Silver Lining: Spotlight on Community Hope

An ailing veteran grabs a lifeline and hauls himself and his family out of the depths of despair.

Volunteers with the Community Hope project who help create affordable housing for veterans.
Volunteers with the Community Hope project who help create affordable housing for veterans.
Photo courtesy of Community Hope

Something good always comes out of something bad. At least that’s the way Daniel Raymond Oelfke views life these days.
The 55-year-old veteran from Spotswood has experienced a lifetime worth of hardships, from cardiac and circulatory issues to financial woes. At one point, he lost everything and ended up living for weeks in a park in Howell with his wife and son. Through it all, he kept the faith, as he puts it—especially after connecting with Community Hope.

Oelfke hit bottom after heart surgery in March 2017. He and his family were days away from being evicted.

“We ran into a hole and we needed help,” Oelfke says. He had amassed a notebook filled with contact information on dozens of organizations that dealt with veterans and homelessness. “I would get turned down left and right,” he says. “One day I got a hold of Community Hope, and they’ve been great.”

Oelfke served in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 1986 as an airborne infantry paratrooper; he later worked in construction. Thanks to his years of service, he was a candidate for assistance from Hope for Veterans, a Community Hope program that helps homeless veterans through residential recovery, counseling, financial assistance and other services.

For the most part, Community Hope, a Parsippany-based nonprofit, provides services to individuals recovering from chronic mental illnesses. What started as a safe haven for four people in 1985 has blossomed into today’s 26 northern New Jeresey facilities.

“A lot of what we do is connect the veteran to resources that are going to be able to help them,” says Allyson M. Huff, Oelfke’s case manager. Huff helped Oelfke secure social security entitlements and disability benefits when circulation problems in his right leg made it impossible for him to work. (The leg was recently amputated.) Huff also provides friendship and support for Oelfke and his family.

“I can now afford to live where I’m living,” Oelfke says of the new rental unit in Pemberton that he shares with his wife and son.

Community Hope’s key fundraiser this year is its 22nd Annual Sparkle of Hope Gala, which aims to raise $2 million in grants and donations, says board president Diana Lunt. The 2017 event raised $1.5 million.

“Life throws you curves,” says Oelfke, “and it’s good to know that there’s people out there like Allyson and Community Hope that’ll help. They gave us hope again.”

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