For Denise Swiney, New Community’s one-stop resource center feels like her second home.
Instead of relaxing and kicking off her shoes after ending her shift as a Certified Nursing Assistant at NCC’s Extended Care Facility, Swiney immediately goes to the New Community Family Resource Success Center to volunteer.
A soft-spoken woman with a gentle demeanor, Swiney, also known as “Dee Dee,” says she helps with whatever is needed, such as reading paperwork for clients who lack literacy skills, organizing tax documents, answering the phone and greeting clients. She also serves as an instructor for the resource center’s weekly crocheting class. She’s become friends with the center’s frequent visitors, including other volunteers, seniors and the homeless.
“It’s a pleasure to work with Denise. She does help with the clients and does excellent work,” said fellow resource center staff member Theresa Munford, who handles front desk reception. Earlier this year, she said, Swiney helped a homeless man who sought assistance at the center find temporary housing. “She also helped by calming him down,” Munford recalled.
The Family Resource Success Center is New Community’s one-stop center located inside the Pathmark Shopping Center, where people can receive information, resources and referrals for all services offered by NCC. In 2013, more than 4,200 people received over 7,300 services at the Family Resource Success Center, including food referrals, emergency housing placement and help paying utility bills.
Swiney, whose sister-in-law is center Director Joann Williams-Swiney, says her volunteerism there began unintentionally. In April 2010, Swiney said she “came here to catch a ride home” from one of her two brothers who also volunteers at the center, including younger brother Donald, who is married to Joann.
Soon, she began helping out. “Then, I just started coming every day,” Swiney said. In 2011, Swiney joined the Family Resource Success Center Advisory Council, which meets monthly to assess the center’s impact on the community and discuss new ideas for outreach. “I just like to be hands on,” she said.
Born in Glen Ridge, Swiney grew up in East Orange as the second eldest of 10 siblings. Before she started working at Extended Care, she was a home health aide for nine years. Swiney has three children and four grandchildren.
Williams-Swiney, the center director, said that her sister-in-law possesses the ideal traits for working with clients: patience, warmth and a willingness to listen.
“She just makes my day when I see her walk through the door,” Williams-Swiney said of her sister-in-law. “You have to have compassion for people and their problems,” she added.
On her end, Swiney says the resource center is now constantly on her mind. She regularly volunteers on days when she is not working. When she is away, she calls the center and checks in.
“If I see something I got at home, I bring it in and donate it,” Swiney said. “I feel good, I feel like I’m helping somebody.”