An Update from pastor Joe and natalie
We have a brief video update for you! We want you to know what's been happening as the search for our new location continues, and how we've been serving in our community. At the same time, we are looking for a large, permanent facility to fulfill our mission...to break the cycle of poverty, and restore dignity to people's lives. How? By meeting basic needs, such as food, clothing, baby and household items, combined with professional, personal and spiritual development.
This is not something we can do effectively without having our own place to provide frequent and continuous programs. This is much bigger than we've seen so far. There are thousands and thousands of people in South Jersey that are in need of the services we provide, and a message of hope for a brighter tomorrow.
We've met with several business owners over the past many months, and have leads on some wonderful properties that would be perfect for what we have planned. The former building where the monthly distribution was held in National Park, was about the size of a basketball court. We are looking for something at least the size of a football field. If you know of a building with this capacity in Gloucester County email us today! We'll let you know if we checked it out already.
Though we are taking every step possible to obtain a building, we know that waiting time is never wasted time. We have no doubt that we will be in our own place in the very near future. We serve a big and mighty God! We will keep you posted with further updates through email and social media. Make sure to like our Facebook page, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to our email list to receive breaking news. We love you and we are praying for you. Thank you for partnering with us in breaking the cycle of poverty in South Jersey.
Pastor Joe and Natalie
"I finally got the strength to leave when I woke up in the hospital with my teeth knocked out". After spending 11 years in an abusive relationship, this was the "wake up call" that prompted Emma to make a series of painful changes.
Like many victims of domestic violence, she had lost her sense of self and her identity. She abandoned her own needs and, though she couldn't see it at the time, made choices that were harmful to her own well-being and her two young children.
After being released from the hospital, things took a turn for the worse. Her sister reported her to Child Services, her children were removed from her home, and put in foster care with their grandmother. She told Emma, "The only person who is going to help you is you, you're going to have to want to change". Though she was furious at the time, she knew her sister loved her enough to tell her the truth.
For the next 4 ½ years, Emma began her journey out of darkness. The first bold step, leaving her abuser. A relative gave her a place to stay and helped her to eventually get her children back. She started attending church, mending relationships, and her hope was being restored. Things were slowly moving in the right direction.
However, she was still struggling to make ends meet, and provide food and clothing for her family. That's when someone invited her to the South Jersey Dream Center. They promised her that the Dream Center would help her. "When I went there, there was an enormous amount of everything I needed. They had food, clothing, hugs, encouragement, hope, haircuts, and books!" She was so thankful for the emotional and mental support, which reinforced what she was learning in her Domestic Violence classes.
"Every time I went to the Dream Center, I felt the message that Pastor Joe shared was just for me". She attributes the message of faith and hope in God, as a springboard for a new way of living and thinking. Especially,when they almost lost their home, just after starting to come to the Dream Center, but "God came through".
Today, Emma has her own car, hasn't smoked cigarettes for over two years, and is active at her church. She enrolled in the High School Equivalency Program at a local county college, having dropped out of high school in ninth grade, and will be graduating next month. She plans to continue her education and work toward being an nurse. As a teenager she had served as an EMT, she said she "loves taking care of people".
Her son is also enrolled in school, and training to be a police officer. Her daughter is in the honors program at her middle school, is a Board of Education Certified math tutor, is preparing to compete in a statewide math competition, and serves as a junior deacon at their church.
"I love the South Jersey Dream Center. I would invite people all the time. I really can't wait until the Dream Center finds a new building, I miss Pastor Joe, Natalie, Hilari, and all the volunteers so much". We miss you too Emma, you are why we exist. Thank you for allowing us to share a small part of your amazing story.
*The name has been changed to help protect our guest's identity
A Stop at "The Shop"
Rowan's University's Student Food Pantry
Through our partnership with Target in Mantua, the SJDC donated several hundred pounds of non-perishable food items to the Rowan University student food pantry this semester.
"The Shop" is Rowan University's first ever on campus food pantry and resource center available to students in need. Founded by Rowan students, Rbrey Singleton and Daniel Cardona, The Shop (Students Helping Other Profs) opened its doors in late March. It's conveniently situated in Room 141 in Building 5 of the Rowan Boulevard Apartments, and intended for students without the financial means or resources necessary to purchase adequate food and/or personal care supplies.
Volunteer, Michelle Santiago-Cruz, who oversees the operation, was overjoyed when the Dream Center made a "just-in-time" delivery. "We needed to stock our shelves for the new school year, but wasn't sure where the food was going to come from. Then here you are!"
According to Rowan Today online news, "Last spring (2016), Rowan did a survey and of the students who responded, 51% said they'd either cut or skipped a meal because they couldn't afford it - some more than once." Until the survey, co-founder Singleton, was "unaware he was attending class with fellow students who had not eaten that day-or for days. Admittedly, he's never been hungry".
Dream Center Executive Director, Natalie Fortunato, concurs that hunger crosses all demographic lines, even on college campuses. "It's hard to concentrate and focus on your academics when you are wondering where your next meal is going to come from, or if you will have enough funds for food each month".
The food that was graciously donated by Target in Mantua was made possible through the Food Bank of South Jersey Retail Rescue Program. "Our delivery to Rowan is what the Dream Center is all about", said Michelle DeSimone, a volunteer who serves on the SJDC Leadership Team. "We want to help take care of the students' basic necessities while they are working hard to take steps forward in life. It's our simple way to cheer them on!" Full details about The Shop