MILLBURN, NJ - It’s often quite easy to take things for granted, particularly in an affluent town like Millburn.
On any given work day, we probably start our mornings by checking emails, deciding whether to get coffee at Starbucks or Rock ‘n’ Joe, and kissing the kids goodbye as we make our way to work. Perhaps during the commute, we think about what to do this weekend like checking out the new restaurant in town, whom to invite for the next play date, or cleaning out the garage.
But for more than 13,000 individuals who are homeless in New Jersey, these things are not possible.
For more than 12 years, Kathy Stine, a long-time resident of Short Hills, has been working hard to help end homelessness in Essex County through her work with the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN). After quitting her job at J.P. Morgan to spend more time with her family, she decided dedicate her full attention to community service and to those in need. Currently, Stine is the president of this non-profit organization that provides temporary shelter, day care, transportation and other assistance to almost 300 people each year.
Leading a 1,200 person volunteer force along with a full time staff of social workers, logistics coordinators and develop personnel, she is here to make a difference in her community. Stine started off over a decade ago as a volunteer with IHN at her home church, Wyoming Presbyterian in Millburn. This led to greater involvement with fundraising, more responsibility as a member of the Board of Trustees, to her current role as president. Stine recalled a time when she brought her son to church during a volunteer session and saw a young boy walking into the shelter with a backpack. Her son asked, “Where's the rest of his stuff?” She told her son that that was everything the boy had.
IHN works with participating congregations to feed and support families and to provide temporary shelter. Millburn has four host locations; Wyoming Presbyterian, B’nai Israel, B’nai Jeshrun and St. Stephen’s. Each congregation volunteers to provide support services at least a week per annum. According to Emma Justice, executive director of IHN, “We are only one of four shelters in all of New Jersey that keeps families together within a shelter, the rest separate the men and women”.
Interfaith is a part of a larger network of providers under the Family Promise organization, which is headquartered in Summit. Its founder, Karen Olson, bought a sandwich for a homeless woman on a street in Manhattan back in the early 1980s. She and her two sons began delivering lunches to homeless people on the streets of New York in 1986. By 1988, Family Promise went national with its message and by 2003 they had touched the lives of more than 50,000 people (annually) and engaged an army of more than 160,000 volunteers.
For more information, please visit www.ihnessexnj.org.