SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Crates were filled to the brim with peanut butter, bags of rice, cereal, and other grocery items for the MEND (Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity) food drive in front of Maplewood Library on December 16, 2020.

The food drive was sponsored by the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce, with major support from the South Orange nonprofit JESPY House. MEND has been working harder than ever to secure food donations for local food banks to address the tremendous insecurity in our area brought on by the pandemic.

Leading up to the food drive, monetary support and boxes and bags of items were donated by JESPY board members, staff, clients, and supporters as well as the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association of South Orange. The overwhelming amount of donations were enough to aptly fill MEND’s food drive van, affectionately known as ‘The Sweet Pea’.

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Heading the charge for JESPY’s part in all MEND-related food drives has been JESPY’s Community Relations Supervisor Tara Roberts.

“It was a pleasure filling the Sweet Pea with these incredible food donations,” shared Ms. Roberts. “JESPY has been part of the South Orange/Maplewood community for 42 years. We appreciate all the support we receive from the community, and view this as an opportunity to give back at a time when others truly need this support.”

JESPY House, which services adults with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities between the ages of 18 and 73, has participated in several MEND/Our Lady of Sorrows food drives since March. So meeting the call to serve others outside of JESPY’s immediate reach has been an ongoing concern for the nonprofit. That care for others is echoed by JESPY clients who have participated in this and other food drives.

“It’s nice to help other people,” said longtime JESPY client Virginia F., who eagerly volunteered to participate in the December 16th outing. “You have to think of people who don’t have anything. Some people don’t have a meal to put on the table. It’s the holidays. I enjoy helping out.”

To learn how you can lend support to future JESPY food drive collections, send an email to

With the goal of helping clients maintain independent lives, JESPY’s wellness programs provide support in the areas of clinical & behavioral health, athletics & fitness, activities of daily living, recreation, employment, and residential options. Visit to learn more.