SUMMIT, NJ – There’s No Place Like Home may have seemed like an odd theme for a reception benefiting the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, but executive director Linda Tober-Flores made the point succinctly and poignantly.
“When I listen to them when they come into my office, the word that comes to my mind is resilience. The people we serve are resilient. The people we serve are hopeful. They have such hope that someone will get them off the street. Sometimes we can do that. We listen with our heart, to the pregnant mother of four whose husband has abandoned her, to the veteran who is sleeping on a bench. There is no rental assistance. No landlord will rent to them. The only resource we can give them is hope.”
Hope, because, as the hundreds of people crowded into the Grand Summit Hotel know, there is no place like home.
This night, May 17, the Coalition honored four women who took on the fight against homelessness. The Founders Award for Public Service was given to Catherine Hart, the longtime deputy executive director for the Housing Authority for the City of Elizabeth. Tina Earley, Elizabethtown Gas Company’s manager of government and community affairs, received the Founders Award for Corporate Responsibility. Catherine Felegi, who established the First Presbyterian Church of Cranford’s chapter of Operation Warm Heart, was recognized for her community service, and the Spirit of Joanie Award was given to Mary Gibbons-Wooten, who, as an administer in her family’s business, the Elberon Development Group, continues her family’s commitment to give back to the community.
Mayor Christian Bollwage congratulated the honorees during the ceremony at which Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan was master of ceremony. In addition to the awards given by the Coalition, the four women also receive recognition from the State Assembly presented by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, a longtime Coalition supporter, the Union County Freeholder Board, presented by Freeholder Angel Estrada, and Elizabeth City Council, presented by Council Member Patricia Perkins-Auguste. “I call your Sheroes in the community,” said Perkins-Auguste to the four women. “What you do, multiplies. What you do makes life happier for those who are unfortunate.”