ORANGE, NJ — The NAACP of Montclair State University came together with Ebenezer Baptist Church in Orange and the Brown Paper Bag Movement to host “Lending a Helping Hand” for the local homeless community on Saturday, Nov. 16. Clothes, toiletries, cooked food, canned goods and more were distributed at the event, which was originally planned to be held at the church, but was shifted to Newark Penn Station due to a lack of attendees.
According to the Rev. William Rutherford III, of Ebenezer Baptist Church, in a phone interview on Wednesday, Nov. 13, “the NAACP branch of Montclair State wanted to do a community service project for the homeless and the Ebenezer Baptist Church was more than willing to help. … We welcomed the homeless to the church and none showed, so we took the event to them.”
“The students of Montclair State University lead by the University Chapter of the NAACP and, in partnership with the Brown Paper Bag Movement, did an excellent job serving the homeless community,” Rutherford said in a quote sent to the Record-Transcript after the event on Monday, Nov. 18.
“Their kindness, positive energy and friendly approach really warmed the hearts of those we served. The clothes, shoes, socks, hats, scarves, food and toiletries they provided to dozens of homeless neighbors at Newark Penn Station went a long way. But the love they shared went even further,” he continued. “I’m extremely grateful to this group of students and look forward to working with them again in the future.”
The group planned to hand out food and hygiene products, and brought along drug and employment counselors, in addition to providing free state-issued identification cards.
Kalimah White, president of the Montclair State University branch of the NAACP and a former student of the university, led the group for the event.
“Becoming president, I knew that I wanted to do more outreach projects within the town and with other groups and organizations outside of campus,” White said in a quote sent to the Record-Transcript on Friday, Nov. 15. “Earlier in the summer, I sat down with my (executive board) and we all agreed that we felt as though we should implement a community service project this semester.”
“We felt as though helping, giving back and servicing our community would be a great way for us to connect and make an impact, rather than just the body of students on campus,” she continued. “We decided our first community service outreach project should be to serve the community.”
The members of the Montclair State branch of the NAACP worked together to pull off the event. Among those in attendance was employment counselor Weldon Montague III.
“For my entire life, what I’ve been trying to do is help individuals who don’t have a voice,” Montague told the Record-Transcript via phone interview before the event on Wednesday, Nov. 13, “Individuals who have barriers, such as criminal background, potential illness, etc. Everyone deserves a chance in life. People lack information. So, what I try to do is refer them to supportive services, such as pantry and hot meal services and medical services that help the homeless.”
“Sometimes, you have to help people with their other problems before you set them up with a job. You have to work through the barriers,” he continued. “I help the person who doesn’t have a voice and doesn’t have a way. Ebenezer Baptist Church in Orange called Higher Ground Cancer Services, in which we focus on drug abuse, jobs, training and counseling every Friday at 6 p.m. I refer them to food services, give out clothes, pantry services, shelters for women and domestic violence issues. If we can’t do it, we refer them to a program that can.”
“I volunteered for that program for four years and I take pride in it,” he added. “Money isn’t my motivation and I’d like to see my community grow, be an activist and be that voice for the people who don’t have one.”
When asked what his expectations were for the event, Montague replied: “I want to give people options, hope and I want people to feel like I’m on their side.
“This is why I do what I do. A job is for someone that is job ready. We address the things before a job takes place.”