JERSEY CITY, NJ - First Lady Tammy Murphy’s arrival in Jersey City to help distribute winter coats to needy families at the Salvation Army Jersey City Corps on Feb. 25 was more than just a gesture, but something symbolic of communities coming together at a time of crisis.

“The silver lining in this pandemic is that we are seeing the heart and soul of New Jersey communities coming together,” she said.

The Salvation Army center in Jersey City, one of the 29 scattered throughout the state, is located in an extremely historic part of the city, slightly more than a block away on Bergen Avenue is the Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church where Dr. Martin Luther King spoke in late March 1968, but also in one of the poorest.

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, their weekly food distribution helped more than 150 families survive. “After the pandemic started the need increased,” said Salvation Army Major James Stephenson, who serves as the director of the facility. 

This facility helps families not just in Jersey City, but also in Hoboken and Bayonne as well, he said.

COVID-19 shut down the facility for a short while, but the program was able to start up again virtually, and again with extreme precaution regarding COVID-19 safety protocols, in person day care started back last September.

“We’re blessed to have a lot of good community partners,” he said. “While we are going to give out some coats today, most of the coats donated will be distributed to families throughout our area.”

On this sunny day in February, people line up outside the parking lot for food and for the unique opportunity to receive free coats thanks to the generosity of the First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy, who is the founding chair of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund (NJPRF) was launched March 24, 2020 to marshal resources to meet critical needs and fight the economic and social impact of COVID-19 within New Jersey. NJPRF provides grants to existing organizations with a demonstrated track record of caring for vulnerable communities. 

Poised in front of racks of coats, officials – including officers from the Salvation Army dressed in their classic uniforms – gave away the first of what will be more than 3,000 coats to those in need.

Major Maria Stephenson, co-director, moved through the crowd, taking the temperature of those attending, one of the many protocols established to keep those who use the center safe and healthy.

“We all have to care for each other, spread the love,” she said.

Jeremy J. Grey, Executive Vice President, Industrial Development for Hilco Global, one of the day’s corporate sponsors, said the company always makes a point of giving back to the people in the communities where they operate. They are currently dismantling two power plants in New Jersey, one in Hamilton, and one in Jersey City, cleaning up the sites to install new green energy alternatives.  

The Jersey City plant, a coal burning plant, was rated as one of the worst polluting plants in the country. Hilco is working with PSE&G, also a sponsor Thursday, to remediate these sites, he said.

Grey said the company, through their Hilco Helps initiative launched to improve the lives of those in need (often children) in communities that are underserved and require assistance to maximize their full potential,  has been involved with similar community programs in Chicago, where it is based as well as in Boston and Philadelphia. This includes distribution of good coats, as well as backpacks for kids going back to school.

“We make a good team,’ he said.

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