Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund helps Cinnaminson students and families

Cinnaminson school clubs, administrators and community members have adopted 60 families this holiday season

Cinnaminson Township Public Schools are in the giving spirit this holiday season, and have been since Thanksgiving. School clubs, teachers, and administrators at the school, in addition to members of the community and beyond, have adopted 60 needy families all with children in the Cinnaminson School District.

The family adoption process is done through the Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund. Jane B. Weilenbeck was a retired teacher, guidance counselor and social worker with the Cinnaminson School District who passed away in 1988. Weilenbeck had a passion for giving and would often visit students’ homes to work with families. Through these visits, Weilenbeck realized that there are a lot of families that need help in Cinnaminson.

Weilenbeck, along with her fellow social worker Marita Mattei, began to informally help these families on their own. When community members began asking if they could donate, Weilenbeck and Mattei set up a bank account for donations to help the families. The Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund was formalized into a nonprofit organization in 1993 — four years after Weilenbeck’s passing.

Today, Co-Presidents Kerry DiSimone and Michelle Reissman are in charge of the fund. With help from the committee, the school and members of the Cinnaminson community — as well as other local communities including Cherry Hill and Moorestown — the Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund is assisting 60 families this holiday season. In the past, the fund has assisted as many as 90 families. They never turn a family away.

“We try to help the families as best as we can,” said DiSimone, who has been with the Cinnaminson School District for 20 years.

DiSimone added that while all families have been adopted, the fund is still collecting monetary donations so that it can help the families throughout the year. In addition to helping around the holidays, the fund sends the families gift cards around Easter and provides them with stocked backpacks in the beginning of the school year.

The fund adopted 55 families for the Thanksgiving season. They provided each family with a full Thanksgiving meal. When the families picked up their meals, they had the opportunity to provide the fund with a gift list for the holidays as well as their childrens’ clothing and shoe sizes. The families were also able to include two gift card preferences for the family to buy items such as groceries and other gifts. Five additional families have been adopted for the remainder of the holiday season.

DiSimone posted on Facebook that the fund was still looking for people to adopt 10 families. All remaining families were adopted within one hour of her post.

“I’m excited to be a part of this and I feel very blessed,” DiSimone said. “Just to know that we are able to help in making their lives a little easier and a little happier at times, it just puts a smile on my face.”

DiSimone was once a guidance counselor at New Albany Elementary School, but is now the Elementary Supervisor. She says that working with students from these needy families gave her a passion to help where she could.

In addition to adopted families, the fund will assist when unexpected tragedies arise, such as a fire or the death of an immediate family member of a Cinnaminson student.

DiSimone also said that the appreciation from the adopted families makes all of her hard work feel worthwhile.

“We receive several thank you notes. They’re very grateful and very thankful for all of the help,” DiSimone said. “When they come in to pick up the gifts right before the holidays, I get hugs all day.”

DiSimone encourages all community members to help out by donating to the fund.

“Just sending a $3 pair of little kids gloves makes all the difference for the child that receives tham and doesn’t have freezing hands all winter,” DiSimone said. “I encourage people to continue to assist us. It’s what makes Cinnaminson special.”

DiSimone added that not many districts have a fund that specifically works to assist the families of needy students in the district.

Eleanor Rush Intermediate School and New Albany Elementary School are both running coin drives and food drives in support of the fund that will run through mid-December. The fund also has a page on Amazon Smile. Visit smile.amazon.com, sign in, and select the Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund as the selected charity. Doing so does not increase prices and a portion of all sales will be donated to the fund.

Donations can also be made by sending checks made out to the Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund and send to Jane B. Weilenbeck Fund c/o Cinnaminson Township Schools, PO Box 224 Cinnaminson, NJ 08077.