The Center in Asbury Park, Inc. began as a small storefront operation on Mattison Avenue, Asbury Park in June 1992. The mission of the volunteers was to create a way to support services for people living with HIV/AIDS in Monmouth County, New Jersey. They were already getting treatment, but there was a further need for supplemental services that would make a life-changing impact. Many were in need of transportation assistance, home visits, hygiene products, and other basic needs to be met, but that were not covered by their medical facilities. Also, the goal for The Center was to create a place where the patients could find compassion; whether it was someone to talk to, someone else who understood their trials and tribulations, or even someone to hug or love them and treat them like human beings. The Center in Asbury Park was incorporated and classified as a 501(c)(3) organization and began living its Mission – serving people living with HIV/AIDS.
Soon after its founding, it became evident that the community The Center aimed to serve, often fell upon financial hardships. The medical aspect of AIDS was only a part of the problem. Getting decent food and housing would be vital for them to be able to live healthily with the disease. So The Center began to subsidize rents, help with security payments, provide take-home meals, provide vouchers for laundries and some other things that would help improve people’s quality of life within the community.
As The Center began to grow, they expanded the building at the Third Avenue address. They are now not only able to serve The Center community better, but with Center House they are also able to house 25 single adults living with AIDS. Center House is a “supportive housing” project that provides three meals a day, on-site case management, security and other kinds of support to help people stabilize their clients and help them be healthy.
The Center in Asbury Park has served thousands and brought stability and love to many because of the amazing support of the community, the dedication of hundreds of volunteers and the financial help of friends and generous donors.
Some of their programs include:
Center House, a permanent residence to 25 individuals living with HIV/AIDS; Emergency placement for homeless individuals; Rental and Utility subsidies to prevent homelessness.
Emergency Food and Nutrition pantry; Meals to Go, frozen home-cooked meals; a daily lunch program; Monthly Sunday dinners.
By empowering clients to connect with other service providers and programs to support them further.
Provide transportation for medical and other needs.
Lecture and forums for clients, staff, and volunteers.
In such a large, diverse community, The Center has been incremental with helping people live, thrive and have a quality of life while living with HIV/AIDS. They rely on the outpouring of support from the local community to assist with maintaining so many needed programs. Considering the views many people have on the LGBT community and the stigma that comes along with having HIV/AIDS, it’s refreshing to see that The Center was founded by Reverend Robert F. Kaeding, a Roman Catholic priest, who is also the executive director of The Center. Along with housing, food, compassion, and other necessary needs being met, their clients are also able to have access to spiritual guidance and love without judgment. We all want to do something meaningful for others in this world and never know how to go about it. But when you look back at any great organization such as The Center, you can see their vision coming to fruition and continuing to help more and more as they progress, hopefully inspiring others to take action to help.
–Richard Stiso, PFLAG Jersey Shore Social Media Coordinator