Catholic Charities household-item collection under way to welcome immigrants

Every day, the news headlines proclaim fresh heartache in the immigration debate, from family separations to deported DREAMers to extended detentions of immigrants who cross the U.S. border seeking asylum.

But Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton is working to bring smiles and stability to immigrants affected by national immigration policy. Staff at our Community Services headquarters in Lakewood, where our immigration programs are based, are collecting household items to prepare homes for immigrants who are new to New Jersey. The collection drive, called “Welcoming the Stranger,” aims to create a comforting, safe space for immigrants fleeing violence, strife or other hardships in their home countries.

“Pope Francis said that every stranger who knocks on our door is an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ,” said Carmen Pagan (pictured at right), who oversees Catholic Charities’ immigration programs. “These days in the news, we often hear about family separation. We are working hard to help immigrant families find stability. Volunteers and donations help us do that. There are many ways to help.”  

Do you have items to donate? Drop them off at Ocean Emergency and Community Services, 200 Monmouth Ave., Lakewood. Any household items will be accepted, but new items such as bedding, personal-care goods, food, and gift cards to clothing stores are especially needed.

Are you able to volunteer to help set up a new home or transport household items there? Contact Pagan at (732) 901-3261 or [email protected] to see what hands-on help might be needed.

Prefer to donate financially? Mail checks or gift cards to Ocean Emergency and Community Services, 200 Monmouth Ave., Lakewood, NJ 08701.Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton provided immigration-support services to about 600 people last year in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties and currently is assisting several children affected by the national family separation policy, Pagan said.

These programs are available to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation. If you or someone you know is an immigrant in need of assistance, reach out to Catholic Charities today:

  • Immigration Services in Ocean and Monmouth counties. Legal assistance and help completing immigration forms and filings. Contact: Giselle Gonzalez, (732) 363-5322, ext. 3236.
  • Human Trafficking Assistance program. Support services for people who have overcome human trafficking (which in an immigration context typically involves forced labor or commercial exploitation). Contact: Maria Nikolatos, (732) 363-5322, ext. 3239.
  • Family Reunification program. Stabilizing support services, such as housing assistance, trauma counseling, health care connections, school enrollment assistance and referrals, for families reunified with their relatives or sponsors after immigration-related separation. Contact: Mary Zeno, (732) 363-5322, ext. 3231.
  • Community Services. Food pantry, clothing, housing and financial assistance. Mercer County: (609) 394-8847. Burlington County: (856) 764-6940. Ocean County: (732) 901-3261.
  • El Centro in Mercer and Burlington counties. Legal assistance to help residents achieve citizenship and naturalization. Contact: (609) 394-2056.

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