MADISON, NJ – On Friday, October 2nd, the marble halls of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Hennessy Hall Mansion were filled with Chinese lanterns and other décor of the Orient, while Mandarin-collar clad guests enjoyed Asian cuisine at the Covenant House Auxiliary of Morris County’s 32nd annual fall benefit, Shanghai Nights.
The festivities quieted when a young woman, named Sharnette, took the microphone and shared her life story. Sharnette spoke of her struggles through a troubled childhood in an unstable home. She and her many siblings were often left alone to care for themselves for days at a time. As a teen, she spent many homeless nights on a park bench and recalled those cold, rainy nights and her feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, until she learned about Covenant House, which she said “saved her life”. Sharnette found the family, love, security and guidance she needed at Covenant House. After several years of living in Covenant House’s “Rights of Passage” housing, she moved into her own apartment and is now living an independent life, free of the uncertainty and insecurity that plagued much of her younger days.
With the help of Covenant House, Sharnette completed her undergraduate college degree and is currently finishing her Master’s Degree in Education at the College of St. Elizabeth’s in Madison. She explained that her passion for education is also a way for her to enjoy a childhood she never experienced herself. Sharnette proudly and confidently stood before the 150 guests and shared her story of triumph.
Auxiliary co-president Diane Masucci commented, “When you hear young people, like Sharnette, share their difficult life stories, it really makes you stop and think about your own life. After tonight, I am even more motivated and inspired to help Covenant House do the important and life-changing work they do every day of the year.”
Each year, Covenant House New Jersey shelters 2000 homeless, runaway and at-risk youth between the ages of 18-21, by first responding to their immediate and basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare; and then, by giving them the support they need to become self-sufficient and independent young adults. The non-profit organization has statewide residential programs that offer education, vocation, medical, and legal services to the young people who walk through their doors.
Shanghai Nights raised $35,000 for Covenant House New Jersey, which includes the generous support of title sponsor, Hollister Construction Services of Parsippany, and corporate sponsors: ETF Managers Group, Dr. Robert Rosen Orthodontics, Roseland Development, Town & Country Properties/Boyd Eckhardt Homes, Macro Consulting Group/Nick Spagnoletti, Smythe Volvo of Summit, British Home Emporium, Davino Family Foundation, Stonington Cabinetry & Designs, ShopRite/Village Super Market Inc., Clover Communications Management, The Haralampoudis Family and The Piano Workshop at Chester, as well as, additional support from Tivoli Creative Design Studio, Command Financial Printing, and Sunny Asia of Summit.
Event guest and title sponsor, Kieran Flanagan of Hollister Construction, commented, “It’s a great thing to see so many businesses and families coming together to support the work that Covenant House does so well. They give these kids a chance at a life they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
In addition to the annual fall benefit, the Covenant House Auxiliary of Morris County hosts a Baby Shower each May for the young, formerly homeless mothers and their babies, who now reside in the Covenant House “Raphael Life House” in Elizabeth. At Halloween, their families carve jack-o-lanterns with the Covenant House Newark residents. At Christmas, the group visits the Newark center in early December to deck their halls for Christmas.
For more information about the work the Covenant House accomplishes, please visit www.covenanthousenj.org.