JACKSON – The motto of the New Jersey Angels is “Wrapping community around children, youth and families in the foster care community through intentional giving, relationship building and mentoring,” and two township women were doing their part recently in bringing awareness to that mission.
Their group had a table at Jackson Day to spread the word about their goals and to promote their first Fall Festival. Their goals are to change the experience of foster care for children, youth and families.
“We are a non-profit organization which is part of a national organization,” said President Sheryl Oliver of Jackson. “We launched this year and support foster families through our programs: Love Box and Dare to Dream. We are volunteers who come in and are matched with a foster family and they wrap love and community around them to be able to support them in the work they are doing without being so overwhelmed and isolated.”
Children who are removed from their homes due to neglect, abuse, and parental drug use need the nurturing and temporary protection a foster family can provide. Fifty percent of foster homes close within the first year due to parents feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped according to New Jersey Angels.
“Our groups come in and support families. When the family thrives, the child thrives and everything works out better. Statistically, the foster care system leads to some horrible statistics for kids. Fifty percent of kids in foster care graduate from high school and only 3 percent get a college degree. It is a pipeline to prison, incarceration, homelessness and human trafficking,” Oliver said.
She added that all of those problems “have a relationship in some way to some percentage with the foster care system. We come in, support those families and help them continue fostering healthy supportive families in hopes of changing those statistics for children.”
Oliver said “the organization is state wide. I am the president and founder and live right here in Jackson.”
“It is just being there and giving a piece of your heart to these families and children who just need somebody to be there consistently,” said fellow member Barbara Porcelli of Jackson.
The Angels’ programs involve intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship. When foster families are matched with committed volunteers, parents feel supported and children grow a great sense of belonging and self-confidence according to the organization’s literature.
Oliver and Porcelli said the group’s Love Box program provided wraparound support to children and parents that begins with a monthly care package that meets the practical needs of the family. They added that the heart of this program is time spent and meaningful relationships that are built over time.
The Dare to Dream program matches a committed mentor with a young adult (ages 11-21) to provide wisdom, encouragement, and community. They serve as advocates, guides, role models, valued friends, and knowledgeable resources to at-risk youth.
When mentors engage with youth, these young adults feel equipped and confident to navigate life. “More importantly, they trust in the value of their dreams,” a New Jersey Angels pamphlet stated.
The group’s fall festival from 2 to 6 p.m. on October 31 at the Tulip Tree Café in Freehold. It will feature children’s games, a trick or treat costume parade, a gift basket raffle and food and beverages. Carved pumpkin categories include: spookiest, toothy grin, boo-tiful, Halloween creatures, professional, and classic jack (10 years and under). The event is being hosted by Calgo Garden.
Oliver and Porcelli said the New Jersey Angels is looking for more volunteers to get involved and to commit to supporting a local foster or kinship family through the Love Box program or mentor a youth through the Dare to Dream program.
The organization also has a monthly sponsorship program where sponsors commit to joining the group to ensure that every single child has the opportunity to grow up and reach their fullest potential.