December 18, 2015
3 minute read

EDA Community Challenge Supports Wide Range of Organizations



Trenton, N.J., (December 18, 2015) – In the spirit of the Christie Administration’s Season of Service, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) launched its own internal initiative to help the State’s most vulnerable residents over the holidays. Known as the “Community Challenge,” the program presents opportunities for EDA employees to participate in community service projects of their choosing.

“The goal of the Community Challenge was twofold – to encourage team building and development within the organization and to help communities in need,” said EDA CEO Melissa Orsen. “Feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am proud of our employees’ unwavering commitment to the greater good.”

More than ten organizations benefited from the inaugural Challenge, and populations served include victims of domestic violence, the elderly, foster children, abandoned and abused animals, and those suffering from poverty and/or homelessness and hunger. Organizations supported include:

  • Elijah’s Promise – EDA employees rolled over 200 sets of utensils for the community soup kitchen of a New Brunswick organization working to alleviate hunger and empower lives for the most vulnerable residents of central New Jersey.


  • Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County – EDA’s leadership team installed decking to support the floor of a home for which ground was broken in November. Once finished, it will be purchased by a family of five currently living in a two-bedroom apartment.


  • La Casa de Don Pedro – The EDA’s Newark office sorted and bagged food for local families through this community-based, grassroots organization that supports the needs of underserved children, individuals, and families.


  • Mercer Street Friends Food Bank – 100 bags of food were assembled for the “Meals on Wheels” program. EDA staff also stuffed donation envelopes and sorted more than 50 cases of canned goods for distribution.


  • New Hope Health Center (an initiative of the New Hope Church of God) – EDA staff assisted with general office tasks, scheduling appointments, and making phone calls, enabling medical staff, led by Pastor Philip M. Bonaparte, M.D., to focus on the organization’s mission of providing free medical services to the community.


  • One Simple Wish – More than $1000 was raised selling cocoa to help make wishes come true for kids in foster care through the inaugural Cocoa for Kids program.



  • Rolling Harvest Food Rescue – A team of employees gleaned fields to harvest vegetables for distribution to local food banks for Thanksgiving meals.


  • Salvation Army – An EDA team helped the organization with its Christmas Castle/toy shop pilot program, including decorating the Christmas Castle, and sorting and organizing toys to distribute to 700 families. Another group collected and donated personal items and shopped for gifts, and still another “adopted” a family, buying every “wish” list item for a family with two little girls.


  • Trenton Animal Shelter – Employees visited the shelter to care for and play with the animals, and a large donation of items needed by the shelter was made, including food, treats, cleaning products and toys.


  • Womanspace – Gifts were purchased for women and children impacted by domestic and sexual violence, currently living in transitional housing.

Orsen noted that there have been many expressions of gratitude from the supported organizations, including One Simple Wish and Womanspace.
“There’s a good chance that a foster child lives in your neighborhood, or in a city only a few minutes away. There’s an even better chance that these children, who are invisible to many of us, will not have the opportunity to experience many of the simple joys of the holiday season. That’s where organizations like the EDA have come in,” said One Simple Wish Program Manager, Danielle Kocubunski.
Lauren Nazarian, Director of Development, Womanspace, expressed gratitude for the gift baskets donated. “The EDA group really put such time and care into each basket and it shows. Thank you.”