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FUNdraising Challenge with The Hoboken Shelter

Sat April 17 - Sat April 24 Hoboken, NJ 07030 US Directions

Volunteer Spotlights


"My name's Nicole Teitler, but better known professionally as Nikki On The Daily®. I'm an award-winning journalist and copywriter. When I first moved to Hoboken from Long Island, six months ago, I wanted to get involved with the community but didn't know how. Then, one day, I walked by the Hoboken Shelter. When I saw the people in line outside, I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness. The feeling ate at me for weeks. So, I decided to volunteer my communications skills to help tell their story. In the short time I've been involved with the team at the Hoboken Shelter, I've gone from feeling like an outsider to being a part of a meaningful community. Now, I've found a piece of my 'home.'"

Nic Vasil

Describe the ways you've been involved with the shelter.   

In more normal times, I would join the other volunteers for the 5pm dinner prep and service.   Working with other volunteers to prepare the food, the tables, and serve the guests was the perfect way to end each day.  Under the current pandemic restrictions, involvement has been limited to dropping prepared meals and foods with some regularity. I join my St. Peter and Paul volunteers for a monthly total meal donation and collecting items needed by shelter guests.


What prompted or inspired you to get involved?  

The enormous need prompted me to get involved. It would be impossible to ignore the growing need of those under housed, without food, and unrepresented. We are all part of this community. We are responsible for each member.


Is there a moment in particular that resonates with you?  

I have been fortunate to become friends with a few shelter guests. These regular people have found themselves in uncertain circumstances yet remain positive, engaged, and interested. It reminds me our similarities are greater than our differences.  Over coffee one day a friend told me, I am not homeless, I am houseless – my home is the community in Hoboken. ****


You assist with the monthly meal nights. To someone who has never experienced feeding the homeless, describe what it's like. 

Food is such a basic need. A community like Hoboken, so rich in resources, talent and compassion, should be able to care for those without essential nourishment.  Feeding a shelter guest reminds us all of the best in each of us.  When I am able to offer a meal for someone without I feel closer to my community, my Faith, and my core values.


How has your perspective changed since you began volunteering with the Shelter?  

Overall, my perspective has changed to urgency.  The pandemic has created an even greater need to support all members of our community.  Every urban environment has a homeless population but not every urban space has to have a homeless problem. 


What other ways are you involved with the Hoboken community?  

I am very involved in my St Peter and Paul Church Community, the needs of which vary from personal interactions to services provided. I look for opportunities to contribute and remain open to the ability to make meaningful contributions in any way.  A better Hoboken is the responsibility of all those who call it Home.


Favorite 80s movie and song?  

Favorite movie - anything John Hughes.   Favorite song – anything 80s, that’s my jam!


Grace Conlin

What grade are you in and what activities are you involved in at school?

 I am in 10th grade. At school, I try to be as involved as possible! I played basketball freshman year for Hoboken, I was the freshman secretary, and this year I am the sophomore Treasurer. 


You made hats for the Hoboken shelter. What inspired you to do that?  

I decided to open a fundraiser where for every $5 donated, I knit a wool hat. The hats are super cute and I made all different sizes and colors. I decided to do this because I often found myself asking “what could I do to help those in need?” My first thought was to help my local shelter, and use my knitting skills to do so.


What other ways have you been involved with the shelter or the Hoboken community at large?

I have volunteered many times with my Girl Scout Troop. I served many meals to the shelter guests and led fundraisers. For my silver award project with my fellow Girl Scouts, we held a book drive and built a bookshelf for the Hoboken Shelter. 


How do you encourage others your age to be kind and do selfless deeds for others? 

I encourage others my age to be kind by leading by example. By doing these kind and selfless deeds, others see that this is something that needs to be done more.


Why is volunteering your time important to you?

Volunteering my time makes me feel like I’m using what I have to the best ability. It’s so important because it helps me have a sense of community while helping others. It is so rewarding. 


What would you say to someone who is uncomfortable around the homeless? 

I would say to someone that is uncomfortable around the homeless that “getting to know a person is the most important thing, regardless of where they live!” I would help change their mind by convincing them to not judge people by their circumstances. 


What are you most excited about this spring/summer?

I am most excited to spend time with my family and friends at the beach! All while staying safe in terms of COVID-19. Also, I am excited to hopefully get vaccinated so we can all get back to a safe and normal normal life.


Favorite old song/band/movie that your parents introduced you to?

My favorite old movie that my parents introduced to me would have to be Top Gun with Tom Cruise. This may seem not that old, but it’s before my time and is a really good one!


Four Little Souls - Joelle Hernandez. Jordan Hernandez. Mariah Alston. Jonathan Alston

Check out Facebook for their video!

Four little souls has been around since 2000, so this is the 21st year as four little souls. They came together with the understanding that their lives looked a lot different than those in their community. Two pairs of siblings whose mothers are really good friends came together and learned about participating and giving back to the community. We started a carnival with the help of our parents, at Joelle and Jordan’s house, and we raised money for school supplies, food for young people, as well as blankets for a clothing drive. 

The main mission is to provide basic resources to little souls everywhere. We stand firmly on our two main focal points-- education and hunger. We know by unlocking the access to quality education and quality, nutritious foods the possibility and the level of success is infinite. 

The Eliminating Hunger Happy Hour is an event hosted by Four Little Souls every year. It started back in 2016. The main mission is to eliminate hunger. Friends gather together, usually young adults, to just have some fun, have a couple of drinks and raise money for a great cause. Right now we are in the middle of our newest initiative, 2,021 meals in 2021. That is our mission for this year and as it stands in the middle of April we are just over 600 meals donated. This would not be possible with the generosity of our family, friends, and of course, our community members. We have been so fortunate to be able to give back this year, when the need is greatest. 

Seeing and understanding the impact that hunger has on families and especially young children, how it hinders their ability to focus in school, and how food insecurity overall has extreme effects on individuals and their families is the reason this initiative is very dear.


Alexis Walling

Describe the ways you've volunteered with the Hoboken Shelter.

I have participated in a few town sponsored events that help support the Hoboken Shelter. I used to organize the “Spare a Square'' Happy Hour at 10th and Willow with Erica Seitzman where people donated rolls of toilet paper instead of paying a cover charge. There was a lot of enthusiasm and we had rolls upon rolls to donate! I also organized the Thanksgiving Happy Hour where people brought food donations to the event. 

My main involvement, however, has been with the HoBOOken 5K. I was brought in to help with sponsorship and then developed a race village for runners and spectators that included local brands/establishments as well as national brands. 


What volunteer moment in particular resonates with you?

I would have to say it was in 2016, after the HoBOOken race. I was in the race village watching all the people who came to support the Hoboken Shelter. As a runner, it was amazing to finally see what goes into organizing a race and the logistics behind it. Months of hard work literally paid off watching the fun and excitement as people participated in the event raising money for the Shelter.


What inspired you to get involved?  

Actually, that involves a “Who.” Erica Seitzman, who also works and volunteers with the Hoboken Shelter, called me one night. She said the HoBOOken 5K needed volunteers for their committee and she thought my love of running, event planning and fundraising might be helpful. She was right! I went to a meeting and immediately got to work. 


How has your love for running brought you closer to the Hoboken community? 

My love for running is what brought me to the HoBOOken 5K. I initially joined Fleet Feet’s No Boundaries program to “learn to run.” I was a terrible runner and hated gym class growing up. No Boundaries was a program that trained you for a 5K, which happened to be the HoBOOken 5K. I worked weekly to build up to it. I loved it so much that two years later I ran the NYC Marathon in 2015. A year after that, I volunteered to help organize HoBOOken and now I’m a Race Director. The race is special to me and it’s amazing to see how much this community can come together. 


What other ways are you involved with the community? 

I have been involved in many ways with the Hoboken Community. I enjoy getting people together for great causes. I organized and participated in the Hoboken Social Sandbox, the Hoboken Gala after Hurricane Sandy, the Hoboken Boathouse, Party with Purpose NYC Marathon Team, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Philadelphia Half Marathon Team, Hoboken Bulldog Meetup, The Superbowl XLVIII Host Committee, and of course the HoBOOken 5k. 


You'll be HoBOOken Race Director this year. Describe your new responsibilities and what you're excited about most?

2020 threw us all for a loop, including how to run and organize a virtual race. Even though we did a great job organizing our first virtual race, I think our biggest challenge is maintaining the same enthusiasm and increasing the number of participants during COVID-19. I’m most excited about the possibility of having a live piece of the race, if the city allows for that. I know it will be smaller and we will follow all the COVID guidelines but the thought of bringing even a piece of the live race back is exciting. If we can’t go live and must continue virtually, I’m excited about coming up with fun ways to incorporate as many local bars/restaurants and businesses as possible to come together for a fun Virtual 5K around the city. 

Favorite 80s movie and song?

My favorite move from the 80’s has to be Dirty Dancing. As far as songs, I was a huge New Kids on the Block fan! So anything by them.


Frank DiCola

What ways have you volunteered with the Hoboken Shelter?
Most people think of cooking in the kitchen when they think about volunteering at the Hoboken Shelter. I've done that a handful of times. But I wanted to do more. The project I worked on during the fall was a whole suite of videos, mainly interviews, that I conducted with the shelter's staff to be used during our virtual Winter Auction fundraiser.

What volunteer moment in particular resonates with you?
I began to volunteer with the shelter back in 2018 with the Winter Auction, back when the event was in a physical location. I got to join the committee and be one of Jaclyn's "Vanna White" helpers during the tricky tray raffle. It was a lot of planning followed by one long day of volunteering. I'll never forget it. I know how important fundraising is in order to keep this shelter open 24/7 365 days a year, so that annual event always holds a place in my heart.

What inspired you to get involved?
I would credit my Catholic faith as well as my youth in the Boy Scouts of America as the main reasons that began involvement with the Shelter’s important work. It’s a 24/7 operation that serves the most defenseless residents of the city. I know the staff rarely get a chance to catch their breath. I really wanted to do something special to highlight their sacrifice.

You created Charity Quest, and did video interviews for the Winter 2020 Auction. What other ways do you envision using your tech related skills to benefit the Hoboken community?
Once I'm done with the core programming of the app (which will take a while), I would love to create a podcast or YouTube series where I can interview the staff and volunteers of Hoboken's charities in a more in-depth way. These long form interviews would allow more time to talk about what it's like to work at a charity, as well as personal stories. They would also be good to cut into smaller videos and use for fundraising. So, I think if I can get that off the ground, it would be really useful for all the charities in town and they wouldn't have to do much more than just sit for a 45 minute conversation. 

Right now the app is the main focus, because I want to include interfaces for school administrators, clergy, small businesses and large businesses so they can also have access to the benefits of this charity network.

It seems your work in Winter 2020 was extremely time consuming. How many hours did you donate? 
It came to about 35 hours of filming and editing-- and that wasn't even all the staff. There are so many wonderful people working at the Shelter that I didn't get a chance to interview. I'll have to pick this series up again once I get more of my programming done.

That’s a lot of man hours! Why dedicate so much time?
I started this project because I was already on the Winter Auction committee, but I felt like I didn't have anything to contribute to the event since it went digital. We were using a whole new digital auction tool that I hadn't used before. So, I pitched video editing at one of our early meetings, and everybody loved the idea. I found it very rewarding to have the opportunity to actually meet all the staff, especially those I had never had a full conversation with. I definitely have a new appreciation for the extended services (career help, benefits counseling, etc) that the staff provides all their guests.

What advice do you have for others with your related skills on how they can be a benefit to non-profit organizations?
Don't be afraid to offer! People might love your idea. Think about unique ways you can contribute to a local charity, especially if you can either improve a process that's already happening or add something totally new. The videos were an awesome thing to have during the Winter Auction and they'll be on the website for years to come. Were they 100% crucial to the success of the digital event? No, of course not - the show must go on, and it would have happened regardless. Still, I was able to improve the experience, create some useful videos for the shelter to use going forward, and tell the stories of these heroic figures. That makes it worth it. 

Other advice I would offer is not to take your skills for granted. The things that are second nature to you (for example, being a social media maven) might be regarded as talents by other people because they have no experience or training in that domain. That's why you should always at least offer your talents! You never know what will happen.

Favorite 80s movie and song?
That's tough, but I'll say The Princess Bride for my favorite 80's movie. For the song, I love Who's Crying Now by Journey.

Raakhee Mirchandani

Describe the ways you've volunteered with the Hoboken Shelter.

My family and I love the shelter! We've volunteered in a lot of different ways to support the amazing services the Hoboken Shelter provides to guests. We've made sandwiches and served food. We drop off feminine hygiene products, underwear, and socks monthly. And we are always finding ways to fundraise for the shelter.

One of our favorite fundraisers was our recent partnership with Tony Boloney's. Thanks to so many of our generous friends and family, we were able to raise enough for six months of weekly pizza dinners for the Shelter guests. Tony Boloney's has always come through for the shelter with incredible, discounted meals, free deliveries of dozens of pizzas and so much more. They are truly exceptional people and a business I hope everyone supports. 

Why did you choose to get involved?

We believe that food and shelter are basic human rights and we feel grateful to the Shelter for helping guests who need a hand. We are also very inspired by the work the Shelter does to get folks into homes. We adore Hoboken and we want to support the community as much as possible and the Shelter is an integral part of our community. 

What volunteer opportunity in particular resonates with you? 

Anytime you can provide something for someone - a listening ear, a meal, an item they need or make them feel like they are not alone, well, that's enough for us. We feel like any day we can do something for someone other than ourselves is a day we have made a difference in the world. It’s something we strive for as a family. 

We are guided by the Sikh belief in seva. And while it's lovely to be recognized - thank you so much! - we try and just get the work done, without the expectation of any recognition of awards. 

How does your daughter inspire you? 

My daughter Satya holds close the belief that "People should not have an empty stomach", something she was exceptionally moved by over the last year, during the pandemic. I am guided by her light often. And while her sentiment is a simple one, her desire to do something about the need she recognized touched me deeply. I am proud that she, like us, is guided to serve her community. 

As a careered writer, your job is to impact others through words. How have you used that skill to make a difference in the Hoboken community?

I don't know how much of a difference I've made yet, but I'm working on it! Truthfully, I ask my friends for money a lot; I'm always asking them to donate and they always do. In fact, so many of them thank me for the opportunity. Can you believe that? So I think, maybe, I've made a difference by just asking friends and community folks to help out, to throw in $10 to sponsor a pizza, making it as easy as possible for them to lend a helping hand. Mostly I'm just really lucky that folks always step up when we make an ask; we have such generous and open-hearted friends and family.

Favorite 80s song and movie?

9 to 5: the song, the movie and that amazing queen Dolly! Also: She Works Hard For the Money by Donna Summer and How Will I Know by Whitney Houston. Those three are tops for me!



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