Helping Hobokenites ‘from birth to death’
HOPES celebrates 50 years, but many aren’t aware of all the agency’s services
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Mar 16, 2014 | 2080 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The HOPES moniker is a conspicuous one in Hoboken -- it can be seen on the sides of school buildings and senior centers, on vans that make their way up and down Washington Street, and on lists of public partnerships with the city’s government and other organizations around town. Most of Hoboken knows HOPES, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, as an early childhood education provider, but the group actually does so much more.

“Our mission is service to humanity, and when we say that, we mean our product is service, and we serve everyone from newborns to seniors, from birth to death,” said Ora Welch, the nonprofit’s president and chief executive officer. “We’re a community action agency aimed at providing help wherever we’re able to.”

When HOPES opened in 1954, it was officially known as the Hoboken Organization Against Poverty and Economic Stress, though the acronym became so recognizable over the years that the full name was eventually dropped. The mission remained the same: to provide low-income families around Hoboken (and now around all of New Jersey) with quality educational, financial and professional services.
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“We’re a community action agency aimed at providing help wherever we’re able to.” -- Ora Welch
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As the group celebrates its fiftieth year, it is looking ahead to the challenges of tomorrow in a Hoboken where being a member of the lower class becomes more challenging every day.

Infants to seniors

A total of 705 New Jersey youngsters, aged from birth to 5 years, attend at least one of HOPES’ many educational programs for kids, whether it’s the early Head Start program (infants and toddlers) or pre-school programs at various sites for low-income kids. Besides those separate programs, HOPES is a contracted preschool provider with the city’s Board of Education, and runs one pre-K program in Brandt Elementary School. Between Hoboken and Plainfield, where HOPES recently opened satellite locations, the group runs 39 classrooms, all of which are aimed at providing services to the whole child: knowledge, nutrition, and social skills.

Elementary and teenage children can also take advantage of HOPES by enrolling in one of its summer or afterschool programs, many of which take a more specific approach than the early childhood programs. There are computer classes (the organization has its own Minecraft team) and the Like a Boss Team, an initiative aimed at giving HOPES students a taste of the entrepreneurial spirit in partnership with Hoboken Charter School and the NJ Tech Meetup.

Adults and seniors

HOPES also has programs for adults. HOPES offers computer and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. There are also civics workshops aimed to help Hobokenites from outside the United States achieve citizenship, as well as basic math and reading courses. Finally, there is a volunteer income tax assistance program, which last year saved those who used it a total of over $1 million.

HOPES helps seniors maintain their self-sufficiency by offering just a little help with everyday tasks they find most challenging. The organization provides shuttle services to pharmacies, grocery stores, and banks. It also helps seniors improve their internet literacy, and assists with food stamp applications, online banking, and avoiding online scams aimed at the elderly.

Funding and longevity

HOPES receives funding from the federal, state, and municipal government (as well as some private entities), and all of its programs are free to qualified members of the community. Depending on the particular funding source, HOPES might be required to ask customers if they can contribute to the programs, but it isn’t required.

Different income levels apply to each of the organizations different programs, but the pattern is largely the same: if you’re considered low-income by the government, you’re most likely considered low-income by HOPES.

Additionally, HOPES has formed a public partnership with around 40 government, private and community agencies around Hoboken and the greater Hudson County area. According to Welch, those partnerships are a key component of HOPES success over the past 50 years.

“I think our longevity speaks highly of our partnerships,” she said. “The reason we’ve been able to provide all of these services over the years is that we know where to gather resources and we know how to maximize the usefulness of what we have.”

Welch says there’s still much work to be done as Hoboken continues to experience socioeconomic shifts that continuously challenge its most at-risk residents.

“People that live under our jurisdiction have a greater need now than ever,” said Welch. “Despite the gentrification, the low-income population is still here, and with the recession, we’ve seen a new client base coming to us finding themselves in need.”

For more information on HOPES and the programs it provides, visit www.hopes.org. The organization’s main office is located at 301 Garden Street in the David E. Rue school building. There phone number, toll-free, is (855) OK-HOPES.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

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