Shandar Parker stood in front of a packed room at the Montclair Golf Club in West Orange, the site of New Community’s 19th Annual Golf Classic. It was the evening reception where golfers have an opportunity to hear how proceeds from the event benefit New Community families and youth. Few were prepared for what Parker, 29, a former resident of NCC’s Harmony House transitional living facility, was about to share.
“Hello my name is Shandar Parker. I just wanted to take a few minutes to tell everyone how me and my family struggled. On January 24, 2013, my 12-year-old daughter, Yesenia, was shot in the face by her father, which caused her to be wheelchair bound,” Parker told the audience, as she pointed out her eldest daughter in the crowd.
The bullet traveled downward and ended up shattering and severely damaging the spinal cord of Yesenia, a once-active drill team member who still dreams of one day becoming a lawyer. While her mother still cannot explain what possessed Yesenia’s father to come to the family’s then Camden apartment on that January day armed with a gun—today he sits in a jail cell—the tragedy still serves to highlight the important role that Harmony House plays in being there for families in crisis.
From May to September, the Parkers lived in one of the 102 transitional apartments at Harmony House in Newark, a place Shandar Parker was familiar with because she had lived there before. A few weeks ago, the Parkers were able to transition from their temporary apartment into a permanent, three bedroom townhouse located in New Community’s Ocean Bayview housing complex in Jersey City.
“I know that more doors will continue to open and that this is not the end, this is a new beginning,” said Parker, a single mother with two other daughters, Serenity, 8, and Sameerah, 6. “Thank you to NCC Harmony House for all they have done.” New Community’s Golf Classic raised money not only for Harmony House, but for youth programs like the Monsignor William J. Linder Scholarship Fund. The event, which also included lunch, was supported in large part by Platinum sponsors Wells Fargo and WithumSmith + Brown, PC. The Gold Sponsors were Averill Fundraising Solutions, Claremont Construction, Concentra Medical, Tishman Construction, VNA Health Group and Philadelphia Insurance. Barnabas Health was also a sponsor. “It’s about kids and kids are the most important thing in our lives. This is a good cause and it helps them to develop,” said Pablo Santiago, manager of Newark Cabinets, another company which supported the event.
“I really did not know about this charity. I think it’s a terrific program,” added Vince Pugliese, who was part of a foursome headed by Michael J. Kasian, Senior Vice President of Tishman Construction Corp. Yesenia Parker, 12, covered with the scarecrow blanket as she sits in her wheelchair during New Community’s Golf Classic, with her mother, Shandar Parker, far left, and sisters Serenity, 8, and Sameerah, 6.Angel Wilcox, another Harmony House resident, thanked the golfers. “It lets us realize we are not in this alone,” she said.
Richard Rohrman, Executive Director of New Community, thanked all 70 golfers for their support, as well as the other friends and employees who came out for the fundraiser, one of NCC’s largest of the year. “I’ve met a lot of people who are psyched up about what we do,” Rohrman said. “Your commitment to New Community and just to have you here is very gratifying to us.”