Performers will be ‘At Home on Stage’ at The Woodland

Photo Courtesy of Caroliny Updyke
Above are South Orange resident and Interfaith Hospitality Network Board President Christopher Murphy, left, and Robert DuSold of Maplewood, director of the ‘At Home on Stage’ event.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Some of Broadway’s brightest stars will return to the place where everybody knows their names for Interfaith Hospitality Network’s “At Home on Stage,” the cabaret and comedy fundraising event on Monday, June 4, at The Woodland, 60 Woodland Road in Maplewood.

Doors open at 7 p.m. with a cocktail hour, and opportunity to mingle and have a photo taken with the Broadway performers on stage, followed by live performances at 8 p.m. A live auction of tickets to current Broadway shows, including “Hello Dolly,” “Beautiful” and “Chicago,” will also take place at the event.

“At Home on Stage” is the brainchild of longtime Maplewood resident and veteran Broadway star Robert DuSold — who has appeared in “Les Miserables,” “Jekyll & Hyde” and “The Producers” — and is co-chaired by IHN Board President Chris Murphy, a South Orange resident. This is the second year the organization has held this event.

DuSold, who is well known in the area for organizing charity fundraisers for a variety of causes, will be joined on stage by Broadway stars from “Wicked,” “Mamma Mia,” “Cats,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Showboat,” “Chicago,” “The Lion King,” “Memphis” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” The actors who volunteered their time and talents were moved by DuSold’s passion to rally around the issue of homelessness, which affects vulnerable families in Essex County.

Joining the star-studded lineup of performers this year on stage will be Jacqueline Graham, a Montclair resident and former IHN client whose performance credits include her role as Sally in “Winner Take All,” directed by John Carrafa. Graham’s previous credits include Zawadi in “The Lion King” at the Walt Disney World’s Festival, BJ in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and Effie in “Dreamgirls,” to name a few.

“IHN helped me so much in my time of need, I want to give back to the organization because I understand what a family goes through in a housing crisis,” Graham said in a recent press release.

For Executive Director Emma Justice, the event is much more than a group of talented performers coming together to raise donations for a good cause; it’s an opportunity for community members to build genuine and lasting relationships.

“It’s amazing what this program has brought about, a wonderful plugging-in of people coming together in various ways to help others. It has provided countless options for talented people to help our homeless families in so many ways,” Justice said in a recent phone interview with the News-Record. “For us, it’s not just a fundraiser: It’s a friends-raiser. Some of the volunteers help with the shelter program and others donate clothes or other needed items.”

IHN’s shelter program is supported by a network of area churches and synagogues that provide families with children a place to stay and three meals a day. While families are in the shelter network, IHN works with caregivers to create a plan to address the issues that have led to the family’s homelessness.

In addition to providing housing support, the organization also provides direct social services and employment support so that once their clients locate stable housing, they will have a higher success rate with maintaining housing stability.

“We do full wrap-around services. When families come in, we work with them to get their resumes and employment in order, we help them seek housing, and they set goals together with our case manager and work on those goals,” Justice said. “A lot of the families that have been through our shelter program we stay in touch with for six or more years. We become their family; a lot of families that become homeless don’t have a lot of resources from family.

“Unfortunately, poverty is often generational in terms of finding skilled employment that pays more money. If you have limited education, you have limited options. So we try to support them by becoming their safety network as they transition. If they have a problem we work with them so they don’t become evicted again.” she continued. “Many of those that come to us have incomes of less than $26,000 a year. We have great relationships with a lot of landlords because they know we will coach and case manage so that our clients can stay in the housing. Some of that is a requirement of our grants, but that’s just what we do anyway.”

One of the reasons why fundraisers like “At Home on Stage” is critical to the Interfaith Hospitality Network is so that they can continue the wide range of social services work that they do to ensure that once a family obtains housing, they have the tools and resources in place to maintain housing and other basic needs.

“We help move from crisis into stability, and that’s what makes us different from other agencies. The reason why we are able to do that is because of the fundraisers that allow us to hire staff that can support our clients more comprehensively,” Justice said. “You have to have multiple streams of income to keep an agency alive, and our board and the many churches and temples that have supported us over the years are the reason why we are able to continue doing this work. Just getting into housing doesn’t end poverty or the struggle.”

To purchase tickets to the event, visit https://athomeonstage.eventbrite.com. Tickets include drinks and appetizers and are fully tax deductible.

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