For more than 30 years Interfaith Neighbors in Asbury Park has been providing critical services to Monmouth County residents through their senior meal program, neighborhood revitalization initiatives, and homeless prevention rental and mortgage assistance programs.
In response to the pandemic Interfaith Neighbors has created an emergency fund to assist families and individuals experiencing financial distress associated with the infectious disease.
“Every day we see an increase in calls for help that are associated with the COVID-19 health crisis,” Executive Director Paul McEvily said. “Through the generosity of local organizations who have entrusted us to help meet the Monmouth County community’s needs, we will be able to offer direct support to those who need help paying bills or dealing with financial emergencies that must be addressed before federal relief funding is made available.”
Founded in May 1988, Interfaith Neighbors is an Asbury Park-based nonprofit serving those who reside in Monmouth County. Its programs, projects and initiatives aim to bring hope, help, community development, and comprehensive assistance to those vulnerable among us.
Thus far, the COVID-19 Emergency Fund is supported by generous and emergent contributions made by the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation, Stone Foundation of New Jersey, Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, and by individual donors, McEvily said. The maximum financial assistance award is $1,000; able to be used for everything from rent, utilities, and insurance payments to repairs, food and medicine, and other essential living expenses.
“I was raised to believe in the power of prayer and in the existence of guardian angels,” he said. “Some may feel this is but an old-fashioned notion but I still firmly believe in both. The kindness and generosity exhibited by the foundations and individuals who have contributed to our COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund provide ample proof that angels walk among us and that the prayers of those in need are being answered.”
The fund is administered through the agency’s Rental and Mortgage Assistance department; Interfaith’s flagship program that works to stave off homelessness and establish financial stability for Monmouth County families and individuals experiencing a financial crisis. Each year, the program provides $500K to $750K in direct assistance to provide housing solutions for more than 350 families facing eviction or homelessness.
“There’s no question the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis will quickly outstrip the annual resources we receive to handle the critical needs of housing and nutrition for the most needy across Monmouth County,” said Associate Executive Director and Chief Business Officer Walter ‘Chip’ Craig. “Without this new fund and the generosity of those donors and friends who are stepping forward to help folks who might also be their neighbors, we would be faced with an even more difficult road ahead.”
Interfaith Neighbors continues to serve over 1,100 meals to homebound seniors through the administration of the Monmouth County Meals on Wheels program, another of its programs facing an uptick in need.
“We have introduced many enhanced personal, facility and vehicle safety protocols to ensure the safety of our volunteers, staff and the seniors we serve,” Craig said. “We have also repositioned staff from programs currently on hiatus to establish a fully trained backup network in order to ensure continuity of operations.”
Craig said steps are also being made to maintain continuity through the stockpiling of a two week supply of certain food items, replenishment of shelf-stable meals, and by working closely with Monmouth County and State officials on strategies to ensure continued operations. The program, which provides over 350,000 meals annually to homebound residents, relies on help from over 100 volunteers, many are retirees.
“We are experiencing understandable fluctuations in our volunteer force,” Craig said. “But, we are grateful that so many have made inquiries about volunteering for the program. We are vetting, training and scheduling new volunteers on a continual basis.”
The agency’s Kula Cafe remains closed until further notice, and while its Kula Urban Farm is closed to all visitors, its team continues work and is donating the harvest to AP Dinner Table, local emergency feeding programs. IFN’s Business Development Center is also closed and the headquarters, located at 810 Fourth Ave, is closed to all visitors.
For more information about the COVID-19 Emergency Fund or to volunteer call 732-775-0525.