SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Homefirst Interfaith Housing & Family Services, Inc. raised more than $35,000 at its Evening of Thanks awards dinner last week at Shackamaxon Country Club in Scotch Plains.  At the dinner, two local teenagers received the Homefirst Hero Award and two organizations were recognized as leaders in the fight to end homelessness in Union County.

“Our Evening of Thanks is a time where we highlight and pay tribute to people, businesses and organizations that have been extremely generous with their time, talent and treasure in service to Homefirst.  It’s only with the support of our partners, funders and volunteers that we are able to offer the services we provide to nearly 2,000 children, men and women throughout Union County each year,” said Laurethea Kidd, acting executive director of Homefirst.

Richard Brown, CEO & President at Monarch Housing, was named this year’s Housing & Advocacy Champion. Brown has over 45 years of experience in housing development and community organizing. Based in Cranford, Monarch has been a leader in expanding the supply and accessibility of affordable housing in New Jersey.

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“This is our time, and this our issue.  We must all become advocates to end homelessness,” said Brown. “Our voices need to be heard in Washington, Trenton, Elizabeth as well as our hometowns.”  

The Westfield United Fund received the Philanthropic Champion award. Since 1937, the Fund has supported programs to families and individuals including those with physical and psychological disabilities in Westfield and its surrounding communities. “The Westfield United Fund is proud to count Homefirst among our family of agencies and to be part of their life-changing and inspiring work.  We look forward to many more years of partnering with Homefirst to help families, in Union County, find the stability they need to succeed,” said Deirdre Gelinne, executive director of the Fund.

One of the 2017 Homefirst Heroes, Daniel Serna, 15, a resident of Cranford, was recognized for organizing school supply drives for the past four years, initially as part of his Bar Mitzvah. 

“I feel honored to be recognized by Homefirst,” said Serna.  “Receiving this award makes me realize the difference I can make in the community.” Homefirst’s Plainfield Family Support Center hosts an annual school supply giveaway with the supplies donated through Serna’s drive.

Sophie Braun, 12, of Westfield, a seventh-grader at Edison Intermediate School, was also honored as a 2017 Homefirst Hero for organizing a swim-a-thon that raised about $3,000 for Homefirst. She and her swim group, The Barracudas, look forward to holding the second annual swim-a-thon during the spring. 

“My parents impressed upon me the importance of helping others. I would like to thank my family for supporting my swim-a-thon.  Even my grandparents participated by swimming laps,” said Braun. 

“This annual event gives Homefirst the opportunity to publically thank our community partners, committed volunteers and loyal stakeholders for helping Homefirst as we strive to make safe, decent and affordable housing possible for every family in Union County,” said Rev. Ronald Thomas, president of Homefirst’s Board of Trustees. 

“I particularly want to extend our gratitude to the sponsors of The Evening of Thanks for their commitment: Amy Yin Interiors, Monarch Housing Associates, TD Bank, Investors Savings Bank, Wells Fargo, Westfield United Fund and Your PartTime Controller.”

The theme of the Evening of Thanks was “A Culinary Extravaganza” and it showcased cuisine prepared by Union County’s finest restaurants.  Also, guests savored exceptional wine, beer and spirits from local purveyors.

Participating restaurants included A Toute Heure, Grillestone Restaurant, Jerkin Chicken, Laboratory Catering, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, ShopRite of Clark, Brisas Restaurant, Tropical Taste and Valenca.  Wine, beer and spirits were provided by BuyRite of North Plainfield, Devotion Vodka, Park Beverage, RedPuro Wines and Senor Sangria.  Dessert vendors included Cake Artist Café, CornKrush and Pinho’s Bakery. 

About Homefirst 
Homefirst strives to make it possible for every family to have safe, decent housing they can afford; and to provide family support services to create a home and a future filled with promise. The organization provides transitional, supportive and permanent housing, homelessness prevention assistance, and services to individuals and families. Through individualized supportive and housing services, Homefirst’s ultimate goal is to foster self-sufficiency, thus building stronger communities. For more information, visit www.homefirstinc.org, or contact Homefirst Development Director Karla Spivey at (908) 753-4001 or karla@homefirstinc.org.