“I know we make a difference!” was Lisa Snedeker’s comment about the Secaucus Emergency Fund, a tax-exempt 501 c (3) charitable group that Lisa started in February 2012. While Snedeker is the director of the town’s Department of Social Services with an office at the Senior Center at the corner of Centre and Irving, she explained that the Emergency Fund is not a town agency and is totally separate from town government. The Fund’s mission statement describes it as an agency that assists Secaucus residents “maintain a good quality of life” when individuals lose their jobs or become severely ill or injured. “We help people through tough times.” Lisa, who serves as president of the Fund, noted that since its inception over five years ago, the charitable agency has assisted well over three hundred residents who fell on hard luck. In addition to Lisa, the other officers are Sheila Witrock, vice president; Judy Preinfalk, treasurer, and Jane Kelly, secretary. (Lisa and Judy are Jernstedt sisters.)
Lisa gave an example of a 48-year-old resident who suffered a heart attack and who was unable to work for several months as the type of case the Fund takes on. The Fund might pay a resident’s rent, a Public Service or water bill, an ambulance for transport from one hospital to another, etc. “We don’t give checks to the individuals, but pay the landlord or utility company directly,” advised Snedeker. She said when they first started the service they gave residents the appropriate checks, and then discovered that the funds did not go to pay the corresponding bills. Some people would actually come back for more money to pay the same bill! One resident asked for a air conditioner! “We don’t provide air conditioners,” Snedeker said in disbelief at the resident’s request. Lisa said the Fund has to limit the number of times it can help a resident, and they usually try to keep it to one time, unless the situation merits further assistance. Lisa, who is always bright and bubbly and who has a big heart, sometimes has to act as therapist for a resident who can’t seem to get his or her act together. Once the Fund helps them, she attempts to guide them in the right direction and helps to get them focused on their responsibilities.
Residents just can’t walk into the Senior Center and expect to have their particular case addressed immediately or at all. A vetting process occurs; the resident’s problem is explained to Social Services staff first, and proof of income and residency are procured. Then, the appropriate county agencies are contacted to discover if the resident can be assisted through one or several of the various agencies. If the county can’t help, then the Secaucus Emergency Fund steps in, if it can. Now, you may ask, how does the SEF get its funds; by donations of residents, businesses, corporations, and raffle tickets. Lisa offered that even senior citizens on fixed incomes, who may not be doing so well themselves, faithfully send in checks for $10 or $20. Corporate donors such as Xchange ($5,000) and Hartz $2,000) can be relied on to make annual donations to the Fund. A letter recently went out to all town businesses and corporations requesting either monetary (preferred) or gift basket ($100 value) donations for the SEF’s biggest fundraiser of the year which will be a tricky-tray type event on October 22. According to Snedeker, the response from corporations and businesses has not been up to par (as of August 9, only six companies had responded). The deadline to donate to the annual fundraiser is September 30. Lisa can be reached at (201) 617-5917 or at email@example.com.
Lisa remarked that there is a “fine line” between the services provided by the Social Services Department and the Secaucus Emergency Fund. For example, a resident may need (temporarily) a hospital bed, wheelchair, crutches, a walker, a commode, etc. These items are available through Social Services, and are donated to it by residents who no longer need the medical equipment. The SEF does not provide these items, but will, on occasion, have brand new medical or other equipment donated by a business that they will give to a needy resident who meets the eligibility requirements. Additional items the Fund has paid for are eyeglasses, hearing aids, and prescription co-pays at Marra’s Drug Store. Lisa noted that Marra’s has always been good to the Fund when it purchases medical equipment.
The Fund derives part of its money from holding 50/50 raffles at various town events, including the Thursday evening concerts at Buchmuller Park. Depending on the attendance (which depends on the weather) the Fund can realize several hundred dollars at just one concert, or less than one hundred. Lisa Snedeker might seem like a one (wo)man band, but the truth is, she has a lot of caring, generous, selfless souls behind her, including her daughter, Kelsey. There are about twenty-five women who comprise the Secaucus Emergency Fund, many of whom are the wives of members of the K&S Social and Athletic Club, another charitable group, according to Snedeker.
The next time you see Lisa, Kelsey, Sheila, Judy, Jane, or any of the SEF members selling 50/50s at a town event, plop your money down (and a lot of it), for a very worthwhile cause. And to all the CEOs and business owners that call Secaucus home, open your checkbooks and write a check with a lot of zeros on it to the Secaucus Emergency Fund — immediately!