Thank you to our
Thank You Letter 2017-2018
April 13, 2018
We have now finished the fifth season of Code Blue in Cumberland County! The Code Blue Program in Cumberland County began on December 10, 2013, as a community response to the tragic death of Mr. Joseph Hanshaw, who suffocated to death in a Salvation Army Clothing Bin while trying to escape the harsh winter elements. From a tragedy in our community emerged a triumph of a program that puts love into action.
Code Blue is a grassroots movement of churches and community members responding to the needs of our homeless neighbors. Code Blue is funded by community contributions made to the M25 Initiative (501c3). The program was created to provide "Warming Centers" as a way for homeless persons in the community to find shelter from frigid overnight temperatures during the cold winter months.
We hear and see a lot of bad news in our world, nation, and community. However, Code Blue is one of many examples of the good news happening right here in Cumberland County, and this movement is spreading! In reflecting on this season, I have been thinking of this Bible verse, “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Code Blue is good news because it has shown that ordinary people are willing and capable to do extraordinary acts of compassion by planting seeds of love demonstrating faith in action.
What we are also witnessing is the evidence that positive change in our community does not come from policies and politicians, but people (“We, the People”) and OUR practices of practicing hospitality, extending mercy, working for justice, and sacrificially loving one another. Through the actions of countless volunteers who sow their love through volunteering, we are reaping a harvest of hope, and the direction of our community is turning toward better days! Love always overcomes evil, and hope always triumphs over despair!
The purpose of this letter is to share with you the triumphs of the behind-the-scenes heroes in our community through the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition. Through the work of our Code Blue Coalition, which is a wholly volunteer effort, we supported a record-setting 45 nights of Code Blue assistance this past winter, which was an increase of 36% from the 2016-2017 season, and an increase of 80% from the 2015-2016 season.
The month of January had 20 days alone! This was a tremendous task for our volunteer coalition and the coordinators, but through perseverance—the job got done.
With over 300 approved volunteers, the Code Blue program provided warm shelter and food to an average census of 55 homeless individuals in our three major cities: Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland. During one of the coldest nights this winter, we provided overnight shelter to 88 homeless individuals!
Code Blue volunteers provided over 4,300 dinners to our area homeless and poor (an increase of 43% from 2016-2017 season), and a total of 2450 overnight warming center stays for homeless individuals (an increase of 63.3% from 2016-2017 season). Code Blue Warming Centers in Bridgeton and Millville also stayed open into daytime hours during extreme weather conditions.
Each night of Code Blue requires a minimum of 42 volunteers to work shifts in the three municipalities who provide 3-5 hours of coverage, which amounts to over 5670 hours during this past season. Code Blue also requires a minimum of $500 per night to operate to cover reimbursement to churches, equipment, and other related needs.
Our Code Blue program would not be possible without the tireless efforts and commitment of our volunteer municipal coordinators. They are the wind beneath the wings of this community movement and deserve our sincerest appreciation and admiration:
Bridgeton: Ms. Nina Young, Coordinator/ Mr. Nick Dobrowolski, Deputy Coordinator
Vineland: Ms. Cathy Gardner, Coordinator/ Ms. Christine Marin, Deputy Coordinator
Millville: Ms. Cindi Cooke, Coordinator/ Mrs. Susan Stowe, Deputy Coordinator
This was a particularly hard season on these coordinators, and they are so worthy of our appreciation.
I also want to highlight the efforts of Rev. Ellen Rutherford, one of the co-founders of the Code Blue Program, who graciously worked to keep daytime efforts afloat in Bridgeton, and continues to be a hero behind the scenes.
Code Blue would not be possible without our churches that open their doors to our homeless neighbors:
Bridgeton- Bethany Grace Community Church, St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Parish of the Holy Cross, and the Bridgeton Salvation Army. The following churches served as host churches in partnership with our host churches: Bethany Seventh Day Adventist Church, Shiloh Seventh Day Baptist Church, Cohansey Baptist Church, and the First Nazarene Church/The Bridge.
Millville- Trinity United Methodist Church and Central Baptist Church
Vineland- Living Hope Assembly and First Presbyterian Church
Many restaurants, organizations, and churches in our community provided food and supplies. Some of these organizations include: Calvary Chapel Vineland, Chestnut Assembly of God, Rock of Salvation, St. Paul Church, Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church, Bridgeton Family Diner, Berean Baptist Church, Christ Lutheran Church, Carmello’s Pizza, Donatello’s Pizza, Golden Pigeon Diner, Hands of Compassion, Los Molcajetes, Bridgeton Rotary Club, Union Baptist Church, West Park United Methodist Church, LeBron's Gorilla Grill Food Truck, Lynn's Homestyle Deli, Verna's Flight Line, Ella club, Thunderbolt Club, The Oar House, The Landing, Manny's Pizza, Holly City Deli, Dunkin Doughnuts Carmel Road & Rt 49, Country Home Baking Bridgeton Amish Market, Sunny Ridge Farms, Bridgeton Amish Market, Sidelines Bar & Grill, Marcacci Meats, Millville Fire Department, AVID Students Millville, LINK Millville High School, Millville Education Association, Pinelands Learning Center, NJ Motorsports Park, Bethel AME Church, SJ Gas Millville, Super Hero Café, Miss Sarah's Kindergarten CCD Class Parrish of All Saints Church, Tri-County Sportsmen Motor Cycle Club, Duran, Wheaton and Kimble, and The Unforgotten Haven. (Please accept our apologies if you were not listed.)
This year was our first year working in coordination with the County Office of Emergency Management and they were terrific partners. Also, we received assistance from the police, fire and emergency management officials in all three municipalities, along with the County Prosecutor’s Office. Case Management services were provided by Resources for Independent Living and other partners of the Housing First Collaborative.
Logistical support was provided by Inspira Health Network, Let’s Do Linens, and Gateway Community Action Partnership.
The program relies on community financial donations to the M25 Initiative. We have many contributors to the program, and groups were great in doing fundraising efforts to assist us in this work of compassion. Our major financial supporters included Inspira Health System, Whibco, Bethany Grace Community Church, and Century Savings Bank. Many others are listed on our webpage at www.codeblueccnj.org. Without your financial support, this program would not be possible!
I wanted to draw your attention to even better news that has emerged from this program of mercy. In calculating the totals of the homeless in Code Blue from 2015-2018, we have seen an 11% reduction in participants! One of the main reasons for this is the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative.
The Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative is a unique consortium of social service organizations, faith-based institutions, and government officials committed to tackling the problem of chronic homelessness in Cumberland County. The guiding agency of this collaborative is the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Bridgeton, which also facilitates the grassroots Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition. The other partners of the collaborative include Gateway Community Action Partnership, PRAC of New Jersey, Resources for Independent Living, Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, Cumberland County Jail, Inspira Health Network, and CompleteCare Health Network.
Since June of 2017, the Collaborative has successfully housed over 37 chronically homeless individuals, and has set a goal of housing 60 by the end of 2018. This mission of compassion is yielding solid financial dividends in our community by saving lives and saving money! We are excited to announce shortly how this program is financially helping the taxpayers…stay tuned! You can learn more about the program at www.endhomelessness2020.com.
In closing, while Code Blue is an exhausting effort, we see that the harvest is worth the work of the sowing. Not only are lives saved, but they are being transformed! Our neighbors who are homeless are transformed by the compassion of others, while our volunteers experience a transformation themselves. Every volunteer begins to see the world differently through their experience, and they have come to find a new family. Code Blue brings our community together in a remarkable way as it transcends race, class, religion, politics, etc. It restores our collective humanity and, in turn, the collective belief in hope in one another and for a brighter future for all of us. We are working toward a community where no one is left behind.
We invite you to join this movement of hope! Learn more about the M25 Initiative at www.m25initiative.org and join our team. The M25 Initiative is a 501c3 non-profit in Cumberland County, NJ created for the sole purpose of engaging, equipping, empowering, and mobilizing individuals and organizations to employ innovative and cooperative solutions to alleviate suffering, feed the hungry, end poverty, reduce crime, revitalize a spirit community and transform lives!
The M25 Initiative is the designated fundraising arm for the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition and the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative. The Initiative also raises funds for the Housing First Collaborative and other projects that fulfill the spirit of Matthew 25:35-36: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Thank you to our volunteers, donors, and community partners! While the Code Blue season has ended, the work of compassion continues. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Robin “Rob” Weinstein, Ed.D.
President & Founder, M25 Initiative
Chair, Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition
Convener, Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative
"The M25 Initiative is a 501c3 non-profit in Cumberland County, NJ created for the sole purpose of engaging, equipping, empowering, and mobilizing individuals and organizations to employ innovative and cooperative solutions to alleviate suffering, feed the hungry, end poverty, reduce crime, revitalize a spirit community and transform lives!"
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