I remember the feeling of awe as I held our “Cardiac Chargers” Heart Walk poster standing next in a crowd of over 2,000 people at 8am on a Saturday morning in early November. The morning air was particularly frigid, a cold front blew in unexpectedly the night before and many of us forgot to wear layers of scarves, gloves, sweaters, jackets.
Yet, the feeling of warmth and compassion radiated from all of those around me, enough warmth to keep me motivated for the three mile walk ahead in the bitter temperature. I felt like I was part of a movement and a shared purpose; to walk in remembrance of those lost to heart disease and for those who are battling against the disease.
I looked to my left and met eyes with a fellow Heart Walker. She smiled at me and asked if she could sign the poster I was carrying. I gratefully obliged (see picture below), and she followed up with her story:
“When I lost my husband to heart disease, I thought I lost myself too but when I come to these walks I realize I am not alone and I have so much to live for. Thank you for being here and letting me leave my mark.”
Fundraising for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk was not just the right thing to do — contributing to the cause filled me with a sense of purpose and gratitude for all that I have in my life. It also gave me a sense of pride; the Heart Walk team I was a part of raised over $15,000 for the American Heart Association.
The American Heart Association is just one of many organizations you can contribute to this season (and year round!) If you are looking for a place to donate, volunteer, and/or just spread some love check out these local NJ spots with very worthy causes.
The Angels Community Outreach (Pitman, NJ)
At 12 years old Katelyn, started a charity that provides free clothing to families in need. The Angels Outreach team works with social services, homeless shelters and community leaders who refer clients to Angels Community Outreach. The clients are invited to come into the clothing closet storefront and go “shopping” at no cost.
- Follow on Instagram — @angelscommunityoutreach
MANNA (Philadelphia, PA/ South Jersey)
In the 28 years since their founding, MANNA has stayed true to their mission — to harness the power of food as a medicine through the meals they provide to the ill and their families. MANNA has served clients with over 80 different illnesses from Diabetes to HIV across the region.
Don’t feel like baking this Thanksgiving? Let MANNA bake for you during their Pie In the Sky Event. There are several pie pick up spots in New Jersey! All the proceeds help them feed more families in need. Click here for more info on their Pie in the Sky fundraiser here: www.mannapies.org
Associated Humane Societies Charity Profile (Newark, NJ)
The Associated Humane Societies, founded in 1906, is the largest animal sheltering system in New Jersey. This Humane Society is comprised of three shelters located in Newark, Forked River, and Tinton Falls. The Forked River facility also includes Popcorn Park Zoo, a federally licensed zoo and sanctuary for abandoned, injured, ill, exploited, abused and/or elderly wildlife, exotic, farm animals, and birds.
Good Grief (Morristown & Princeton, NJ)
“Good Grief is a place everyone has a voice no matter how small. It’s a place where you can be you no matter how different” — Catherine, 15 years old.
The organization provides unlimited and free support to children, teens, young adults and families after the death of a mother, father, sister or brother through peer support programs, education and advocacy.
Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey
Since 1983, families have been coming to the Ronald McDonald House while their children receive specialized treatment for life-threatening illnesses and diseases at nearby hospitals, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Shriners Hospital for Children, Cooper University Hospital and the Wills Eye Institute. The house provides comfortable beds to sleep in, playrooms and toys, hot showers, home-cooked meals, a place to do laundry, transportation to doctors’ appointments and more — at little or no cost for the families.
You and your family, friends and/or co-workers can spread some joy to these families by cooking and serving a meal to the families in need. Learn more at about how to contribute on their website.
Where are you volunteering this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!