Through HFCF, a new generation makes good works happen
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 06/9/07
BY BOBBI SEIDEL
MEMBERSHIP: Young entrepreneurs, professionals and parents in Monmouth County.
Many people who reach retirement age have the time to help those less fortunate. But that’s a habit that must be started earlier in life, say some Monmouth County residents.
Those residents — 16 people in their 30s and early 40s — are setting an example through their new group, HFCF. Only 3 years old, the group already has donated $152,000 to charity.
The Unity Bash — the group’s annual fundraising dinner-dance — takes place this year on Nov. 2, complete with raffles, auctions and a band, at Ocean Place Resort & Spa, Long Branch. The beneficiaries are Family Promise of Monmouth County, formerly known as Interfaith Hospitality Network of Monmouth County, and the Valerie Fund at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch.
Family Promise was the beneficiary of the first two fundraisers: $57,000 in 2005 and $95,000 in 2006, says Eric Hinds, 36, of Holmdel, cofounder of the all-volunteer HFCF, originally called Unity Bash Committee.
The group, co-founded and co-chaired by Hinds and Marybeth Walz, 35, of Red Bank, chose beneficiaries carefully.
“We didn’t want to raise money that goes to anything ambiguous. We wanted an end result,” Eric Hinds says. “We wanted to fund an organization, that, if you raised $5,000, it would make a significant impact. And, we wanted to benefit children in the area.”
Family Promise, a Keansburg-based nonprofit, is composed of area houses of worship that provide temporary housing and services such as job training to families with children in need of shelter and other help, says Chuck Payette of Oceanport, president of Family Promise’s board of trustees.
The agency’s annual budget is about $350,000, Payette says. Since its founding in 2001, 94 families have been served, totaling 285 people, 66 percent of whom were children, he says. The donations from HFCF enabled his group to provide more services, says Payette, 49.
“We’re small and volunteer-driven and do what we can just to keep things running. Before, once families left the network, unless they kept in touch with us, we didn’t know what happened to them. The money has allowed us to continue to work with them to improve their situation for their best chance of becoming independent,” says Payette, a member of the technical staff at Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent in Holmdel.
The nonprofit Valerie Fund, with centers at seven tristate hospitals, including Monmouth Medical in Long Branch, aids families of children with cancer or blood disorders. The donation will be in honor of her nephew, Luke Walz, 3, who was diagnosed with leukemia a year ago, Walz says.
The idea of involving younger people in fundraising was sparked when Hinds and Walz, members of an informal business networking group, discussed charity events they’d attended.
“We saw there wasn’t a good mix of retirees and people still in the work force,” says Hinds, a financial adviser with Merill Lynch in Edison and a member of the Holmdel Township Republican Committee.
He and Walz e-mailed friends about starting a group. Another co-founder was Steve Coltrain of Eatontown. A first meeting was held in spring 2005, says Walz, a sales executive with Verizon Business, Piscataway.
“Part of the challenge of doing philanthropy under age 40 is that we didn’t want to define youth by a number,” says Hinds, adding that most members are 45 or younger.
The first Unity Bash took place at Shore Casino in Atlantic Highlands in October 2005, with 343 people attending, says Hinds’ wife, Karen, 35, a homemaker raising the couple’s three children
“I remember counting at the beginning of October, and we only had 80 people committed then,” Karen Hinds says.
“We were all nervous,” Walz says.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Eric Hinds adds. “Our highest estimate of what we’d raise, the night before, was $29,000.”
But 343 people attended, and the profit was $57,000, they say.
In 2006, Jeanne Wall and her husband, Terence, both 40, of Holmdel joined. The two already volunteered, including with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth County.
But “five minutes down the road from me are people who are hungry or can’t afford to buy clothes for their children,” says Jeanne Wall, who worked in public relations and is now raising Georgette, 5.
“I think that, during your life, you have different opportunities to give back and help people,” says Terence Wall, a former member and vice president of the Holmdel First Aid Squad. “What I found truly interesting about this committee, and I mean this sincerely, is the drive was altruism. That’s simply not common enough.”
In 2006, 430 people attended the dance; the profit was $95,000, says Eric Hinds, who, with his wife, also hosts an annual Christmas party where guests bring a gift for charity.
They hope this year’s fundraiser will be bigger and better, they say. And, young entrepreneurs, professionals and parents from Monmouth County are welcome to join the group.