This week, the Summit Police Department donated more than 350 pounds of food and household items to the Family Promise-Union County Program. Tuesday marked the culmination of their first annual “CommUNITY Cares Food and Household Goods Drive,” with Chief Robert Weck and other department representatives delivering the bounty to the Union County Day Center at First Baptist Church in Elizabeth.
Geleen Donovan, Executive Director of the Family Promise-Union County Program was on hand to accept the donation, which filled the bed of a police department pickup truck. “We are so grateful for the department’s efforts. There is such a need for food for our families when they move out into their own apartments, as they are still living near the edge of poverty,” said Donovan.
“CommUNITY Cares” is the creation of Chief Weck and Nikki Griffiths, who has risen through the Summit Police Department to the position of Chief Weck’s administrative assistant. Griffith, having grown up in modest circumstances herself, knew that many children in the county do not have enough to eat, especially during the summer months when school lunches are not available. She decided organize a food drive to help local families as part of the police department’s highly successful initiative to increase community engagement.
Griffiths identified Family Promise as the ideal partner; its national headquarters are in Summit and it started in Union County nearly 30 years ago. Family Promise’s mission is to help homeless families by providing shelter, food and services through 192 Affiliate programs nationwide, with eighteen in New Jersey, including the Union County Program.
The food drive commenced June 1, with collection bins donated by Donald and John Lusardi of The Liberty Group located throughout Summit at City Hall, the Summit YMCA, The Connection for Women & Families and area public schools. The project was initially scheduled to run for two weeks but, “we actually extended it because we received such a positive response,” said Griffith. “It ended up running for almost a month.”
In addition to the Union County Program, the food will benefit the First Baptist Church Food Pantry. Also present at Tuesday’s festivities were Bill Eckenrode and Betty Cere, members of the church who began the food pantry 20 years ago, serving five Elizabeth families at that time. They now serve over 200 families, three times a month.
The Summit Police Department plans to repeat the “CommUNITY Cares” Drive again next year. To learn more, contact Nikki Griffiths of the Summit Police Department at (908) 277-9472 or Geleen Donovan of Family Promise-Union County at (908) 289-7300.