Transformed. Revitalized. Gentrified. These and other adjectives have often been used to describe what’s been happening in Hoboken and Jersey City over the last two decades. But increased luxury development can also bring with it some concerns.
One of those worries is how communities can still care for those less fortunate in an economic boom that tends to hide the presence of poverty. That’s where HOPES CAP comes in. The non-profit, which was established in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act, has been serving underprivileged children in Hoboken for decades and wants to make sure that folks are aware of the city’s economically disadvantaged.
“Regardless of what everyone seems to think, Hoboken does have a needy community,” says HOPES Vice President Simona Ovanezian. She noted that there’s actually a homeless shelter next door to the group’s Rue Building and while poverty might not be obvious to people who visit the Mile Square City and stroll along Washington Street, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
“Those misconceptions can be a challenge, which is why the organization is always seeking to get that point across,” Ovanezian says.
HOPES, one of the organizations that runs the city’s Pre-K education program, serves about 350 students who are 100% below the poverty line in Hoboken and just over 1,000 total in New Jersey. Due to a grant change in July this year, eligible families in Jersey City neighborhoods near Hoboken, including the Heights and Holland Gardens, can also enroll in HOPES’ infant and Pre-K programs.
The non-profit is based out of 301 Garden Street and is currently hard at work constructing an annex, which will house three Head Start Pre-K program classrooms and offices for the organization. They anticipate an April finish for the project and will have the facility up and running for next school year’s Pre-K classes.
Local architecture firm Minvervini Vandermark designed the annex and have been working with the organization for years. HOPES President Ora Welch told Jersey Digs that the firm is a “great asset” to HOPES, who were one of their first clients when they started out. “Everything we’ve done, they’ve been there for us,” Welch says.
Welch says that HOPES was initially nervous about going before the Planning Board for the annex, but their application was granted first-time approval and a standing ovation followed from the audience present. She says they’ve always been supported by the city’s boards and the local community, as both long-time residents and newer Hoboken inhabitants have embraced HOPES.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the newer residents in the community, in part because other schools also lease space in our building and parents see firsthand what we do,” says Welch.
HOPES also offers various after school enrichment programs out of their facility and a myriad of other services, including financial empowerment programs, health benefits assistance, and ESL programs. They also helped file tax returns for over 1,400 families last year.
But one of the biggest challenges HOPES faces is money, as funding for non-profits like theirs is scarce. Which is one reason why later this month, the organization will be hosting their 3rd Annual “Fall in Love with HOPES” fundraiser, which will help raise money for the afterschool and summer programs that they run.
The gala, which will be held on October 20th at 7PM, will feature a raffle, D.J., a silent auction, cocktails, and food provided by several local restaurants. Tickets are available at HOPES’ website or by phone at 1-855-OK-HOPES Ext. 1022.
Despite the challenges HOPES sometimes faces, Ovanezian says the biggest reward she and others get from their work is helping people achieve better lives. Ovanezian says that the organization regularly asks for letters from former students when applying for grants and alums are always eager to help them out.
“The success of HOPES is on full display whenever we see people succeed,” she says.