South Jersey Nonprofit to Stuff, Distribute Thousands of Backpacks

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BLACKWOOD, N.J. -

It started in a living room, then moved to a barn.

After running out of space, The Unforgotten Haven has now settled into a multi-floor building in Camden County.

At the nonprofit, volunteers work year round for their 27 different projects that give back to every sector of the community.

“What we’re giving is our time, and we give hugs, we snuggle with babies,” said Nikki Thompson, a manager at The Unforgotten Haven. “So it’s a really great feeling.”

The organization has been operating a little under three years, and now they’re getting ready for a big back-to-school donation drive.

We’re going to provide to everybody that is on this list, somehow, someway.

Last year, volunteers put together about 900 backpacks for students going into school in the fall.

“To jump from that to 5,800 with a waiting list of 5,000, which I know we’re going to do,” is extraordinary, says Michele Gambone, founder of The Unforgotten Haven. “We’re a faith-based organization and so we’re going to provide to everybody that is on this list, somehow, someway.”

The nonprofit has been sponsored by Five Below, with 21 local stores collecting school supplies.

With less than two weeks to go, it’s all hands on deck, as the group will be assembling each and every bag.

“On August 20th when we have the event, the adults are sleeping over the night before, no children sleepover,” said Gambone. “We’re going to sort everything.”

As The Unforgotten Haven prepares for its biggest event yet, organizers there still looking for more volunteers and donations to help prepare local students as they get ready for the upcoming school year.

“We have 700 volunteers signed up, [and] we have to cap it off at 1,000,” said Gambone. “So we’re looking for 300 more people to sign up on our website.”

The hundreds of volunteers will gather at St. Charles Borromeo’s Sicklerville Church, as thousands of backpacks will be made ready for local students in need.

“[In] just Gloucester Township alone, I think the high schools had 900 students, which really blew me away,” said Gambone.

“That’s what we’re here for,” said Thompson. “We’re just here to help people make ends meet. These kids are going to have not just a nice backpack, but all the supplies they need.”

For more information on how to get involved, visit unforgottenhaven.org

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