2012 has proved to be a year of both expected and unexpected occurrences. During this year we expected to build on the knowledge being gained from having opened our first Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, NJ in October 2011 – and that happened. We learned that hunger insecurity can affect many people of varied socio-economic backgrounds and circumstances. And our belief that many do not just want a hand out but are desirous of becoming contributing members of their community.
On the housing front, we expected to proceed with funding two large projects: a 55-unit, mixed-use new construction project in Philadelphia with Project H.O.M.E. – which we did, and a renovation / addition for the moms and babies program at Northern Services also here in Philadelphia – which we did!! We saw some previously funded projects with Heart of Camden become fully occupied and we provided additional support to Covenant House and worked with Rebuilding Together on a 31 –home revitalization project.
And then in late October when Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey coast, we unexpectedly, through Soul Kitchen, provided food to emergency relief workers, families in need, and to other nonprofits who were unable, due to the effects of the storm, to provide meals in the community. After the NBC Concert in support of the Red Cross emergency relief efforts, many donations flowed in to our foundation to support a project for those that experienced great loss in the hurricane.
While immediate responders provided that initial relief, we will look to expend these funds, and others that we raise, for a project during the “recovery” phase that, in keeping with our mission, provides great impact for the community in which we will work.
Still, for many families in New Jersey this holiday season, there is no home. Even under normal circumstances, many children in our communities are homeless. I’m hearing that those numbers have swelled now that hundreds more have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
Where will they live during the months before they are able to repair or replace their homes? In an area where affordable rental properties are already in short supply, the devastating storm has increased the demand as it has reduced the inventory.
That makes our resources more relevant and more necessary than ever before. To support families in your communities who are struggling we encourage you to commit to provide volunteer support to those in need.
The overriding theme of the work we did this year was to build community and, in keeping with our funding strategy, to participate in projects that strengthened the communities in which we work.
All of these projects encourage self-empowerment of the residents of the community because we continue to believe that no one can do it alone. They may have a vision of what it takes to break intergenerational cycles of homelessness, housing or food insecurity – but not know how to go about doing so. Each of the projects or programs to which we provided funding has wrap-around social services to help those who want their next generation to succeed and be self-sufficient achieve that goal.
2012 was a busy year!! Without your support, none of this work would be possible! So, as we pause this holiday season to recognize the goodness in our lives , we offer special thanks to each and every one of you who contributed time, knowledge, resources and funding to the programs we are involved with. And to ALL who make our work possible – we offer wishes for a Merry Christmas and Healthy Happy Holiday season!
Mimi Box, Executive Director, JBJ Soul Foundation …one soul at a time!!