ASBURY PARK — Yvette and Reggie Anderson walked into the Asbury Park train station Saturday morning and made an announcement: They had a U-Haul van full of clothes, food and toiletries for anyone in need.
“Thank you for not forgetting about us,” someone replied.
The Andersons then handed out scores of care packages to a long line of folks — some of them homeless. One woman, wearing a sweatshirt in the 30-degree cold, politely said she was in a rush to make a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.
“I gave her a coat and she said, ‘My God, it’s like you fell out of the sky,’” Yvette Anderson said. “She gave me the biggest hug and she walked away with a little bit of pep in her step.”
That’s the goal for the Andersons, who distributed more than 500 packages between three stops, hitting New Brunswick’s train station and then Newark Penn Station after Asbury Park. They did it last January too, but with the help of social media and word of mouth, the crowd as Asbury Park was much bigger this time around.
“Last year it took about 10 minutes,” Reggie Anderson said. “This right here, look at the mount of people who are coming out. This is a true blessing.”
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The Andersons, who live in Jackson, have made it their mission to help others. It began in 2010 with Thanksgiving baskets for struggling local families and a Christmas toy drive for underprivileged children. Growing up in Manalapan, Yvette Anderson was inspired by her grandfather Richard Pearson, who sought to help others despite their own difficulties.
“Being part of a family in need as a kid, it’s a blessing to give back to families now, knowing and understanding what that felt like,” said Yvette, who is 47.
In 2014, the Andersons were expecting a baby boy when Yvette was diagnosed with preeclampsia — a life-threatening pregnancy condition. Little R.J. was born three months early. He survived just one day.
In her mourning, Yvette discerned a new mission — helping the homeless.
“It was a devastating time for me and my husband,” Yvette said. “After you go through something like that, it sucks everything out of you. I was sitting home feeling down. I believe that (idea) is what picked me up and gave me the strength to go on.”
So now they do all three outreaches each year under the umbrella of “Andersons Meet the Need.” Using Facebook as the engine, they collect donations — money and goods. They recently applied for nonprofit status.
Folks from all over kick in. Shanay Robinson, a friend who teaches at Summerfield Elementary School in Neptune, asked her third-grade students and their parents to get involved.
“We made over 200 care packages,” Robinson said. “Everyone was so excited to be a part of it.”
In February, through Meet the Need, the students will deliver Valentine’s Day cards to residents of Pine Brook Care Center retirement home in Manalapan. Like the Andersons, they’re hooked on the spirit of service.