Deacon James Davis of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, can often be found helping EHAP director Joan Mandel at the non-profit’s Freehold office.  Lois Rogers photo
Deacon James Davis of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, can often be found helping EHAP director Joan Mandel at the non-profit’s Freehold office. Lois Rogers photo
" So many people are willing to help out. The Lord works in many ways to see that this happens. "
Every Monday at noon, people in need in the greater Freehold area find Deacon James Davis in the office of the Emergency Housing and Advocacy Program Inc. at 41 Throckmorton St.

There, Deacon Davis, from St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, devotes the first afternoon of the business week to helping people find solutions to issues ranging from housing, jobs and transportation to getting referrals to medical, dental and mental health programs.

People come with all kinds of needs, including those the average person might not consider, said Deacon Davis, who has used his social work background in many of his ministries over the years.

For example, communication is a big issue for those who don’t have much. “Mail sorting is the first thing I do every Monday,” he said. “If you’re homeless, you can get your mail here. We also have phones – so their bosses can leave messages – and computers.”

Deacon Davis and his wife, Dorothy, are among those of all faiths who volunteer their skills and time to organizations that exemplify what is asked of all humankind: to protect the life and dignity of the human person.

“So many people are willing to help out. The Lord works in many ways to see that this happens. It’s just incredible,” he said. “Whether you live in a house or on the street, you should be respected.”

That philosophy drives many nonprofit agencies – EHAP and the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Ocean County included. The latter is based in Toms River and focuses on helping homeless families regain their footing.

Strength in Numbers

Joan Mandel, founding director of EHAP, admits that volunteers are at the very heart of all EHAP has to offer. For example, EHAP coordinates overnight shelters for homeless men at participating houses of worship in the Freehold area from December through March.

“Volunteers from churches and synagogues provide food and transportation. They collect bicycles so the men can ride to work. People are so kind and generous,” said Mandel, a member of Temple Beth Shalom, Englishtown.

Rita Kearney, a founding member of Interfaith Hospitality Network and board member, agreed.

Without volunteers, “The program just wouldn’t exist,” said Kearney, a parishioner in St. Joseph, Toms River, explaining that the organization provides shelter, counseling and other aid to families in a 12-week cycle.

“It’s a great way to show that faith communities can work together,” she said, noting that in the interfaith mix of 12 congregations hosting families three times each year are churches of many denominations and a synagogue. An Islamic community regularly offers support, too.

Living Their Faith

Connie Swanson, a member of St. Barnabas, Bayville, sees her volunteer work with Interfaith Hospitality Network as a direct outgrowth of her faith.

“Our faith is about giving … [and] volunteering is a beautiful way to give back,” said Swanson, who helps provide babysitting for Interfaith’s clients so parents can spend time together.

Janet Lawson of St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, has been giving her time to Interfaith for more than 10 years. She helps with scheduling when it’s the parish’s turn to help families.

“I feel like I’m giving back for all that I have. I want to do this because I’ve been so blessed,” she said. “It just amazes me that people are so willing to come every time we call.”

Many volunteers also help out in their own parishes, too, such as Susan Fowler and Ralph Piccarelli, who are both active in the St. Vincent de Paul Conference in St. Thomas More Parish.

Piccarelli and Fowler, conference president, are volunteering to help with the upcoming Jersey Born Music Benefit to raise much-needed funds for EHAP.

“They do have a great need, and we were looking for a way to help,” Fowler said. “As a conference, we can’t pay money directly to an outside organization, but we were impressed [with EHAP], and several members of the conference said they would help try and promote the event.”

It’s that spirit that falls in line with what Kearney references when she talks about the Interfaith Hospitality Network: Matthew 25:40. “Whatever you do for the least of my brethren, you do for me.”

Janet Lawson of St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, has been giving her time to Interfaith for more than 10 years. She helps with scheduling when it’s the parish’s turn to help families.

“I feel like I’m giving back for all that I have. I want to do this because I’ve been so blessed,” she said. “It just amazes me that people are so willing to come every time we call.”

Many volunteers also help out in their own parishes, too, such as Susan Fowler and Ralph Piccarelli, who are both active in the St. Vincent de Paul Conference in St. Thomas More Parish.

Piccarelli and Fowler, conference president, are volunteering to help with the upcoming Jersey Born Music Benefit to raise much-needed funds for EHAP.

It’s that spirit that falls in line with what Kearney references when she talks about the Interfaith Hospitality Network: Matthew 25:40. “Whatever you do for the least of my brethren, you do for me.”