By Kenneth Barilari
#HipNJ had the opportunity to speak with Samantha Howard, Executive Director at Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, about her work with the foundation as well as their Exalt to Excellence White Party.
The Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, or BEOF, provides a wide range of services to assist low-income, handicapped, and elderly residents of Bayonne and Hudson County. It has served more than 73,000 clients since founding in 1965.
“I come from a family huge on education,” Howard says. “I was raised in an environment where helping others was important.” When she moved to New Jersey, she found herself doing just that.
“I teach my staff to take a holistic approach to clients and address all their needs,” she explains. “People often come in frustrated because this is their last effort to survive day-to-day. These people are often at their own point of no return.” She tells her staff not to take frustration personally. “People often come through the door with their most pressing issue, but really they have a host of issues.” So, she is sure to attend not only to the most evident issue, but also other issues that may not be so clear.
The idea for the Exalt to Excellence White Party came from a desire to celebrate the amazing heroes in Bayonne, who have had a tremendous impact. One of these heroes is Peter Amadeo, who, according to Howard, has “worked to keep our children motivated, moving, and accustomed to rigor.” LongHorn Steakhouse is another honoree for their contributions to the BEOF food pantry. “They provide a lot of food to our food pantry for individuals who cannot afford to purchase it themselves. They give back to community through BEOF.” Monique Young is also an honoree. She went off, had her own success story, and ended back at the BEOF providing funding to the teachers that put her on her way.
This event is all about community participation and acknowledgement. The BEOF hopes to give the community quality entertainment, making the event something that residents can look forward to. “It is going to be a fabulous night on the town in Bayonne, celebrating local heroes.” Howard does not want people to view this as a fundraiser, but rather as a fun party.
The BEOF also provides services to children of low-income households, ensuring that they acquire a skillset that will enable them to get into the school system. This way, they could compete with other children their age coming from different places and scenarios. Howard also describes the foundation’s “Meals on Wheels” program for senior citizens, in which meals are prepared and delivered to those who cannot make or go get the meals themselves.
If the BEOF ever does have to turn someone away, they make it a point to make arrangements for that person elsewhere, arming them with all the information they need to lessen the stress of relocating. “We give them other options, arming them with as much information as they could possibly get.”
To learn more about the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation and their Exalt to Excellence White Party, head over to their website.