By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
BRIDGETON – The homeless organization M25 Initiative and the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation were honored in front of about 450 guests at the Gateway Community Action Partnership at the nonprofit’s annual Gala at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City on Nov. 7.
The gala goes to raise unrestricted funds for the Gateway, which provides programs and services that improve the quality of life and promote self-sufficiency through several New Jersey counties and Philadelphia. Albert Kelly, the mayor of Bridgeton, if the founder and chief executive officer of Gateway CAP.
The M25 Initiative received the Dr. Frank D. Brigio Memorial Spirit of Community Award. M25 Initiative operates the Cumberland County Code Blue Program as well as the county’s Housing First Initiative.
This coordinated effort has significantly reduced the homeless situation in the county and become a statewide model. Rev. Dr. Robin Weinstein, a Gateway board member, accepted the award on behalf of M25.
The award is named after Dr. Frank Brigio, a former Gateway board chairman who died in 2005.
“The work M25 has done to eliminate homelessness in Cumberland County kind of speaks for itself,” Edward Bethea, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Gateway, told Front Runner New Jersey. “The effort they have put in addressing homeless issues, there’s nothing I can say that would pay them justice for the amount of work that they do.”
According to M25’s latest annual report, more than 60 chronically homeless individuals and families went from homeless to “homeBLESSED.” The organization served more than 1,800 dinners to the homeless and poor through the Code Blue Warming Centers.
The Wells Fargo Regional Foundation was given the Samuel H. Jones Jr. Community Development Award. The foundation has supported the Southeast Gateway Neighborhood Revitalization plan in robust way. Lois Greco accepted the award on behalf of Wells Fargo.
Sam Jones is a former Gateway board chairman.
“Wells Fargo Regional Foundation’s approach to grant making is simply amazing,” Bethea said. “They believe in grassroots grant making. You have to involve all the stakeholders in a neighborhood to get their take.
“It’s easy to sit in an ivy tower and say this is what needs to be done to turn a neighborhood around, but their philosophy is just the opposite. They want the residents in the neighborhood to lead that charge, have that vision and work with an agency like ours. We salute the work they’re doing all over the Delaware Valley,” Bethea added.
Bethea said gala is important for Gateway to raise unrestricted fund for the nonprofit.
“We decided about three years ago that we would try to raise $1 million in unrestricted funds,” said Bethea, who also serves on the Bridgeton City Council. “We get a lot of grants from foundations, but for the most part, those are restricted for use. A lot of times, one of our biggest challenges is that we don’t have unrestricted dollars where we could work on programs that benefit our communities consistent with our mission but its hard money to actually raise.”
He said, for example, programs for young people ages 13-24 are desperately needed, but are hard to come by in foundation grants.
“There’s not a lot of money out there for that age group,” Bethea said. “We do a lot of fund raising that will send these kids on college tours, put them in leadership programs and SAT prep. The gala benefits some of those kind of programs.”
Bethea said Gateway CAP recently changed the way it did its anniversary celebration to meet the needs of the organization.
“Normally we have been celebrating our anniversary every five years,” he said. “On our 35th anniversary, we got really excited and started doing it annually. This is our third year in a row doing in annually.”