The Chimney Rustic Ales brewery in Hammonton was only open 63 days before COVID shut it down. After he reopened, owner Dan Borelli not only got back to business, but he also returned to helping whomever he could.
“We’ve never stopped giving money to things we believe in from the day we opened,” he said. “We never really had any intention of not getting involved in something. Even in the middle of the pandemic, when we were struggling to make ends meet, we were still trying to further our community.”
When Borelli met Scott Rush, executive director of the FamilyPromise of Burlington County social services agency, they decided to put together an event not only for fun but also to raise funds for the Moorestown organization.
FamilyPromise is a nonprofit that serves families experiencing homelessness. According to Rush, it is the only sheltering program in Burlington County that focuses on keeping families together and turns none away.
“We don’t do Band-Aid solutions, so we don’t just take people for a few days or a week or two,” he explained. “We work with families until we can get them into stable housing.”
In addition to its emergency shelter program, FamilyPromise provides families at risk of eviction or foreclosure with rental assistance. After it was unable to temporarily place families in churches because of COVID, then had to move people throughout Burlington County, FamilyPromise decided to look for a permanent location, and to make that happen, it wants to raise additional funds.
To that end, it will partner with Chimney Rustic Ales for Hops Against Homelessness, an Oct. 15 fundraiser at the brewery that will feature vendors, live music, a food truck and the specialty craft beer Hefeweizen. All proceeds will go directly to FamilyPromise.
“People need a place where they can just sleep,” Borelli noted. “They just need a place where they can live, send their kids to school, and it’s not a given nowadays. No one is just given these things; it’s rough. Anything we can do to help.”
According to Rush, the state only recognizes as homeless those living in their cars, on the street, or in tents. But to him, it doesn’t end there.
“There is a whole other group of people that are couch surfing with friends and relatives and that are self-paying in motels,” he said. “All these little mom-and-pop motels around New Jersey, people are living there.”
Rush and Borelli hope Hops Against Homelessness will be a success for FamilyPromise, and that people in the community will have a chance to learn more about homelessness.
“I don’t think everybody is aware of how big the homelessness problem is, so if we can do a little bit of education, too, that’s probably not a bad thing,” said Rush.