HAWTHORNE, NJ - The Hawthorne Pride Alliance concluded a successful clothing drive Saturday, acquiring dozens of donated packages destined for the Essex county-based Reaching Adolescents in Need Foundation (RAIN) which provides a shelter for displaced and homeless LGBT youth, many of whom have been rejected by their own families with nowhere else to go. The Pride Alliance noted that while New York City has facilities, North Jersey in general, and Passaic County particularly, has a lack of LGBT-safe youth shelters. According to RAIN, 69% of their youth suffered rejection from their families and 62% experienced aggression or violence within the family.
Bradley Campbell said, "When Mike first approached me about doing a drive for LGBT homeless youth, I relied on the fact that I'm on the board of Broadway Community, a homeless shelter in Manhattan. One thing I learned over the years is that the items that people need when they're in situations like this is often not what people donate. If you really want to build up someone's confidence, it's about the things that we take for granted every day: underwear, socks. Especially with kids like this that RAIN houses--primarily youth who have shunned by their families--building respect is the least that we can do right now."
The idea was formulated in the summer and, with the pandemic in mind, the Alliance looked for creative and safe ways for people to help out. "When the Hawthorne Pride Alliance was first formed, and when Mike found out I had this other work in my background, he asked me to take this on," Campbell said. "It didn't take long to pull together, and making an Amazon wishlist using the internet, especially during this time, has already led to the majority of our donations being sent from that wishlist directly to RAIN. I think the biggest thing that I learned when I started researching organizations like this in north Jersey is the lack of community centers and shelters for LGBTQ youth in this area. New York City certainly has many but not here. RAIN was the only LBGTQ shelter that we could get in contact with, and we wanted to make sure what we were doing was benefiting New Jersey and Passaic County, but there's nothing in Passaic County."
Chairman Mike Stracco said, "We are reaching out to the youth, who are our future. Kids who don't have families and don't have homes have to know there's someone who cares about them. They could be complete strangers, but they have to know we still care about them. So having this today means a great deal. Particularly around the holiday season, let's take care of those who need it most: our youth. To have Bradley head this just gives credence to the time and the talent of the members of the Hawthorne Pride Alliance."
"I want to thank Mike Stracco and Bradley who have done an excellent job," Vice Chairman Lyle Hatch told TAPinto Hawthorne. "I think this shows what we can do to reach out to the community, the entire community. I think it is part of God's plan, a great thing to see what we're doing, and to help those in need. All of us here are very proud of what we're doing and to move forward."
Frank Ducoat said, "I'm glad the Alliance is formed and I'm happy to be a part of it."
"This is just the beginning and hopefully we can lead Passaic County to help us recognize the LGBTQ community," Thomas Bushnauskas said. "Our goal is to eventually get the county involved."
Stracco said that by the close of the event, the Pride Alliance had received 34 packages of socks, 18 packages of underwear, 3 packages of under-shirts, and 27 coats. Online donations tallied 18 packages of socks and 33 packages of underwear. "It was very successful," Stracco said proudly, thanking those who donated to the drive.
On Sunday, the donations will be dropped off to the RAIN Foundation. Stracco said that the Alliance would keep the Amazon wishlist link active if anyone wanted to send an anonymous donation directly to the Foundation from home.