From November 12-18, 2016, the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) joined more than 780 community foundations across the United States celebrating Community Foundation Week. For more than 25 years, the effort created in 1989 by former president George H.W. Bush has raised awareness about the important role these philanthropic organizations are involved with fostering local collaboration and innovation to address persistent civic and economic challenges.
During the year, the NNJCF, the only community foundation based in Bergen County focusing on this region, identified key issues such as hunger and homeless veterans in Bergen County that the public could be involved with through its community engagement program. For Community Foundation Week, the NNJCF addressed the concern of increasing homelessness among families in the county. Over the past weeks, the NNJCF undertook a collection of laundry detergent, a necessity for families that is not covered by food stamps.
Statistics about homeless families reveal a critical situation. According to Family Promise of Bergen County, families make up 40% of the total homeless population, with 42% of children in homeless families under six years of age. The families are often hidden from view, living in overcrowded housing or in cars and shelters. Finding affordable housing in the county is problematic. The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment is $1,500 monthly. For a consumer to afford this rent, a household must earn $60,000 annually or $30 per hour.
The NNJCF collected the laundry detergent at its ArtsBergen initiative’s quarterly Connect the Dots networking event held at Fairleigh Dickinson University and partnered with the Bergen Volunteer Center’s newly launched Mini LEADS program at Berkeley College. Artists, arts administrators, writers, business owners, nonprofit representatives, and community and municipal leaders brought their donations of laundry detergent to these events to help homeless families.
The collection was part of the NNJCF’s mission to promote cooperation and civic engagement in the community to address pressing issues and concerns. “The NNJCF continually asks, ‘What can we accomplish together that we cannot do alone?’ The contribution helps homeless families in Bergen County and demonstrates the Foundation’s collaborative purpose to bring together residents and local community based organizations to meet the needs in the area,” said Michael Shannon, President, NNJCF.
During Community Foundation Week, the NNJCF presented the collection to Family Promise of Bergen County, a nonprofit organization in Ridgewood that services exclusively homeless families. “As a community foundation, NNJCF impacts lives, solves problems, and enhances peoples’ futures,” said Shannon. “Many residents grapple with limited resources and a growing need for services. We are resolute to bring community partners together to find innovative and effective solutions for some of our most challenging social problems.”