PATERSON, NJ- While Kathy Gray has long desired to volunteer in her community “life was happening,” limiting her time to make the sort of meaningful contribution she desired.
But for Gray, who has spent her entire life living in and around Paterson, the recent addiction struggles of an acquaintance, and her pending graduation from Pillar College with a degree in psychology and counseling, was a call to action.
As one of ten attendees at a recent volunteer orientation for Eva’s Village, Gray expressed her interest to “give something back to the community, to help those in need, neglected or abused.”
If there was any concern from the group of new volunteers it was that they perhaps couldn’t do enough to help. This is common, according to Angela Vance, the volunteer coordinator who recruits, schedules and oversees an army of hundreds of volunteers that serve 1300 meals during the week.
Vance was quick to point out that she refers to those that visit for Eva’s Village for meals as “guests” instead of “clients” an important distinction, she believes, as it suggests a much more personal relationship. This is an important feature of the services provided by the organization which started 35 years ago by serving franks and beans to 30 people.
Today, in addition to the provision of warm and healthy meals, Eva’s Village also offers housing, medical services, and education and job training.
Most recently, Eva’s Village got more formally involved in Paterson’s Clean Communities program, a reflection, according to Community Outreach Coordinator Angela Fields, of their strategy to bring their mission into Paterson’s neighborhoods.
“People know that they can come to us for all things,” said Fields, specifically listing off food, shelter and education. By “taking ownership” of the roadway where they are located as part of the Adopt-A-Block Program, volunteers have already repainted the curbs on Main Street between Grand and Slater Streets. For Eva’s Village, Fields believes, this is yet another way of showing that they “are here for the Paterson.”