Local family packages 150 meals for the homeless

The Smiths consider the effort their new tradition


Owen and Amelia Smith stand with their 150 packed PB&J lunches which they donated to Unforgotten Haven in Blackwood.

The Smith family in Washington Township started a New Year’s Day tradition this year by doing a PB&J Project for The Unforgotten Haven nonprofit, whose mission is to help the less fortunate.

“I think we are always looking for ways to help out in our community and get the children involved,” said Jen Smith, mother of Owen, 13, and Amelia, 9. “It is important for us to show them that there is a good feeling involved when you give and don’t get anything in return.”

After Smith discovered the nonprofit, she knew it was a perfect opportunity for her two kids to do their part and help those in need.

“I notice that my kids really want to help out, they really want to volunteer and give back and have that charitable spirit,” she said. “But a lot of times they don’t  want to see the actual sadness associated with it. They want to do things that help out … but for them to be the ones giving out the sandwiches, it is hard for them to rationalize that sadness.”

On New Year’s Day, the family made 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and packaged them with chips, cookies and bottles of water. The children helped  decorate the bags to put a smile on the faces of recipients. Along with the Smiths, three other families signed up to donate 150 lunches each that same weekend. 

“This was a large undertaking that we were just a very small part of … This was such a great project,” Smith recalled. “You will always be able to find a way to give back that is in your comfort zone.”

The Unforgotten Haven offers different projects for all ages and ability levels. They include Cookies for Charity, where volunteers can bake 50 cookies that will be delivered to the homeless, and Empowerment Bags filled with self-care items and donated to women in domestic violence shelters. Each one has a sign-up calendar where people can choose a weekend to deliver their finished projects;  some weekends are full until March. 

“‘Party in a Bag project is for parents that can’t provide a birthday party for their kids, but they can go to the Haven and get this great bag of stuff where they can make their house festive for their child,” Smith explained.

“I can see my family will be volunteering our time much more in the future. We would love to put together some Party in a Bags. I think it would be fun for the kids to pick out different themed bags.”

The Unforgotten Haven was founded by Michele Gambone in December of 2014. The nonprofit delivers donated items throughout local areas but also helps conduct hurricane relief missions in Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida.   

The nonprofit also offers food pantries in Blackwood, East Magnolia, Camden and Moorestown. To visit them, contact  theunforgottenhaven@comcast.net or send a message through The Unforgotten Haven Facebook page. To volunteer,  visit the website at https://www.theunforgottenhaven.org.