Services is able to provide free diapers and other baby essentials to low-income families in northern New Jersey because of the generosity of the Greater Newark Holiday Fund.
Brenda, a 21-year-old college freshman, recently moved from Ohio to New Jersey for her first year of college. She struggled being away from her family and often felt isolated and alone.
She did not frequent local bars, however, she accepted an invitation by her classmates to have a few drinks to celebrate the end of the semester. At 4 a.m. Brenda woke up in her apartment feeling very sick, was partially dressed, and had no recollection of the events of the evening. Feeling scared and confused, she sought help at a local hospital. When Brenda arrived at the hospital, Family Service League’s Confidential Sexual Assault Advocate was dispatched to accompany the survivor through the forensic medical examination.
Brenda was also able to speak to the advocate privately about her concerns about what may have transpired the prior evening. Brenda felt confused, scared, and blamed herself for not being more careful when she was drinking at the bar.
The advocate provided Brenda with information/referrals to local support services and explained her rights and options that she had as a survivor. With the support of the advocate, Brenda consented to the sexual assault forensic examination, which included a toxicology test. The advocate held her hand throughout the entire exam. The advocate also provided Brenda with a change of clothes, undergarments, and something to eat.
At this time, Brenda chose not to report the incident to the police, but Brenda was made aware that she can make a police report at a later time.
Brenda was grateful that she had the support of the advocate and that she felt believed. The care and support of an advocate is essential to support the recovery and healing process for all survivors of sexual assault.
We kicked off the Giving Season officially last night, and even though we weren’t able to be in person this year, it was a wonderful time of discussion and celebration as we talked about making a difference in New Jersey together.
We were honored to be joined by Greg T from 103.5 KTU. His partnership as we kicked off gave the evening new energy and celebration.
We hope you are as excited as we are to make a difference where it counts in 2020!
Up next — #GivingTuesday — less than three weeks away!
At summer camp, Niyea and Naziah traded cement for trees, and fear of unsafe encounters for fear of scraped knees.
On the daily bus ride to camp, the girls enjoyed seeing ponds and farm animals in fields. Once there, they could be found bike riding, swimming, playing games, performing drama, music, and more.
These aren’t common scenes when you live in the urban environment of northern New Jersey, where almost 30% of the households are at or below the poverty level, and gun violence is a common occurrence.
Mom, Janet, was thrilled for her young girls to get a break from the city, a chance to live without worries about their surroundings. Janet had fond memories of childhood camp but knew her income wasn’t enough. She was thrilled when Newark Day Center offered her children a camp scholarship, courtesy of the generous Fresh Air Fund.
When donors support the Holiday Fund, they are actually supporting 10 different agencies in the Greater Newark Area; agencies that have spent hundreds of years of combined service to the children and families of the community. Services like:
A landing space for teens to receive education support, peer support, and community exposure, supported by Family Connections. Kids love the chance to get out of the city and hike in a state park for the first time, or see a show on Broadway!
Saturday Fun Club of the New Community Corporation engages children ages 5 to 12 while providing a safe and nurturing environment.
Every time a donor gives to the Holiday Fund, these organizations receive support. Every donation is distributed among 10 NJ agencies, who work tirelessly to serve the most at-risk and disadvantaged lives in their community.
A donation means more kids attend summer camp, more young people enroll in a coding class, and more teens have a safe place to hang out after school.
Through your generosity, Greater Newark children find hope and freedom. We hope you’ll donate today.
For many of the youth in northern New Jersey, one misstep can turn into a major detour.
Though making mistakes is part of growing up, for disadvantaged youth who do not have support and safety nets available, those missteps can be tragic.
That’s where community support comes in.
Life-affirming programs, run by seasoned professionals from reputable organizations (like those we partner with at the Holiday Fund) have hundreds of years of combined experience serving the youth and young adults of northern New Jersey communities.
Let me share a few of the exciting ways these service agencies connect youth with necessary resources:
Teens and older adults pursue education by attending a GED preparation class at the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark.
Young adults who previously have been involved in the court system gather and receive prevention and transition services at Urban League of Essex County’s Face Forward Urban Youth Empowerment Program. prevention, assessment, intervention, and transition services
Students 16 and older prepare for their futures by attending class at New Community Corporation’s Adult Learning Center, where more than 2,000 individuals are pursuing a vocational or college education.
We celebrate with the young people who are receiving assistance and creating a safety net of their own, thanks to these experienced agencies.
We live in one of the most affluent communities in the world, and our youth shouldn’t have to miss out on opportunities to build a secure future for themselves. Youth in New Jersey shouldn’t live disadvantaged and vulnerable lives today.
Let’s celebrate together the achievement of youth receiving help and support.
P.S. If you want to support the Holiday Fund, you don’t have to wait until the holidays. Though we do the majority of our fundraising during that season, we welcome donations at any time of year.
As soon as the evenings turn cold and bitter, I think about those individuals and families in NJ who are facing the night without shelter.
Then I think about our compassionate and experienced partner agencies who have already planned for nights like this and are prepared to offer help — agencies like New Community Corporation, Catholic Charities and many more.
Connecting the individuals in need with staff from these caring organizations is what excites us most at the Greater Newark Holiday Fund.
We raise funding support for 10 social service agencies during their highest season of need, which allows them to put more energy into serving and empowering individuals and families.
In a recent article, we shared the incredible story of Paula, who has literally gone from homeless to chef.
Her exciting career advancements and personal growth would be exciting to watch regardless of her background, but knowing that she has gone from doubting her abilities to believing in herself makes the story even sweeter.
In just under a decade, the life of Erasmo has changed drastically.
Almost 40, he has schizophrenia, and came to the Catholic Charities/Mount Carmel Guild residential program in 2010 after experiencing a mental health crisis that saw him hospitalized for more than a year.
As we see commonly with those who are living with untreated mental illness, he also had been homeless several times.
After Erasmo was stabilized, he was admitted to a group home, where he began to learn independence: the importance of taking his medication regularly and staying educated about his mental illness. He developed coping skills to help deal with his feelings and symptoms of mental illness.
During this time, Erasmo attended Catholic Charities’ Mount Carmel Guild Partial Care program every day, attending groups and continuing his personal advocacy education. Once he began to thrive in the group home, he transitioned to an apartment facility.
Upon graduating from the Partial Care program in 2018, Erasmo began serving as a role model and peer to other residents in the program.
He credits Catholic Charities/Mount Carmel Guild Partial Care program for providing what he needed to learn how to face reality: care, education and assistance. He said:
“This place has brightened up my life and eased the pain of being homeless. I feel braver about my life. I have people who help me. I know that I can utilize my counselors, staff, and doctors.”
We love this story.
A young man was able to experience independence from the challenges that often face individuals with mental illness.
The programs offered by Catholic Charities are better as a result of residents like Erasmo.
He paid that experience forward by serving as an example to his peers in the program.
Isn’t that exciting? We think so!
I am sure you have stories of your own that are a testimony to the power of persistence and determination—stories from your own vault, or stories from loved ones who’ve overcome obstacles.
We’d love to hear them and be encouraged. Tell us in the COMMENT SECTION below!
We hope you’ll consider supporting our partner agencies who offer assistance to individuals like Erasmo who are experiencing mental illness, like Children’s Aid and Family Services, Nutley Family Service Bureau, Family Service League, and more. You can give to all of these agencies with one donation here.
During the nationwide COVID-19 crisis, every partner agency of the Greater Newark Holiday Fund is still providing services to those in need.
Staff and volunteers have had to adapt to virtual assistance, or gear up for in-person service. These heroes are all over the Greater Newark area. We can join in their efforts when we also become the helpers.
Try these 7 ways you can make a difference from your living room.
1. Listen to inspiring stories
On May 13th, FAMILYConnections is hosting a virtual event called Give Back By Staying Home. You’ll hear stories from clients and staff in the frontlines of this crisis, and Family Connections’ leadership and others about the work being done within the Northern New Jersey community. Registration information can be found on the agency website.
2. Support virtual counseling
During this time of crisis, requests for counseling are on the rise. Your donation to the Holiday Fund supports organizations like Family Service League, Catholic Charities of Newark, and the Family Service Bureau of Newark, covering the cost of an influx of therapy session requests and the accommodation of telehealth sessions. With the ease and availability of video calls, counselors can still assist clients in crises that need services. Contributions help provide free, confidential, 24/7 access counseling, advocacy, victim recovery services, and more.
3. Feed and diaper babies
Supplies for newborns and infants are dangerously low at Children’s Aid and Family Services. The Baby Basics program, which provides free nutritional formula, diapers, wipes and other essentials, is a true lifeline to low-income families, especially during this crisis. Without the program’s help, many families are forced to resort to rationing diapers or changing their babies less frequently, which may lead to rashes, infections and a host of other problems.
Both agencies are directing funds to the efforts in their target community, while NFSB is also recruiting volunteers to help with meal and grocery distribution. Of course masks, gloves and social distancing practices are in place, making it safe for volunteers to process the resources provided. Contact NFSB for information, or find a program in your community that needs your willing spirit.
5. Golf for kids
Youth Consultation Service is hosting a Charity Golf Classic in October 2020 “fore” the kids. When you register to play or sponsor the tournament, you are providing individualized educational, mental health and/or behavioral health programming to thousands of New Jersey families who have children, birth – adulthood, with special needs. Learn more on the YCS website.
6. Sponsor a camper
Newark Day Center provides services for those from infants through adults, and are best known for their Fresh Air Fund, which provides inner-city youth from the Greater Newark area invaluable camping experiences. Kathy Cree, executive director of LifeCamp, says:
“At LifeCamp the children are participating in so many enriching experiences — reading, science/nature/STEM, computers/robotics, arts and crafts, bikes, chess/strategy games, cross country, dance, drama, financial literacy, nutrition, percussion orchestra, phys ed, Project U.S.E., recording studio, values and yoga — the list goes on.”
Be a willing participant in a virtual support group, like one hosted by Jewish Family Service of MetroWest. Throughout the week, the agency’s licensed therapists are hosting groups for parents of toddlers, parents of “quarenteenagers,” and others, including a general support group for anyone wanting to share and gain coping tools during this time of crisis. Learn more on the JFS website.
Whether you “volunteer” virtually to help these 10 worthy organizations, or you donate directly to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, your contribution can help front-line agencies continue their missions to serve the community, even in this time of uncertainty and increased demands.
With ONE DONATION to the Holiday Fund on #GivingTuesdayNow (or any other day of the year), you can help meet the tangible needs of families and individuals across New Jersey. Donate to the Holiday Fund today.