Featured in The Trentonian

Think about great journeys in history.

Neil Armstrong escaped gravity for a moonwalk; Amelia Earhart piloted an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean; and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fronted a famous march from Selma to Montgomery.

Closer to home and with far less fanfare about a dozen young people recently visited the Trenton Rescue Mission where they enjoyed a special season of giving. The youth were clients of a city-based organization called Men For Hope which had formed an alliance with Trenton’s CampFire NJ group.

Men For Hope youth enlisted in a CampFire NJ Gift of Giving Service Learning Program made possible by a grant shared by Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

These youth arrived bearing gifts, not the toys, video games, jewelry, and expensive clothes that decked out many trees.

Presents served as inspiration for real gifting, real-life needs such as soap, shampoo, cologne, tooth brushes, tooth paste, and socks.

Gifts of God delivered by his children, placed into the hands of our homeless, relished by people long forgotten or barely remembered by family, friends, and lovers.

These challenged men and women were children once, before time and bad decisions made them outcasts, people offered no regard when passed on sidewalks.

They either receive unwanted pity or unnecessary derision but deserve dignity.

While many of us feel that empty pang during Christmas after every box has been opened, this holiday story restores hope as seen through eyes of children.

The Men For Hope visit included inspirational signs that raised spirits as many Rescue Mission clients looked to rebound.

“Our mission was one of compassion. We have learned not to judge, that we are our brothers and sisters keeper,” said Kelvin Baldwin.

In successful recovery for more than two decades, Baldwin co founded Men For Hope with Britton Thomas.

“Our goal focused on children, to reach them before they were targeted by gangs, had negative experiences with the criminal justice system, or ended in jail.”

Jessica Nitti explained a giving program that initiated with round table talks that lasted five weeks.

“We first asked children to identify issues they recognized in their communities,” explained Nitti, CampFire NJ executive director.

“Kids see so much in their neighborhoods. Our discussions included homelessness and many topics that connect with shelter deficiency. We chose a Rescue Mission visit knowing that we could address many needs.”

Men For Hope children had previous experiences at the Rescue Mission.

“We had made regular visits there. The kids played checkers with clients, served them meals, just spent time there,” Baldwin noted.

“The overriding message was that we care, that we want them to have better lives. We think about them, even pray for them.”

Community partners included local dentists who made donations of toothpaste and tooth brushes while Rider University added shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant.

Past visits lasted about an hour but this latest arrival extended to more than three.

They toured Trenton’s Rescue Mission, even ventured into male and female wards. One client shared his story.

“He came from a good family but had started using drugs in his early teens. His lifestyle and bad choices led to being homeless,” said Kelly Nitti, CampFire NJ associate director.

“He took kids on his journey and you could hear a pin drop as they listened.”

A personal opinion is that grace and sweet goodness transmits on a special frequency that to be heard requires quiet.

Those “you could hear a pin drop” moments allow God to whisper on our hearts. His instructions always challenge us to love more and to give — more.

Unfortunately, many adults have made a mess of our world. Our only chance of human kindness rests in the hearts of young children and local agencies who offer human compassion and support.

If your holiday celebration feels unfulfilled then volunteer or make a donation to local foundations that reach thousands.

Let’s continue to guide our children toward destinies that underscore their need to help others. On this Christmas day love remains our most powerfully important gift.

L.A. Parker is a Trentonian columnist. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Twitter@laparker6.

See original story here.