Livingston Philanthropies Founder Reflects On Coat Donation by Young JCC Students

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Editor’s Note: This week, Livingston Philanthropies founder and director Jeff “The Coat Guy” Friedman this week, in his own words, describes and reflects on the donation of coats by young students at the JCC’s early childhood program.
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By Jeff Friedman
Livingston Philanthropies, Inc. (LPI) volunteers saw it first hand this week. It took only a nine-minute ride, just 3.9 miles, to drive home the geographic closeness of the “haves” and “have-nots.” We read about the widening financial divide and economic inequality folks suffer through every day, just minutes away from Livingston. Livingston, too, has its share of poor residents, readers should know.
It all started when I received a notification from the early childhood program at JCC MetroWest, just over Livingston’s border in West Orange. Many Livingston residents take advantage of the JCC’s facilities. “We’re at it again,” advised Laina Stapleton, a curriculum development specialist there. “We’re collecting coats for LPI. Please pick-up at the end of the month.”
I was thrilled. Each year, the very young students collect and donate a huge load of warm coats and winter accessories for the homeless & profoundly poor. “It’s part of our ‘Mitzvah-a-Month’ initiative,” said director Leslie Fleishman.
One by one, the youngsters individually presented LPI volunteer and Livingston business owner Neil “Mr. Neil” Greco with 181 warm coats and jackets. LPI volunteer Stephen Greenberg commented, “This is an amazing experience for the kids. They’ll take it with them throughout their lives.”
As in previous years, Neil’s big pick-up truck was overflowing for the short drive – just under four miles away – to long-time distribution partner United Missionary Baptist Church in East Orange. On behalf of Pastor Michael Sykes, we were greeted by his wife, First Lady and Minister, Zena Sykes, Deaconess Mason and our logistics contact, congregant Ethel Tomlin. Pastor Sykes and his stellar staff are dedicated to community work and helping others, particularly the less fortunate among us.
“The coats were delivered the next day,” said Minister Zena. “We at U.M. Community Corp. and the United Missionary Baptist Church distributed the donated coats in East Orange to an infant with Downs Syndrome, a single dad with physically and mentally challenged twins, struggling single mothers and families whom are poverty-stricken.”
“The heartfelt smiles of each person receiving the precious coats were priceless,” she continued. “They are warm this winter because of Your Kindness. Praises to Mr. Jeff Friedman, Mrs. Karen Friedman, Mr. Neil for his awesome truck, and to Livingston Philanthropies for your coat donations and your true example of Living for the Sake of Others.” From LPI, we thank you, Minister Zena.
It’s my pleasure to share stories about where local donations go and, why. LPI’s generous donors ask when I meet them around town or at Livingston events.
As they say in Maine, the entire scenario is an example of “the way life should be.” Winter coats for entire families travel from the mostly well-to-do to provide for those who literally have zero – within 24 hours. An instant re-allocation of resources, if you will.
Please continue generous donations by dropping yours during business hours at the West Essex Tribune, located at 495 South Livingston Avenue, next to ShopRite. Or, send me an email at to make other arrangements or to explore volunteering opportunities with LPI.

Photos: Jeff Friedman, Livingston Philanthropies founder, along with volunteer Neil Greco, delivered 181 warm coats and jackets to LPI distribution partner United Missionary Baptist Church in East Orange, just minutes after donation by the JCC MetroWest early childhood program. Friedman is shown here with United Missionary First Lady and Minister, Zena Sykes.

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