Making a difference one person at a time brings Belmar's Margaret More Jefferson Award
By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Since late last year, when Margaret More’s devotion to St. Vincent De Paul and gifts for recycling melded into the Vincent’s Legacy furniture ministry, the residences of scores of families in need have become warmer, more welcoming places.
Under the auspices of the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Diocesan Council, the new ministry, spearheaded by More, has to date delivered more than $25,000 in gently used furniture to some 250 people throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties. More told The Monitor that the value would equate to about $100,000 in new furniture.
On June 19, the effort gained More, a member of St. Rose Parish and its St. Vincent de Paul Conference, recognition as one of 19 individuals and three impactful organizations honored for their work with a New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award.
The New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards are given annually on both a state and national level for public service by individuals who make a significant and positive impact on their communities without seeking payment or recognition for their efforts. Founded 45 years ago by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft and Sam Beard to honor unsung heroes, the national winners were recognized in Washington on June 27.
More was nominated for the award by Joseph T. Williams, diocesan president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Days after receiving it, she shared how moved she still is by the experience, especially considering that out of all the categories – which range widely from Community Pillar to Patriot, to Health Care Professional to Environmental Stewardship – the award for Faith Based Service went to her.
“It was just overwhelming, being in a room and listening to all the great things people do,” she said.
“It was so inspiring to know that so many folks out there” are giving so generously of themselves in so many ways. In a time of “such negative news,” she said, it was “refreshing to see folks as young as high school age up to a woman in her 90s” recognized for the work they do in to make day-to-day living better.
There was some star quality among her fellow honorees, she said, noting that Dorothea Bongiovi – accompanied by her husband Jon – recognized with the Volunteer Leadership Award for her work on founding the JBJ Soul Kitchen, a non-profit restaurant that has served over 50,000 meals in its Red Bank and Toms River locations since 2011.
“She was one of the first recipients to come in,” said More, who added that the couple “slipped in quietly and stayed throughout the ceremony. But the room was filled with ordinary people who had done the most extraordinary things.” The message overall, she said, was “you find what motivates you and you help one person at a time.”
More was very moved that the awards were received by people of all ages – from high school to those in their ‘90s.
“One was a young person in high school who didn’t want children to begin the school year with broken crayons” and ran drives to collect new crayons.
“He was a great example,” she said. “It was humbling and moving to be in a room surrounded by people doing good things. It was a great reminder that we are not alone.”
More is also the director of Selective Seconds, a high-quality secondhand goods store in Belmar that she founded in 2010, the proceeds of which directly benefit St. Rose Parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference.
After seeing an increased need for furniture donations by families in need and more people wanting to donate furniture, she approached Williams with the idea of creating the broad-based Vincent’s Legacy. The new outreach was approved in November by the Trenton Council Board and is based in a 7-000 square-foot- warehouse currently well stocked with donations.
Some 100 volunteers help keep the full service ministry humming, she said. And there is always a need for more.
Right now, there is a sense of urgency about raising funds to meet the $2,400-a-month rent. All of the funding for the rent comes by way of donations and fund raisers, she said. “We’re on our own and praying,” she said, for a benefactor, grants and individual contributions to come through.
Her contact with the people of the shore keeps her upbeat and hopeful about prospects for the future. “As I make my way through Ocean and Monmouth, everyone I meet is so kind, so non-judgmental. It’s so amazing that you meet so many people with the best interests of others at heart.”
Monitor correspondent Dubravka Cortese contributed to this story.