St. Peter’s Haven - Nourishing Body and Soul
Perhaps you’ve driven past the older church at 380 Clifton Avenue and wondered about its history. "They are trying to start another church in Clifton, of the Episcopal persuasion," wrote the anonymous author of "Little Strugglers" in an article dated Sept 16, 1896. Clifton, a village within Acquackanonk Township, had a population smaller than the current high school's student body, and the author believed housing more than one church regardless of denomination was a fool's errand. Officially founded on Nov 18, 1896, St. Peter's celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2016. Their mission statement tells a little of their beliefs, essentially that we are all brothers and sisters, welcomed at the table. St. Peter's Haven was established in 1986 to feed the hungry and help the homeless. Trained staff offers assistance with paperwork and applications for NJ Helps. NJ Helps includes a focus on supplemental food assistance, transitional housing, and case management for families to guide them to benefits they may qualify for. Qualified applicants may benefit from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), low-cost health insurance (Medicaid, NJ Family Care) and financial assistance, such as Work First New Jersey which includes Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) and General Assistance (GA). The paperwork to join the programs, which prepare families for job search and training, short-term housing, and child care, is necessary and invaluable. These programs permit families to maintain a semblance of normality and integration into our community.
The past few years have been more challenging due to factors out of everyone’s control, including Covid, a rapidly-changing economy, and disasters such as fire and floods. St. Peter's mission statement emphasizes the need for helping our neighbors. “Our mission is to provide food and shelter to families and individuals during times of crisis. Feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless gives strength and hope to those most in need of nurturing and compassion, at a time when life is at its bleakest.” St. Peters’ Haven’s food pantry provides a five-day supplement of food to over 2,600 individuals each month. This includes non-perishable food as well as bread, meat, and produce. At Thanksgiving, they make sure that families receive a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, gifts for children at Christmas time, as well as warm coats, hats, and gloves. In the summer, they ask for donations so that each child, from K-12, receives a new backpack, as well as supplies for school.
Rising rents are one of the biggest concerns to families today. Believing that keeping families together is of utmost importance, St. Peter’s Haven has a network of different community groups to help find affordable housing for families and veterans. They offer a transitional shelter for short-term stays during the search for permanent housing.
All of us have been hit by “sticker shock” at the grocery store. Some sobering numbers and information show that Passaic County has the highest rate of food-insecure families in New Jersey. St. Peter’s Haven has noticed an increase in applications for assistance, and of course that means they need additional donations of food to distribute to those in need – a task made more difficult for donors now that food prices are on the increase. They will continue to rely on all their regular donors, and hope that new people will also help out. The following are the most needed items: boxed milk, brown rice (2-pound bags), dried or canned beans, all types of canned tuna and/or meat, canned fruits and vegetables, dry cereal and oatmeal (unsweetened), fruit juice, olive oil, pasta and sauce, peanut butter, soups and stews (low sodium). Cash donations as well as supermarket gift cards are always welcome and permit them to buy fresh meats, milk, and produce at reduced costs.
Some sobering statistics: In 2020, the Pew Research Center reported a 55% increase in suburban residents living in poverty, which is higher than the rate of urban residents. One in 14 people in New Jersey are food insecure, estimated to be over 50,000 in Passaic County alone. Many of them (over 40%) are children.
Donations to St. Peter's Haven can be dropped off Tuesday through Friday between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm, and Saturdays from 8:00 am until noon. Please call 973-546-3406 with any questions or to confirm times. Additionally, they are always looking for volunteers to help with sorting, organizing, and distribution. An application can be found on their website.
There’s more information about upcoming fundraisers on their Facebook page, including the “BLOOMIN’ 5K Run/1 Mile Walk” on Sunday, April 23, 2023 at 8:30 am at Main Memorial Park. You and your family can walk around the pond and your children can learn about volunteering. Just three times around and you’ve walked one mile and your kids will get a reward. There will be additional activities for the children and you can get out, enjoy family time in nature, and know that you’re donating to an important cause. All proceeds will go to support the food pantry at St. Peter’s Haven and you’ll get a T-shirt for registering. All must register online.
Every runner and walker MUST register online, whatever the age, but kids 10 and under are free! The entry fee is $30 per person and will increase after 3/19. A BLOOMIN’ t-shirt comes with each registration fee. Kids' t-shirts are $12 each! All proceeds support the food pantry at St. Peter’s Haven. Register HERE.