Giving back by feeding people

Jackie Rosner

By Jackie Rosner
Jackie Rosner is a field communications specialist with MassMutual.
Posted on Aug 27, 2020

When Justin Williamson moved to Morristown three years ago, he wanted to get involved with a charitable organization that made a tangible difference in the community where he lived. He connected with the Morristown Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center, known as nourish.NJ, a nonprofit determined to provide nutritious meals in a warm, safe, and caring environment, free of charge, to anyone who seeks nourishment.

Williamson said his motivation is simple.

“Regardless of your political view, economic standing, religion, or any other factor, everyone in America should be able to go to bed with a full stomach,” he said. “I can provide direct and measurable help and support to those in my community.”

A community problem

There are many widely held misconceptions about hunger in the United States.

“Most of the people that we meet at the soup kitchen are the marginally housed working poor, disabled, veterans, or elderly on fixed incomes,” Williamson said. “Only a fraction of the guests we serve are homeless; it’s about being able to help feed hundreds of people that I see walking around my town.”

At least three Friday afternoons each month, Williamson and his colleagues, Alec Hardy and Mackenzie Nolan, leave the office to roll up their sleeves at the soup kitchen sponsored “farmer’s market.”

“We unload and sort fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats that are overstock or have been rescued from local retailers,” Williamson said. “The market is set up to mimic a grocery store and guests are welcome to shop for what they need. No one is turned away for any reason—no questions are asked.”

Building a better practice

Williamson said his volunteerism has helped him as a financial professional.

“When my clients are building their estate plan, we discuss donations to nonprofits and allocating funds for causes they support,” he said. “Not only have I have stayed current on different estate planning strategies, I learned how nonprofits work and the importance of serving communities through charitable giving.”

Williamson added that his firm, Tri State New Jersey, sponsored a corporate event last year, raising money to present the nonprofit with a significant donation.

“We also had 15 coworkers spend the day volunteering,” he said. “We helped feed people, but we strengthened relationships and created memories among our team.”

Williamson is proud that Hardy and Nolan are as equally and enthusiastically committed to the nonprofit.

“For any financial professional, time out of the office could be seen as sacrificing your practice,” Williamson said. “Volunteering is a hugely rewarding experience that has everything to do with our core values and giving back to the community. It is different than what we normally do, but absolutely makes us better at what we do every day.”

A $25,000 difference

Williamson was recognized with a $25,000 Community Service Award from the MassMutual Foundation for his work with nourish.NJ.

The nonprofit operates solely on donations and does not accept any government grants.

“With this award, nourish.NJ can continue its work of serving 75,000 meals annually,” Williamson said. “Since 1984, they have never missed serving a meal, despite hurricanes, blizzards, and power outages; the community depends on us.”

Williamson wasn’t recognized for his work when he applied for a grant last year but wasn’t discouraged.

“Rejection is a part of sales,” he said. “The need in the community doesn’t stop, the soup kitchen doesn’t give up, so it is my responsibility to reapply.”

In 2020, MassMutual Foundation awarded 32 grants, including two $25,000 Platinum Awards, 15 $10,000 Gold Awards, and 15 $5,000 Awards to eligible applicants. The winners were notified in July.

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.