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MyCentralJersey Needy Cases Fund 2021: How to help your neighbors in need this holiday season

Courier News (Bridgewater, NJ) logo Courier News (Bridgewater, NJ) 2 days ago Joe Martino, MyCentralJersey.com
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Though the darkest days of the COVID pandemic may be behind us and we may be returning to what we remember as "normal life," there are many of our neighbors in Central Jersey for whom normal life remains a challenge.

While many of us are finally escaping the isolation of lockdown and are able again to enjoy the holidays with our families and friends, there are many who remain isolated through circumstances not of their choosing.

We all have neighbors on every street in every town who struggle every day of the year to cope with economic and health hardships. The pandemic has been an endurance test for all of us, but it has been particularly difficult for them.

We may still have to be socially distanced, but that does not mean we have to remain distant from our communities. 

In a further test of our fortitude, we are facing the pressures of inflation and supply chain interruptions. Prices on everyday essentials from food to gas have spiked. Nearly every ingredient in your holiday meal is more expensive this year.

The Home News Tribune Needy Cases Fund connects those in need with those who can help. © ~Getty Images/iStockphoto The Home News Tribune Needy Cases Fund connects those in need with those who can help.

But those are only temporary problems.

The fortunate among us can still afford gas to visit faraway family, spread a feast on the holiday table or afford the heat to ward off the winter chill.

Some of our neighbors aren't so fortunate. Their problems don't vanish when the seasons change, or inflation goes away. 

That’s where we all can help.

For decades, Central Jersey residents have rallied to support their neighbors in need through the Home News Tribune’s Needy Cases Fund and the Courier News’ Wish Book programs. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised through the kindness and generosity of those who recognized the hardships of their neighbors and gave unselfishly.

Because of the pandemic, we have combined our Needy Cases and Wish Book programs again this year.

The pandemic has increased the hardships for our neighbors who struggle every day with their challenges. They do not want a handout, but only a helping hand.

On Sunday we start running the heartfelt stories in our newspapers and on our website, MyCentralJersey.com, about some of our neighbors who deserve our generosity. The stories will run in the Courier News and Home News Tribune through next Sunday.

Community members will see how these organizations improve the lives of their neighbors in need, and how they can help the agencies accomplish their missions.

Our sincere hope is that after viewing and reading the work of our journalists, community members will in turn support this community-service project by sending donations that will go directly to the nonprofit agencies.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been writing about our hometown heroes – health care workers, first responders, educators and countless others – who have risen to the challenge and have come to the aid of strangers without question or doubt.

Now it's your turn to be a hometown hero.

Here’s how you can be a hometown hero 

Send donations (checks made out to the Needy Cases Fund or cash) to: Needy Cases Fund, Home News Tribune/Courier News, 92 E. Main St., Suite 202, Somerville, NJ 08876. Please do not make checks out to the Courier News Wish Book program this year. Please indicate with a note whether you want to be acknowledged in a wrap-up story about the program, or whether you wish to remain anonymous.

It’s a way we can grow closer in spirit to our neighbors and demonstrate our good will and charity for all.

Isn’t that what the holiday season, even in these difficult times, is all about?

Organizations you will help 

Make-A-Wish New Jersey

Despite facing the COVID-19 pandemic, Make-A-Wish has continued to find ways to grant wishes and deliver hope and joy to children diagnosed with critical illnesses. For children between the ages of 2 ½ and 18 who have been diagnosed with a critical illness, a wish come true can be a crucial turning point in their recovery.

Find out more about Make-A-Wish New Jersey: Make-A-Wish New Jersey continued fulfilling dreams during pandemic

Elijah's Promise

In 2021 Elijah’s Promise has served more than 350,000 free, nutritious meals at its Community Soup Kitchen. © Courtesy of Elijah’s Promise In 2021 Elijah’s Promise has served more than 350,000 free, nutritious meals at its Community Soup Kitchen.

In 2021 Elijah’s Promise has served more than 350,000 free, nutritious meals at its Community Soup Kitchen, a record high averaging about 1,000 meals a day. That’s three times the number of meals served in 2019, said Michelle Wilson, executive director of Elijah’s Promise.

Find out more about Elijah's Promise: Elijah’s Promise tripled its record number of meals served

Franklin Food Bank

The Franklin Food Bank has been supplying groceries to its clients for almost a half century. But from March 16, 2020, when the pandemic shutdowns began, through the end of December, the food bank served nearly 13,000 packages to 4,800 families – a 150% increase in what was basically three-quarters of a year.

Find out more about the Franklin Food Bank: Franklin Food Bank sees 150% increase in clients

CASA of Middlesex County

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Middlesex County reached an important milestone this year. It is now serving 50% of the children from Middlesex County who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect or child welfare concerns. Founded in 1977 and established in Middlesex County in 2006, the nonprofit recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advise the courts and advocate for foster children’s best interests.

Find out more about CASA of Middlesex County: CASA of Middlesex County wants to help more foster children

Lions Club

a man holding a camera: David Weininger helps those in need see through the Lions Club of New Brunswick. © Nick Muscavage/Staff Photo David Weininger helps those in need see through the Lions Club of New Brunswick.

Founded in 1917, the Lions Club is best known for its fight against blindness, but the nonprofit also volunteers for many different kinds of community projects including caring for the environment, feeding the hungry and aiding seniors and the disabled. Today, Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.

Find out more about Lions Club: Lions Club vision still seeks to help

Martin Luther King Youth Center 

Founded in 1973, the Center serves underprivileged kids ages 5- to 13-years-old in the Somerset County area, with hopes that they gain academic and professional skills.

Through educational programs which emphasize character development and leadership skills, the center creatively engages the children, it said. Currently, more than 55 children attend the programs during the year with 100-plus participating in its summer camps.

Find out more about Martin Luther King Youth Center:  Martin Luther King Youth Center continues to give children 'the best'

Community Access Unlimited

 A Union County-based nonprofit organization, CAU serves people with disabilities and youth at risk across New Jersey. Bernadette Griswold, executive director of CAU, said individuals with disabilities and youth at risk have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

To learn more about Community Access Unlimited: Community Access Unlimited supports those with disabilities, youth

Aldersgate Outreach Community Center

AOCC has historically consisted of a food pantry and thrift shop, providing items including food, diapers, clothing, household goods and holiday gifts to those in need. AOCC is open for registration to anyone residing in Middlesex County who is experiencing food insecurity. Clients must qualify under state or federal guidelines. Those living outside Middlesex County who otherwise qualify may pickup during State and Federal food weeks. There is no citizenship requirement.

To learn more about Aldersgate Outreach Community Center: Aldersgate Outreach Community Center strives to help in trying times

The Arc of Somerset County

"The Arc of Somerset County provides a lifetime of comprehensive services, advocacy and support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families to promote growth, achievement and ongoing involvement in the community," said Lauren Frary, executive director. The organization will be celebrating 50 years of service this year.

To learn more about The Arc of Somerset County: Celebrating 50 years, The Arc of Somerset County offers diverse programs

Women Aware 

For more than 40 years, Women Aware has been a beacon of hope for women suffering from domestic abuse. The state-designated lead domestic violence agency for Middlesex County, Women Aware moves approximately 2,000 survivors beyond abuse each year, said Susan M. Dyckman, development director.

To learn more about Women Aware: Women Aware continues to move women beyond abuse  

Joe Martino is news director of the Courier News, Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com. He can be reached at 908-243-6608 or jmartino@gannettnj.com. 

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: MyCentralJersey Needy Cases Fund 2021: How to help your neighbors in need this holiday season

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