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New Warm Coats: A Valentine’s Day Gift to New York’s Neediest

Posted on February 14, 2019 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

JaffaCares Teams with Catholic Charities to Provide Coats

Nearly 100 impoverished men and women we serve at Catholic Charities NY received the early Valentine last week they wanted most, new winter coats.  The gift of warmth in this cold city served as a proactive show of love on Cupid’s holiday. 

Its genesis, however, began earlier still. Just before Christmas on another frigid night over one year ago, the Belmont Fire, now named among the deadliest fires in the Bronx in the past century, took the lives of 8 adults and 5 children, mostly immigrants on the bottom rungs of employment struggling to work their way up to build new lives in America.

When investigators traced the fire’s cause to a toddler playing with a stove, Councilman Ritchie Torres introduced legislation requiring safety knobs installed on all kitchen stoves.  New York real estate consultants Jack Jaffa and Associates and their foundation, JaffaCares, responded immediately, donating safety knobs residents could pick up at over thirty participating council member’s offices. 

At the event announcing this donation, Mr. Jaffa and his spokesperson, Miriam Deutsch, met Fr. Eric Cruz, director of Catholic Charities NY’s Bronx region that had mobilized immediately to provide food, clothing and housing support to the nearly 40 surviving adults and children.

Realizing then that Catholic Charities case managers maintained close contact with Belmont Fire survivors and Bronx families in need, the Jaffa Foundation gave Fr. Cruz hundreds of knobs to distribute through Catholic Charities Bronx Center, making Catholic Charities the only nongovernmental agency receiver and distributor of the Jaffa donation. Similarly, when distributing just before this Valentine’s Day coats to the needy through council members’ offices throughout the Bronx and Brooklyn, the Jaffa Foundation once again singled out Catholic Charities as well to share their largess.

Catholic Charities staff had to work quickly.  JaffaCares gave them just over a week’s notice that black down men’s and women’s coats, size medium through extra-large, were on their way.  So, Fr. Eric mobilized every case manager, from those specializing in eviction prevention to those working with day laborers, asking them to find out which clients need coats and what size they wore.

“They have the coats and we have the people,” said Fr. Cruz. “This is an exciting moment to forge a new friendship and surprise the needy.”

Jaffa volunteers joined Catholic Charities staff last Wednesday, February 6th, to distribute 72 new down coats, engraved in red Jaffa & Associates on their upper left, to shivering men and women dressed only in sweatshirts and parkas 6th at a special event hosted at our Catholic Charities Community Service Center in the South Bronx.  They also shared these coats with folks waiting in line that night for food at the Bronx Hub’s free food bank.

“We could not have been happier to be able to team up with Catholic CharitiesNY,” Jack Jaffa tweeted. “Thank you to Reverend Eric Cruz for his assistance in making this coat drive a success.”

Ironically, while New York City is the richest city in the world, studies document the South Bronx as the poorest congressional district in the nation.  To overcome this reality, Catholic Charities NY and dozens of our affiliated agencies call this neighborhood home, offering food, clothes, housing assistance and job placement assistance.  None-the-less, the reality remains.  On frigid February days families can be found shivering on the streets, standing near highways awaiting work, waiting on pantry lines wearing thin sweaters and gloves.

“The families we serve were incredibly happy to receive the coats not solely for the comfort they provide, but for the warmth they felt knowing that people truly care.”