As we kick off the holiday season, The Newark Partnership is grateful to be a part of such a generous community. Our members, whether they are individuals, businesses, or nonprofits, all find ways to give back throughout the year. Our nonprofit sector is especially strong, with over 140 nonprofits in the City of Newark. Our vibrant student community spends hundreds of hours volunteering with many of these organizations and we talked with a few of them about their experiences.

In 2009, Sarah LaFave founded Lori’s Hands. As a sophomore at the University of Delaware, she wanted to honor her mother, who passed from breast cancer, by “improving the quality of life for people living with chronic illness.” Lori’s Hands connect students with Newark community members, giving them friendship and help around the house. Since 2009, Lori’s Hands has expanded into Baltimore and Detroit, with hundreds of college students participating. Current student Jillian Dolan joined Lori’s Hands “to feel a greater sense of community in Newark.” She enjoys “understanding the people who make Newark the great community that it is.”

Similarly, Emily Smulewitz, president of Creative Mentoring, Newark Chapter, volunteers to mentor children in our local schools. “Creative Mentoring has been a really rewarding experience for me,” Emily says, “Mentoring helps children achieve success by helping to build self-esteem, self-confidence, interpersonal communication skills, social values, aspirations, and school engagement.” Volunteers like Emily meet with their mentees for about an hour a week, sometimes they may work on homework and play games, or they may just need someone to talk to.

Finally, John Cohill, a UD student, is a Sean’s House Peer Mentor. Sean’s House, which opened in September 2020, “unlocks” students’ light by “providing resources for those struggling with depression, self-injury, and suicide”. As John said, “too often [students] attempt to manage our own mental health crises. [By] volunteering at Sean’s House I have found a community of people who are working together to end the stigma surrounding mental health and supporting one another.” Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24, but Sean’s House working to end that. Sean’s House and volunteers like John are vital to the community, providing a safe haven and support to those in crisis.

So, as you gather with loved ones and think about your own blessings this season, we encourage you to pay it forward by donating or volunteering with one of our local nonprofits. Whether it’s an hour of time or your coffee money for the week, your donation will continue to make Newark a great place to live, work, and play!

Leann Moore is executive director of The Newark Partnership. She writes a regular column in the Newark Post about TNP’s activities.

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