ROSELLE/ELIZABETH, NJ - As a long-time volunteer at the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless Roselle resident Renaee Smith has written a children’s book and will donate $2.00 for every sale of her book, Who Turned the Lights Out? to benefit the nonprofit.
Smith an International award-winning author, wrote the children’s picture book that takes an in-depth look at poverty and homelessness from the eyes of a child living through issues surrounding low-income communities, such as not having enough money to pay the electric bill. Smith explains in non-threatening, age-appropriate language the impact that poverty can have on individuals and how the reader can help those who are in need.
“I was inspired to write this book from working at the Coalition as a way to explain to children what homelessness is and what can be done to help someone who is homeless, even at a young age,” explains Smith, who has been with the organization for eight years and a grant writer for them for two years. “Growing up, my own mother, who was a teacher in Jamaica, would provide shelter to children in her classroom that were less fortunate or in need. That teaching brought out a passion in me to help others and educate how everyone can help the indigent.”
Smith seeks to instill this same missionary attitude in her three sons, volunteering her time at their grade schools and high school in Roselle while also remaining active on the school’s Parent-Teacher Group. Seeking to show her family that change can come from within and the importance of activism, Smith won a seat on the Roselle Board of Education this year and is the Director of Membership for the Roselle Chamber of Commerce.
The Elizabeth Coalition’s mission is to help the homeless and near-homeless by giving people the tools and support they need to live healthy, self-sufficient lives. The Coalition is constantly seeking new and innovative ways to aid in their mission, so they were very excited when Smith raised the idea.
“Renaee Smith is a gifted writer,” states Linda Flores-Tober, executive director of the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless. “Her book shares the reality of many of our families and what children are dealing with in a gentle and compassionate manner. Homeless children find comfort that their home difficulties are not a result of anything they did, but an adult reality. Other children will learn about the problems of homelessness in a way that is not threatening or frightening but will learn compassion for their neighbors experiencing it. We are touched by Renaee’s generosity and commitment to address the problem. This is a book for every home bookshelf.”
According to Advocates for Children of New Jersey, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to bettering the lives of children through advocacy and policy work, as of 2017, 30% of New Jersey children under the age of 18 are considered to be low-income, defined as an annual income of $49,716 for a family of four.
“It is important that we instill compassion and action early on in life,” explains Smith. “By showing children the issues at hand and giving them small ways that they can impact the world – donating time and resources, being kind, speaking with politicians about the needs of others, and even just educating yourself - we can have a future generation ready to help others and leave behind a better planet.”
In addition to Who Turned the Lights Out?, Smith has published seven books, including cookbooks, children’s books, and inspirational novels. Her children’s books deal with social and environmental issues, worded in such a way so that children can understand and take action. Her cookbook, Memba When, focuses on the rich Jamaican cuisine that she grew up eating and cooking, and was awarded the 2014 Best First Cookbook for Jamaica from Gourmand Cookbook Awards.
Smith is the founder and current CEO of Independent Authors Book Experience, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting new writers and the organization that runs the annual Independent Authors Book Expo in Roselle. She also established the Independent Authors Publications, a publishing company.
Those interested in purchasing a copy of the book can visit Renaee Smith’s website at www.renaeesmith.com, purchase the book on Amazon or contact Smith through Instagram @AuthorRenaee, or Facebook, Author Renaee Perrier-Smith.
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