Really, this could be the slogan of the town: Collingswood Cares. Or at least on the signs entering town.
This alliteration says what is known throughout South Jersey already. These two words are why Collingswood is so dynamic, how Haddon Avenue pulsates with life. Collingswood not only cares about the shoppers and diners who visit, but also cares about its neighbors.
Fittingly, there is a Collingswood Cares, an organization, which does exactly what the name announces.
Sandi Kelly, a Collingswood resident for 50 years, recently started volunteering with Collingswood Cares.
“I got involved earlier this year when Mayor (Jim) Maley asked me to help develop a plan to help people struggling due to COVID-19,” Kelly said.
Kelly embodies the spirit of the organization. She didn’t need to be persuaded.
“Jim asked me,” Kelly said simply why she joined the team, “and because I love this town and we wanted to do something to help people who were struggling. When the pandemic first hit I think we all felt very helpless and this was a way to take action and make a difference.”
Although Collingswood Cares has been recently assisting those in need during the novel coronavirus pandemic, it was started by Maley and his wife MaryKay in 1992.
“There was a child with a medical condition and we raised some money to try and help the family and when that was going on, we realized that there were a lot of families that way, so we started raising money,” Maley said.
Once Collingswood Cares started, the growth blossomed quickly.
“Back when Camden Yards opened, we would run bus trips for like 200 people and we’d raised money from that,” Maley said about the Baltimore Orioles popular park. “So we started with other fundraisers and then other groups started doing fundraisers.”
Collingswood Cares provides resources for medical assistance, meals and transportation.
“Originally, it was for families with children with chronic medical conditions and now it’s for families who are struggling through pandemic issues, whether it’s health issues or to get them food,” Maley said.
Collingswood Cares, a 501 (c) (3), helps by shopping for food, delivering meals and picking up medications as well as financial assistance.
“We raised a significant amount of money,” Maley said about the fundraising effort during the pandemic. “We’ve given out food store gift cards, and all kinds of things, whatever people need we are finding a way to get it for them.”
During the pandemic, Collingswood Cares’ mission refocused a bit to help families.
“We raised money to get a kid eyeglasses, it’s been very good, it’s been nice,” Maley said.
Kelly doesn’t remember any specific time of helping a family or person that made her realize how much Collingswood really cares.
“Just the overall gratitude of people in general makes you realize how fortunate you are to have the ability to help someone through a rough patch is rewarding,” Kelly said.
Helping others has impacted her personally.
“This has been a rough year for everyone,” Kelly explained. “The pandemic has taken its toll emotionally on all of us. Seeing first-hand how people are struggling to make ends meet and have basic needs like food really puts things in perspective and makes you thankful for the things you do have.
“It’s also been very affirming to see how the residents have stepped up to help their neighbors. We might not be seeing each other out and about in town, but the support shows what a truly great community we live in.
“I would just like to thank our neighbors who gave generously of their time to deliver groceries and made donations,” Kelly continued. “Also, our partners in getting this effort off the ground – our local churches, the Camden County Board of Freeholders and Thy Kingdom Crumb, who did several food distributions in town.”
Not surprisingly, Collingswood Cares will be reaching out to its needy neighbors during the holiday season.
“In the next two months, we are going to focus on ensuring the families we’ve worked with have a special holiday season,” Kelly said. “We are working on putting together some holiday focused food drives and we would encourage people to go to our website to learn more.”
And, if you don’t go to their website, really all you need to do is look around the town to see Collingswood cares.
“We moved here a long time ago from Philly and it was like a neighborhood in the city but with more trees,” Maley said, “and that’s what we love about Collingswood – it’s a great collection of neighborhoods and everybody helps.”
Learn more at www.collscares.org.