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NJCDC’s Neighborhood Help Center Holds Open House

NJCDC’s Neighborhood Help Center Holds Open House

April 16, 2024

View our Event Photos

Please watch our Open House video

On Friday, April 5, NJCDC’s Neighborhood Help Center (NHC) held an open house for Paterson residents to learn more about the services we offer. NJCDC opened the NHC in 2014 to provide resources and information to all residents in the Great Falls Neighborhood. There, they can get support on an array of topics, including housing, education, jobs, immigration assistance, financial literacy, and more. The NHC is located on the first floor of NJCDC’s headquarters at 32 Spruce Street, but our NHC staff also hosts events and activities throughout the neighborhood for residents.


The open house began with an introduction from Cristina Tone, the Assistant Director of the NHC. There were then brief remarks from Eddie Gonzalez, NJCDC’s Director of Community Outreach, and Bob Guarasci, NJCDC’s Founder and CEO.

“This is our Neighborhood Help Center. It’s a space for our community to come and get resources and assistance with pretty much anything,” said Eddie. “And we have serviced thousands of individuals since we opened this space. We’re very proud that many of the individuals who are here have been serviced, but also that many individuals not only got service and were helped, but came back to volunteer and help others in the community to do the same.”


Guests then heard from NHC clients about how the NHC has helped them in different areas, including community service and volunteering, immigration, housing, employment, education, and more.

“The NHC and NJCDC have changed my life,” said resident Grethel Ayala, a sentiment that was echoed by every speaker. Grethel came to the United States two years ago looking for a better future. Through the NHC, she was able to take workshops and English classes that helped her with living in a new country. The NHC also helped her apply for asylum, obtain health insurance, and get documents including a work permit and a driver’s license.


Maria José also came to the United States recently. She learned about the NHC when she volunteered at a festival at the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. Since then, she has continued volunteering with the NHC, and has recorded over 500 community service hours in the past year! The NHC also helped Maria and her mother feel more at home by providing donations to furnish and decorate their new home.


Mireya Quispe’s family arrived two years ago, and the NHC helped them apply for documents to live and work in the United States. Now, her parents attend English classes and her sister goes to many NHC workshops. Mireya has participated in many volunteer activities with the NHC, and she is also a member of the Great Falls Youth Center and Paterson Youth Council (PYC) — through which she just went on our annual Ivy League Tour.

“Here I’ve learned the importance of contributing to the community,” she said. “Everyone can help — even if they don’t have much, their time is valuable and appreciated. Thanks to the organization, I participate in PYC, and I have traveled to Washington, D.C., and I just got back from Boston. In just two years since arriving, I have been able to understand more and learn about the process of applying to college. This motivates me to know that the sacrifice my parents made was worth it. Thanks to NJCDC, I no longer feel alone in a new country. Thank you for changing my life, and that of my family.”


Estefania Garcia was in the NHC’s FoodBox program when she saw a flyer for our AmeriCorps program and decided to apply. She became an AmeriCorps member and began working at our Full Service Community School at School #5. Her son is autistic, and she needed housing that could meet his needs. The NHC staff helped her with her application to Barclay Place, and she now gets to live in a safe and beautiful apartment where she knows her son’s health needs can be easily addressed.

Carolina Franco is another resident who became an AmeriCorps member. When she came to the United States a few years ago, her children got involved with NJCDC’s programs, and Carolina began volunteering with NJCDC. She learned about AmeriCorps and was excited about the opportunity to have a job doing what she was already doing — helping her community. Now, she works full-time at the NHC, owns a wedding planning business with her husband, and is a member of the NHC’s Community Advisory Board. “I am very happy and grateful for the opportunity to grow with the organization, and for my children to also have new opportunities here,” said Carolina. “Today, I’m here in NJCDC, and I do my best to transform, empower, and beautify my community.”


Through his school, Eduardo Mitzi learned about a youth service event held by NJCDC. When he volunteered at the event, he met Cristina Tone and began talking to her about her son, Christopher Valencia, who attended the University of Pennsylvania. Eduardo became motivated to have bigger dreams for his future, and Cristina helped him to apply for colleges. Eduardo just returned from NJCDC’s Ivy League Tour, and he was excited to share that the trip helped him decide to go to a college in the Boston area next fall!

There are so many opportunities for neighborhood residents to get involved with the NHC, whether it’s by getting support and resources on issues, helping to make a difference in their community, or just participating in fun community events and activities. Residents can visit the NHC on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can follow the NHC on Facebook to hear about upcoming events. If you would like more information, you can call the NHC at 973.413.1630 or send us a message here!

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