U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez will be honored for his contributions to the unique Jubilee Center. — a mecca of enrichment for poor kids in the center of town. In a neighborhood historically linked to gang violence and drugs, the Center brings in 86 kindergarten through sixth grade aged children every day after school for dance lessons, cooking classes, arts and crafts and homework help.
The non-profit is a branch of the All Saints Episcopal Parish’s Community Service and Development Corporation.
“There’s a pretty stark difference,” said Board member Donna Garban, her voice rising above the din of children’s laughter and conversation. “We’re trying to bridge that gap between what the kids on Washington Street experience and what the kids on Jackson Street experience.”
To that end, the Center’s headquarters is a veritable playground, with three floors dedicated to the daily schedule of activities. In the downstairs kitchen, children learn about nutrition. With a trip to the Hoboken Farmer’s Market, they see their food from its beginnings to the finished culinary project.
In the dance room, professionals teach groups the proper ballet technique and rhythms of tap, jazz and African. The arts and craft room’s walls are hung with the children’s self-portraits and there’s talk of starting an intergenerational knitting and quilting project. And in the homework room, tutors spend an hour with individual children, re-enforcing classroom work.
Beyond the invaluable day-to-day support and consistency the Center provides, it excels at exposing children to a whole new horizon and opening their minds to their own potential.
“It effects their complete and fundamental understanding of the possibilities available to them,” said Executive Director Michelle White. “I think it changes their lives. Their perspective is constantly being challenged.”
The Center organized an excursion to the W Hotel’s Zylo Tuscan Steak House where children become familiar with the ins and outs of a world class kitchen with Chef Troy Unruh and made hors d’oeuvres for the Center’s open house. With Natalie Morales of the Today Show, they saw first hand how a trading floor works as part of BGC Partners’ Charity Day where the net proceeds of the day’s sales- sales that the Center’s children helped raise- are donated to various organizations.
For the coming year, Ms. White is spearheading a literacy initiative focused on literature, journaling and self-awareness, as well as investigating a green technology project and expanding the Center’s impact to the parents with financial literacy and community organizing programs.
“We’re looking to do exceptional stuff,” she said.
According to the staff, those exceptional ideas are made possible by Hoboken’s level of support. Program Director Craig Mainor marvels at the tutors, restaurant dinner donations and volunteers for special events that always arrive like clockwork.
The Center is currently in the midst of its major donor campaign, which will be followed by an end of the year letter and a phonathon in March. However, the big ticket fundraiser is the Beloved Community Celebration, a dinner event honoring a member of the community for his or her public service.
Menendez is tentatively scheduled to attend the January 15 dinner at the spectacular Amanda’s Restaurant at 908 Washington Street. Tickets are $250 and could help raise $20,000 for the organization, according to Board Chairman Larry Henriques.
For more information on the Beloved Community Celebration, the Jubilee Center or volunteering, contact: Linda Simpson in the Development Office at 201-792-3563.