It's 11 am, over 175 clients and volunteers are packed into the National Park Fire Hall...and you can hear a pin drop. All eyes, some tear-filled, are on Dr. Rose Dean as she shares the reality of how grief affects our lives, at one time or another, through loss. Loss of a loved one, a job, a home, a marriage. Grief? What does that have to do with food? A whole lot...
At the South Jersey Dream Center, providing food and clothing for local families is a big deal to us, but also offering hope for a brighter future is a bigger deal, the bigger picture. When people lose a loved one, or can't find a job, or their children are addicted to drugs, or their landlord has served notice of eviction, hope for a brighter future is the key to moving forward, one step at a time.
Offering tangible hope is what sets our Food Distribution apart from many other food programs in South Jersey. According to the Food Bank of South Jersey, there are over 250 charitable food providers, such as food pantries, community kitchens and shelters in Camden, Burlington, Gloucester and Salem counties. Every year, over 10 million pounds of food are distributed through these faithful and dedicated agencies to thousands of struggling families and individuals. What a tremendous blessing! But we like to take things one step further.
While our guests are waiting to receive food each month, we offer a 45-minute voluntary workshop on a relevant and easily applicable topic. Dr. Rose Dean of Road of Success Counselling Services is one of many caring local professionals who volunteer their time and expertise. Expertise in areas such as Renter's Rights, Eating Right When Money is Tight, Live Long-Live Strong, Overcoming Addictions, Identity Theft, to name just a few.
Listen to what Debbie from Glendora, NJ had to say about our workshop on job readiness...
Since December I have been one of the Americans out of work, my world as I knew has changed. I have been trying to be patient and hold on like many people looking for work, and hoping the government would come to some kind of agreement on unemployment extension. As time passed, I found myself becoming more depressed and over taken by self-pity. I reached out to the South Jersey Dream Center. When I arrived I was overwhelmed with false-pride, self pity, and shame. But the kindness of the ministries and the people soon made me feel welcome, so that all these crazy emotions soon were replaced by hope and gratitude. How amazing this was, a food pantry with workshops available each month.
That month the workshop was Get Ready, Get Set, Get Hired! The workshop had just what I had been missing in my interviewing skills. Years ago the employers seemed to care more about your experience during the interviewing process, but today I find there are a lot of misleading questions. I have been on three interviews since my workshop, and can tell you that when I entered those interviews, I was much more positive and confident, and felt as if the interview went a lot better on my part.
Debbie was able to land a good job and is no longer coming to our Food Distribution, which is exactly what we hope will happen! We love our guests, but we also realize that all people need sometimes is to sharpen their skills or be exposed to the resources that will take them to another level, and one step further on the path to self-sufficiency.
This is all just the beginning for us! We hope to provide multiple workshops on a daily basis, in a more intimate classroom setting. We envision thousands of people coming to the South Jersey Dream Center to receive job training, develop their God-given talents, learn how to manage their finances, build strong families, complete their high school education, learn English as a Second Language, take steps toward buying their own home, and so much more.
Here's something else that sets us apart from many food programs...right after each workshop, Rev. Joseph Fortunato, the Pastor of Faith Fellowship Ministries of Southern New Jersey, shares a 15 minute, power packed, relevant and easily applicable message of hope from the Bible. Our guests have come to truly enjoy this portion of their experience at the South Jersey Dream Center. We truly believe a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ brings undeniable hope, lasting change, and a bright future.
When the world around us is saying, "Don't get your hopes up", we tell people "Go ahead, get your hopes up!" Why not? There are so many doors of opportunity waiting for all of us to step through, and we want to lead the way!
If you, or someone you know, would like to donate their time and lead a workshop, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.