The Greater New Jersey Conference’s Peace with Justice Grants have been a blessing to churches and communities working hard to fight poverty, to broaden their reach and connect with diverse neighbors, and to amplify God’s presence in the world.
One recipient of this grant is The Maker’s Place, a faith-based nonprofit organization in Trenton, NJ, that was first established in December of 2018 to meet a crucial need of many low-income families: diapers.
They have grown to offer more services and reach and assist more community members than they first imagined. And they sought the GNJ Peace with Justice Grant to support their two main ministry programs, the Diaper Depot and YOUFirst.
Their flagship program, the Diaper Depot, was born out of necessity, as many residents in the Trenton area lack basic needs. “It has been a Godsend,” shares Minister Callie Crowder. Families visit the Diaper Depot month after month for diapers but also infant formula and other needs. And The Maker’s Place staff do not miss an opportunity to meet and connect with them.
‘It comes naturally because we love people’
“We are intentional about building relationships because we care,” says Crowder, “and God has put those gifts in this house. It just comes naturally to us because we love people.”
In their interactions, some visitors start to open up about what’s going on in their lives, which allows volunteers to pray with them and let them know they are not alone.
Their latest endeavor, the YOUFirst program, only recently came about in 2021. Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, they weren’t seeing as many community members as they would have liked, and they wanted to meet new families. So, they started doing pop-up distributions in different parts of the city, bringing necessities to the people.
The program’s name is inspired by the instructions flight attendants give on airplanes, that we should put our own mask on before assisting other passengers. “Moms are really stretched,” Crowder explains. “They work hard and have so much on their minds. Basic needs are not something people should have to worry about, but they do.”
Therefore, YOUFirst helps moms take care of themselves first so they can take care of others. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
The program offers moms weekends away for respite, gathers them to make vision boards together, and most important, provides mental health support. The Maker’s Place works to mitigate adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and provide a safe environment for struggling community members to talk about mental health issues and to heal from their emotional wounds. They offer group workshops led by chat leaders made up of psychologists, professional experts and others.
‘If we can help them heal, they will be better’
The goal is “to help these women grow and affect how they show up in their lives,” says Crowder. “If we can help them heal, they will be better.”
The new Peace with Justice Grant allows them to include children in their efforts. For many single moms, it’s hard to go out and take care of themselves when they need someone to take care of their kids.
The Maker’s Place has been able to use the grant money to provide childcare, a balanced meal and some fun and games while moms are getting what they need—information, care and community.
“Healing is taking place, and we have the opportunity to close open wounds,” Crowder said. “God is bringing them to the help they need.”
She also hopes the grant money can enable them to hire some local college interns to help. For some, this could be their first experience working with a church, and thus, a meaningful introduction.
The Maker’s Place volunteers love what they do and are committed to the work; and they are just scratching the surface. They are excited to see the women in this program change their lives, and they cherish being a loving space for them.
“We are moving in God’s power and doing exactly what he wants us to do,” says Crowder, who is grateful to be able to help others. “When you are working with that gift, it’s not like you’re working at all.
“We are the church,” she adds, “filling the pastoral care role and creating space for God in the lives of the people we work with.”
The value in that gift of love goes far beyond money. But the Peace with Justice Grant is still a valuable source of aid as they seek to make a difference in people’s lives.
Note: The Maker’s Place is one of GNJ’s Advance Specials & Affiliated Organizations.