New Jersey Ministry Fights Poverty with More Than Groceries

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Most people associate the words food pantry with paper bags stocked with canned goods and loaves of bread.

At New Hope Community Ministries in Prospect Park, N.J., clients get more than just food. They find mentors who are ready to pray for and encourage them and a financial planner who can suggest fiscal strategies to help get them out of debt.

Supported by several Christian Reformed churches, this ministry pairs clients with a mentor who listens to their struggles. “We strive to pair the mentors with the same clients month after month so that relationships of trust can develop,” said Philip Beverly, executive director of New Hope. After listening to and praying with clients, mentors suggest different programs that can help.

One of those is a financial planning program. That’s where Kenrick Willis comes in.

Willis, a certified financial planner, offers his services free of charge. His counseling is individualized for each person that comes in.

Many people who come to New Hope are overwhelmed and afraid. Willis tries to educate and encourage participants so that, as he says, “fear is replaced with hope.” Among those he has helped are a widow facing foreclosure, a single mom with three children who was in debt, and a young couple with issues on their credit report.

“Each case is dealt with according to the individual needs, taking into consideration their resources and willingness to commit their own time,” he said.

More than a brown paper bag with a few nights’ meals, New Hope Community Ministries offers ways to fight poverty financially and spiritually. The program is so popular that New Hope is serving the highest number of people they’ve seen in several years.

About the Author

Callie Feyen is a writer living in Ann Arbor, Mich. She attends First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. Callie writes news for The Banner and contributes to Coffee+Crumbs, and T.S. Poetry Press. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is the author of The Teacher Diaries: Romeo and Juliet, and Twirl: My Life in Stories, Writing, & Clothes.

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There is so much good about this, at least if the article accurately describes this project (the website seems to suggest so).

First, this appears to be a multi-church backed effort (perhaps even different denominations/traditions?).

Second, the local churches-as-institutions are not directly running this operation, but rather have encouraged the creation of an independent organization (though likely very supported by the local churches-as-institutions) that is in turn capable of inviting and receiving the support of more local churches.  (Project direction by a particular church's council would make that diffictul).

Third, the project includes people with expertise doing work that requires expertise.  This isn't just a church-as-institution (it's council or its pastor) deciding that because it is a church, it has expertise in everything.

Fourth, the program appears to be local.  Local people who are neighbors and fellow members of the community are helping local people who are neighbors and fellow members of the community.

Fifth, the program has the needed scope.  The program doesn't just give money, as would the government (at any level) or a church-as-institution at a higher level (even the CRCNA), but is holistic in their helping.  No doubt that means a greater commitment, and a longer term on, but that may be the only way to truly "help without hurting."

Sixth, the program involves doing real work, as opposed to the more glamorous but empty political advocacy,  far too common these days, where purported advocates for the poor tell the government to take money from taxes or Chinese loans and give that money to the poor, ultimately resulting in little more than creating/increasing dependency mentality.

May it be that those in the denomination who are involved with this sort of thing take note and learn.  This is a real place where the principles of "Helping Without Hurting" and "Toxic Charity" (two books) seems to be put in practice.

Thank you, dougvandegriend, for your generous comments!

As the Executive Director of New Hope, I can assure you that this article accurately describes our ministry. We approach poverty in a holistic fashion that strengthens families and empowers individuals to overcome the challenges they face. In addition to our Food Pantry, Mentoring Program, and Financial Program, we also have a professional psychologist on staff (Felipe Cortes) who runs our Family Program. Felipe offers individual and family counseling services, as well as parenting classes free of charge for anyone in our community. Finally, we have organized a men's and a women's support group, each of which meet monthly. We strive to partner with local churches, schools, and other organizations as much as possible so that fighting poverty is a community effort. To that end, we are currently working with several local churches to host ESL and Citizenship classes for individuals from our area.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about New Hope can log on to our website ( or email me at Please support our ministry by donating online via our website!