“If you’re blessed with it, share it.”
Those are the words of Kevin Curran, the assistant general manager for Toyota's New York region, in describing Jenny DePaul, a Rockaway, New Jersey resident and the founder of Project KIND 123, a Newark-based organization that brings crucial aid to more than 100 homeless people in the city. DePaul recently quit her job to focus on her organization’s efforts full-time, and you can find her near Newark Penn Station seven days a week.
Along with food and clothes, Project KIND 123’s mobile outreach team provides mentoring, emergency/temporary housing, information, referrals to assistance programs, encouragement and support.
One of DePaul’s biggest logistical issues has been getting food and supplies from point A to point B. That’s where Toyota stepped in. In celebration of DePaul’s work in the community over the past four years, Toyota donated a brand-new Sienna minivan, along with a $25,000 check for gas and maintenance. DePaul received her new wheels last week at a ceremony at Peter Francisco Park in Newark. DePaul was joined by dozens of her homeless friends, representatives from Toyota, and two Giants’ players: linebacker Kareem Martin and tight end Rhett Ellison.
“It means a few things to me,” DePaul said. “It means that we’ll be able to bring more donations when we come (to Penn Station). We’re down here seven days a week. We just had a little car, so this is going to make our lives a little easier.”
Ironically it was Curran, a high school classmate of DePaul’s, who caught wind of her efforts and got the ball rolling.
"Since high school, I knew Jenny had a heart of gold," Curran said at the ceremony. "But when Toyota heard about her selflessness and heroic efforts to provide food and clothing for the homeless through Project Kind, we were amazed and felt inspired to help."
DePaul’s new minivan will allow her to cut her time on the road in half. Instead of having to make two separate one-hour trips from Rockaway to Newark, DePaul can load everything up and make just one trip.
“It’s just awesome to meet Jenny,” Ellison said. “What stood out to me is everyone that came knows her by name and she knows all of them by name on a first-name basis. So it’s not just dropping off food and that’s it. She actually connects with these people and that’s really cool to see.”
“Some people are put on this earth to help, and that’s what she does,” added Martin. “This is all natural for her. Whatever these people need, she finds a way to get it done. It’s good to see that there are still people like that on this earth. To see her come down here and give her time when she doesn’t have to, to help these people, is just amazing.”
Project KIND 123 operates entirely on donations. Hundreds of local residents bring supplies to one of four drop off locations (two in Denville and two in Rockaway). As the organization has grown and the donations with it, so too has the need for a better way to transport all the supplies more efficiently. That’s when Toyota stepped up to the plate. Curran saw a natural fit - DePaul needed a new ride, and Toyota was more than happy to help out.
"I started noticing Jenny's Facebook posts about giving to others and coming out and helping those who needed help," Curran said. "So I knew she needed a car. We put our heads together and decided to lend Jenny a van for her mobility organization, and that's what Toyota does. We go out and help others. It's been amazing to get to know why Jenny does what she does."
Add Stop & Shop to the list of companies inspired to help after learning DePaul's story. They provided dozens of meals to the homeless during Friday's donation ceremony.
“Everyone out here knows her,” Martin said. “It’s like a small family and community with Jen coming out here. All the kids love her and she’s carrying around all the babies. Everyone respects her. She’s in her element just helping these people, and it’s a really good thing to see.”
“She has an amazing heart,” Ellison said. “Her purpose is to serve people, and I don’t think there’s a higher purpose for anyone of us on earth.”
Learn more about Project KIND 123 and its work in the Newark community by visiting their website here. You can also get information about volunteering and donating supplies.