Author Topic: City Serve (for teens & their families)  (Read 3364 times)

Offline regina

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City Serve (for teens & their families)
« on: August 05, 2011, 07:36:56 AM »
Churches combine for common cause in Hackensack

If you believe Fr. Brian Laffler, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Hackensack's 1st Ward, the genesis for a new project to help the community came when he decided that the time had come for life to imitate art.

"I was reading the book 'The Cross and the Switchblade' by David Wilkerson, which is about teenagers in 1950's New York City getting help with dealing with drugs, alcohol and gangs," said Laffler. "Our young people are at risk of gang activity, there are career alcoholics on Hudson Street and the adjoining area, and we recently had two fatal stabbings in the neighborhood. For me, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn in 1958 is Hackensack, New Jersey in 2011."

Laffler is working with a clergy consortium from more than five Hackensack churches to put together an event known as CityServe.

In many ways, CityServe will seem like a typical summer carnival. On Sunday, Aug. 7 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the outside space immediately surrounding the Marinello and Mellone Recreation Center will have fun activities for children, such as a dunk tank and face painting for children, a gospel group performance for all ages and free hot dogs and sodas.

There will also be a health center set up where community members can either get their blood pressure checked or donate blood.

Participating churches are collecting food to be donated to the Center for Food Action, which will be present to distribute the donations at CityServe.

There will also be drug counselors available, including representatives from Teen Challenge, the aid organization founded by Wilkerson.

Former Hackensack resident Jairo Daza, who has benefited from working with Teen Challenge, will give a talk about his experience.

In addition, representatives of other social services programs, including New Jersey Cares for Kids, will be available.

"We're making it fun, but we're also bringing in social services groups so people know that they are there," said Bill von Husen, co-pastor of Summit Church, who worked closely with Laffler to organize the CityServe event. "People who may not have access, or be aware of access to these things, can find them. We're bringing the services to them."

Pastor von Husen noted the importance of clergy reaching out, including from one side of Hackensack to the other.

"We don't directly have the same problems by us, but we are well aware of how drug problems and gangs impact all of Hackensack," von Husen said. "We need to do something in the community, for the community."

"We hope to help transform lives, especially those who might be struggling," said Laffler. "The time is now."

Both Laffler and von Husen hope to make sure that CityServe will not be a one-time event, especially if they get a little outside help.

"God pursues people usually through a series of connections," said von Husen. "We want to hook people up, give them a positive message, give them hope, and give them the ability to move out of lifestyles that they may feel trapped in. We feel, and we know, that we have an answer."

For more information about CityServe, please go to


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Re: City Serve (for teens & their families)
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2011, 10:56:57 PM »
Hackensack churches come together to address drug addiction
Last updated: Sunday August 7, 2011, 10:22 PM
The Record

HACKENSACK There was plenty of prayer Sunday in the south end of the city where hundreds gathered to hear about the perils of drugs and alcohol addiction, and places to seek help.

Deborah Torres of Hackensack performing during Sunday's CityServe outreach event, sponsored by a number of churches in Hackensack.

CityServe, an event sponsored by several Hackensack churches, was held in the front yard of the Mellone and Marinello Recreation Center on Holt Street, where a stage was erected and the audience heard songs from local performers with religious messages and testimony from those who have overcome addictions.

Attendees included parishioners of the churches that organized the event, volunteers, neighborhood residents with their young children, and several representatives of social service agencies located in Hackensack. Organizers said the aim was to reach out to teens at risk for gang violence and to those who struggle with chemical dependencies.

"This provides an answer for them to come out of their addictions," said the Rev. Gary Schmidt, a pastor at The Summit Church, one of the congregations that organized the event. "Its up to them to seek help, but if it helps one person, then that is good."

The Rev. Arthur Shadwick, senior pastor at The Gathering Church, said organizers also want to provide assistance to family and friends of those with addictions.

"This could be a place where they can find hope for their family and their loved ones," Shadwick said.

CityServe was held in a 1st Ward neighborhood where residents have long complained about drug problems and inebriated adults on the streets. In 2009, a 20-year-old Teaneck man was found stabbed near the recreation center. He died of his injuries a week later. Authorities arrested two alleged gang members in the killing.

The Rev. Bill von Husen from The Summit Church said CityServe had its roots from a conversation he had with Jairo Daza, of Faith Fellowship in Sayreville, a former Hackensack resident who was interested in starting an outreach program. The same day, the Rev. Brian Laffler of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Hackensack called him about drug problems in his congregation and neighborhood.

Laffler also told von Husen about a book he was reading on the creation of Teen Challenge, an international service organization providing help to drug addicts. Laffler suggested the churches do something similar.

"We saw a God movement coming together," von Husen said.

Laffler, president of the Hackensack Clergy Association, said the churches in that group had already talked about starting an outreach program in the city. He called Sunday's event a success, saying that at least three people from his church who need help to overcome addictions attended.

Daza, a Staten Island resident and the keynote speaker, spoke about his 20-year addiction to cocaine, crack and alcohol, and urged residents to pray and look to God for help. Teen Challenge in Brooklyn sent participants of its recovery program and they also talked about their battles with drugs and alcohol.

Before the event ended, more than 1,000 free hot dogs were doled out and more than 100 bags of food pantry items were distributed to the needy.

Several social service agencies were on hand to distribute literature in English and Spanish about the programs they offer for families, youth and those with addictions.

Juan Sebastian Marin, 20, said the event was a good way to promote young performers, and listen to good messages.

"The theme out of it is very inspiring, and that's to promote a safe environment for the town of Hackensack," he said.

Other sponsors include New Canaan Worship Center, The River Church at the Church on the Green, Trinity Baptist Church, St. Francis R.C. Church, The First Presbyterian Church of Hackensack, Holy Trinity R.C. Church and The Salvation Army.

CityServe was attended by Mayor Jorge Meneses and council members John Labrosse, Karen Sasso and Marlin Townes.