Cabaret for Life Reaches The Center Through YOU!
Since the inception of Cabaret for Life in 1995, The Center in Asbury Park has been on our list of beneficiaries. CFL has supported The Center annually for all 20 of our years, and 2015 is no different. CFL is donating $5,000 to be a sponsor of Center a la Circus, happening this Friday night (May 15) at Liberty Park on West Park Avenue in Tinton Falls. The event, taking place under a grand tent, begins at 7 p.m. There will be fabulous restaurants and beverage vendors, great gift baskets and 500 wonderful friends to celebrate with. Tickets are $125. For more information, please see The Center’s website or call (732) 774-3416.
CFL Board Member Judy Hathaway had a moment recently to sit down with the founder of The Center in Asbury Park, Father Bob Kaeding. Here are excerpts from their meeting:
JH: When was your organization established?
FB: The Center opened a little storefront in 1992. We expanded to two different storefronts before buying our current property in 1999 at 806 3rd Avenue in Asbury Park, where both The Center and Center House reside.
JH: Why was the organization founded?
FB: To provide support services for people living with HIV/AIDS in Monmouth County. Many of these people were getting good treatment through Jersey Shore Medical Center. However, we also knew that some of the supplemental services that could make a difference in their lives were lacking: transportation assistance, home visits, hygiene products, and other basic needs. It was also important for these people to have a place to go and connect with others living with HIV/AIDS. Eventually, housing happened, as many people were released from the hospital, with no place to go. The Center had scattered apartments around the county.
JH: Has the mission of your organization changed or evolved since inception?
FB: Around 2000, we went with permanent housing and hired a few employees instead of relying totally on volunteers. Twenty-five single residents now have their own studio apartment with a kitchen and bathroom. Most of the residents are on permanent disability; a few work, and others are in the program for healing.
JH: What is the most important message for your organization to get out to the public?
FB: Society needs to take care of those who are most vulnerable. When we do this, it makes us more human when we help others.
JH: Can you share a story about one of the clients you’ve helped?
FB: A 24-year old resident, struggling with HIV/AIDS since he was a teenager, alienated from his family, comes every day to The Center. He has a job. He has never been in prison. He lives in a motel which The Center pays for. He is now qualified for an apartment at The Center.
Another resident was incarcerated due to addiction. Lost everything: home, family, job. He worked very hard on his sobriety. He has since moved to his own place, but comes back often to visit and be with the other residents. He said The Center was life-saving for him.
JH: Can you tell us about your key volunteers or employees?
FB: Clark Shannon is the Director of Operations and oversees the day-to-day operations of The Center and Center House complex. He is responsible for the provision of safety and security provided for Center House residents, Center clients and Center staff and volunteers. Clark dedicates much of his time to orchestrate and coordinate The Center’s signature annual fundraising events — the Jersey Shore AIDS Walk and Center a la Carte. He was in media relations for corporate America, and this experience has been instrumental in his successful fundraising activities.
Colleen Volpe, Coordinator of Volunteers, schedules, trains and oversees and coordinates the tasks for The Center’s 75+ volunteers. She is retired from the Staff Development and Training Office of the Monmouth County Division of Social Services, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this full-time volunteer position.
JH: How have the funds donated by CFL been utilized by your organization?
FB: CFL gives unrestricted donations, which means The Center can put the money to the greatest use where funding is lacking (an organization cannot do this with grant money). We have many needs, such as hiring artists to put on art workshops for the residents, trips to Blue Claws games, Meals-To-Go (frozen meals that can be taken home). CFL’s donation pays for the microwaveable containers, which cost $6K/year.
JH: What else would you like others to know about The Center?
FB: We see ourselves as a community organization, and support of community is so important. Clients need to know that CFL is supporting them, and they are not alone.
Secondly, AIDS is manageable but has not gone away: newly-diagnosed clients still show up.
Cabaret for Life is honored to count The Center in Asbury Park and Center House among our most loyal followers and supporters. Thank you for helping us help Father Bob and The Center!
Mission Statement of The Center in Asbury Park
The Center in Asbury Park, Inc., is a volunteer-based New Jersey not-for-profit service organization, providing support services for people living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers. The Center in Asbury Park offers its clients and volunteers a safe haven in order to instill a sense of community and stability in their lives. The Center fulfills its mission by:
- Housing Programs: Center House, a permanent residence to 25 individuals living with HIV/AIDS; emergency placement for homeless individuals; rental and utility subsidies to prevent homelessness.
- Nutrition Programs: Emergency food and nutrition pantry; Meals-to-Go, frozen home-cooked meals; a daily lunch program; monthly Sunday dinners.
- Referral Services: Empowering clients by providing connection to other service providers and programs.
- Transportation Services: Provide transportation for medical and other needs.
- Education: Lectures and forums for clients, staff and volunteers.