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.