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Caring for One Another
This year’s Community Impact Awards highlight the commendable efforts of 17 local organizations that are building up and giving back to their communities.

by Chelsea Valcourt

Four years since its onset, COVID-19’s effects are still felt by many in our community. From a lack of available resources and the closures of businesses to mass layoffs and hefty medical bills, people and communities alike are struggling—and in times like this, it’s more important than ever to care for one another. 

Luckily, there are scores of organizations in our area that are both able and eager to help. From taking care of disadvantaged youth to ensuring access to educational and medical resources and more, the recipients of this year’s Community Impact Awards are stepping up and stepping in to take care of their communities. These organizations understand the hardships many families face and work to directly target these areas through volunteerism and grant funding. 

The Michaels Organization
While many may be familiar with The Michaels Organization through their work in residential real estate throughout South Jersey and beyond, they are also active members of their community.

Dedicated to “doing well by doing the extraordinary,” last year The Michaels Organization held its inaugural National Day of Service. This day allowed 2,500 of the organization's members to impact communities across 39 states and the Caribbean. 

Locally, within its corporate hometown of Camden, more than 130 teammates spread across 17 sites throughout the city to commit acts of service. These altruistic deeds ranged from working outside at parks and community-gathering sites throughout the city, to cleaning up and organizing warehouses, to spending time with children and other neighbors in need for a variety of local nonprofit organizations, like the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey, Habitat for Humanity, Urban Promise and LUCY Outreach. 

In addition to their work on National Day of Service, The Michaels Organization has helped thousands of students attend college through the disbursement of $14 million in scholarships through its affiliate program, The Michaels Organization Educational Foundation.

Impact100 South Jersey
Showcasing the power of women’s collective giving, Impact100 South Jersey makes a significant difference in its community by awarding transformative grants to organizations in Camden, Burlington, Gloucester or Cumberland counties. Each year, the all-volunteer initiative invites local women to contribute $1,000 to a funding pool; since 2017, members have contributed more than $1.2 million. They will award the newest round of grants totalling $185,000 at their annual meeting on June 12.  Past recipients have included Heart of Camden, the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland County, Family Promise of Southwest New Jersey and LUCY Outreach—showcasing the wide range of causes Impact100 South Jersey supports. Impact100 South Jersey is a field of Special Projects Fund at the Community Foundation of South Jersey.

Jaws Youth Playbook
Founded by former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and his wife Liz, Jaws Youth Playbook (JYP) is dedicated to supporting the emotional, physical and social well-being of at-risk youth in the Greater Philadelphia area. They accomplish this mission through grant funding and yearly donation drives such as a book drive, bike drive, Thanksgiving Turkey Drive and so much more.

JYP funds efforts to create or revitalize community gardens in order to secure healthy, fresh meals for the communities it serves. JYP donated $20,000 to the Unforgotten Haven’s community garden in Blackwood, which allowed the organization dedicated to combating food insecurity, homelessness and more to provide community members with weekly essentials, including fresh fruits and vegetables. 

To assist in the emotional health of the area’s youth, JYP hosts a “Duffels for Dignity” drive in honor of National Foster Month. For $20, community members can purchase a duffel bag full of necessities for a foster child. Furthermore, JYP hosts an annual Prom Drive to alleviate financial stress, which has collected over 2,500 gowns, shoes, jewelry and purses and invites area teens to attend their pop-up boutique.

The AmeriHealth team makes monthly visits to the Ronald McDonald House in Camden, where associates cook and serve meals to the families staying there with young loved ones battling serious illnesses. In addition, Amerihealth regularly attends RISE Food Pantry to help sort, set up distribution and assist visitors waiting in line.

As fierce supporters of the Special Olympics, AmeriHealth members attend and support the annual Lincoln Tunnel Challenge to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey, as well as volunteer at the Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games—a weekend-long event in which associates can assist with any of the sporting events being held. Associates and their families are also welcomed to lend a hand at the AmeriHealth booth to both help with giveaways and invite guests to walk through the “Olympic Village.”

Each November, AmeriHealth hosts its Thanks for Giving Food Drive. In 2023, those holiday donations went to Philabundance, a nonprofit food bank dedicated to driving hunger from communities and to end food scarcity for good.

The T&M Foundation
T&M Associates has supported its partner communities through volunteerism, promoting STEM education and charitable giving for nearly 60 years. As a natural next step to support this work, The T&M Foundation—a 501(c)(3) nonprofit—was established in 2021. The foundation gives to civic, cultural, community and educational organizations that align with its overarching mission of building up communities one project at a time. In 2023, the foundation was able to support 64 organizations, donating more than $40,000 among them. Community partners include HABcore, Habitat for Humanity, Lunch Break, Fulfill and A Need We Feed; employees have spent 524 hours volunteering their time to support these and other regionally focused causes. The foundation also committed $62,500 for STEM-based scholarships and visited numerous classrooms, providing STEM presentations, activities and mentorship. These organizations/institutions serve students from every age group, as well as focus on making STEM education more accessible and effective for underrepresented communities.

WSFS Cares Foundation
The WSFS CARES Foundation brings WSFS’ mission of “We Stand for Service” to life across the communities they serve. The WSFS CARES Foundation provides grants for initiatives that are innovative, creative, sustainable and replicable, and provided more than $2.7 million in grant awards in 2023. The mission of the WSFS CARES Foundation is to support qualified nonprofit service organizations within the bank’s regional footprint that are invested in improving communities, fostering a spirit of inclusion and diversity, and whose focus aligns with the WSFS CARES Foundation’s transformational vision. In addition to their charitable grants, WSFS associates have donated more than 17,000 hours of their time to complete community service projects, including providing financial literacy programs to their communities. 

The New Jersey Realtors Housing Opportunity Foundation
The New Jersey Realtors Housing Opportunity Foundation (HOF) was established in 2003 with a mission to increase statewide opportunities for safe, affordable housing. The foundation hosts meaningful events throughout New Jersey during the year, all of which provide Realtor® engagement and support in the communities, as well as fundraising opportunities. Its annual Realtors® Care Day is a chance for members to give back to their communities through improvements that include landscaping, outdoor cleanup, exterior repairs and safety modifications. Ultimately, the projects not only restore a homeowner’s pride, but also instill a revitalizing momentum in the community. Fundraisers include baseball games, 5K races and more. Funds provided to the foundation go toward supporting other New Jersey organizations that create affordable homeownership options, develop public awareness and offer homebuyer education. Some of the projects that NJ Realtors® HOF has supported include: housing opportunity seminars to help businesses develop EAH benefit plans for employers; revitalization tour; donations to victims of Superstorm Sandy; providing financial literacy and homebuyer seminars; fighting food insecurity in local communities; and sponsoring Habitat for Humanity projects all across the state. 

South Jersey Industries (SJI)
In addition to providing safe, reliable and affordable energy to more than 700,000 homes and businesses across New Jersey, SJI assists New Jersey organizations in delivering critical support through funding and volunteerism. 

As part of its Annual Employee Giving Campaign, SJI has raised more than $330,000 for nonprofits statewide, while its First Responders Grant Program supports the efforts of local first responders. South Jersey Gas’ and Elizabethtown Gas’ annual Game On Grant program provides $1,000 grants to 20 community-centered children’s athletic programs and recreational organizations.

Partnering with the Mark Cuban Foundation, SJI hosts an AI Bootcamp for local high school students in Atlantic City and Union, enabling them to increase AI literacy through sessions, discussions and exercises facilitated by SJI’s staff.

Employees annually participate in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, as well as host local food drives and a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. SJI’s Employee Resource Groups focus on workforce development, community partnerships, employee engagement and fostering inclusion. Customer outreach specialists also play a crucial role in supporting customers with difficulties paying energy bills, providing assistance information and resources.

American Water Charitable Foundation
The primary focus of the American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF) is to support employees in their own charitable endeavors and to provide stronger support for disaster-relief efforts, and funding for higher-level initiatives related to clean water, conservation, education and community sustainability.

AWCF has donated $1.2 million to support projects and initiatives that benefit Camden. Grants provided have helped strengthen and improve workforce readiness initiatives, and educational opportunities for Camden’s youth and the next generation of environmental leaders.

Over the past five years, AWCF and American Water have donated a combined total of $200,000 to support their Community and Urban Science Enrichment (CAUSE) Summer Camp Program, the organization’s flagship program that has been supporting local youth since 1993.

Through this collaboration and support, CAUSE participants can continue their work with community education in marine biology and environmental science, developing interactive educational tools to help connect youth and families to their local outdoors.

AWCF continues to support Camden through its One Water Street Grant Program, investing $15.5 million in funding since 2012.

Camden County College Foundation
The Camden County College Foundation supports the mission of Camden County College (CCC) by providing support to both people and programs. The CCC Foundation will provide approximately 400 scholarships totaling $400,000 to its students this year. The foundation not only supports tuition for students but also their other needs, from books and technology, to food and shelter. The foundation also supports a variety of CCC initiatives, from health and technology to the arts and student activities, like athletics and Esports. Generating financial support for these initiatives is dependent upon generous donors, who support fundraising events and donate to scholarships and various funds.

People for People Foundation
Since its inception in 2003, People for People has been committed to assisting folks who have “fallen through the cracks” and works to provide necessities such as food, medicine, rental assistance and more to those residents in need of a helping hand. While their efforts benefit all members of the community, People for People has a particularly soft spot for veterans. Demonstrating that care, the foundation provides affordable housing with Veteran Preference in partnership with Conifer Realty. In addition, the organization will host its 39th Annual Veterans Picnic at the Gloucester County 4H Fairgrounds in September, as well as its 15th Annual Wreaths of Remembrance ceremony, held the first Saturday in December. 

Southern Burlington County NJ NAACP
With an established history of promoting justice and encapsulating the change members wish to see in the world, this non-partisan civil rights organization is the historic branch behind the “Mount Laurel Doctrine'' court case—a decision that set the precedent for nationwide fair-share housing legislation.

Today, members remain committed to advancing the South Jersey community through advocacy for policy change, transparency and accountability. Following their long-standing tradition of giving a voice to the community, the Southern Burlington County NAACP works to ensure an educated public by encouraging folks to get involved with local and state government through seminars and Q&A sessions with political candidates in their community.

Barrier Breakers
Barrier Breakers®, Inc. is dedicated to increasing access to and success in higher education for first-generation, immigrant and marginalized students, with a particular focus on those applying to law school. Throughout the organization’s lifetime, it has helped more than 7,000 students achieve success on their educational journeys. This year, Barrier Breakers is focusing its efforts on increasing support for first-generation students, with a goal of raising $100,000 to put toward college and graduate school admissions support. Through partnerships with local organizations, it also will provide free one-on-one college counseling to over 30 Trenton-area teens throughout the next year.

AAA South Jersey

The AAA South Jersey Gives Back program reached new heights in 2023 through initiatives that demonstrate team members’ pride in and dedication to supporting their community, donating more than $50,000 to several local nonprofit partners. Highlights included adopting and decorating a room at the Ronald McDonald House in Camden, sponsoring the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, Toys for Tots collections, and food and clothing drives.

Last year, AAA South Jersey offered $5,000 in scholarships to two students in South Jersey, and launched several new initiatives in 2023, including a free New Year’s Eve Uber ride program promoting AAA’s Don’t Drink and Drive campaign and free memberships for adopters at the Animal Welfare Association.

TD Bank
TD Bank's mission is to support better outcomes and economic opportunities for its customers, communities and colleagues. TD's new Community Impact Plan will provide approximately $20 billion in lending, philanthropy, banking access and other support benefiting underserved communities across 15 states and D.C., including in South Jersey. The TD Charitable Foundation provided $4.7 million to organizations in New Jersey, and also awarded $1.07 million to NJ affordable housing organizations through its annual Housing for Everyone grant competition. As part of TD's Ready Challenge, a $1 million grant was awarded to Rowan University Foundation's Green Jobs Academy last year to prepare the local workforce for the future.

Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey Foundation
Founded in 1980, this statewide organization seeks to uphold the rigorous standards and reputation of the legal profession amongst Hispanic lawyers.

In order to expose and guide younger generations to a potential career in law, in 2013 HBA-NJ established the American Dream Pipeline Program. During monthly sessions at partner schools, students are encouraged to gain an understanding of the field through guest speakers and participation in one-on-one sessions to prepare for mock debates, review college applications and more.

In addition to this program, the locally active bar association provides scholarships to law school students, encourages active participation in the grander law community, performs rigorous vetting of Hispanic judicial candidates for endorsement to the New Jersey Bench, and hosts signature events such as their Women’s Empowerment Leadership and Law Conference, Financial Awareness and Community Training Seminar, and the Mental Education & Nurturing Through Engagement Conference.

Dress for Success Central New Jersey
Dress for Success Central New Jersey (DFSCNJ) is a nonprofit whose mission is to empower women and youth to achieve economic independence by providing them a network of support, professional attire, and development tools to help clients thrive both at work and in life. In 2023, DFSCNJ extended support to 2,405 individuals—a record high—through its 10 signature workforce development programs and is on track to reach even more people in 2024. Since opening its doors in 2007, DFSCNJ has served over 25,000 individuals. 

“The women we serve matter, they all matter, their health and wellbeing matter, their future matters,” says DFSCNJ CEO Melissa Tenzer. “We help women find their voice.”

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 14, Issue 4 (April 2024).

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