Finding A Cause By Helping People In Need

Stanley Rosenthal. (Photo courtesy Facebook)
Stanley Rosenthal. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

MANCHESTER – Stan Rosenthal downsized his property tax bill by moving from Monmouth County to Manchester four years ago, he said. The retired stockbroker raised his family in Marlboro, and lived in Holmdel for years.

He remembered what a wealthy client of his—a man then in his 80s—told him when Rosenthal decided to retire in his late 50s. Rosenthal’s own father had died at 64. The man told him that he needed to find something to do, to have a reason to get up every morning, or he would wither.

Rosenthal took that message to heart.

Though he relocated to Ocean County, most of Rosenthal’s volunteer work has been in Monmouth County. While he did some volunteer work through his synagogue, after he retired in the early 2000s, he devoted his time to several volunteer-driven organizations.

He has volunteered for years at Freehold Area Open Door, an interfaith agency that provides emergency food, energy assistance mentoring and scholarships to those in need. Located at 39 Throckmorton St. in Freehold, the Open Door’s food pantry has been operating since 1987, although it started in 1970 as a several-congregation organization to provide clothing to those in need.

“It has been very rewarding. The idea of helping people is very rewarding, I feel like I have a reason for being here,” Rosenthal said.

His work in the pantry led him and a friend of his, Jim Benedict, to open a soup kitchen at the neighboring St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Throckmorton Street. Benedict had run soup kitchens while living in South Carolina; he would run the kitchen while Rosenthal manned the dining room.

Though he’s not involved with the kitchen anymore—which still operates Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays—it was during that time that he spoke to others who inspired his next volunteer calling.

Rosenthal had the opportunity to speak to men and women facing homelessness while he served them at the soup kitchen. Many of them had nowhere warm to stay in these pre-Code Blue years.

Rosenthal and a few others had the question: What can we do?

He approached the Freehold Clergy Association and three female religious leaders offered their facility for the men to use overnights. The Freehold Clergy Association Emergency Housing and Advocacy Program was born; the program has grown to seven churches, which open their doors to men Dec. 1 through March 31. The men are offered warm beds, meals and social services from a visiting social worker.

Pictured from left to right are President Lavelle Jones, Stanley Rosenthal and AARP State Director Stephanie Hunsinger. (Photo courtesy AARP)
Pictured from left to right are President Lavelle Jones, Stanley Rosenthal and AARP State Director Stephanie Hunsinger. (Photo courtesy AARP)

Today, six houses of worship provide a place for men facing homeless to stay: St. Veronica’s Roman Catholic Church and Jerseyville United Methodist Church, both in Howell; Christian Science Church in Freehold Borough; St. Robert Bellarmine Roman Catholic Church and Hope Lutheran Church, both in Freehold Township; and Temple Shaari Emeth in Manalapan.

The issue of women facing homelessness was not as well studied or understood 15 years ago. While there were programs for battered and abused women, few places if any were open to women who didn’t fit that definition. Rosenthal and others helped establish the Women’s Hospitality Network, another interfaith organization that provides shelter for single women during the winter months. It’s based in Asbury Park and Neptune, but because some of the women seeking help are fleeing from abusive situations, the participating houses of worship are not advertised.

Rosenthal said the program is now in its second year and has five participating houses of worship.

“It has a great group of volunteers. We couldn’t do these programs without great volunteers,” Rosenthal said.

He was recently awarded the 2018 AARP Andrus Award, named for AARP’s founder AARP Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. Rosenthal was nominated by Marcia Bartolf, and chosen for personifying “the vision of Dr. Andrus and who gives selflessly to help improve their local community,” according to AARP literature.