BRICK – Friends and relatives described Carol Wolfe as someone who forever improved the lives of local families…as well as her own family.
Wolfe, 80, had received dozens of awards and recognitions, but she was best known as the founder of Dottie’s House and Homes Now.
Dottie’s House, named after her own mother, started in 1999 as a program for women and children to gain independence after domestic violence. Homes Now, started in 1997, is a non-profit that has built and monitors more than 200 quality affordable housing units, such as the Chambers Bridge Residence. According to her obituary, she raised more than $30 million in funding through grants for her programs. She retired from Homes Now in 2017.
Her daughter, Karen Wehmeyer, painted a picture of Sunday dinners where – despite all the hectic running around of modern life – family gathered around for big Italian meals like macaroni and meatballs.
“Mom was all about family,” she said. There are a lot of obligations, but her family came first. She had four children, ten grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. She was married to Assemblyman David Wolfe (R-10th).
Sometimes, family and work were combined. She’d recruit relatives to help in fundraising events.
“She made time for us,” she said. “Weekends were spent at Meemaw’s house.”
Lately, she had become a snowbird, splitting her time between here and Florida. In addition to her extended family, she surrounded herself with great friends, her daughter said. She enjoyed seeing Broadway shows, gardening, and watching tennis (and yelling at the players on TV).
She was a strong woman, Wehmeyer said. Her medical prognosis was difficult at the end, but loved ones figured that if anyone could get through it, it was her.
“She put up a good fight,” she said. “The doctor said it was a more difficult surgery than anticipated.”
The lawmakers who also represented the 10th District, Senator James Holzapfel and Assemblyman Greg McGuckin, mourned her loss.
“It’s a terrible situation,” Holzapfel said, as David Wolfe had announced his retirement and Carol Wolfe had retired from Homes Now.
“She was so good for Brick and for Ocean County,” he said, noting her many causes, including the ARC.
Things have changed during the time she started Dottie’s House, he said. Today, people are more aware of domestic violence, but when she started the organization, it wasn’t talked about as much.
“She was a great lady who did so much for our community, and for women who had nowhere else to turn,” McGuckin said. “She saw a need and really took the time to help people.”
Dottie’s House is an opportunity for women to turn over the next chapter of their lives in a safe environment, he said. It is a one-stop shop toward independence. There are a lot of people in need, and she was someone who could get them that help.
Karen Kirton, a case manager for Dottie’s House, said that it is more than just a shelter. While shelters are important, Dottie’s House provides a safe haven so women can become self-sufficient. It’s the beginning of a journey.
One goal of Dottie’s House is to inspire the residents to give back, so they would be part of fundraisers and share the group’s message, she said.
“I have known Carol for 15 years. I remember the first time I met her. The first thing she talked about was her mother,” Kirton said. “I feel like I’ve learned so much in this program because she was such a strong force.”
In more recent years, she would work from her home office and make sure that the best people were running the day-to-day operation. She would still appear at every fundraiser, Kirton said. Even as she retired from other obligations, “She couldn’t let go of Dottie’s House; she loved her mom so much.”
She estimated that the organization has probably helped 150-200 families in its history. And Wolfe’s legacy goes beyond that: Lifting up one woman and her children will put the next generation in a better place, and so on forever.
A viewing will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 4-8 p.m. at O’Brien Funeral Home, 505 Burnt Tavern Rd., Brick. A Funeral Mass will be offered on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 11 a.m. at St. Martha’s RC Church, Point Pleasant. Cremation is private.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Dottie’s House, P.O. Box 4002, Brick, NJ 08723.