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While most 13-year-olds spend their money on things like junk food, video games and brand name fashions, Zak Hernandez saved his for socks and toiletries.
The Shamong teen wanted to do something special as a service project to mark his Bar mitzvah, the traditional Jewish coming of age ceremony, so he purchased dozens of pairs of socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, hand sanitizer and first aid kits that he packaged into individual care kits for homeless residents and others in need.
Zak, a 7th grade student at Indian Mills Memorial School, delivered the care packages to the Burlington County Housing Hub on Monday with his mother. The Housing Hub, which serves as “one-stop shop” for housing services and assistance, will distribute them to the residents and families its staff and volunteers assist.
“We are absolutely overwhelmed with Zak’s thoughtfulness and generosity. His donation speaks volumes about his character and he’s already setting an example, not only for others of his generation but everyone,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson, who was at the Housing Hub to meet Zak and present him with a special certificate recognizing his selfless service to county residents.
Burlington County Department of Human Services Director Shirla Simpson and Malikah Morris, director of Community Outreach and Special Projects, were also present to accept the donations and give Zak and his mother a tour of the Housing Hub.
Located on the first floor of the Burlington County Human Services Building in Westampton, the Housing Hub provides a single-point-of-entry location for homeless and other residents who are housing insecure or experiencing hardships to come for services and help from multiple agencies and programs. The initiative is designed to provide residents with emergency help but also to assist them with any underlying issues that may contribute to a housing crisis.
The Housing Hub also provides space for residents to meet with representatives from other county agencies and community service providers, as well as utilize computers to use to access and enroll in other programs.
More than 3,000 residents have been assisted by the Housing Hub since it opened in December 2019.
“Homelessness and housing insecurity is a problem across New Jersey and is an issue our County refuses to ignore,” said Hopson. “The Housing Hub has been a tremendous resource for our residents in need and it’s extremely gratifying to meet people like Zak who is going above and beyond in service to others in need. He represents the best of Burlington County and I was thrilled to meet and thank him personally for what he’d done.”
Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson and Malikah Morris, director of Community Outreach and Special Projects, accepted a donation of care packages for the homeless from Shamong teen Zak Hernandez.
Zak Hernandez holds up one of the care packages he put together for homeless residents in Burlington County.
Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson presents Zak Hernandez with a certificate of recognition for his community service.