TOMS RIVER – Dreaming is important because sometimes those dreams come true.
The dream of opening a new thrift store boutique to help the homeless belonged to a township resident and that dream became a reality on Aug. 12.
Paul Hulse, the chief executive officer of Just Believe Inc. could not have been happier that day despite a rain storm that threatened a power loss and kept a few shoppers from coming out. The grand opening of the Just Believe Boutique was a big success. It is located at 734 Route 37. The hours are 11- 7 during the week and Sundays are 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
He pointed out a “memory wall,” saying it would always be “filled with pictures. These are just a few to give people a glimpse when they come into the store. We have over 3,000 pictures about what Just Believe does. When people come in, they will see our mission statement and a glimpse of the work we have done here in Toms River and throughout New Jersey and even into Kensington, Philadelphia.”
Hulse said that volunteers worked to make it a boutique thrift store style “so it is comfy cozy and warm. You see a TV that is on the wall here that will run videos and other photos that to provide “a glimpse of what we do here.”
James Havens was among the volunteers who worked during the day. When asked what his duties include, he answered “whatever Paul needs me to do.” The Bayville resident has known Hulse for awhile and has reason to be grateful for the core mission of Just Believe.
“I was homeless in Toms River for quite some time and then I met up with Paul and it took some time but he got me where I needed to be. He helped me out and now I am housed and employable. I am doing good now,” Havens said.
Displays were also set up filled with men’s and women’s shoes, socks, clothes and items in a number of display cases. “Houseware items will be in the back corner for anyone looking for houseware items,” Hulse added.
Hulse said all the proceeds of the store would support the mission of helping the homeless and disenfranchised in the community. They operate the Code Blue shelter that opens in the cold at Riverwood Park in Toms River. They also work through advocacy, case management and a volunteer work program.
Volunteer Michele Quartuccil said, “I am a volunteer and I also work with the Code Blue shelter that we have as the kitchen coordinator. A friend of mine was here first and she asked me if I wanted to join as I had helped homeless people for quite some time. I said yes and fell in love with everybody and the people we help and now I’m hooked. I like to meet and talk to people.”
She said a couple of customers came in during the day who were interested in donating items. “We take housewares, clothes, jewelry, stuff like that. We do debit credit cards here. Right now we have to do it through Paypal but we do debit and credit cards. We usually have about three or four volunteers in here.”
Fellow volunteer Beth Busch said opening day went well and featured a ribbon cutting that involved local politicians as special guests. “Food was donated by the Blue Fountain restaurant next store. It really went well.”
Hulse said, “we have some great ideas and ultimately we want to build a shelter. You have to start somewhere and here we are. This is the first phase of our business plan and we are super, super excited!”
Amanda Mehrman handles a lot of the organization’s promotional work including the videos that will be seen on the store’s television screen.
“I’ve been with the organization since it started. I do a lot of the videos and the mail outs that you see on Facebook and advertising. Our volunteers worked really hard to put this together.”
“As far as donations we did a really good job today in raising funds for our upcoming Code Blue because the weather will be changing soon. For Code Blue we were averaging between 25 to 30 people a night,” Mehrman said.
She added that during this pandemic “a lot of people were being put up so far as homeless in hotels so we made sure that we went out there and were giving out sandwiches and other food. Once they started closing public places like libraries, they didn’t have any resources. Pantries closed down at the churches but we never stopped we just kept going.”
Hulse, who previously served as director of Haven/Beat the Streets said, “we got in here on July 1 but we had to go through some hoops and get permits and some things that were unfamiliar territory but the township was very helpful on getting us through the process and here we are Aug. 12 our one year anniversary as an organization.
“It really is a community effort that is how we got here. I’m excited about what the community and us will do next. To get one person from homelessness into housing is a lot of work. You need to have many resources and many connections. That is what we do we all connect together and help one person at a time,” Hulse said.
“Now we have a place to help rehabilitate people and get them back into the work force and get them around people and into society once more and so they feel they are worth something again and that people care,” Hulse added.
Hulse said that while the organization has around 200 volunteers for Code Blue, with this new venture more would be welcome. He can relate to the plight of being homeless. He lives in Toms River now but originally lived in the southern Ocean County. “I was in Florida for a stint of time due to addiction of my own. I came to the Lord and God changed my life. My life has been dedicated to showing people that if God can change my life he can change theirs to.”
The nearby Christian Revival Center in the same plaza helped a person in need who is now a volunteer at the thrift store. “I’m glad we have this place. It is very impactful and we just opened. All the work done here to get it ready was done by homeless volunteers who said they wanted to give something back and share their talent. There is a lot of love in this place,” Hulse said.
He added, “people always say dreams don’t happen but here we are. Dreams do happen so don’t give up dreaming. Dream big and go for it.”
Hulse described the boutique in a video on the organization’s Facebook page that promoted its opening saying, “when you come into the store, we have a sign here and it says masks so make sure you wear your mask when you come into the store. We have to follow the CDC guidelines.”
Donations of items can be brought to the store. Monetary donations can be mailed to: Just Believe Inc. P.O Box 5441 Toms River NJ 08754. For information on how to volunteer your time, e-mail Paul@justbelieveinc.org.