By Dubravka Kolumbic-Cortese | Correspondent
No one was more surprised to learn she had won the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award than Margaret More herself.
“I thought we were being notified of a grant we had submitted,” More recalled after getting a phone call from Joseph T. Williams, diocesan president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Williams nominated More for the award for her work in establishing Vincent’s Legacy, a diocesan-wide ministry that collects furniture donations and distributes them to needy families, a concept that grew out of the St. Vincent de Paul conference in More’s parish of St. Rose, Belmar.
“He never told me he had submitted my name, so I was truly overwhelmed,” More recalled. “I am deeply humbled by this award. I know that there are more deserving people out there in the volunteer arena. I am just blessed to have Joe Williams in my court who took the time and energy to submit the application on my behalf.”
The New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards for Public Service acknowledge individuals who make a significant and positive impact on their communities, without seeking payment or recognition for their efforts. More will receive her Jefferson Award medal at a dinner and ceremony June 19 at the Newark Museum.
“She’s done a spectacular job in taking an idea and moving it toward a diocesan-wide furniture ministry,” Williams said.
More is also director of Selective Seconds, a high-quality secondhand goods store in Belmar that she founded in 2010, the proceeds of which directly benefit St. Rose Parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference. After seeing an increased need for furniture donations by needy families, along with more people wanting to donate furniture, More approached Williams with the idea of creating a farther-reaching furniture ministry, and Vincent’s Legacy was born.
“There is a tremendous need for people who are living literally on the cusp of poverty,” Williams said. “We’ve seen an uptick in the number of calls that we get to donate furniture. I don’t think there’s a week goes by that one of our conferences doesn’t let us know that there is a family that needs help.”
Vincent’s Legacy, which was approved in November by the Trenton Council Board, is a 7,000-square-foot warehouse located at the former military installation of Camp Evans, Wall. To date, the ministry has given out more than $25,000 in used furniture. More estimates that would equate to a value of about $100,000 in new furniture. More than 14 families, or a total of 45 people, have benefitted.
Because Vincent’s Legacy is a full-service ministry, there is always a need for volunteers to perform an array of duties. Before any furniture is donated, volunteers visit the prospective recipient family to assess their needs, and even try to match the family’s décor
preferences, if possible. Once the furniture is chosen, more volunteers deliver and assemble the furniture for the recipients.
“They are very reluctant to ask for more than what they feel they deserve,” More said of the recipients, “and it’s overwhelming to them when we do show up with all this furniture. It’s like Christmas morning for them.”
Currently, the warehouse is filled with donations, and the ministry has been able to keep up with demand, servicing Ocean and Monmouth Counties. More hopes to expand the ministry to Burlington and Mercer Counties.
“Receiving furniture donations is not a problem whatsoever,” More explains. But the $2,400-a-month rent is a worry. Presently, the ministry has a grant that covered four months of rent, and there are other grants in the works, she said.
“Because St. Vincent de Paul is a lay organization, there is no funding; it’s all through donations and fundraisers,” she said, adding that she is hopeful a financial benefactor will come forward after hearing about the ministry and its needs.
“The Holy Spirit has been with us from the beginning,” More said. “He always comes through for us.”
For more information, to donate furniture or volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Families needing assistance should contact their parish, which can put them in touch with a local St. Vincent de Paul conference.