NJPIRG campaign works with church

A woman with two children of her own and four foster children came into a church looking for food and clothing, because the foster system did not give her enough money to support her family.

Rev. Doug Shepler of the Second Reformed Church said this mother sacrificed her entire life for these children and came to his church looking for help. 

“It’s a great cycle of service,” Shepler said. “We are helping somebody to help someone else.”

The church, located on the College Avenue campus, provides food and shelter for homeless families and is teaming up with New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, which is working on a campaign to help those in need.

Marta Adamu, lead intern for NJPIRG’s “Hunger and Homelessness” campaign, said working with the homeless humbles her and makes her realize what is important.

“Welfare only provides less than $200 a month to a single mother of two,” said Adamu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “This is obviously not enough to survive on, so our efforts here are working toward helping that.”

The church is involved in numerous campaigns to help the homeless, such as the food pantry and shelter house, both of which NJPIRG is now helping to sponsor.

The church needs money to buy computers, furniture and more food, Shepler said.

“Families come for a week, then they have to move to another church in the area,” said Lamar Jones, a social work intern at the church. “We make food and snacks available to them and give them somewhere to sleep for the night.”

Shepler said many of the homeless are victims of the economy who never though this could happen to them.

“You can’t romanticize poverty,” Shepler said. “It’s real and deeply spiritual. They are just like you and I, more victims of circumstance than homeless because of something they themselves did.”

The food pantry is one of the church’s biggest efforts to help the homeless in the New Brunswick community, operating five days a week and helping more than 1,000 people a month, Shepler said.

Adamu said the food bank recently cut its supply and is in need of help.

“We are trying to help fundraise for more supplies for them,” Adamu said. “Having benefit dinners and getting volunteers like the fraternities to help are two of the thing we are working on.”

NJPIRG is also trying to get people to help spruce the shelter up by painting the walls and supplying new furniture, Adamu said.

“One of the things you wouldn’t realize them needing is medicine,” Adamu said. “Medicine is huge.”

She said NJPIRG wants to host a benefit dinner in the church’s gym open to anyone who wants to come for a romantic evening with some food to raise proceeds for the campaign.

“When I’m here I mostly survey the place to find out what they need most,” Adamu said. “I ask about upcoming events, help them prepare the food, clean up and set up for the kids to play and basically do whatever the church needs me to do.”

The church also runs a thrift store, which opened this past summer and is now open from noon to 5 p.m. every day, Shepler said. Donated goods comprise the shop’s inventory, and it even offers some free clothing for those in need.

The church and NJPIRG’s efforts also cooperates with FISH hospitality, a one-week shelter for those who have lost their jobs or were evicted from their homes because of a court order, Shepler said.

The church gives people hope and helps individuals get back into the workforce, he said.

Shepler said the church provides for people of all ages and cultures in need. Guests usually stay anywhere from six to eight months, he said.

Although the church does have volunteers, they are lacking manpower, Adamu said.