MRM Gillespie

The average rent on a two-bedroom apartment in Mercer County is $1,022. A person making minimum wage would have to work 111 hours a week to afford it, which is why hundreds of people will be passing the holidays well out of sight, in cheap motels in counties south of Mercer.

HomeFront, a non-profit dedicated to helping end homelessness, is now getting help from what it is calling a “Network of Caring.” Organized by advertising firm MRM Gillespie, the network is an initiative to unite businesses that give back to the community through support for HomeFront. Membership into the network is not exclusive, and it is simple and free. The only criteria is donation of a service or product.

To kick off the Network of Caring, Richard Eber, Kelly Creyaufmiller, and Lauren Gollis and their MRM Gillespie support staff developed this year’s annual appeal program. A host of other donors joined the effort. They include Prism Color, which provided printing services; Getty Images, which provided photography; Prompt Mailers, which provided mailing services; Janssen, which helped by printing holiday and greeting cards; Triangle Graphics, also a printing partner; and Lindenmeyer Paper Company, which helped by providing paper for brochures.

As part of the program, five billboards will raise awareness of the homelessness problem. These too were donated. Earth Color provided the billboards, and Interstate Outdoor Advertising provided the billboard space.

Many other businesses help HomeFront in myraid ways throughout the year. There are back-to-school bookbag campaigns, Christmas gift campaigns, a spring picnic, deliveries of meals, and many, many more activities.

Individual families counting their blessings at this time of year are also helping out. Some are donating the $5,000 it takes to move a family into a new home and give them a good start toward self-sufficiency. Others are contributing $150 to heat a family’s home for one month, $500 to feed a hungry family, or $25 for a case of diapers.

The campaign by the Network of Caring is concentrating on bringing awareness of the extent of the homeless population in Mercer County — one of the wealthiest counties in the country — to the attention of busy residents. The problem is enormous, but HomeFront is working hard to cut it down to size. The non-profit has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, and independent evaluator of the financial health of American charities. HomeFront uses 91 percent of the funds it raises to help its clients — an unusually high percentage.

Anyone able to help HomeFront to get a homeless family back on its feet can find lots of ways to help — from buying a box of Christmas cards to holding a rent party to providing the down payment on an apartment at www.homefrontnj.com. Visit the website, or call 609-989-9417.

Corporate Angels: Cuts Fitness

Retailers can leverage their customer contacts to do wonderful things for needy people. Real estate agencies collect toys, dry cleaners collect coats, bookstores collect books — what do fitness centers collect?

Those who frequent fitness centers, as it turns out, are being encouraged to help soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. At Cuts Fitness for Men franchises, clients are contributing to AMVET’s nationwide campaign, Operation DVD. AMVET’s goal is to collect 1 million movie DVDs, music CDs, and video games to be sent to war zones, where safe recreation is circumscribed by the danger of snipers. Operation DVD will ship adult titles to the soldiers and children’s titles to families of the soldiers.

Phyllis Cianfrano, owner of the Cuts Fitness for Men franchise on Scotch Road in Ewing, was inspired to join this effort by a letter from a seventh-grader, Zach Cohen. Cohen, who is Cianfrano’s neighbor in Yardley, has undertaken a “mitzvah,” a good deed, in preparation for his bar mitzvah. He is challenging businesses to put out collection boxes. “These soldiers are fighting for us, and they don’t have that much entertainment,” he wrote. “They can’t even go outside to play baseball or have a football catch because of snipers, bombers, terrorist attacks, and land mines. So all they can do in their down time is listen to music or watch movies in a recreation room. But they don’t have that much of a library.”

Cianfrano put out a collection box in her 30-minute mens’ workout salon. An Ewing native, she started in the supermarket business as a part-time job in high school, working her way up, over 27 years, to be chief operating officer of a south Jersey supermarket chain. The parent of an eight-year-old daughter, adopted from Asia, she opened this Cuts franchise in last year. She also distributes Cyberwise nutraceuticals — nutritional dietary supplements.

To jumpstart the donations Cianfrano is waiving the $100 enrollment fee, through the end of December, to anyone who donates three DVDs. Based on $39 per month for an annual program, that means a savings of more than 17 percent. She also challenged current clients and friends to help in the national effort (www.cutsfitness.com). Terry Donnelly of the Foxmoor franchise in Robbinsville, has followed suit.

To obtain an Operation DVD collection box, call Zach Cohen or his mother at 215-321-1663 or E-mail: ajcpenn@comcast.net. For information on bringing DVDs to a Cuts salon, call 609-771-8282 (Scotch Road) or 609-426-8777 (Foxmoor).

Operation AMVET makes sense. As Zach Cohen writes, “Music and movies are a big part of my life and I can’t imagine not being able to enjoy them. And it’s easy to help. People don’t even have to spend any money — they can just donate stuff they no longer want.”

Magyar Bank

The New Brunswick Theological Seminary has partnered with Magyar Bank to offer a unique course in community development and investment as part of the seminary’s doctor of ministry program. This program provides seminary students with an overview of how to tap into financial resources that will help them launch community initiatives, as well as insight into public-private (including faith-based) community development initiatives, and the history of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and its impact on financial institutions and communities.

“We are grateful to Magyar Bank for sharing its vast expertise in the area of community development with our doctor of ministry students,” said Gregg A. Mast, president of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, in a prepared statement. “The course is part of our urban ministry program. It teaches future pastors how to organize community groups to improve the quality of life where they minister, not just for their congregations but for the entire community, and how to tap into financial resources to pay for the initiatives.”

The course in community development and investment is a six-session program that is held bi-weekly and features presenters from numerous community organizations including Somerset County United Way, Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, Somerset County Coalition on Affordable Housing, Thrift Institutions Community Investment Corporation, Vogue Housing America, Antioch Community Development Corp., First Baptist Community Development Corp., Faith Bricks & Mortar and Emanuel Community Development Corporation.

Topics that will be presented during the course include the Community Reinvestment Act-History and Impact, Public/Private and Faith-Based Community Development Projects that Work, the Role of Government Agencies in Financing Opportunities, Perspective from Community Developers, and Business Plans and Grant Writing.

For more information, contact Rosemary Carroll, director of development at 732-247-5241, ext. 134

Bristol-Myers Squibb

Bristol-Myers Squibb has provided more than $220,000 in funding for 13 arts organizations in the Mercer and Middlesex area in central New Jersey. A number of the organizations bring cultural opportunities and performances to children in schools and other venues.

As a company with a large presence in central New Jersey, we value the longstanding partnerships we have with numerous arts and cultural organizations, such as the ones receiving these grants. The programs enrich our communities and provide opportunities to experience some of the best artistic programs the state has to offer, “ Laurie Smaldone, M.D., vice president, strategy and issues management, said in a prepared statement.

Organizations receiving support from Bristol-Myers Squibb include the American Boychoir School, American Repertory Ballet, Arts Council of Princeton, George Street Playhouse, McCarter Theater Center, Morven Museum and Garden, New Jersey Museum of Agriculture, New Jersey Orators, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, State Theatre Regional Arts Center at New Brunswick, Princeton University Art Museum, Quark Park, and Young Audiences of New Jersey. Learn more at the Bristol-Myers Squibb website, at www.bms.com

NRG Energy:

Checking Out Hunger

Power company NRG Energy has signed on as the statewide sponsor of the Check-Out Hunger campaign. So far, the company has donated $100,000 toward the national fundraiser that benefits America’s Second Harvest food banks in 2006 and says it will donate the same amount in 2007 and in 2008.

“NRG and its employees are committed to ensuring that New Jersey’s most disadvantaged residents are able to feed themselves and their families not only at the holidays, but all year round,” said David Crane, NRG Energy president and CEO, in a prepared statement. He said New Jersey has the second highest per-capita income of any state in the nation, yet almost a fifth of the state’s population is considered poor.

Check-Out Hunger donation slips, valued at $1, $3 and $5, can be found at the check-out counter in stores like A&P, Food Basics, Foodtown, Kings, Pathmark, ShopRite, Wawa and Wegmans. All of the donations made in New Jersey go to state food banks. Donations made in Mercer County, where NRG is headquartered, will go to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, which gives more than 1.5 million pounds of food each year to more than 17,000 residents.

Donations will help provide much-needed food throughout the critical winter months when high utility bills put added strain on so many low-income families.

Good Fences: Good Business

Sometimes good business makes good neighbors, to paraphrase Robert Frost. That’s what happened when the American Red Cross of Central New Jersey needed a new supplier for its homebound nutrition program, Meals on Wheels. Alicia Vincellete, the Red Cross coordinator, needed to find a new vendor, so she turned to a kitchen with lots of experience in preparing food for the elderly, Buckingham Place, an assisted living facility at Raymond Road and Route 1 South.

Buckingham’s director, Dean Vlecides, asked Wilson Reynoso, the chef and director of dining services, whether, in addition to preparing food for 150 assisted living residents, he could prepare lunches and dinners for 30 extra people. Reynoso agreed.

So each morning Reynoso and his 20-person staff prepare fresh lunches and dinners to be ready for pick up by 11 a.m. “We have a five week cycle,” he says, “and whatever is on the menu for assisted living goes out to Meals on Wheels.” Senior tastes, he says, “are very traditional — meat loaf, beef stew, and they like seafood a lot.”

The meals are packed in thermal containers, picked up by volunteers from the American Red Cross, and delivered to clients in Hightstown. How can you serve seafood when it will sit in a thermal container for a couple of hours? Says Reynoso: “You have to keep it nice and moist.”

Reynoso’s kitchen did such a good job that the Red Cross asked him to add on 55 clients in Princeton.

Reynoso, who has a professional chef’s certificate from the Culinary Institute of America, has been at Buckingham Place since it opened five years ago. Before that he worked at Somerset Manor, near where he grew up. He and his wife (who also works at Buckingham, as an activities director) have two children.

The Red Cross reimburses the kitchen for the food costs, and this community service turns out to be a win/win situation for everyone.

The clients get better meals than they had before — after all, Buckingham Place is a privately owned facility and its residents expect, and get, excellent cuisine.

The Red Cross can relax, knowing the job is being done right. “Receiving meals from Buckingham Place ensures that our Meals on Wheels clients have access to high quality meals that they depend on to maintain their independence. Our clients have been quite pleased with the excellent meals from Buckingham Place,” says Vincellette.

And Buckingham Place gets valuable exposure to future clients. Most of the Red Cross volunteer drivers are retired, and someday they may want to enter an assisted living facility. Plus, the Meals on Wheels clients get a delicious foretaste of what they could expect if they decided to finally move out of their own homes.

Prudential Cares

Curtis Campbell of Ewing, a benefit senior associate for Prudential Insurance, received a Prudential CARES Volunteer Grant Award of $1,000 for the 300 Chosen Ministries. Campbell dedicated 50 hours to the organization in 2005. He helped unload trucks for the homeless program and led canned food drives for Chosen 300 and the Ambler Food Bank to help needy families. 300 Chosen Ministries provides relief services to the homeless of Philadelphia, offers pre-release classes to incarcerated persons and hosts activities for disadvantaged youth.

Richard Hrabchak of Princeton, a senior managing director for Prudential Financial Management, received a Prudential CARES Volunteer Grants Award of $250 for the Princeton Youth Baseball Association. Hrabchak contributed 100 hours in 2005 to the association as the treasurer of the Board of Trustees, during which he revamped and installed financial control processes that effectively reduced total expenses by 10 percent. He also coached a team of nine and ten year olds in the spring, as well as the all-star team of ten year olds in the summer. The Princeton Youth Baseball Association provides youth baseball programs under the national Little League charter.

Vanessa Ali of Trenton, a senior medical underwriter for Prudential Insurance, received a Prudential CARES Volunteer Grants Award of $1,000 for Jersey Battered Women’s Service. Ali volunteered 112 hours of service in 2005 to Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS) as a hotline operator where she helped identify abuse situations, offered safety planning, and aided callers with services that are available through the Jersey Battered Women’s Service. She also volunteers at the shelter helping women and children, who have left their homes, to get settled.

Ali distributes food and gifts during the holidays and worked in the outreach program to educate the public about domestic violence. The mission of the Jersey Battered Women’s Service is to prevent domestic violence through the protection and empowerment of the victim, to rehabilitate family members and to educate the public about domestic violence and its consequences.

Florence E. Cohen of Princeton Junction, a Prudential Financial retiree, received a Prudential CARES Volunteer Grants Award of $1,000 for Project Freedom. Cohen contributed more than 360 hours in 2005 to Project Freedom, serving on the board of directors and as chairman on the personnel committee. She also solicited local businesses for donations that aided in fundraising events.

Her presentations to the Planning Board and Town Council of West Windsor garnered approval from the Mayor and Town Council for a Project Freedom housing complex for the disabled, to be housed on donated land. Project Freedom provides housing and support services for the disabled. It advocates for tenants and provides training classes and social support leading to work, school and an independent lifestyle.

The Prudential Foundation and Prudential Financial, recently provided $478,750 in Prudential CARES Volunteer Grants to more than 650 nonprofit organizations worldwide. The Prudential CARES Volunteer Grants program recognizes individual and team volunteers based on a minimum of 40 hours of volunteer service per individual.

For more information, visit www.prudential.com.

RWJ Hamilton

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton and the Township of Hamilton are teaming up to brighten the holidays for children in need. The hospital and township conducted a toy drive for the Hamilton-based Tender Hearts Association.

The goal of Tender Hearts is to provide assistance to members of the community and other local organizations whenever a need is identified. Tender Hearts has given coats and clothing to those in need locally and has sent clothing and goods to people worldwide, including residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast who were devastated following Hurricane Katrina last year.

The organization maintains a shop at 320 Scully Avenue in Hamilton, where it accepts donations of clothing, food and household items. All items are made available to those in need either at greatly reduced prices or for free.

For more information about the toy drive, please call RWJ Hamilton at 609-584-6580.

Merrill Lynch

In support of the state’s commitment to small, minority and women-owned businesses, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) has announced a $20,000 contribution from the Merrill Lynch Community Development Company (MLCDC) to boost training and technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurial Training Institute (ETI).

The ETI program, an initiative of the EDA, fosters the growth of small businesses, particularly woman-owned and minority-owned enterprises. More than 1,200 individuals have graduated from ETI and have accumulated more than $26 million in funding to support their business ideas since the program began in 1992. For information on ETI success stories, visit www.njeda.com.

The conditionally renewable grant, first awarded in 2005 and extended for another year, has been designated specifically for financial training modules within the ETI II curriculum, which is designed to help the entrepreneur develop a quality business plan. Through ETI students cover the basics of financial planning, assess the impact of financial results and learn about financial opportunities to grow their businesses.

“We are pleased to renew this grant because we believe that training and technical assistance services to entrepreneurs supports and strengthens New Jersey’s overall economy,” said MLCDC president Terri Ludwig in a prepared statement. “Small businesses provide jobs and help grow New Jersey’s urban and suburban neighborhoods into safe, economically healthy and sustainable communities.”

The MLCDC, a for-profit subsidiary of Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust Co., FSB, searches for lending, investment and program development opportunities and seeks collaborative partnerships with governmental and quasi-governmental entities, nonprofit and for-profit intermediaries, and other financial institutions in a broad range of community development activities.

The MLCDC makes a limited number of grants each year to foster the creation of programs that complement its initiatives, which are geared toward facilitating affordable housing, development, economic development, neighborhood revitalization and the provision of community services.

In addition to Merrill Lynch, primary sponsors of the ETI Program are Bank of America, PNC Bank, and the Wachovia Foundation.

The EDA is an independent, self-sustaining state financing and development agency that works to promote economic growth, job creation, and the revitalization of New Jersey’s communities with financing assistance, technical support, entrepreneurial training, and real estate development activities.

For more information, visit www.state.nj.us/njbusiness.

RE/MAX Classic

RE/MAX Classic has joined “Operation RE/MAX,” a unique program designed to assist spouses of military personnel in developing their careers in real estate.

“Operation RE/MAX” is designed to guide the spouse of any military person through the process of real estate licensing, placement, and training. This program is available to any military spouse located in the continental United States. The military is unique in the American work force in that rank-and-file personnel and their families relocate as often as every 18 to 36 months. By joining “Operation RE/MAX,” military spouses will have a long-term career opportunity where they can use this mobility to their advantage through referrals and specialization in military relocations.

RE/MAX offices all over New Jersey are signing up to be part of this program. Military spouses interested in looking into the opportunity can contact the installation Spouse Employment Office or Family Center at their military installation or log onto www.military.com/spouse. To learn more about joining with the RE/MAX Classic office for this program call 609-655-9911.

Nominate Your Firm

Employees may nominate a Middlesex County business for the 2007 Family Friendly Business Award, to be presented at the Middlesex Chamber’s breakfast on Tuesday, March 13, 8:30 a.m., at the Sheraton, Raritan Center, Edison. Nominations are due by Saturday, January 13. Call the chamber at 732-821-1700 for a nomination form.

The winning company will, in the words of a press release, “offer strong support to help employees balance job and family responsibilities; benefits and/or policies that support and strengthen working families; and support or sponsors community programs that benefit children and working families.”

Entries will be judged on how the company provides, formally or informally, any combination of such benefits as:

Schedule Flexibility: flextime, part-time, job sharing, compressed work weeks.

Telecommuting: whether as an everyday arrangement, available on an as-needed basis, or somewhere in between.

Child Care Programs: supporting essential child care through financial assistance programs, on-site or off-site daycare, after-school and summer programs, as well as sick and emergency child care programs that allow parents to have one less thing to worry about in their day.

Maternity/Paternity Leave: stretching the standard six weeks out to accommodate parents who want to be home with their infants, and extending the benefit to fathers, too. It may also be extended to adoption and eldercare.

Wellness Programs: providing fitness centers, yoga classes, massages, and health-oriented workshops and seminars on everything from managing stress to feng shui.

Work/Life Programs: pet-care, dry cleaning, psychologists, referral services.

The chamber is also seeking nominations for Business Person of the Year, Business Woman of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, County Service Award, and a Special Recognition Award.

Steps for Forming A Non-Profit

People see a need — homes for stray animals, a cure for an under-publicized disease, care for the children of incarcerated women — and decide to do something about it. That is the way most non-profit organizations are founded.

Sometimes forming a non-profit corporation is the way to effect change, but sometimes it isn’t. Keep in mind that even if your planned activities would meet the requirements for tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3), it is not always necessary or appropriate to form an independent organization. Although non-profits enjoy certain privileges, there are also numerous responsibilities, laws, and regulations that must be adhered to.

You should also consider realistically how you plan to sustain your organization to achieve its purposes, and whether there are existing organizations that are already conducting similar activities. It may be possible to achieve the same goals by teaming up with an existing organization without creating a new one.

The Center for Non-Profit Corporations can help you evaluate the pros and cons of incorporation and tax exemption as you decide whether non-profit status is right for you. For starters, read their booklet, Thinking of Forming a Non-Profit? What to Consider Before You Begin. You can download the PDF version free of charge or request a hard copy by contacting the center at 732-227-0800 or by logging on to www.njnonprofits.org. A Spanish edition of the “Thinking of Forming” booklet is also available.

To incorporate your organization as a non-profit in New Jersey, you must file a certificate of incorporation with the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, Division of Revenue. You can expect to pay $115 for this, which includes the filing fee, expedited service (to speed up the turnaround time for filing your certificate), and the return of a certified, stamped copy of your certificate for your files.

The Department of the Treasury, Division of Revenue, has its own forms for non-profit incorporation. However, to approve tax-exempt status, the IRS will want more information in your organizational documents than is required for state-level non-profit status. Therefore, the ctate forms alone are not sufficient if you want to pursue federal tax-exemption from the IRS. You will also need to develop a set of by-laws and have them adopted by your board of trustees.

If you are interested in pursuing federal tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3), you should call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and request the following free documents: SS-4, the Employer Identification Number; Form 1023, the Application for Recognition of Exemption; Form 8718, the User Fee for Exempt Organization Ruling Request; and Publication 557, Tax-exempt Status for Your Organization.

These and other IRS forms commonly used by exempt organizations are also available online from the IRS website at www.irs.gov. To access a comprehensive listing of downloadable forms and publications by number, go to www.irs.gov/forms_pubs/formpub.html. The IRS site also provides important information about a wide variety of tax-exempt topics. From the IRS home page, follow the link for “Charities and Non-Profits,” then link to “Charitable Orgs.”

The Form 1023 is the application that is filed to request recognition from the IRS as a tax-exempt organization. The filing fee depends on your organization’s gross receipts for the next four years. Effective July 1, 2006, the fee is $300 (if your average will not be more than $10,000) or $750 (if your average gross receipts will exceed $10,000). Once your form is submitted, expect a turnaround of 3-4 months for the IRS to process your application.

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