By Ukee Washington
BLACKWOOD, N.J., (CBS) — Less than a year ago, two South Jersey women looked around their community and saw people who needed help. They started collecting clothing and food to give away. They thought it would be a small project. But as Eyewitness News anchor Ukee Washington shows us, it’s grown very big very fast.
Inside an old bank building in Blackwood, New Jersey, volunteers are fixing up hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“We’re making sandwiches for homeless people,” 11-year-old Ryan O’Neill said.
The volunteers are surrounded by clothing racks, boxes, and shelves full of household goods and supplies to give away to the needy. And that’s just upstairs.
“I would guess it to be about 400 bags of clothing in here,” said Michele Gambone as she showed us the overflow in the basement.
Michele is one of the founders of this startup non-profit. It’s called the Unforgotten Haven. She and her co-founder, Jenn McLaughlin, are here day and night.
“I’ve always just wanted to help people,” Michele said.
Michele and Jenn say they started by asking friends and family to help a few homeless families they had met. Word spread. So many donations started pouring in so fast, they needed to rent space.
“We have amazing support with donations,” said Jenn. “We have over 10,000 followers on Facebook, so the word’s really getting out there.”
Volunteer Jeanne Rodrigues donated the first six months’ rent on this building.
“Well, I don’t want her to have to worry about that stuff,” Jeanne said. “She actually has paid a lot from her own pocket. That’s not right, so if we can help, we’ll help.”
They’re keeping the faith, staying open long hours, and including children as helpers.
“I saw the young people, the kids. How important is that?” Ukee Washington asked.
“If we can instill that in the kids while they’re young, they’re going to grow up and be amazing, giving children,” Jenn said.
The Unforgotten Haven is raising funds for the next round of rent and utilities. You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theunforgottenhaven