West Deptford / National Park - New Jersey - November, 2016 - The South Jersey Dream Center burst into the Thanksgiving Season with the Fifth Annual Dodge Hunger Dodgeball Tournament at the RiverWinds Community Center the first Saturday in November.
Players from NJ and PA formed teams of six or more to help raise funds in support of the South Jersey Dream Center Monthly Food & Clothing Distribution on the third Tuesday of each month at the National Park Fire Hall.
Teams were made up of various local middle school and high school students, and local businesses such as GAP Factory Store and Kohl's Associates in Action, as well as friends and co-workers who simply wanted to support a worthy cause during this Thanksgiving season.
Among the Pro teams were Body Snatchers I and II, Aftershock, and Nationally recognized, Las Vegas Ultimate Dodgeball Championship winners, Team Awesome. "Out of all the tournaments we play, this is my favorite", said Narces Clarkson of Team Awesome, "I love what it stands for".
A total of 20 teams battled it out on the court for first place honors in four divisions: Junior (8th grade and younger) won by Team R.I.P., Senior (9th-12th grade) won by Ape-Gang, Adult (18 years and older) won by GAP Factory Store, and Pro Division (players of all ages who travel as a team to Amateur and Professional Tournaments) won by Team Awesome.
Mandy Trieu, a biochemist formed a team of co-workers because "It sounded like a fun thing to do for a worthy cause, I'm glad we did it". Her teammates, hurting a bit from the fierce competition, agreed and said they would be back again next year.
"Hosting the Dodge Hunger Dodgeball Tournament is a lot of work, but an absolute blast, said Hilari Luck, who oversees Team Recruitment. "It's an awesome opportunity to raise funds and awareness about hunger in our local community. Hunger doesn't look like it used to, some of our guests who come to us for food have two working adults in the house but still can't make ends meet".
"We are so thankful for our sponsors and partners who help make this event such a great success. Our complimentary lunch was provided by Wawa, Ciconte's Pizzeria, Pat's Select Pizza|Grill, and Domino's. Local businesses, many from the Greater Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, were so quick to be a team t-shirt sponsor, I was amazed at the overwhelming generosity", said Natalie Fortunato, Executive Director of the South Jersey Dream Center. "The much needed funds that were raised make it possible to open our doors each month, and serve hundreds of families in need of food assistance, lightly used clothing and linens, and most of all HOPE".
Many of which families joined the South Jersey Dream Center for their annual Thanksgiving outreach on Tuesday, November 15th. Over 200 families received a turkey for their table or whole chicken, as well as an overflowing grocery cart with bread, dairy, meat, fresh produce, and various non-perishable foods and personal hygiene item. All provided by New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger, Albert's Organics, the Food Bank of South Jersey, Target, ShopRite, BJ's and Philabundance. "I am currently disabled and have very little food" said a first time guest, and if it weren't for the South Jersey Dream Center "I wouldn't be able to eat everyday".
A local resident, Danielle Moughan, and her family put together a giant size Thanksgiving Basket filled with a turkey, all the sides and a host of other food essentials to be given away as a door prize on this special occasion. K-Love Radio 106.9 FM also joined the action to provide positive, encouraging music throughout the morning and early afternoon as guests waited to be served.
Special thanks was given to Patient First of Woodbury, who was honored as the November Sponsor of the Month, underwriting the cost of operations for the month. Tom Murtaugh, RN, Director of Medical Support at the Woodbury Patient First was on hand to receive the award.
What makes the South Jersey Dream Center different from many other food & clothing programs is their voluntary workshop provided by local professionals. Each month, before the food is distributed, a presentation is given on a relevant and applicable topic that helps the guests take steps forward in life, followed by an encouraging message of faith and hope through Jesus Christ. This month's topic, "Parenting Isn't for Cowards" was presented by family specialist, Ella Joseph.
The South Jersey Dream Center is a volunteer based organization that solely depends on the hard work and dedication of people who simply want to give back to their community. Over 75 people served on Monday and Tuesday, clocking in over 14 hours loading and unloading trucks, setting up the hall, organizing food, registering guests, assisting guests with their food, breaking down boxes, and clean up.
Included in this army of volunteers were West Deptford High School students, K-Love Radio 106.9 FM fans, local neighbors, family members, friends, partners, as well as over 20 employees of Johnson Matthey in Paulsboro. Hats off to John DiCarlo, International Human Resources Manager, who rallied the troops at Johnson Matthey to be a part of this outreach to their local community and give the gift of hope for the holidays.
To support families struggling with hunger this holiday season and beyond, the South Jersey Dream Center has set a goal to raise $5000 by Christmas Day. For those in south Jersey and the surrounding area that would like to share their holiday joy with others in a simple way, go to SouthJerseyDreamCenter.org or call 856-845-4500 and make a donation of any size. "We like to connect people who have a little extra with people who could use a little help" - Rev. Joseph Fortunato, South Jersey Dream Center Founder.