Marie Caliendo, the new Director of Development for Family Promise of Bergen County, is struck by one difference about homelessness on this side of the Passaic River.
In Paterson, where she worked as Director of Philanthropy at Eva’s Village, homelessness was often in the open. “We served many unsheltered people, some were living under the I-80 overpass,’’ she says.
In Bergen County, on the other hand, homelessness is more generally out of direct sight and thus potentially out of mind. But it is no less pernicious.
“An important part of our work at Family Promise is to build awareness of this hidden issue. You might think that because people are not living under a bridge, they’re not struggling, or not really homeless,’’ she says. “But if your family is sleeping on someone’s couch, you and your children are at risk and experiencing trauma.’’
In addition to her five years at Eva’s Village, Marie also worked at Medical Missions for Children at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Paterson.
But she started out in an entirely different field – foreign currency exchange.
“I spoke a few languages, so after college I went to the financial district to look for a job,’’ explains Marie, who’d grown up in the New York. She wound up having a knack for marketing, started that department at the foreign currency trading house where she worked, and later moved to a Madison Avenue advertising agency.
She thinks the skills developed in these jobs are relevant to her role in the nonprofit world, especially now as Family Promise emerges from two years dominated by the pandemic. The congregant sheltering network was halted and now Family Promise is committed to a new model that is stabilizing for vulnerable adults and children. Plans are underway to build The Family Promise Center – a main site (location to be determined) where working families experiencing homelessness will be housed and helped to become self-sufficient.
“It’s important to be able to bring some for-profit skills to non-profits to ensure they are sustainable and can continue to fulfill their mission,’’ she says, especially to help raise funds and build support for what she calls “the exciting future of Family Promise and the community members we serve.’’
Marie has lived in Allendale for two decades. It’s where she and her husband, Paul Thomasset, raised their children, Carly and Dylan.
While she brings important business and organizational skills to her new post, Marie says that her experience as a parent is just as important: “I think about the innocent children. Homelessness is an Adverse Childhood Experience that can cause long-term damage to their health and their futures if not addressed. I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that is providing real solutions – and hope – to families and children in need.’’