HomeCherry Hill NewsCherry Hill resident empowers charitable efforts for those in need

Cherry Hill resident empowers charitable efforts for those in need

Bonsall’s benevolence leads to lifelines for kids, homeless in Camden.

Nancy Marie Bonsall is a Philadelphia-born, Cherry Hill resident who often acts as a facilitator for various charitable groups in the area. 

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As the school year begins and colder weather eventually descends upon the region, she’s done her part to get the community involved with homeless or underserved populations in Camden. 

Recently, Bonsall has rendered aid to “Friends of Fairview Give Back,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to easing the burdens of the homeless population as well as providing assistance to schoolchildren in one of the state’s most indigent cities. 

Marlene Laneader originated the program in 2014, starting with people from the Fairview section of Camden and then expanding its outreach. 

“I never forgot where I came from. We go out every Sunday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and not only do we help with people on the street, but we help with ‘Home of the Brave’ with veterans. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we help cook for them. We help the Ronald McDonald House. We stand on the corner of West and Stevens and we give out toys and clothes and sandwiches,” Laneader said. 

Although only about 15 volunteers make up the core of Fairview, their sense of pride doesn’t result from any form of middle-class suburban guilt. 

“None of us come from money. We’re either teachers, or working in a doctor’s office, or retired. We come from all different walks of life,” noted Maria Merlino, a retired social worker who lives in Mt. Ephraim. 

The idea of backpacks being a key component of survival for a whole host of populations in need of assistance struck a chord, and Fairview is especially dedicated to the issue. 

“Those backpacks are so hard to come by and we do so much with them. Once we get a backpack, if it’s new, we give it to H.B. Wilson Elementary School, because these kids have nothing. We’ll fill them with crayons and markers and notebook paper and notecards, because they need that assistance. They don’t even have an aide at Wilson, so they don’t get their own school supplies. I’ve never seen a classroom at a school like it,” Laneader said. 

“If they’re used, then I give them to the homeless. I fill them up with toiletries, crackers and ChapStick and sanitizers and mints and bug spray. There’s also pairs of socks, soap, stuff that they can eat when there are no places open. That’s why we choose Sunday to go out, because Cathedral Kitchen usually isn’t open and (they) can have something right there, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 2 o’clock in the morning when the belly’s growling.”

Though working on the periphery of the process, Bonsall still recognizes greatness in the company she keeps. 

“It has always been a pleasure to be a small part of what Marlene and her angels are doing. She is a constant inspiration because she always gives straight from the heart,” she said. 

“Because of things like this, Cherry Hill residents have always risen to the occasion to help those in need close to this community, dropping off backpacks and school supplies right outside my door, or when I travel throughout the township to pick them up for distribution.”

If residents would like to donate items or their time, or to gain further information about “Fairview,” please contact Laneader at (609) 617-9428 or Bonsall at (609) 876-5259


Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.

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