SPARTA, NJ – Holiday giving took on a new meaning for the students in Jen Caputo and Denise Garagliano fifth grade classes.  The two classes donated more than 100 new books to Sussex County based Family Promise in lieu of teacher gifts in December. 

Last week volunteer Event Coordinator Nicole Reed visited the Helen Morgan School to accept the donation and talk with the children about Family Promise.

Reed said the average age of a client at Family Promise is six years old.  The organization helps anyone in Sussex County who, for any reason, does not have a home.  She told them, the clients come to Family Promise facility during the day and spend the night at area churches who volunteer to accommodate the clients.

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She said that week, Family Promise was closed because they did not have any churches able to take people overnight.  Reed said that happens around the holidays.

As an emergency shelter, people come to Family Promise for many reasons Reed explained.  She said they may have lost their home because they had unexpected bills, lost a job or even had a fire. 

In response to a question, Reed said it is rewarding to know that families who came to them in need, are “helped in many ways to be able to get back into a home.”  They are assisted in learning about budgeting, if that is an issue.  They are helped to get a new job, to make good choices not to try to help prevent them from becoming homeless again, Reed said.

The children cannot bring a lot of their stuff, Reed said.  They do not have a television or computer, so there is a big amount of time when they do not have anything to do.  The churches try to help fill that time but books are a welcome way to escape, she said.

“This is a wonderful gift you are giving to the children of your community,” Reed said. “The best part of reading a book is that you can escape for a while.”

“And not have to worry about all of their struggles,” Caputo said.

Caputo said the school is currently collecting pajamas and socks for Family Promise. 

A student said he learned from a Pass it Along program that “the feet control the heat, so socks are helpful.”

Students asked a number of questions about homelessness and the children clients of Family Promise. Finally one student asked Reed why she does this.  Reed said, in part, “this job lets me help people.”

Caputo said more than 100 books were collected including three from family members who authored children’s books.

Family Promise is located at 19 Church Street in Newton.