The Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund continues to help the residents of Cinnaminson each year from school supplies to holiday meals.
Jane B. Weilenbeck was a longtime employee of the Cinnaminson school district. She spent time as a teacher, guidance counselor and social worker on the Cinnaminson Child Study Team.
During her time as a social worker in the district, Weilenbeck would visit students at home. When doing so she realized there were a lot of families in need throughout town.
She took it upon herself to collect food, clothing and eventually monetary donations for these families.
Once the monetary donations started coming in a bank account was opened. After her retirement, the foundation was formally named in her honor.
Weilenbeck passed away in 1988 and in 1993, the Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund Inc. was sanctioned as a 501c nonprofit.
The foundation is still going strong today and in the midst of their biggest charity drive of the year, the holiday season.
The foundation has co-presidents; Kerry DiSimone and Michelle Reissman.
DiSimone has been involved in the organization for almost all 20 years she has been with the district as an employee.
“Every year we have an increasing number of families in need,” DiSimone said. “It became a bit overwhelming years ago where we needed to supply backpacks, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas meals, adopt a family and grocery gift cards.”
“Just the amount of fundraising and getting more people involved over the past five years, we’ve had a lot more people come in and want to head up fundraising.”
The fund typically has anywhere from 50-60 families that need to be adopted each year.
“It’s just overwhelming the generosity of this community. Year after year after year,” DiSimone said. “It’s why I love Cinnaminson so much.”
“They do everything they can to help and it comes in all different forms. There’s not a lot of communities that have this type of program. I don’t think people realize there’s need everywhere and I’m glad we’re able to help these families so they can enjoy the holidays and not be so worried about where the money is coming from.”
Not too long ago, maybe three or four years back, the number jumped to 90 families. The officers of the fund began scrambling to get more donations in and to find more people willing to adopt the added families.
“That year everyone came together to make sure all the families were adopted at Christmastime,” DiSimone said “We had enough money to cover everything we’ve always done. We still have no idea why it happened that year because right after that it went right back down to the 50-60 range.”
There are times where the fund increases to 70 families towards the end of the school year because of new families moving into town.
“The majority of our money that comes in comes from our own employees in the district,” DiSimone explained. “There’s charity lunches, there’s basket auctions, there’s dress down days.”
“The employees donate thousands of dollars a year to this fundraiser. On top of that we get donations from community members. It can be an individual or family sending a donation in. In the past we’ve gotten large donations from the Cinnaminson Police Department.”
One of the biggest and a repeat donor to the fund has been the Palmyra-Cinnaminson-Riverton Rotary.
Each year the fund applies for a community grant from Wells Fargo. The fund has received a $1,000 grant from the organization three times.
The Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund sends a letter to the families every year around Thanksgiving. The letter tells the families when they can pick up their Thanksgiving meals.
“We send a wish list with that letter,” DiSimone said. There are two areas for the family to identify fun places they might like a gift card to or need.”
“But then for each child who is from birth to a senior in high school, they each get a section of the wish list where they can identify four gift ideas, a book idea and their clothing sizes.”
Once all the wish lists are returned, the fund begins reaching out to those who have adopted families in previous years.
A large majority of the adoptees come from the high school clubs. Each grade level at the high school also adopts a family.
The Cinnaminson Elementary Home and School Association (CEHASA) also conducts a large coin drive this time of year. That money is taken and used to purchase hams for all of the families for holiday meals.
Any money that remains is donated to the fund for any families that come in after all adoptions have been made.
“We do try to help anyone that needs help,” DiSimone said. “We’ve helped families that are not in need, but they’ve had an event such as a house fire or a death in the family of a parental figure. We also provide monetary support to help them in that way.”
Families qualify for the Jane B. Weilenbeck Needy Family Fund through the free and reduced lunches program at the schools.
“Once they qualify for that we send a letter out asking if they want to receive assistance through our fund,” DiSimone said.
“Everything is kept confidential. Only the officers of the fund know the families. We do try to keep it confidential for the families’ sake.”
Outside of the holiday season, the fund also provides school supplies for all of the families at the beginning of each school year.
“We get the actual school supply lists from the classes the children are in and then purchase the supplies based on those lists,” DiSimone said. “That is organized by our treasurer, Yogita Fratto.”
Even though all families have been adopted for this holiday season the fund is still graciously accepting any donations.
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