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Making the World a Better Place: Opportunities for Year-End Giving Through the Alleluia Fund

The Hoboken Shelter
Barbara Davey

During the Advent season of reflection, examination and planning, it’s natural to consider "giving back" for the many blessings bestowed during the past year. But often, after reviewing the numerous needs of so many, a common question arises: What difference can just one person make?

If you are a member of one of the more than 200 households that contributed to the 2011 Alleluia Fund so far this year, you made a major difference in improving the lives of hundreds of individuals through your support. Established in 2010, the Alleluia Fund provides an opportunity for individuals to contribute to a variety of outreach programs and ministries on a diocesan level.

This past year, the Alleluia Fund bestowed 22 grants, focusing on the areas of food, shelter, education and international programs. Here are just a few of their stories.

NEWARK ACTS Young Adult Urban Internship Program

One of the recipients of this year's Alleluia Fund is NEWARK ACTS, the diocesan internship program in which young adults live in community for eleven months while working for an organization with a mission in social justice. Now in its second year, NEWARK ACTS interns have established a feeding program at Ubuntu House, located at St. Andrew's Rectory, Newark. Once a month, interns purchase, prepare and serve 120 meals to the community. This year, with funds allocated from the Alleluia Fund, the interns will be able to purchase a cabinet for storage of dry goods and a new freezer for perishable foods.

2011-2012 NEWARK ACTS interns
2011-2012 NEWARK ACTS interns

At its companion location at St. John's Rectory in Union City, NEWARK ACTS interns have begun a Sunday night worship program, which will include a simple supper for the neighbors. Using the meal as an informal "focus group," the interns have assessed the needs of the community in order to tailor a new educational program. Thanks to the financial support of the Alleluia Fund, the interns will launch this initiative in the spring.

According to the Rev. Erik Soldwedel, Director of NEWARK ACTS, "The new program will feature English as a Second Language (ESL), and incorporate private tutoring, group classes, and educational workshops. The program will employ traditional teaching methods as well as computerized classes using such modalities as the Rosetta Stone learning modules. In addition, we will focus on teaching fundamentals with the goals of gaining citizenships, obtaining driver's licenses, and completing high school equivalency examinations, which will, in turn, improve the lives of the participants."

St. Paul's After School Program

Speaking of education, to many elementary school children, the 3 p.m. bell often means the end of the academic day. However, for 33 students enrolled at ten Paterson public schools, their learning will continue at St. Paul's After School Program, thanks to the continued support from the Alleluia Fund.

St. Paul's After School Program
St. Paul's After School Program

Maria Palmer, a staff member of St. Paul's After School Program, stated, "Our program is designed to meet the academic needs of Paterson children. To do this, the After School Program offers mentoring, one-on-one tutoring, enrichment classes, field trips, and community service projects, five days a week from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Two vans provide transportation and healthy snacks are served each afternoon. Volunteer tutors, mentors and support personnel are recruited from the congregation at St. Paul's, as well as from St. Elizabeth's, Ridgewood; All Saints', Glen Rock; and Good Shepherd Lutheran, Glen Rock."

Far from a proverbial "baby-sitting service," St. Paul's After School Program has set strict benchmarks to measure the progress and evaluate the success of each student. These include: raising all failing grades to passing; advancing to the next grade level; and increasing literacy skills by at least 25 percent.

In addition, the program provides theme-based enrichment activities in the arts, sports, nutrition, and computers. Service learning projects are also incorporated into the curriculum, in which the children visit senior centers, hospitals and social services agencies.

The Hoboken Shelter

A block away from gentrified Washington Street, which boasts wine bars, gourmet restaurants, and upscale boutiques, is the Hoboken Shelter. This organization provides meals, shelter and services for the homeless and working poor. Last year, thanks to the support from the Alleluia Fund, the Shelter served 120,000 meals, and, unfortunately, that number has grown by an additional 20 percent in 2011.

The Hoboken Shelter
The Hoboken Shelter

The Hoboken Shelter is operated by Communities of Faith for Housing, Inc., a nonprofit corporation made up of clergy and laity from many houses of worship. Community leaders, advocates and activists are also involved. The sponsoring congregations include: All Saints' Episcopal Parish; Saint Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church; Saint John the Baptist Lutheran Church; United Synagogue of Hoboken; Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Parish; Church of Our Lady of Grace; and Church of Saint Ann.

Jaclyn Cherubini, Executive Director, states, "Our shelter is staffed by volunteers from these sponsoring congregations, who not only assist with donations of food and paper goods, but also contribute toiletries which are used to provide 400 showers each week. The shelter houses 50 homeless men and women at night, and its kitchen serves 325 guests daily. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared daily, and the clientele includes shelter guests, street-dwelling homeless, and the working poor."

Because the plight of the homeless is so complex, the Hoboken Shelter also offers case management services to address other underlying issues. Some of these services include drug and alcohol counseling, medication monitoring, job readiness, and life skill classes.

Other Recipients of the Alleluia Fund

In addition to NEWARK ACTS, the St. Paul's After School Program and the Hoboken Shelter, 19 other organizations  received support from the Alleluia Fund this year. For details, see Summary of 2011 Alleluia Fund Grant Recipients.

To all those who contributed to the 2011 Alleluia Fund, remember the words of Margaret Mead, described as an Anglican Christian and the most famous American anthropologist of our time, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."