Every Gift is a Blessing

In the “Back On Her Feet” article we shared the inspiring story of one woman who left a painful circumstance and is seeking new life at The Bridge.  Every woman we’ve encountered has her own story to tell, but I want to take this moment to share another story: the story of this community.

Since The Bridge opened its doors on September 5, I have been blessed to see God at work through his people.  People have given to The Bridge without being asked or even prompted.  A group of young children set up a lemonade stand with all proceeds going to The Bridge.  When the kids presented their proceeds to me, tears came to my eyes.  They did what they knew to help.  Another young child presented a local pastor with four dollar bills and two dimes—a sacrificial gift of a child.  Every penny makes a difference.  Every gift received a blessing.  Thank you for giving.

Every week, I see this community in action.  One day I opened the newspaper to see that a hair salon was advertising “buy one product, donate one to The Bridge.”  Another time a church called to say their youth had collected canned food items at a nightly meeting, and they filled the hallway with their donations.

The Bridge has been so blessed by all of the small groups willing to clean on a Saturday morning, Heemstra Hall guys moving furniture, people handing out pledge cards on a Saturday afternoon, Vogel donating numerous gallons of paint, a local grocer’s pledge that no one who seeks refuge at The Bridge will go hungry, and the countless hours of volunteering by electricians, plumbers, designers.   Community Ownership means everything.  As Christians, we are called to help those in need.  My heart warms with each of these examples; I love when people are moved to help and they do it!  I want to thank each and every person for helping in whatever capacity they have to keep open the doors of The Bridge.

It is through our love of God that we serve in this broken, suffering world.  The women who come to The Bridge have experienced sadness, frustration and deep disappointment.  We hope to provide more than just a roof over their head—we desire to provide a supportive, encouraging and safe place to feel God’s grace amidst their pain.  The women who call The Bridge home are amazing.  They have the courage to start their life over with a new beginning.

Valerie Stokes


Back On Her Feet

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering At The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Volunteering at The Bridge

Marla Groeneweg spends five hours a week volunteering at The Bridge because she believes in its mission.  “I’ve been so blessed that I want to be a blessing to others,” she adds.

Marla is a full-time mom of four kids.  Although many of the volunteers come to The Bridge in the evenings, Marla wanted to reserve that time for her family but she still wanted to be involved.  She contacted The Bridge to see if she could help out in the afternoons, and it ended up being a great fit.

“This is a wonderful place,” Marla says.  “I love moms and children and The Bridge provides new hope and a new beginning.  It’s so exciting to see what God will do here.”

Marla spends her time at The Bridge assisting with office duties, talking with residents, providing transportation and cleaning.

As far as encouraging others in the community to volunteer at The Bridge, Marla says, “Just do it!  Don’t let fear hold you back—take a step of faith.  If God is prompting you, be obedient.”


Back On Her Feet

Every Gift Is A Blessing

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Community Development is Heart Work

Anyelis Diaz is bringing to life the job description she was given when she was hired.  As New Hope’s Community Coordinator and AmeriCorps worker, she has gone above and beyond mere tasks written on paper and has exuberantly woven into her daily life the principles of community development.  Anyelis spends hours in the community with the intention of hearing neighbor’s stories, linking neighbors to each other, encouraging community ownership, and initiating new services based on expressed needs.  Out of these conversations several projects have recently come to fruition; most significantly, a Single Working Mothers Network and a Domestic Violence Victims Response Team.

The Single Working Mothers Network was born out of conversations among local moms who repeatedly commented that they felt isolated in their juggling act of taking care of kids while trying to make ends meet.  Several moms said they wished they knew other moms who could relate to their situation.

Anyelis responded by initiating a single moms get-together shortly before Christmas.  She coordinated a dinner party and collected gift card donations so that each single mom went home from the party with gift cards to spend on themselves.  The moms had a wonderful time chatting with each other throughout the evening and made plans to meet on a monthly basis.

One of the moms stepped forward as a volunteer group organizer.  A formal network was established by entering all of the mom’s contact information and gifts/resources into a computer database.  Moms can now refer to the database to call each other when they need to exchange babysitting services, school pick-ups, or household services.  For example, one mom could pick up another mom’s son in exchange for the other mom providing a meal on a busy night.  The single moms now meet once a month at New Hope to swap stories, offer support, and share resources.

The Domestic Violence Victim’s Response Team was established in conjunction with the Haledon and Prospect Park police departments, the Haledon Mayor Dominick Stampone, and the Passaic County Women’s Center. The town of Haledon, where New Hope is located, currently has no services for victims of domestic violence.
Anyelis acted on conversations with the Haledon Police Chief Lou Mercuro and with members of the community who have endured domestic violence to initiate a response team.  She mobilized a team of interested volunteers who will take 24-hour on-call shifts and then coordinated domestic violence training dates at New Hope.  Soon, victims of domestic violence who reach out to the police department will be referred to the Domestic Violence Victim’s Response Team (coordinated out of New Hope) where they will be matched with a volunteer to support them and provide them with referrals for services.

In the meantime, Anyelis will continue doing what she does naturally: walking in the community and talking with others, initiating conversations with neighbors, listening with her heart, organizing creative events to bring people together, pouring her energy into making a difference, and encouraging everyone in the Haledon community to take pride in their neighborhood.

For more information on New Hope Community Ministries visit their blog site at:


Pascale-Sykes Foundation Grant Approved

New Hope is thrilled to announce the award of a $45,000 grant from the Pascale-Sykes Foundation to fund program expansion. The grant will enable New Hope to expand its existing holistic, relationship-based food pantry ministry into a family resource center.  Families assisted by the food pantry will be supported and empowered to self-sufficiency through the addition and expansion of financial counseling, life skills workshops, parenting classes, “Jobs for Life” training, domestic violence services, and a mothers’ support network.

The Pascale Sykes Foundation supports a select number of innovative, flexible, holistic, long-range “umbrella” programs targeting low-income families that promote the independence, well being, and the integrity of the entire family unit, with emphasis on projects using integrated services and interagency linkages.  New Hope is honored to be one of the recipients of a grant from the Pascale Sykes Foundation.

The grant money is already hard at work enabling New Hope to hire several new staff members and begin program development.  New Hope has been formally and informally surveying the community for the past year to determine what services the Haledon community needs and desires.  New Hope’s program expansion is directly reflective of the Haledon community’s expressed need.  Furthermore, as a result of relationships built with food pantry clients, along with community surveys, and hours of strategic planning as a board and staff, New Hope’s vision is to provide wrap-around services resulting in a continuum of care.  New Hope believes that the resulting family resource center will more fully support and strengthen, long-term, the families of Haledon.

With the grant money and expansion, New Hope will be committing to a larger role in the surrounding community.  New Hope hopes to have your continued prayer and financial support as we work even harder to serve the needs of those in our community!

For more information on New Hope Community Ministries visit their blog site at:

Church As a Community Asset

Read Amy Sherman’s essay about how churches can be assets to their communities -  Church As Community Asset.

Back on Her Feet

Jody (not her real name) came to The Bridge to “start her life over again” after experiencing physical abuse by her boyfriend.  She has been living at The Bridge for two months.

“I’m here to make changes and get back on my feet,” Jody says.  “I’ve made mistakes in my life but I’m learning from them and I’m getting back on track with God.”

Jody says she feels safe at The Bridge, and that there’s a lot of support and encouragement there.

“What I want to do while I’m here is to reach out to other people—maybe telling my story will encourage other women.”

After coming to The Bridge, Jody found employment and works about 35 hours a week.  She is also learning to manage and budget her money.

Eventually, Jody would like to go back to school and earn a degree in business management.  Her long-term dream is to open a restaurant or store that caters to the Hispanic community.

“Someday I also want to return to The Bridge as a volunteer,” Jody says.  “I can really relate to these women, and I want to give back however I can.”

So what is life like at The Bridge?  It looks different for each resident, but Jody spends her mornings reading or in appointments and then works in the afternoons and evenings.  She meets with a therapist regularly and is hoping to be paired with a mentor soon.  On the weekends, Jody and the other residents often join together to watch a movie and share meals.

“The Bridge is a wonderful program that offers stability and support,” she says.  “It’s given me a new start.”


Every Gift is a Blessing

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering At The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Healthy Neighborhood Project

Healthy Neighborhood Project from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

The Healthy Neighborhood Project is organized around the philosophy of helping people in the community fund and implement ideas around THEIR gifts and interests.
Posted: Dec. 3rd, 2007 DOWNLOAD QUICKTIME
Community Organizing

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