Eva’s Village 35th Anniversary Celebration Includes Volunteer Appreciation & Tribute to Msgr. Vincent E. Puma

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Governor Christie and elected officials joined 300+ volunteers and supporters, alumni and staff, and clergy to celebrate the mission and growth of Eva’s Village - from a soup kitchen in 1982 to the 20 anti-poverty programs serving the Paterson and Passaic County communities today.

Gov. Christie concluded Eva's Village 35th anniversary program, speaking out against the stigma of substance use disorders, and praising peer-led recovery programs at Eva's Village.

'When you take someone’s hand you should never let go of it until they can stand on their own two feet.' inscription on the statue of Msgr. Vincent E. Puma, founder of Eva's Village, unveiled at the ceremony.

On Sunday April 23, hundreds of guests gathered in the courtyard of Eva’s Village to celebrate 35 years of service to the community. Anniversary guests included volunteers and supporters, Eva’s alumni and staff, and clergy and elected officials. The program celebrated the mission of Eva’s Village and the legacy of our founder, Msgr. Vincent E. Puma, whose vision guided the growth of the social service organization from its beginnings as a simple soup kitchen in April 1982, to the 20 anti-poverty programs offered today.

Held on the first day of Volunteer Appreciation Week, the celebration honored individuals who worked to establish the original soup kitchen and recognized staff, volunteers and trustees, past and present, for their outstanding dedication and service. After awards and speeches were presented and bronze statue of Msgr. Puma was unveiled in the courtyard, guests adjourned to the Community Kitchen for a delicious spread prepared by chef instructors and students from The Culinary School at Eva's Village.

History of Eva’s Village
Feeding the most neglected and vulnerable members of our community may not sound revolutionary, but in 1982 at the height of the recession, Eva’s Kitchen was the first in Northern NJ to respond to this growing need, and was the first soup kitchen to offer supportive services. From the beginning, Eva’s Kitchen provided more than food and warmth - it quickly became a hub, offering free health screenings to guests and referrals to substance use treatment programs, social services and jobs. Read more about the history of Eva's Village.

Countless volunteers, thousands of supporters, innumerable community groups, and dedicated staff have worked together for three and a half decades to serve Paterson and Passaic County residents through Eva’s Food and Housing, Recovery and Medical, and Education and Training programs. Throughout the years, Eva’s Village has expanded its supportive services and programs to meet urgent and emerging needs in the community, broadening its focus to include treatment and recovery programs for individuals struggling with addiction and co-occurring behavioral health issues. The non-profit organization has empowered thousands of individuals to find pathways out of poverty and build a brighter future. Read more about ways to volunteer at Eva's Village.

Program Highlights
Highlights of the afternoon included recognition of Eva Hernandez, S.M.I.C. who is Eva’s Village namesake—honored for her work as the first kitchen director in 1982, when 30 hungry guests were served the first meal of franks and beans. Members of the Sisters of Charity, some of whom lived in the convent that housed the original Eva’s Kitchen, were also recognized, among them, Cathy Rowe, S.C., and Sister Barbara Gnecco, S.C., the second and third kitchen directors and Dr. Eileen Clifford, S.C., a current trustee and long-time volunteer who worked to establish Eva’s medical clinic. The Sisters of Charity have participated continuously in Eva’s Village since the beginning. View a slideshow of the event.

Tuffy Ali, an alumnus of Eva’s Recovery Program addressed the gathering, sharing the story of his recovery journey. He remembered Msgr. Puma support and encouragement, saying, “Monsignor had seen something in me that I had never seen.” He continues to volunteer at Eva’s Recovery Community Center, offering the hope he first found at Eva’s to others in their recovery. He also started the first alumni group and continues to serve on the Center’s peer advisory board.

John Crimi, a current trustee and close friend of Msgr. Puma’s, welcomed guests, and Donna Marie Fico, Eva’s Senior Director, introduced speakers. Mark Schmit, President of the Board of Directors, spoke about Eva’s mission, vision and programs, and presented “Hand of Hope” awards to individuals who made significant contributions to the establishment and growth of Eva’s Village. Rev. Michael Drury, Pastor of St. Luke’s Parish, Long Valley, led the invocation and the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, gave the blessing for the statue unveiling. Dr. Clifford, S.C., led the closing prayer.

Governor Christie concluded the speaking program, commending Eva’s Village for the positive impact its programs have in the Paterson and Passaic County communities: especially the recovery treatment services and peer-led support programs at Eva's Recovery Community Center, and for the Center's work in the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program to connect patients reversed from overdose with recovery treatment. He encouraged guests to fight against the stigma associated with substance use disorders. Other elected officials were in attendance, including State Senator Nellie Pou, Councilmen Luis Velez, Councilman Andre Sayegh, Councilwoman Ruby Cotton, and Freeholder Assad Akhter.

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Ellen V. Kuhn
Eva's Village
+1 973-523-6220 Ext: 270
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