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Hunger Free founder and volunteers honored with ‘Making a Difference Award’

The Bayonne-originated organization was one of 12 recipients of the Russ Berrie awards by Ramapo College

Ramapo officials present Wilson with the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award. Photos courtesy of Wilson.

Stephanie Glover Wilson, the founder of Hunger Free Unity in the Community, was one of 12 honorees at the 26th anniversary Russ Berrie Making a Difference Awards last month at Ramapo College.

Since 1997, the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award has honored New Jersey residents whose outstanding acts of service and heroism have made a substantial impact on the lives of others.

Wilson recognized the food insecurities she was seeing in her community and its surrounding areas, so she made it her mission to address them. She began feeding people at 16th Street Park in Bayonne six years ago.

That led to the formation of Hunger Free Unity in the Community, which serves multiple communities in Hudson County with a 100 percent volunteer operation. Hunger Free operated through the COVID-19 pandemic and the need is increasing because of inflation, rent increases, and gas prices.

Hunger Free plays a critical role in providing fresh produce, canned items, Hello Fresh meal kits, bread, fresh eggs, juice, bakery items, chips, holiday meals, and any food and or clothing items donated.

Community service in her DNA

Giving back runs through Wilson’s blood. She is so committed to her food distributions, will do anything to feed people including learning how to drive trucks to deliver food.

“Everyone thought I was crazy but I had to learn how to drive trucks,” Wilson said. “If there is food being donated I am going to get it on a bicycle, a scooter, or a truck. I’m going to pick it up and get it to folks who need it at our weekly food distribution. My next adventure is to learn how to drive an 18-wheeler”.

That 18-wheeler may be needed soon because Hunger Free is now distributing dozens of pallets of food weekly to Hudson County communities. Distributions are weekly on Saturdays, year-round, in outdoor locations like parks or various church or school parking lots.

Wilson’s army of volunteers was also recognized for their work.

“Food insecurity knows no season, nor does it take a vacation,” Wilson said. “Families now are forced to choose whether they will pay rent or purchase food for their family. That kind of food insecurity should not happen in America”.

Hunger Free currently borrows trucks and rents trucks to move all of those pallets. They are accepting donations to purchase their own used box truck which will provide the flexibility to pick up palleted food donations from a greater variety of corporate food donors. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are 100 percent tax-deductible. To donate, go to HungerFreeUIC.org and use the donate button.

The next distribution is Saturday, June 25 at the Harrison High School parking lot. Saturday, July 2, Hunger Free will distribute food in Bayonne at Hudson County Park. The full schedule of distributions can be found on their Facebook page at facebook.com/HungerFreeUIC.

Lauding Hunger Free’s work

For their dedication to the community, Wilson and her army of volunteers are proud of the recognition from the Russ Berrie Foundation. Officials from Ramapo lauded Hunger Free UIC for their work that won them the award, as well as the other winners.

Ramapo College President Cindy Jebb said the college has worked with the Russ Berrie Foundation to present the Making a Difference Awards to unsung heroes who make New Jersey a better place to live.

“Each one has truly made a difference on the individuals and communities across our state,” Jebb said.

Since 1997, 4,00 people have been nominated for the award with 330 nominations in 2022 and 12 awarded, according to Steve Adubato, of Caucus Educational Corp., who hosted the presentation.

“The people you meet here, our honorees, they don’t seek attention, they don’t want the spotlight, but they deserve it,” Adubato said.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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