Every week we continue to receive calls, texts and emails asking when we plan to re-open. We constantly hear how there are so few options that compare to the assistance that people received through the Dream Center. Thank you to everyone who has sent information and recommendations for properties that might be a good fit for us. We are still looking! In the meantime, yes, we agree, there is a great need in south Jersey for the South Jersey Dream Center...
The Issues and Needs We Address
Hunger: It's almost shocking that anyone in America goes hungry, yet there are over 100,000* people in the four surrounding counties who do not get the meals they need to thrive, and an average of 13.10%** of the population in these counties below poverty.
Clothing and Household Items: Many people in our local neighborhoods find themselves in crisis or transition, and can't afford coats, shoes and clothing for their families, or basic household necessities.
Baby Items: When resources are limited, many babies lack the appropriate clothing, diapers, and supplies to thrive during their crucial first years of life. We want to do all that we can to help parents focus their attention on caring for their little ones without the stress of not knowing how they will provide certain essentials for them.
Training: Before a person can add value to the lives of those around them, or succeed on the job, or overcome destructive habits, they need to know that they are valued, accepted and loved unconditionally by God. This is a springboard for recognizing and developing their talents and skills, to seeking an education and training toward a meaningful career, and to making a positive impact on society.
In 2016, Columbia Bank donated $25,554 for a much-needed cargo van. Wells Fargo, Kohl's Cares, The Wawa Foundation, The GAP Foundation, United Way, Rehab Connection, and Patient First are also amongst our 28 financial partners. With a permanent location, we expect to double this impact.
Over 150 individual volunteers, as well as group volunteers from Columbia Bank, FedEx, Johnson and Matthey, Albert's Organics, local high schools, Boy Scouts, and KLove Radio have partnered with us. We have shared our mission with various government officials, and are active members of the Greater Woodbury Chamber of Commerce. With a permanent site we expect to quadruple this impact.
We supplied over 230,000 pounds of food and clothing in 2016 to 150-200 families a month, donated by our Food and Clothing Partners, individuals, and Food, Clothing and Diaper Drives. Our Food and Clothing Partners include the Food Bank of South Jersey, ShopRite, BJ's, Target, Panera Bread, Forman Mills, New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger, Philabundance, Dollar Tree, and the Gloucester County Certified Gardeners. With a permanent site we expect to multiply this impact by five.
We provided training through a voluntary 45-minute workshop at each monthly Food & Clothing Distribution on relevant and applicable topics, presented by local professionals who donated their time and expertise. Our topics included job readiness, financial literacy, health, fitness, nutrition, overcoming addictions, dealing with grief and loss, conflict resolution, helping your child succeed in school, and more. Each month we shared a voluntary 15-minute encouraging message from the Bible filled with God's unconditional love, grace and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Over 300 people committed their lives to Christ. With a permanent site we expect to offer multiple training workshops on a weekly basis, and launch our Discipleship Program.
Most importantly, we saw families and health restored, people getting jobs, single moms, veterans, and seniors able to spend their limited funds on expenses other than food. With a permanent site we expect to record at least eight live testimonials in our Film Studio and on location.
We have a positive expectation of great things to come in the days ahead. We will continue to share our vision with investors, donors, government officials, and property owners in our search for a new location. We have invested an enormous amount of time, effort and resources into the lives of struggling people in South Jersey, and developed tremendous relationships with donors, volunteers, and local government and businesses. The momentum has been increasing on every level. We believe wholeheartedly that our next move will multiply our impact, and must be navigated thoughtfully, patiently and precisely. This is a strategic time in this organization, one that is pivotal in going to next level in fulfilling our mission.
*Feeding America - feedingamerica.org - Map The Meal Gap