Thank you for all the food items you send to the Senior Center. We really look forward to seeing what is delivered each week - Betty Lou
For the past 18 months, the South Jersey Dream Center makes a weekly stop at the Thorofare Fire Hall to deliver fresh produce, meat, bread, pastries, or non-perishable items to a lively group of our elderly friends at the Gloucester County Senior Nutrition Program.
This is a daily program that provides a well-balanced, healthy, mid-day meal to seniors who are 60 or older, or the spouse of a participant. In addition to a meal, this program also fosters social interaction, and offers recreational and leisure activities to Gloucester County senior citizens.
"There are seniors that are home alone, perhaps through divorce or widowed, who have no family to depend on for social interaction or help with everyday necessities, or the extra funds to pay someone to assist them with rides and such", said Site Manager Norlyn Garlic.
What a privilege it is for the Dream Center to be a part of making such a positive impact in the lives of these precious people. When asked what they enjoy the most, they were eager to share their sincere appreciation for various benefits they receive.
Geraldine, who started attending the program a year ago, told us that her daughter encouraged her to "get out of the house" and get more involved in her community. When she went to the firehouse to vote and noticed the gathering, she instantly joined. She said, "the fellowship with other seniors is fantastic!" She also loves and truly appreciates the groceries, which "are immediately 'snatched up' by fellow seniors".
Though receiving groceries is a real blessing to the seniors each week, we found that there are other factors that double the value of this simple gesture. What many of the seniors expressed was that the items they receive are plentiful enough to save them money at the grocery store, money that can now be used for other basic necessities. They are also able top save time! Being that transportation is often an issue, a trip to the grocery store is not something that comes easily. Many of the seniors car pool to the fire hall for their daily meals.
One guest said, "Receiving the food donations saves me so much time and money. It's always fresh and tasty. You get way more than with the $5 food/fruit/vegetable voucher. Thanks for the help. I thank you that I can come here. It helps me a lot". Another said, "It helps with the grocery bill". Eileen shared, "I've been coming here for 26 years, I'm 81. Your help is good. It also helps that we don't spend much on food from home".
Norlyn further explained, "Some of our guests go with little food or no food at times. When they arrive, sometimes they haven't eaten since the day before or longer". She said she likes to send home a little extra for those who are really struggling.
According to Norlyn, the program began in Gloucester County when it was first discovered that homebound seniors were simply not getting the food they needed. Since then, their site alone serves between 140-190 seniors, both onsite and through home deliveries. Before the Dream Center was delivering groceries to this site, they had about 15 seniors participating in daily meals. When word got out that there was fresh produce, bread, meat and non-perishable items at the site, the attendance has now increased to 30-65 people per day.
As an added bonus, whenever the Dream Center comes across candy and trinkets from Target, we set them aside for BINGO prizes for the seniors, being that every Tuesday is BINGO day. They love em'! We love THEM!
When a person has leadership qualities, they stand out, no matter what their current circumstances are. That's what we found in Derrick* at the Mid-Atlantic States Career Education Center (MASCEC) in Woodbury.
Derrick was a dock worker at the port in Gloucester City for over 20 years. "I was making big money, and even promoted to foreman before management made some changes". Before long, Derrick found himself without a job or a source of income.
Through a series of decisions, good and not so good, he also lost his home and family. But that's not where the story ends. He applied for unemployment and was denied time and time again. He borrowed money to get by. Many months went by, but he never gave up seeking the benefits he paid into while he was working. Then he finally received his first check and began to pay back the money he borrowed.
He came across the MASCEC and began taking measures to make himself re-employable. He attends job fairs, takes online training, and attends classes at the center. He would love to work a union job again, and sees himself as someone who could add value to a business through hard work and commitment.
That's what drew our attention to him. He is the first to help when we arrive with our deliveries. He is always looking out for others, asking about formula for a single mom, or food items for certain families. He has a working knowledge of what families go through in the "system", and the challenges that many people find hard to overcome. He's intelligent, well spoken, and in a process of finding a good match for his skills.
Our mission is to develop people to reach their full potential. We believe Derrick has tremendous potential, and could benefit greatly from the programs that the Dream Center will implement in our new facility. There are seeds of greatness in Derrick that are waiting to be nurtured and developed. There are many "Derrick's" in south Jersey that are leaders in the making, or men and women that simply need to be told that they have value and their future is bright. At the South Jersey Dream Center, we ARE that "voice of hope" for a brighter tomorrow.
* The name has been changed to preserve identity.
Good Times, Doing Good
Though hunger is a serious issue in South Jersey, raising awareness and funds to fight hunger doesn't have to be. Doing good should be fun, and filled with good times! That's what our Dodge Hunger Dodgeball Tournament is all about. Held the first week in November each year, we are hosting our Seventh annual tournament at RiverWinds Community Center in West Deptford, NJ this November 3rd. Teams of six players compete in four divisions including: Middle School, High School, Adult and Pro. There are only 10 teams per division, so reserving a spot in advance is highly recommended. The play is Round Robin and trophies are awarded in each division. Players each receive a Dodge Hunger team t-shirt, lunch, and mini-mentor session from members of Elite Dodgeball. The best part about competing in Dodge Hunger, or being a sponsor or volunteer, is the impact you are making in alleviating hunger in South Jersey. All proceeds benefit the Dream Center and our efforts to provide groceries to local agencies that directly benefit members of our community. Don't delay, find full details HERE, and get the ball rolling in having a good time doing good at Dodge Hunger!
Serving in the Food Shop
"What I saw at the Dream Center is people's needs being met. Physical needs, learning life skills, and spiritual needs". Lynn Harris first heard about the Dream Center through an online volunteer site, and has been serving as a volunteer since 2016. She enjoys working in the Food Shop where she unpacks, sorts and stocks the shelves with food of all kinds, then assists guests with their selections. View Here as she shares her personal experience and the impression the Dream Center has made in her life.