Monmouth-Based Nonprofit Going Strong After Sandy
Folding, cleaning, sorting and shelving, a flurry of activity at Neptune-based nonprofit Madonna House as volunteers organize the area where new toys, cloths and games are being kept for their major Christmas giveaway project. They tuck away the used items in storage and place the extra's to the side because the Madonna House gives away items year-round to anywhere from 3 to 5-thousand needy families in the Monmouth County area who are referred to them by churches, social service agencies, hospitals, clinics, schools, courts, police and the like.
They also sell gently used cloths, bedding, small appliances, exercise equipment, dish ware and other household items in an adjoining thrift shop, the sole means of support for the 26 year old charity located on Route 35 and 7th Avenue, where Madonna House Founder and Director Rebecca Blonski also lives.
But Christmas is special, according to the bubbly blonde Blonski. She insists that no used items go to children at Christmas. Her goal is to give away brand new cloths and toys to over 1,000 children who's parents have difficulty providing the basic necessities and don't have a penny to spare.
She says they don't just give away one toy. "We try to give every child a hat, glove and scarf set. We give them stocking stuffers. Every child gets a stuffed animal. Every child gets a bigger toy and a smaller toy. Every girl gets a doll. We particularly need African American dolls and we try to give out footballs, basketballs for the boys, games, educational toys are very important for children. So any of those items would be very much appreciated."
She meets with families daily by appointment to fill their Christmas lists and she says she tries to also find gifts for the Moms and older teens as well.
Blonski says every instance makes it worth it. Especially when a Mom tells me 'I didn't have anything for my baby' and now after the Superstorm, she says there are so many families who have been displaced. "Families lost their furniture and their belongings but children lost their toys, so we really want to concentrate on Christmas by helping families who need things for their children."
Blonski, the mother of eleven children, nine of whom are adopted, says the idea for the Madonna House began soon after she adopted her first child from Juarez Mexico. She says her adopted son was one of 13 children and half of them died of starvation or lack of sanitary conditons. She says she was so moved when she returned from Juarez that she prayed for guidance to do something the help. Blonski says the idea came to her to begin collecting items for the needy in the Neptune area while she was en route to a clothing drive in Trenton.
Blonski says the Madonna House isn't affiliated with any particular church but considers her nonprofit a faith-based organization because she says their purpose is to serve others. "We get donations from all different churches. We even get them from Jewish organizations, all Christian organizations and we turn no one away. When people need something. We do ask that they get a referral to come here."
The Madonna House also will not accept federal, state, county or local funding of any kind. Blonski says "everything that we give away or sell has been donated by very kind and generous individuals who cherish and support our work." There's also no paid staff. Blonski says they're an all-volunteer 501.3c charity. She says they are supported by an adjoining thrift shop. "Since I opened up the thrift store, people give us beautiful items and people love to shop thrift stores ... but our thrift store is special because it's so beautiful it looks like a boutique!"
Blonski says everyday for them is Christmas. "If we can only help one person it would make it all worth it but we help thousands", she says with a chuckle.
The Monday House Thrift Store is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. located at 1401, 7th Avenue, Neptune N.J. 07753. Phone# 848-469-0102
She says they're especially in need of boys clothing ages 4 to 15.
Listen to a conversation with Rebecca Blonski