(Editor's Note: Heather Hernandez is a senior at North Plainfield High School and an intern for TAPinto North Plainfield.) 

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – In 2007, shortly after Joshua Helck passed away from leukemia, the North Plainfield resident’s sister, Jane, and some of her friends looked to do something to help raise money for cancer research. Soon, she and her friends began holding clothing fundraisers in his honor.

Through the years, the Helck family expanded the effort, establishing the non-profit Joshua’s Closet run today by Helck’s siblings Jane, Mollie, and Anna, along with their mother Sandi. Donated clothing, shoes and other items are gathered throughout the year with 100-percent of profits from fundraisers and sales at different venues benefiting the New Brunswick-based Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in memory of Joshua James Johnson Helck.

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“What started as really a small gesture by Jane has grown into something family, friends and the community have been so supportive of,” said Sandi. “Through Joshua’s Closet, we are able to not only keep Josh’s memory alive but also play a small role in helping to support cancer resource. And I am very grateful for that.”

Joshua’s Closet accepts men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing in all sizes and for all seasons, including socks, undergarments and bathing suits, as well as shoes, gloves and scarves, and bags of all types, including purses, backpacks, clutches, messenger bags, suitcases, etc. Additionally, donations of linens, towels, pillows, blankets, and sleeping bags along with like-new stuffed animals, toys and jewelry are also accepted.

From March through December, Joshua’s Closet accepts donations and runs a non-profit thrift shop at Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church on Tuesdays from 2 to 5 p.m. During the other months, donation appointments are accepted. Sandi also participates in the Holy Cross Christmas Bazaar as well the annual Friends of Vermeule yard sale.  Plans are under way to hold a large shoe sale fundraiser next month and, during baseball season, Somerset Patriot game tickets can also be purchased through Joshua’s Closet, with a percentage of the $10 ticket cost benefiting the North Plainfield non-profit.

Joshua Helck was diagnosed with leukemia in April 2007 and passed away just four months later at the age of 30. He was a member of North Plainfield High School’s (NPHS) Class of 1995. As a student, Joshua was a founding member of the high school’s Hope Club, an organization dedicated to how life happens due to environmental science. Additionally, during his summers Joshua volunteered his time to the school district, helping in the various computer labs.

In addition to establishing a non-profit in Joshua’s memory, the Helck family in 2008 planted a pine tree in his honor in front of North Plainfield High School. Every Feb 3 - Joshua’s birthday - the Helck family and friends join together and tie ribbons around the tree as well as leave notes and mementos in his memory.

“He would have been 40-years-old this year and it’s hard to imagine he is gone for 10 years now,” Sandi Helck said.

Donations for Joshua’s Closet can be made by appointment by contacting Sandi Helck at (908) 756-8356. Additionally, items can be dropped off at Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church, 170 Watchung Avenue in North Plainfield, on Tuesdays from 2 to 5 p.m., beginning March 7. Updated hours of operation, as they become available, will also be posted on the ‘Joshua’s Closet’ Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Joshuas-Closet-202984503074971/). For additional information, email joshuascloset@live.com

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