Weehawken Women’s Club President Carol Kravitz knows how to work a grocery store.
She’s got local markets and discount food clubs practically mapped out in her mind, and during times when a single bag of groceries can run around $30, maximizing a dollar is a huge asset.
Fortunately for the North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC), Kravitz is an expert shopper.
“The New Jersey food bank shelves [which provide food for needy people] have been severely depleted,” she said. “During an average year, they will give out between 20 and 25 million pounds of food. Last year, they gave out 39 million.”
When Kravitz found out about the crisis from the N.J. State Federation of Women’s Clubs (NJSFWC) of General Federation of Women’s Clubs, she and the Weehawken chapter immediately decided to join the cause. At the outset of the first of three designated collection days at the Senior Nutrition Center, the club had already amassed around $550 worth of donations for food.
“We hope enough people will come by to support those in need in our community.” – Eileen Turner
The NJSFWC’s goal with their “Peanut Butter, Jelly and Beans” food drive is to gather one million pounds for pantries across the state between April and June.
“We hope enough people will come by to support those in need in our community,” Turner said. “There couldn’t be a better cause.”
Fulfilling a need
“North Hudson [Community Action Corporation] is really ecstatic that the Women’s Club has chosen us for distribution of their efforts to collect food for those who need it,” NHCAC Program Director and Weehawken Women’s Club member Rosemary Lavagnino said. “The club’s purpose merges with ours with its efforts to address social and health issues that affect children and families in our community.”
Lavagnino became involved with the club in 1990 and both her role with the NHCAC an as a Weehawken Councilwoman has helped her see beyond her immediate area and grasp the concerns of the region as a whole more fully, she explained.
The NCHAC set up food banks around four years ago after years of distributing food vouchers to fulfill a growing need in the community, and she hopes to see many more alliances form with local nonprofit groups in the future.
“We’re seeing people who didn’t need help before,” Lavagnino said. “Money only stretches so far because in our area, living expenses are so high but wages aren’t necessarily enough.”
She went on to say that in 2011, the NHCAC helped over 4,000 clients meet their food requirements, and so far this year there are 40 percent more.
“People are out of work, people are losing their homes, or people have jobs that don’t cover their expenses,” Kravitz said. “Normally we have two-year food collection projects, but this one was so urgent we have condensed it into three months to try to collect as many pounds of food as we can.”
A history of giving back
“They were ladies who lunched,” Kravitz said of the original women’s club members who began their crusade of charity in 1894. “Women couldn’t vote, they didn’t have cars, there were no telephones, and yet together they were able to accomplish so much.”
As the largest non-denominational volunteer organization in the state, the NJSFWC founded the N.J. College for Women – known now as Douglass Residential College as part of Rutgers in New Brunswick – which serves as the current NJSFWC headquarters. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which NJSFWC is a part of, established 75 percent of all libraries in the U.S., helped to pass the Pure Food and Drugs Act, supported the first child labor laws, and played a large role in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights.
“These are things we take for granted now,” Turner said. “But women 100 years ago had to fight for them.”
The NJSFWC continues to champion issues such as homelessness and domestic and child abuse, and to provide and organize school programs and scholarships.
“Washington is very responsive to women’s club’s issues,” Kravitz explained, “Because women speak softly, but carry a lot of clout.”
The Weehawken Women’s Club is optimistic that the community will rally around “Operation Peanut Butter, Jelly and Beans” and requests that those who can come forward and participate in the remaining two food drives.
Donations may be made June 23 between noon and 5 p.m. at the Pathmark Tower Plaza Mall located on Park Avenue; and on June 26 between 4 and 8 p.m., donations may be made at three locations: the Weehawken Elk’s Lodge located at 50th Street and Boulevard East, the Senior Nutrition Center located at 201 Highwood Ave., and the Community Room located at 525 Gregory Ave.
Please bring canned goods and non-perishables to any of these drop-off centers and help neighbors in need. For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get help from the NHCAC food banks, call (201) 210-0333.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at email@example.com