As we pen this letter, we are reminded of the quote, “Don’t cry because it is over; smile because it happened.” These words encapsulate our feelings of profound gratitude and a hint of melancholy. On behalf of the M25 Initiative trustees, we extend our heartfelt appreciation for your unwavering support, generous financial contributions, and dedicated volunteerism that have been pivotal in our journey.
Our voyage commenced in December 2013 with the inception of the first municipal Code Blue program in the City of Bridgeton. This program, designed to provide “Warming Centers” for homeless individuals during the harsh winter months, responded to a tragic event and a call to action by community leaders Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly and Dr. Rob Weinstein (two founding trustees of the M25 Initiative). Inspired by this endeavor, volunteers and churches in the cities of Vineland and Millville followed suit, creating their Code Blue Programs. From the 2015-2016 Code Blue Season to the Spring of 2020, all three municipal-based programs united to form the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition, a grassroots movement of churches and community members responding to the needs of our homeless neighbors.
In the summer of 2015, the Code Blue Program catalyzed the birth of the M25 Initiative, a 501c3 non-profit in Cumberland County. The M25 Initiative was created with the sole purpose of engaging, equipping, empowering, and mobilizing individuals and organizations to devise innovative and cooperative solutions to alleviate suffering, feed the hungry, end poverty, reduce crime, revitalize community spirit, and transform lives.
One of the unique aspects of the M25 Initiative is its operation through volunteer leadership with no direct employees. This approach ensured the funds were invested directly into our community and partners that advanced the mission and projects. Your support, therefore, has directly impacted the lives of those we served.
Since 2015, the M25 Initiative has successfully raised over $1.5 million and invested it in Cumberland County. Your support allowed the Code Blue program to evolve into the M25 Initiative, fostering the growth of crucial endeavors such as the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition and the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative programs. Together, we have strengthened the social safety net for our homeless neighbors, making significant strides by housing over 150 individuals. Our shared advocacy also played a crucial role in establishing the Cumberland County Homeless Trust Fund and the Statewide Code Blue program.
With your support, we have provided over $43,000 in Mustard Seed Grants to equip and empower local organizations and faith-based entities to provide safety net services to our neighbors struggling with poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness. Before the pandemic, we coordinated and funded the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition. We have continued to financially support the municipal programs in Cumberland County, with a total of $50,000 for Code Blue Warming Center facilities and operational funding (since 2015). We have provided $19,000 in funding to support Shower Programs in Cumberland County. During the pandemic, we raised and provided over $185,000 in funding for programs to combat food insecurity in Cumberland County. We take immense pride in the progress that the programs incubated by the M25 Initiative have made over the years, growing into thriving organizations in their own right.
On June 12, 2023, the M25 Initiative Board of Trustees decided to commence the sunsetting of the organization by the end of the fiscal year 2023-2024. Over this coming year, we will work with our partners to ensure that the good work we started will continue. We will be working to responsibly invest the remaining funds of the M25 Initiative in programs that will continue the legacy and mission of the M25 Initiative and honor the commitment of our volunteers and donors. We have fulfilled our mission to equip and empower community members to carry forth the work we began. The essence of M25 was never solely about the organization but rather a movement fueled by compassion and hope within our community.
As we prepare to sunset the M25 Initiative, we are grateful for your commitment and partnership. We are confident that the seeds we have planted together will continue to grow and bear fruit in the future. Thank you for being a part of this journey.
As we close this chapter, we are reminded of the verse that has been the cornerstone of our mission: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” —Matthew 25:35-36
As we look to the future, we are filled with hope and anticipation for what the next generation of servant leaders will do in Cumberland County. We are excited to see how they will continue to live out these words and make a positive difference in our community.
With deepest gratitude and hopeful anticipation,
—Rob Weinstein, Dave Moore