Space for smiles
Organization started by teen to help homeless will host grand opening
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter staff writer
Feb 24, 2013 | 2149 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HYGIENE KITS – Secaucus-based nonprofit Wrap 4 A Smile distributes hygiene kits to people in need and soldiers overseas.
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The Wrap 4 A Smile Foundation, a Secaucus-based organization, on Mar. 1 will host a grand opening to unveil its new office space at 739 Irving Place. The event kicks off at 5 p.m. with a networking reception and awards ceremony followed by an open house at 6 p.m. for tours of the space. The free event is open to all individuals interested in the work of the non-profit and includes food, live entertainment, and music with a band and a DJ.

According to Director of Program Development Cathy Wolf, the evening also includes a special secret announcement that will be made by her son and founder Kevin Williams during the first hour.

Space for a growing organization

Wrap 4 A Smile was started in Feb. 2005 by Williams at the age of 15 when he was a Secaucus High School student. What began then as a volunteer-driven effort to collect and distribute personal hygiene kits to Hudson County homeless shelters has expanded significantly to reach people in need around the world, as well as soldiers serving overseas. Since its inception, Wrap 4 A Smile has distributed over 80,000 kits.

“We are growing,” said Wolf. “We are growing and we are very fortunate we were able to get a space.”

After years of seeking a space, the foundation was able to secure a reasonable lease from the town to inhabit the site once occupied by the town’s food pantry.
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“We are growing.” – Cathy Wolf
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Since the foundation first began, Wolf’s home basement has been used to store items for the hygiene and shower kits such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, combs, washcloths, deodorants, and more but with time other areas of her house were slowly taken over.

“There was no space for kids to breathe,” said Wolf. “My son didn’t even have a bedroom anymore…everything is all over the house.”

Wolf described a process of packing the kits that began with a group of volunteers who picked up the supplies from her home, moved them to the First Reformed Church cafeteria to assemble them into kits, and then returned the completed kits to Wolf’s home before distribution.

“It was getting exhausting…doing that for six years,” noted Wolf.

Room for student support

In addition to providing a space for storage and for volunteers to assemble kits and work on projects, the new location for Wrap 4 A Smile also serves as an office where Wolf can meet with students to provide help with resume writing, community service hours, and college applications.

“We do a lot more than everyone can see,” said Wolf.

Wrap 4 A Smile has several hundred members including local families and over 60 middle and high school volunteers, some of whom gather at the new space every other weekend.

In addition to distributing kits to the homeless in Newark and Tompkins Square Park, volunteers also send the kits to troops overseas and veterans’ hospitals in the state.

The organization also provides kit supplies and instructs large corporations in states like North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Illinois about how to pack hygiene kits as part of their corporate social responsibility program.

“A lot of the employees can’t go out and really do things,” noted Wolf. “We bring the project into the corporation.”

Wolf also works closely with the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students at Huber Street and Clarendon elementary schools providing similar instructions and experience packing hygiene kits.

“In the springtime we introduce them to urban farms,” said Wolf. “They grow herbs, vegetables, and seeds.”

The herbs they grew were donated to the PERC shelter in Union City last year.

“The soup kitchen used those herbs and vegetables for cooking in the shelter,” said Wolf.

Half of what the students planted also went to the town’s seedling community garden on Humboldt Street.

Future vision

According to Wolf, the grand opening is an opportunity for peer organizations, clubs, civic institutions, parents, local residents, and others to derive a better understanding of the work of Wrap 4 A Smile. She also hopes to thank the community for their support.

Williams, a college student, will be home from George Washington University to make a special announcement.

“This is the chance to talk to the founder personally about his vision,” noted Wolf. “A big development within the foundation will be announced.”

Attendees will also have the opportunity to see the space with students as their tour guides. The organization also plans to hand out student awards. Former alumni who are congressional award winners will also be in attendance.

The Wrap 4 A Smile Foundation grand opening will be held Friday, Mar. 1 at 739 Irving Place. The event kicks off at 5 p.m. with a networking reception and awards ceremony followed by an open house at 6 p.m. for tours of the space.

For more information, visit: http://wrap4asmile.org/index.htm. To RSVP, call: (201) 600-7317.

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at afernandez@hudsonreporter.com.

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