Become a Young Philanthropists

Montessori Students Choose IHN for Drive

MCAassemblylineEvery year, elementary-aged students at the Montessori Children’s Academy of Short Hills vote on a charity that they’d like to support and this year IHN received the honor.

Their project involved conducting a drive for children’s hats, gloves, and gently used coats. What was special about the Academy’s involvement is that they wove the project throughout their curriculum so the children were able to experience every facet of the drive.

Besides choosing the charity, during computer class the children designed the posters, flyers and promotional materials they would need to procure donations. Further, the students collected fabric, made patterns and sewed drawstring bags used to package the goods. Lastly, they learned about assembly lines and used the lesson to sort the hats, gloves, and mittens, package them in the bags and distribute the donations.


According to the elementary teachers, “When the students were choosing a community service project in the fall they felt that collecting hats, scarves, gloves, and other clothing items for the Interfaith Hospitality Network was very important, so people could keep warm. They were glad they picked this project because of the extremely cold winter we had this year. They were very proud of what they accomplished and how many people they helped.”

IHN has distributed many of these darling bags to children in our Emergency Shelter and Home for Good Programs. They’re thankful to have what they need to keep warm as they go to school each day.

Twin Talents Benefit IHN

It’s a wonderful thing that each of us possesses varied talents and gifts. And it becomes a blessing when those talents are used for good.

That’s how it is with Jeremy and Maya Stepansky. When it was time for them to formulate plans for their mitzvah project, their thoughts turned to what they enjoyed most: making music. As instrumentalists, song writers, and singers, the twins envisioned recording a CD to benefit homelessness, a cause close to their heart.

Having volunteered numerous times for Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex County (IHN) by serving meals and playing with the children, the Stepanskys understand that family homelessness is a reality that plays out right in their own community.

It came to be, then, that Jeremy and Maya chose the songs to include on the CD, some of which they wrote. From November 2011 to March 2012, they recorded all of the tracks in their living room-turned-recording studio. From start to finish, it is a thoroughly Jeremy and Maya production as they played all of the instruments, sang the vocals, designed the cover, produced, and even arranged every song.

Aptly titled “Notes from Home,” Jeremy and Maya are now distributing the CDs in exchange for donations of $15 or more to Interfaith Hospitality Network (and also to the International Rescue Committee for their work with displaced people), with the goal of raising $2,500 for each organization. They will gladly accept donation checks made out to IHN (and/or IRC).

Please mail donations to them at 172 Summit Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07043; a CD will be sent for every donation received. Orders and inquiries can also be sent to them at

Jeremy and Maya say they hope their “living room project” will lead to more living rooms for others. IHN couldn’t agree more.

Far Brook Students Help Children at Bedtime


Ask any young child what it’s like not to be able to sleep in their own bed and you’ll see a frown form on their little face. It’s scary, unsettling, and just plain hard to fall asleep. And it’s also unimaginable to everyone except the kids who are living through it.

Recently, children from Far Brook School wondered what they could do to help make nighttime easier for other children who were sleeping in the IHN shelter. Facilitated by fifth-grade teacher Ellen Maddrey, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders came up with several useful ideas and quickly went to work. After all, kids are experts when it comes to knowing what other kids like at bedtime.

First, the children assembled bedtime kits. To make them special they included such items as little stuffed animals, favorite books, decorated plastic cup and toothbrush, notepad and pen, and decorated flip flops. They also decorated placemats to be used during mealtime at the shelter. Finally, the kids decorated bookmarks with a poem or note.

Far Brook staff member Jennifer Barba and a few students visited the families at Prospect Presbyterian Church and gave them their handiwork. The nighttime kits were especially meaningful for two families who had just come into the shelter that day. Apprehensive of their new living situation, the nighttime kits reinforced the knowledge that they were cared for by others in the community.

As it often goes, the participants end up being equally blessed by their interactions. After spending the day making kits and decorating placemats for the families, one boy told his mother that this had been “the best day of [his] life.”

MHS Students and IHN Join for 3rd Annual 5K Event


Plans for the May 12, IHN 5K Race Against Homelessness in Brookdale Park get developed by Tia Aery, executive director of the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), and students Susannah Keys, 17, and Lila Rosenman, 18, at a meeting Friday, May 4, in the Montclair IHN office in Central Presbyterian Church.

Last summer, Trisha Ware and her six children were all set to move into a new apartment. The lease was up at their place in West Orange, and the move would have been a bit of a downsize, as the single mother had just been laid off from her job of 20 years in a pediatrician’s office. But last August, Hurricane Irene slammed into New Jersey.

Turning Birthdays into Charitable Occasions

MONTCLAIR, N.J. Feb. 1, 2011— The Interfaith Hospitality Network is often bowled over by the generosity of friends and volunteers, but what’s really amazing are the acts of children.

Take Simon and Noah Glass, two brothers who turned 5 and 7 years old respectively in December. This past year, instead of receiving birthday presents, they asked their friends to donate to IHN.

birthday cake

Of course, IHN didn’t know this until we got an online gift honoring them on their special day. Then we received another gift, and then another, sometimes several in one day. This selfless gesture was starting to add up!

When we asked their mom Kerry what led the boys to ask for donations to IHN in lieu of gifts, she explained that they had volunteered when IHN families were staying at their temple. The boys had a great time playing with the kids there. Noah, the eldest, was particularly sobered by the thought that a boy just like him was living in a multi-purpose room with sheets as bedroom dividers.

It just didn’t seem right.

Wanting to make a difference, it wasn’t hard for them to forgo their birthday presents. In fact, Kerry says she only heard one complaint in a moment of weakness.

Homelessness shouldn’t seem right to anyone, and we’re grateful for Noah and Simon’s sensitivity and desire to improve the world for others. It takes all of us working together to make a change and the Glass boys are right in the mix!

Selling Lemonade for a Cause

MONTCLAIR, N.J. — On one very hot day, two brothers with nothing but free time on their hands had an idea: set up a lemonade and cookie stand in front of the house and raise money for a good cause.


Finding a worthwhile organization wasn’t hard because Mom works for Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex County and Dad works for The Bowery Mission, both of which are homeless agencies. But which organization would receive the funds?

Not wanting to favor mom over dad or the other way around, Christian and Timothy decided they would advertise for both and split the money. When it came time to send off the donation, Timmy composed his letter to The Bowery Mission while Christian wrote to IHN.

That’s what we call turning idle time to charitable good. Thanks, boys!

Giving Back as a Way of Life

MONTCLAIR, N.J. — The Back Yard Girls isn’t your usual day camp where you make a craft, learn a new skill, and take a hike in the woods.

Sure, they do plenty of those things, but each day they pair them with an act of generosity. You might find the Backyard Girls tie-dying shirts, but they’re actually Onesies that they’re working on for a sale later that week to benefit a local non-profit.

backyard girls

Knowing of the camp’s work, the Interfaith Hospitality Network was thrilled to find out that the Back Yard Girls would be helping by donating school supplies. But they didn’t just collect them and drop them off. Instead, they lovingly decorated oatmeal containers that they used for storing the school supplies.

On a later occasion, the girls made items that they sold to benefit IHN in front of the South Orange train station, all the while telling passersby about IHN’s mission of helping homeless families.

Many thanks to Bethany Pettigrew, Alison Yablonsky, and Guada Bas, the leaders of Step2Gether’s Back Yard Girls for teaching girls about the joy of giving back.