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Deliver meals to homeless families, make valentines for children during HomeFront’s Week of Hope

When a family’s housing circumstances seems most hopeless and all seems to be lost, many of them turn to HomeFront.

The organization offers them some hope through its many programs that range from providing rental assistance to distributing food through its pantry.

Now, community members can find out for themselves exactly what HomeFront does and how they can help during the nonprofit’s annual Week of Hope, set for Feb. 14-19.

The fifth annual Week of Hope is billed as a week of community service opportunities – from helping to deliver meals to homeless families living in area motels, to making Valentine’s Day notecards at home for children who are living at HomeFront’s Family Preservation Center.

“It’s a way to ‘go big’ in the new year and experience the energizing feeling that comes with making someone’s life better,” said Connie Mercer, the chief executive officer and founder of the Lawrence Township-based HomeFront.

Participants can choose between in-person and Zoom activities.

“We call it the Week of Hope because the last 31 years have taught us that when the community gets involved, we absolutely can give families that are homeless the hope, courage, emergency services and skills they need to succeed,” Mercer said.

HomeFront was founded in 1991 to help the homeless and the working poor. Mercer was inspired to create the nonprofit organization after visiting the homeless motels that lined Brunswick Pike in Lawrence Township at the request of a friend who worked for the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services.

Since its inception more than 30 years ago, HomeFront has depended on volunteers to carry out its mission. The Week of Hope introduces potential volunteers to HomeFront and its many programs: its tutoring, mentoring and children’s programs, as well as its food and diaper pantries and at the ArtSpace program.

For those who want to dip their toe in volunteering, the Week of Hope offers a chance for community members to help out at least once – whether it is baking nut-free treats at home to be dropped off at HomeFront to brighten the day for homeless children, or preparing bags of food at HomeFront’s food pantry.

Among the Zoom sessions, participants can sign up for “How You Can Help: HomeFront Volunteer Orientation,” and “Share the Love Art Event” by creating individual hearts from household items to be displayed at HomeFront’s headquarters on Princeton Avenue in Lawrence.

There will be a Zoom discussion of the Netflix series “The Maid,” which is based on a memoir written by a single mother who worked as a maid to support herself and her child.

At the Zoom “Lunch and Learn” session with Mercer and Sarah Steward, chief operating officer, participants can learn more about HomeFront’s programs and the issues its clients face daily.

There are also hands-on, in-person activities. Participants can help to prepare food bags, sort donated items and check expiration dates in the food pantry, or help to deliver meals and supplies to people who are experiencing homelessness and living in area motels.

They can spend a few hours at the FreeStore in Trenton, sorting incoming donations and organizing the store. HomeFront clients shop for clothing, professional attire, household items and toys for free at the FreeStore.

“Joining our Week of Hope is a way for community members to step out of their everyday lives and feel the positivity that comes from helping a local family,” said Meghan Cubano, HomeFront’s director of Community Engagement.

For more information and to sign up for any of the activities, visit www.homefrontnj.org.

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