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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

The Unforgotten Haven-A Blessing Hub for Those in Need

Nov 30, 2021 09:00AM ● By by Sheila Julson

Michele Gambone never intended to start a nonprofit. In 2014, she helped a homeless family that had been living in their car. Soon after, her living room was full of donated items she had collected for that family. That effort led to the Unforgotten Haven, a multifaceted nonprofit that to date has helped 1.5 million homeless persons, veterans, seniors and animals obtain necessary items. 

The organization is 100 percent volunteer-operated. People can stop by six days a week to get free food, diapers, infant formula, pet food and feminine hygiene products. Gambone has a team of 26 managers that staff the building to distribute items and collect and sort donations.  

In addition, the Unforgotten Haven has more than 20 project groups designed to help people in need. Every Sunday, volunteers travel to Philadelphia and also Camden, New Jersey, to distribute bagged lunches and Blessing Bags with trial-sized toiletries, snacks, gloves and socks to 600 homeless people. 

The Cookies for Charity Project organizes families to bake cookies for the homeless. Gambone notes it’s a project that families can do together in their own kitchens, and teens can qualify for community service hours. The organization distributes approximately 1,000 cookies per week. 

Other efforts include Empowerment Bags, with items for women in domestic violence shelters. Aunt Flo’s In Town Project has feminine hygiene products for women and girls. Yarn for a Cause is the Unforgotten Haven’s knitting and crocheting club that makes winter items. 

The Unforgotten Haven also assists with disaster relief. They provided $15,000 in cash donations to victims affected by an F-3 tornado that touched down in Gloucester County, New Jersey, last September. 

The Christmas Winter Wonderland 2021 project will distribute gifts to children and teens. Through December 6, people can donate toys for babies and children, along with gift sets of cologne, makeup, gift cards and other items appropriate for teens. Gifts should be valued at $30 or less. Distribution takes place December 11 and 12. 

Last year, the Unforgotten Haven distributed more than 4,000 gifts. Gambone says a local family helps collect and organize hundreds of gifts for Christmas Winter Wonderland. Their effort is part of Team Gettin It Dunn, formed in memory of Joanne Dunn, who was a devoted supporter of the Unforgotten Haven.  

Anybody can use their services. There’s no income verification; families just have to show an ID to use the pantry once per month. 

The Unforgotten Haven keeps growing. Volunteers, along with myriad individual and corporate donors including Five Below and Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/Fox & Roach Charities, support the organization’s multiple projects that serve South Jersey and beyond. A generous private donation allowed the organization to purchase a larger building, which Gambone says is currently being renovated. She hopes it will be ready for use some time next year. 

Gambone, who works a full-time job in addition to volunteering full-time hours with the Unforgotten Haven, emphasizes that her passionate volunteers and an engaged community help make the organization successful. 

“I’m an instrument of God, but it’s a team effort,” Gambone concludes. “They’re there when I need them. We’ve got a wonderful team.”  

 

The Unforgotten Haven is located at 100 S. Black Horse Pike, in Blackwood, NJ. For more information, email [email protected] or visit TheUnforgottenHaven.org. 

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