LIVINGSTON, NJ — Jeff Friedman, founder and director of Livingston Philanthropies Inc. (LPI), began his mission of “providing for the poor, homeless and disenfranchised” in 2011 after volunteering for a soup kitchen in Newark. After recently being named a 501©3 non-profit organization, LPI can now officially accept monetary contributions as well as product donations.
Friedman—who is also the producer, director and principal of JF Teleproductions LLC—has won 13 of 60 Emmy Award nominations during his career as a television producer. He is also a retired Montclair State University professor, where he served as director of the DuMont Television Center.
According to the Livingston resident, it was his career in television production that led to the founding of LPI, as he was inspired to start collecting donations while he was working for NJN Public Television in Newark.
“My interest in issues affecting the homeless and profoundly poor goes back twenty years,” he said. “I was station manager at NJN, Public Television in Newark for years, which was two blocks from St. John's Soup Kitchen. I explored St. John's and began volunteering there for Friday lunches.
“My wife, Karen Friedman, and I began preparing sandwiches at home to distribute. Then we started to collect gloves and finally coats. From there, Livingston Philanthropies, Inc. (LPI) was born over eight years ago.”
The quantity of coats and other necessities that LPI has collected and distributed has grown rapidly over the year. In its first year, LPI managed to acquire 300 winter coats to be donated to those in need. Eight years later, during the 2018-2019 winter season, LPI collected 12,000 coats and jackets plus winter accessories, toiletries, family clothing, shoes, men’s suits, dress attire, diapers, women’s products, cosmetic gift bags, specialty items and more.
In the early years, Friedman said he would cram everything into his car to deliver the clothing and toiletries directly to churches, soup kitchens, women's centers and other 501©3 corporations like NJRC Prisoner Reentry, Family Success Centers, Newark Emergency Services and others. Today, LPI has numerous volunteers who also pack their own cars full of donations to help transport them.
Friedman said he is extremely grateful for LPI’s “stalwart volunteers, who give time and vehicles to service those living below the poverty line.”
He also said he is grateful that collections have expanded from coats to other necessary products like toiletries.
“Personal hygiene is attempted out on the streets, when a quick wash-up or shower opportunity presents itself,” he said. “Or, the homeless and profoundly poor sometimes know of spots where running water is available for a quick tooth brushing.”
In order to collect more toiletries, LPI has established the “Trish Duffy Toiletries & Cosmetic Challenge”—named in honor of a dedicated volunteer who recently lost her battle with cancer but was the first to bring in toiletry donations, thus beginning the tradition of collecting them. According to Friedman, this challenge is specifically for hotel-sized toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, cotton swabs, soap, feminine hygiene products and diapers.
Some of the cosmetics collected include samples as well as make-up products that people have purchased but have never opened. According to Friedman, teenage girls and women are always thrilled to receive lipstick, nail polish, perfume, lotion, powder, lotion, gift sets, etc.
Friedman added that his wife, Karen, has assembled thousands of cosmetic and toiletry gift bags thanks to donations from community members.
In addition to the gently used donations, LPI has a “Personal Shopping for Homeless” program, where donors purchase items they find on sale at stores or online. Winter coats and accessories, socks, gloves, underwear and shirts are also needed.
Friedman also noted that LPI receives additional help from a former colleague of his from Montclair State who collects hundreds of toiletries and cosmetics from students and from the members of a club at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield that collects hundreds of coats, winter accessories and prepared food items.
LPI’s next step is to expand to help neighboring communities, Friedman said, adding that one of the organization’s goals is to purchase a vehicle to transport all the donations so volunteers don’t have to use their personal cars.