Brookdale community members, Monmouth County freeholders, community partners and guests gathered for the dedication of the Helping Hands Lounge in MAN 214 on September 17.
“We all know how difficult it is to focus and concentrate when you’re hungry,” said Brookdale President David Stout. “Students can’t realize their potential if they are worried about their next meal or stressed out trying to figure out how to pay for food, transportation, housing or other items.”
President Stout talked about the origins of the Helping Hands Initiative started three years ago by Synde Kaufman and Katherine Edwards. He said it was appropriate that the dedication of the new space took place during September, designated as Hunger Action Month.
“With support from so many partners, we have been able to expand our culture of caring here at Brookdale.”
– President David Stout
“Today is the start of a new and bigger chapter for us,” said Kaufman. “Our focus remains on food insecurity, and the Helping Hands Lounge will be a welcoming place where students can come for assistance, tell us about their needs and have someone listen to their concerns.”
The event also marked a new partnership with Brookdale and Fulfill. The organization’s Mobile Food Pantry made its inaugural visit to Brookdale following the dedication and distributed approximately 3,000 pounds of food to 150 community members The Mobile Food Pantry will be on campus the third Tuesday of each month from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Students of all ages need proper nutrition to learn. College campuses are not immune from food insecurity, and that includes Brookdale. During our first ‘Pantry on Wheels’ visit to Brookdale, nearly 150 students were served and 3,000 pounds of food was distributed. We need to lose the stigma about food insecurity, because there is no doubt the need is real.”
– Kim Guadagno, Fulfill CEO and President and former Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey
President Stout thanked New Jersey’s Commissioner of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis for making addressing the basic needs of students a top priority. He also cited Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature for establishing and expanding the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program. CCOG funds partially funded the establishment of the Helping Hands new home on campus and Brookdale’s basic needs initiatives.
“With support from so many partners, we have been able to expand our culture of caring here at Brookdale,” said President Stout. He noted that food insecurity is an issue throughout all counties in New Jersey regardless of zip codes.
“Support from our community partners and the Brookdale community made this day a reality,” said Synde Kaufman. “This day would not have been possible without their steady presence, and we are grateful,” said Kaufman.
“…the Helping Hands Lounge will be a welcoming place where students can come for assistance, tell us about their needs and have someone listen to their concerns.”
Kaufman recognized at the dedication the many community partners who contributed food, gift cards and funds to provide assistance to Brookdale students. Kaufman thanked Brookdale’s partners with Fulfill – Kim Guadagno, Linda Kellner and Robin Gardiner – for making the Mobile Food Pantry available to the Brookdale community. At the dedication, Kellner spoke about the scope of hunger needs in the local communities.
“Through their support, we now have a dedicated space on campus and increased visibility,” said Kaufman. “We’ll be able to help more students. Also, we’re here to listen and to act as a referral for other needs as well.”
Monmouth County Freeholders Lillian Burry and Tom Arnone also spoke. They expressed their ongoing support for the Helping Hands initiative and Brookdale’s efforts to provide assistance to optimize learning.
Kaufman encouraged Brookdale community members to visit the Helping Hands Lounge. Individuals may drop off contributions of non-perishable items. Kaufman encouraged those who may be interested in volunteering or assisting with Brookdale’s basic needs initiative to contact her email@example.com.