by Greg Salvatore.
At a New Jersey train station earlier this month, Freedom Region IT Director Reggie Anderson and his wife, Yvette, handed out care packages to homeless people in the community near their home. More than 500 people received packages in the second year that the Andersons have hosted this event, up from 300 last year.
The care packages include new blankets, scarves, hats, gloves, toiletries, a bag lunch and more. People receiving them have told the Andersons that it’s like they fell out of the sky and came right on time. Many other people make and break promises to help, they say, but not the Andersons. They come back and do more each time.
At one point, a military veteran was about to receive his package from Reggie and insisted on showing his military ID. It was important to him that Reggie and Yvette knew that the place where he was in his life currently was not always the case.
“He said, ‘I really want to show you my ID, I want to show you who I was’,” Yvette said. “And we said, ‘You are still that person. This moment in your life does not define you, you’re still that person.’ That’s what we want people to remember — just because you’ve fallen on hard times, that could be any one of us.”
Andersons Meet the Need, the organization started by Yvette and Reggie six years ago, is founded on the Andersons reflecting on their own life experiences and honoring the people in their life who have shown them what is important in life and what it truly means to give back.
“It’s all out of the basement, it’s all grassroots and out of (Yvette’s) head,” Reggie said. “Knowing that we’re very lucky and blessed, it feels good to help. We’re all in.”
Each year, the Andersons host a Thanksgiving drive where they provide everything it takes to make a full Thanksgiving meal, including the turkey. This year, they provided meals for 300 families, up from about 25 when they started the project in 2010. The annual Thanksgiving drive is called Richard and Nola Adopt a Family, after Yvette’s grandparents. When Yvette was a young girl, her grandfather, Richard, was instrumental in helping those in need in the Monmouth County area. Years ago, Yvette volunteered at a church holding a similar Thanksgiving drive, which gave her the full perspective on why it’s so important to lend a hand when you are able.
“I’m not ashamed to say that back then, I was a family in need,” Yvette said. “That same night, my family would receive one of the baskets that I helped assemble. This is something that is very near and dear to me because it’s carrying out my grandfather’s legacy of helping people in the community.”
Reggie said the events not only have a profound effect on him, his wife and their daughters, but on all of the people who volunteer and appreciate the incredibly fulfilling feeling that comes from giving back.
“When we do these efforts, such as the Thanksgiving event, it’s cool to see parents bringing their kids out, and collaborating and working with their kids,” Reggie said. “The kid