Creating lasting help for families in Cranford

CRANFORD, NJ — In today’s economy almost anything is possible, and many people are facing financial difficulty. Project Home of Cranford is a nonprofit organization that works to help residents of Cranford at risk of losing their home due to illness, unemployment, or other crisis situations. The funds they earn are distributed by Cranford Family Care, a group that determines which residents are eligible for qualification.

As of March, the organization consists of 300 members. For the past 25 years, the members have been working to assist Cranford families so they can remain in their homes. The money is strictly used for mortgage and rent payments. In the beginning, it was just a small group of women that has now grown tremendously over the years.

“Edith Coogan was the founder of the organization,” said Kathy Willis, of Cranford Family Care. “Dorothy DiTulio, who worked in real estate, was another founding member. Her daughters are now both involved with the organization. One of her daughters, Lisa Orrico, is now the president.

“In the beginning, the group would raise maybe a few thousand dollars per year,” said Willis. “In 2015 we donated $34,000 to Cranford Family Care to help 25 families.”

March was also when the group hosted its annual Ladies Night Out, an annual fundraiser where tickets are purchased to support Cranford Family Care. Dinner is provided and baskets donated by local businesses are raffled off as prizes. Last year, the organization raised $13,000 at this event. It usually attracts about 300 women, and neighbors have an opportunity to come together to socialize while supporting those in need.

“The organization relies mostly upon donations,” said Willis. “The annual Ladies Night Out is the main fundraising event. It started out small at Tony’s Cafe and in recent years has taken place at the Grand Centurion and Westwood.”

Many years ago, Penny Andrews, a resident and business owner in Cranford, had a friend in trouble. Her friend, a young mother of two small children with an abusive husband, finally got out of her relationship only to find herself financially unstable and without a car. Her friend found her way to Cranford Family Care and, with the help of Project Home, they were able to provide her with money for rent and even a donated car. It was then Andrews decided she wanted to help her friend and others like her. “I wanted to do something for Cranford people like my friend and I wanted to do it for an organization that was not a fly-by-night group — a group who had staying power.”

Andrews then went on to organize an event to help other people and support Project Home of Cranford, known as the Cut-a-Thon. Each year at the Street Fair in Cranford, she and her stylists cut hair in exchange for donations. The organization has also received generous donations from other organizations such as Cranford Junior Woman’s Club and Cranford Rotary Club.

Families can consider themselves lucky to be part of such a caring community. Neighbors have the chance to meet and help one another through this organization. The group is seeking new volunteers.

“Our group is currently made up of women in all stages of life. Some of our members came to us through other members, some through attending Ladies’ Night Out, and some through the annual mailing,” said President Lisa Orrico. “We meet the second Wednesday of the month from Sept through May at the Cranford Community Center,” she said. “Our contact info is [email protected].”

The group continues to help the Cranford community.
“They really are a fantastic group of gals that make a great team,” said Willis.