New Community Corporation has steadfastly remained true to its mission of improving quality of life for over 45 years. Many of its programs and initiatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Take time to learn more about some of the people whose lives have been impacted by New Community:
Young Harmony House Resident Sprints Toward Her Dreams
She may be a sprinter on the track, but Infinity Hedrington is learning to chase her dreams with patience, despite life’s obstacles.
A rising junior at West Side High School in Newark, Hedrington has snagged more than two dozen medals and awards in just the first half of her high school track career. She made her debut, as a freshman, at the storied Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the nation.
In April, 16-year-old Hedrington and her parents, Michelle and Rudolph Jr., moved into New Community’s Harmony House, a transitional housing facility for homeless families. They had been temporarily living with Michelle’s mother at her home on Sixth Street but were forced to move when the space became too cramped. Rudolph Jr. lost his job with Home Depot in Vauxhall in July of 2013 and since then, he and his wife say they have struggled to find jobs.
Despite her family facing tough times, Hedrington has not allowed “seasons of difficulty in life define who she is,” said head track coach at West Side High, NaDeen Richardson, who also mentors the teen. Hedrington became captain of the girls varsity track and field team this season, which concluded in May.
Hedrington has high hopes for her track career beyond high school. Her goal is to earn a full ride track scholarship to a Division 1 college. She even dreams of competing in the Olympics one day.
But for now, Hedrington’s top priority is earning high marks on her report card.
“I have to do good in school because I don’t want to lose track,” she said. So far, the teen has managed to stay competitive in both arenas of academics and athletics. She earned a spot on the high school’s “Super Honor Roll” in December of 2013 and her report card, which her mother keeps a copy of on her cell phone, boasts mainly As and a few Bs.
“As parents, we’re so proud,” Rudolph Jr. said.
Born in Newark, Hedrington grew up in Virginia and after more than a decade, she and her parents returned to the Brick City in 2012. Hedrington, the youngest of five siblings, signed up to run her first race — a 10-mile Shamrock Run in Virginia Beach — with members of her fourth grade class.
“I was fast and people said I should keep going,” Hedrington recalled of people’s reactions after she finished the race.
Hedrington’s signature race is the 200 meter dash, which is “all in your mind,” she said. At the sound of the starting gun, she leaps off the line and says she focuses on her technique, not on her opponents.
Knees up, chin down, get off the turn fast, Hedrington silently repeats.
Before each race, Hedrington says she recites the Scripture verse that her father repeats to her every morning. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she says, quoting Philippians 4:13.
Emergency Food Pantry Poised For Expansion
New Community’s Emergency Food Pantry is slated to expand to more than double its current capacity in the coming months.
NCC’s Health and Social Services Department is expanding its food storage area from its existing storage shelves inside the building at 220 Bruce St. to a large room formerly used as a storage space near the entrance of the building. The new space allows for two new large freezers to store perishables such as meats, according to Tahisha Chambers, Director of New Community Home Friend Program who also oversees the food pantry. Previously, the emergency pantry had one freezer, she said.
“It’s way bigger than just that area there,” Chambers said comparing the new space to the existing food storage area. “I think it’ll serve more families.”
Social Services is working with the Environmental Services staff to renovate the unused storage room to store both perishable and nonperishable items.
The emergency pantry opens on the 16th of each month and is available to any adult who shows identification with a New Jersey residence. Individuals with no identification may receive emergency food. The emergency pantry, which is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., receives food from the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Food bags for individuals contain rice, oatmeal, vegetables, beans, frozen whole chicken, peanuts, macaroni and cheese, canned fruit and canned chicken. In addition to those items, bags prepared for families include cereal and milk.
New Lease On Life, Even With ‘Old’ Stuff
Sharon Thompkins still has some unpacking to do. But the bathroom in her new apartment is fully decorated in pink and her living room is meticulously arranged with a camel-colored sofa set, accent lamps and a curved glass coffee table — all in her beloved art deco style.
“That’s my motif,” she said, admiring the furniture that was held in storage for 18 months after she was laid off from her longtime job at the Newark Housing Authority.
Thompkins lost her apartment and bounced around several temporary living situations, including spending some nights in her white, two-door Mercury Cougar, which was filled with papers, clothing and food. Last year her car was totaled in an accident.
For Thompkins, 53, her nearly brand-new bedroom set and color-coordinated bathroom represent more than just a fully furnished apartment — they symbolize how far she’s come since becoming homeless in 2012.
“It’s like I’ve been reunited with my life,” said Thompkins, who got the keys to her new home March 10. “A lot of people lose their stuff.”
She credits the New Community Family Resource Success Center with connecting her to social services including Project Life, a nonprofit that helps Essex County residents struggling with mental health issues. Thompkins, who says she struggles with depression and anxiety, received a housing voucher from Project Life.
Born in Newark, Thompkins says she had a close relationship with her father after her mother died when she was just 8. She struggled to cope with his death in 2009 and when she lost her job in 2011, her life seemed to unravel.
“Once I got laid off, I was traumatized,” Thompkins said, adding that Family Resource Success Center Director Joann Williams-Swiney and her staff offered Thompkins “endless support.”
“New Community has really been a force in my life,” she added. “They have so much valuable information.”
He Became A Chef With The Help Of New Community
Jawan Perine, a graduate of New Community’s Culinary Arts Specialist Program, landed a job as a chef at Legal Seafoods in Short Hills following his completion of the seven-month program.
“I loved the school. I learned a lot of things and really got my speed up,” he said.
For as long as he can remember, Perine has been fascinated by cooking.
“I was a little chubby kid, so I always ate. I was watching cooking shows since I was 8 or 9 and cooking since I was 12,” he said. “I would write down recipes from the TV and give it to my mom or start trying to cook it myself.”
The upscale restaurant where he works is located in the Short Hills Mall and its entrees include dishes like lobster risotto, double stuffed shrimp, baked scrod and stuffed flounder.
For more information on New Community’s Culinary Arts Specialist Program, call the Workforce Development Center at 973 824-6484.