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The HOPE Center in Toms River sees increased need for services and programming in 2022

The HOPE Center in Toms River sees increased need for services and programming in 2022

The local nonprofit stands ready to serve its neighbors throughout Ocean County.

Toms River, NJ – Where there is a need, The HOPE Center is determined to find a way. Looking back on the last seven years, inclusive of a pandemic crisis that the world has not seen before, The HOPE Center in Toms River has experienced an increase in the number of clients in need of assistance. Some are imminently or literally homeless due to a lack of shelter and a growing shortage of affordable housing in Ocean County. Others are simply unable to pay their bills (i.e., rent, mortgage, utilities, medical, etc.) due to the imbalance between their income and the ever-increasing cost of living. “Throughout these challenging times, The HOPE Center has remained open and ready to serve in all circumstances,” said Amy VanBezooijen of The HOPE Center.

The HOPE Center’s assistance to the homeless population increased by 195 percent between 2015 and 2016 and 123 percent between 2016 and 2017. The Ocean County-based nonprofit provided families/individuals with 381 nights of safe shelter in 2016, 851 nights in 2017, 560 nights in 2019 and 333 nights in 2020. In 2021, this number dramatically increased to 930 nights of safe emergency shelter. This number does not include those individuals/families The HOPE Center was unable to assist due to limited funding.

Last year, through generous community support, The HOPE Center was able to assist 17,635 men, women and children. The nonprofit’s full service, client choice Food Pantry provided 265,333 lbs. of food for those seeking food security. “We also provided clients with more than $3,000 in gift cards, provided 34 households with transportation, and assisted with 27 gas, water and electric bills,” VanBezooijen added. “There is just such a tremendous need in our community.”

In October and November 2021, The HOPE Center collected and distributed 177 warm winter coats to neighbors in need. It also served over 600 meals with Operation BBQ Relief, and shared 123 hats, 63 scarves, 171 gloves/mittens, 100 blankets and 33 packages of diapers, wipes, bibs and baby blankets with the community. In December, The HOPE Center distributed 100 Christmas meal baskets with turkeys and hams and provided over 1,000 gifts/toys to 141 children and 54 families.

2020 versus 2021, year-over-year numbers:

  • 16.25% increase in food shared
  • 34% increase in people served
  • 403 new clients
  • 178.9% increase in emergency shelter provided
  • 58.8% increase in utility assistance provided
  • 400% increase in rental assistance
  • 41.7% increase in transportation provided
  • 166.8% increase in Human Needs Resources (dollars) shared

“Most of our budget is dependent on fundraising events and donations,” said VanBezooijen. “As a result of the current pandemic, we are still unable to hold several of our major fundraisers. In the past year, the support expressed by our individual donors and partnering organizations demonstrates just how big our hearts can be. We thank you.”

To continue to support its neighbors in need, The HOPE Center asks that you consider “one small act” by making a special contribution The HOPE Center by visiting HouseOfHopeOcean.org. For volunteer opportunities, please call 732-341-4447.

The HOPE Center is located at 253 Chestnut Street in Toms River. To learn more or for volunteer opportunities, visit houseofhopeocean.org.

About The HOPE Center The HOPE Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization initiated by the Clergy Association of Greater Toms River. Within a place of hope and faith, the mission of The HOPE Center is to serve families in crisis with dignity and compassion, providing for their basic human needs, and striving to empower each person to achieve his or her greatest level of self-sufficiency. Current hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9am to 3pm. To reach The HOPE Center, call 732-341-4447. After 4pm, for emergency services, please call 211.