LIVINGSTON, NJ— Board members of Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors (LNHN), which is on a mission to “support township residents struggling with unexpected hardship by providing short-term financial assistance and a variety of in-kind support,” gave their first official presentation on Monday to the Livingston mayor and council, who were all impressed and eager to support the organization.
According to board member Stacey Rubinstein, LNHN recently stepped up to take over management of Livingston’s Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) in partnership with the Livingston Clergy Association and is also an affiliate of Livingston’s Healthy Community Healthy Youth (HCHY). Not only does LNHN work to ensure that the 30 Livingston families using CHOW can continue to count on its assistance, but it also creates opportunities to respectfully help and empower those in need whereby promoting a strong sense of community and goodwill through its affiliation with HCHY.
Rubinstein, who recruited Alan Karpas and Martha Ackermann of HCHY to join her as board members of LNHN, said HCHY is the “perfect vehicle for [LNHN] to be an affiliate.”
“This is our future—these ladies are our future,” said Ackermann, who cited one success story where LNHN was able to provide a family with dinner every night for nearly six months simply by posting on Facebook about a local mother in need. “It’s been so overwhelming how the community, with just putting the word out, has come forth. It’s a labor of love and it’s because of these women.”
Rubinstein, along with some of her fellow LNHN board members, is also one of the dedicated CHOW volunteers who felt the community needed to step up after CHOW coordinator Sister Barbara Howard’s retirement to keep the organization going.
To date, LNHN has been able to assist nine local families in some capacity. According to board members, some gifts to these families included providing fresh produce, clothing, non-perishables, household supplies or grocery gift cards.
In one of two emergency cases thus far, the organization was able to help one CHOW family financially by sending funds directly to PSEG to help turn the family’s utilities back on and also directed the family to the township social worker for additional assistance.
During her presentation on Monday, Rubinstein said that when the team thought about how this could work within the community, having a township social worker was a tremendous asset. LNHN is currently working in partnership with township social worker Kacie Schmidt, who is able to screen families and assess requests to ensure that funds and efforts are being distributed appropriately.
“There’s a few reasons why the township social worker should be involved,” said Rubinstein. “Number one, if [someone] is in financial crisis, there may be ways that the township social worker can help this person to begin with. And then the township social worker is trained on how to screen if someone is actually in need of financial assistance.”
According to Rubinstein, LNHN has sent approximately five people to Schmidt who were not aware that the township had a social worker. In addition to the direct partnership, Ackermann is serving as a liaison to the school system so that the principals of each school know to contact LNHN or Schmidt as a resource for students in need.
“A resident or family may need in-kind assistance, so we may connect them to CHOW, we may give things like clothing, resume assistance, produce meals, etc.,” said Rubinstein. “Other needs may be identified, and we’d make the connection if possible.”
Board members also spoke about how much the organization has already been able to do simply by posting on Facebook or other outlets about a family’s needs. By getting the word out, LNHN believes that friends and neighbors will come together to help these families in any way they can—whether that means making a monetary donation, preparing a home-cooked meal or donating used belongings like soccer balls, clothes or other items.
“As we get out there, we’re helping—our town is helping and that’s what’s amazing,” one member said. “It’s very easy to just spend an extra $20 at the grocery store for a family in need.”
In voicing their support for the group, Mayor Shawn Klein and members of the council expressed their gratitude for all that LNHN is doing for the Livingston community and congratulated the board members on their success so far.
“One of the things that’s very special about this is—for you folks to be sitting next to Alan and Martha, who have done so much heavy lifting over such a long period of time in these kinds of endeavors—to have this next younger generation step up is great,” said Klein.
Deputy Mayor Ed Meinhardt suggested reaching out to the township’s many clubs and organizations about holding potential fundraisers or even donating the leftover food and supplies from their existing events.
In response, the board announced that it recently reached out to the schools to find a young leader within the schools to help promote LNHN among the existing clubs within the high school and those who are looking for volunteer experience.
As LNHN continues to spread the word and strengthen its existing partnerships, some of the immediate goals of LNHN include building funds and raising additional dollars in order to meet needs as they arise; ensuring steady CHOW donations; building the volunteer pool within LNHN; and connecting with community groups.
Its greatest hope, according to board members, is that the efforts of LNHN will help others “create stronger feelings of goodwill” within the Livingston community.
The Livingston Township Council also recently donated space at Town Hall for CHOW collection to help store donations throughout the year.
Other LNHN board members include Chris Bickel, Julie Kaplan, Rebecca Lederman, Michelle Lemieux, Melissa Pritsiolas and Nancy Ritch.
For more information, contact the board members at Lnhn07039@gmail.com or contact Kacie Schmidt at 973 535-7961, ext. 231. Also follow Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors on Facebook by clicking HERE.
Checks should be made out to Healthy Community Healthy Youth (LNHN in the memo) and mailed to Healthy Community Healthy Youth, P.O. Box 105, Livingston, 07039. Additionally, there is a link to donate of the LNHN Facebook page via PayPal at https://www.facebook.com/LNHN07039.