Like others who have shared their HomeFront experiences here, I have been involved with this excellent organization dating back to when it was known as the Princeton Exchange Club. My wife and I have supported HomeFront by volunteering our time, as well as by making annual financial contributions.
More recently, for over a year, I have been volunteering one day each week as a tutor of basic English grammar and composition at HomeFront’s Family Preservation Center in Ewing, helping to prepare women enrolled in HomeFront’s WorkFirst program to take—and pass—New Jersey’s General Educational Development (GED) exam, the equivalent of earning a high school diploma. While the English component of that exam focusses on the preparation of an original essay, graders take into account proper English usage, and the test also contains a series of multiple choice questions from which candidates must select the one correct answer in each instance.
I have found that many of the women with whom I have worked can pick out the correct answer from among five options, while most don’t know why their selection is the right one. Though I typically only get to work with each woman for two hours, with few exceptions, I have found that they emerge with a much improved understanding of the underlying precepts of our sometimes confusing language, better equipping them for the GED exam and whatever challenges they might face in their subsequent working environment.
Most of the children gathered around me and wanted to be my friend, when I first came to Wednesday night tutoring. I felt smothered by all the attention. A few of the children were a little frightened of me, because I was not like the others. I am a lot shorter, a whole lot hairier and I do not speak much. I especially like when the children read to me. I am very persnickety when children read. I like to listen carefully and NO ONE is allowed to talk when a child is reading (except me, of course, and I never do). I just curl up on my blanket and enjoy the books and the love the children have to offer. As the school year goes on, everyone reads to me. The ones who were afraid of me at first just said hello from a distance and soon they were reading. The reluctant readers became more confident. The good readers became better readers. I cannot wait until tutoring begins again in October. I will see my old friends and make new ones. I will help children be confident readers and learn to love books. I am . . .
Bessie, the therapy dog, in the Read-to-the-Dog Program
I started volunteering for homefront when I was a high school sophmore, thursday night at kinship became part of my regular routine! I really loved being with the kids and the other regular volunteers! I started off volunteering there alone but later on I met some really great friends and my best friend from school joined which made the experience even better! Homefront allowed me to volunteer whenever I could and on extremely short notice which I really enjoyed! My sister and I also bonded more together and with the kids! Homefront was an experience like no other and I intend to keep it a part of my life :D
I learnt about Homefront more or less 10 years ago when my son played hockey with HomeFront founder Connie Mercer's son. We would sit in the bleachers during hockey games, talking about the wonderful work that goes on at HomeFront. It quickly became my place of choice to volunteer as the vision of its leader was so clear and real, I could not imagine her not making it the success that it is today - a neighborhood company with a presence much larger than life and a solid reputation with local schools, churches, synagogues, individuals and companies, all knowing that when they donate to HomeFront,, that their donations will hit right at home where the need is most urgent. HomeFront has such a clear and honest mission of ending homelessness, that it is no surprise that the organization has one of the most extensive and all-encompassing processes in place to help the less fortunate back on their feet. And this is all done in an environment of incredible respect for every client of HomeFront's needs, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may be. After volunteering in various areas of this organization, including fundraising, resume-writing, Free Store organization and tutoring areas, I discovered the ArtSpace art therapy group at the Family Preservation Center, a beautiful facility on the Katzenbach School's campus. This was like finding a small part of heaven on earth, as HomeFront clients can come here and express themselves through art and poetry in ways that cannot even begin to explain the potential for healing that can happen here. The art that comes from the lives and experiences of the artists have brought many moments of awe to me and people that pass through those doors at the shelter. The art is extremely honest, real and fresh, and have become a real window into the hearts of the clients of HomeFront. Once a year we have a full fundraiser for ArtSpace called ArtJam, where the art is exhibited and sold in a gallery setting in Princeton. As opportunities arise, the art is also exhibited at other locations such as coffee shops, libraries, and artist network venues, always with great appreciation for the stories that are told by the art, and knowing that a life will be changed by this public display of respect and the ultimate gift of buying a piece of art from an ArtSpace client ! HomeFront truly takes the desperation out of homelessness by giving its clients a solid chance at restoring their own lives in a dignified environment with total support by offering an array of services that covers the full spectrum of what a person needs to be a productive part of a community. HomeFront restores lives and families, and gives people in desperate stages of their lives the fighting chance they need to get back on their feet. This community is so blessed to have an organization like HomeFront inside its borders, and it all started with a woman that did not turn a blind eye to the problems of her community. Thanks Connie, for your heart, your clear vision, and passion to make HomeFront the Lifesaver that it is today !
My relationship with Home Front has grown over the years. Initially it was donating excess clothes and furnishings from my home, helping with events for HomeFront at my church and collecting the neighbor’s unsold items from our annual neighborhood sales. I have always admired how Home Front has grown, responded to the needs of the community and not shy about growing in new ways. ArtSpace , at the Preservation Center an example of that. It is a creative, therapeutic program that helps clients develop new ways to think and express themselves and to be able to return to society in a productive manner..
I have recently “downsized” to move to a senior community and that has opened a new relationship with Home Front. Of course, in preparation of the move, I donated many household items that I no longer need. Then I discovered ArtSpace. I had accumulated numerous art supplies over the past few years while taking art courses, some were very experimental, and would never use again, which I donated to ArtSpace. When I delivered the art materials to the Preservation Center, I was offered an opportunity to visit ArtSpace at work.. I was extremely excited when I witnessed the enthusiasm of the artists and the and the quality of their work. I am not surprised that some of the residents have become professional artists.
Also during this time, RuthAnn Taylor, the director of ArtSpace, started a very successful sewing program that became another means of expression. That started a new phase in my relationship with Home Front. In the senior community where I live, I found that many residents no longer need, or are interested in sewing although they still had closets full of sewing materials. I offer a service to them by cleaning out their closets and delivering it to ArtSpace The seniors are delighted to be rid of such things and pleased that it is going to a good cause. I thought I had completed that phase of my attention to Home Front, but that does not seem to be the case. As I write this, I have promises of yet more sewing materials from at least 2 more seniors, and a former neighbor, and from a Museum that has excess fabrics that also will donated to ArtSpace.
That’s what it is like to work with HomeFront/ArtSpace. I have an opportunity to “spread the word” and
to continue the mission of eliminating homeless in our community.
Thank You for that opportunity.
Review from Guidestar
I have worked with the Homefront organization for 10 years on many fronts. I'm a hairstylist and salon owner and have serviced their clients and employees to make them feel beautiful inside and out.
It has been a life changing experience for me to work with Homefront and to be involved with volunteering with many of their programs. I had an Uncle and currently have a cousin who have experienced first hand the life of homelessness and this is a way for me to give back on a local level.
Thank you Homefront for ALL that you do!!
We heard about homefront from friends. the thought of families being homeless 3 miles from our home was shocking to our 3 young boys. we started volunteering and helping in small ways. What we all admire about Homefront and its staff is their compasion, passion and commitment to helping others. The other thing that strikes me is how they also stress the importance of ending the cycle of poverty as well ensurring clients keep their diginity. Over and over again I see their team encourage women to find their voices and learn the tools to become independant. I love the Arts Space and how it has grown. The preservation center is beautiful, bright and clean. Paintings and encouragement everywhere. Considering what they have to work with it is a very postive place. I was there today with some friends who want to get more involved. One of the tutors was grinning from ear to ear because his student was ready to go for her GED. Another women was visiting before she goes back to Tufts as a rising sophmore. She was a client at Homefront 5 years ago and has a full scholarship. What I love about Homefront is they give hope not only to homeless women and children but to all of us!!!!!!! xoxo
Homefront is a life changing organization for the mothers and their children who rely on this organization. Homefront is a life changing organization for the volunteers who help out. Make a difference in your life and for a mom and her family's life by being part of Homefront.
I am a Rider Bonner Community Scholar and I volunteer at the HomeFront Family Preservation Center in the evenings during the school year. I usually assist with programs for the elementary-aged children and my favorite night of the week is Tuesdays for Mr. Chris's Fitness Night! Mr. Chris is an awesome guy who really knows how to connect with the kids and they all look forward to the fun activities that he has planned for them each week. When the older kids are not on site, I would serve in the Childcare center with the little ones. The Childcare staff is a wonderful group that truly cares about each and every child that walks through the door. The staff at FPC has made me feel like a welcomed and appreciated volunteer and I have enjoyed serving there for the past two years. I look forward to another great year ahead!
Me, my daughter, and my son started volunteering as computer teachers at a weekly computer class for children. We would give one hour of educational games and the last half hour would be free time. Throughout this experience, I have met many wonderful children and gotten to know them. This wonderful organization gave me and my children the opportunity to be involved in our community. We look forward to going every week and meeting and working with the kids.