The recent approval for a Covenant House program in Asbury Park has ramped up the fundraising efforts of Brooklyn resident Kirsten Corley, a Freehold native.
“To me, everyone deserves a chance at a better life and if you weren’t born lucky, Covenant House is where you make your own luck and things can change for you,” Corley said.
Located along Prospect Avenue, the Interfaith Neighbors owned and Covenant House run Rights of Passage will offer men ages 18 to 22 a temporary home as they transition out of homelessness. The Asbury Park Planning Board recently approved the five bedroom home that will feature en suites, a communal livingroom and kitchen, secured storage, and bicycle racks.
“Currently we have an outreach center that a lot of people don’t know about there,” she said.
Now set to participate once again in the March 24 Covenant House’s Young Professionals Sleepout, Corley held a fundraising event this past weekend at Asbury Ale House, located on Cookman Avenue.
“I specially chose Asbury Park because we recently got approved to have a shelter in the town so I wanted to tell people about that,” the long time Covenant House supporter said.
Organized in partnership with childhood friend Manus Mullanaphy and Patrick Rafferty [the venue’s manager], the event was Corley’s 25th Birthday Bash, featuring entertainment, food, and a chance to win four Flyers vs Devils box seats donated by Devils CEO Scott O’Neil. In lieu of gifts, Corley asked those who attended to donate $20 at the door. Many people gave more, she said. In the end, Corley and her team raised $3,000 for the cause.
“I really couldn’t have pulled it together without the help of the staff at Asbury Ale House specifically, owner Matt Gullace and manager Brian Moore and Patrick Rafferty,” she said. “On day one I walked in and I said, if I can fill your bar can I host my 25th birthday party here. They said absolutely how can we help. As one of the newer bars in Asbury, I think what they do well is being active in the community and being willing to take on stuff like this when other places weren’t as open to the idea.”
Corley’s support of privately funded agency that works to provide shelter, food and immediate crisis care to homeless and runaway youth began as she entered working world.
“They kind of found me,” she said. “While having an internship in NYC, I would commute with bagged lunches and hand them out to the homeless people I saw along the way. In those few months, I began to develop relationships with these people and a common question I asked was, ‘how did you end up in this situation?’ There is the stereotype that every homeless person is either a drunk or a drug addict and I really wanted to break down that stereotype and learn more about these people. I began blogging and telling some of these people’s stories across the internet. A lot of whom simply didn’t have the support and a place to go or the resources to be successful.”
She grabbed the attention of Covenant House’s Austin Hagaman, who invited her to join a local Young Professionals Board in 2014. Their first meeting had only seven members. By March of 2015, she participated in her first Sleepout.
“We slept on the streets of NY in a blizzard,” she said. “It was one of the toughest nights of my life. We had a box and a sleeping bag and whatever we could fit in our backpack. We woke up to a foot of snow on our stomachs and I swore I wasn’t going to do it again. But here I am for my third year.”
Corley now sits on the board of Covenant House NJ and Covenant House NY. She has organized two bar crawls in Asbury Park in support of Covenant House; the first in 2015 raised $1000, and the second in 2016 doubled in donation. She ran the New York half marathon in March 2016 and the NY marathon in November 2016 in support of the organization.
This past year she traveled to Guatemala to visit a Covenant House trafficked youth shelter.
“It was a life-changing experience,” she said. “It showed me first hand a very dark place in a very scary country. While I felt uncomfortable and nervous walking through the streets, these girls had gotten out of the sex trafficking ring and this was the place they called home. It made me appreciate things but more than that motivated me to want to do more.”
“I tell people while I might be the one going places and running races and sleeping on the street, it is [because of] the support system that is behind me that I’m successful in fundraising,” she said. You can’t teach that type of support, it’s something I am lucky to have. And that showed in full force when so many people came out Friday.”
Donations can also be made via Young Professionals Sleepout.
[Photos courtesy of Corley]
The Asbury Park Sun is affiliated with the triCityNews newspaper.