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Connecting with the young people we serve is the best part of my day. I enjoy exchanging greetings and words of encouragement to let them know that I really love them and have faith in them. I continue to be awed by their courage as they overcome challenges no one their age should have to face.

One young lady who currently lives at our Newark Crisis Shelter, named Embria, has a smile that lights up the room. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she and I would high five three times whenever we greeted. It was our special greeting. It was a way we could connect that was special just for us. I so desperately wanted Embria to know how special she is. For Embria, my words were not enough because Embria cannot hear, and she cannot speak, at least with words. She speaks with her eyes that sparkle and with her smile that says volumes to everyone she meets.

When the pandemic first began, we moved from our three “high fives” to an elbow bump. I remember the first day I met Embria, and we could no longer do even that. My heart sank as I thought, how am I am going to connect with her now. But Embria had the answer. She placed her hand on her heart and held it there while she looked into my eyes. No words needed to be spoken, and none needed to be heard. I mirrored her actions. 

As we looked in each other’s eyes, there was a profound connection, a reverence that even in the midst of all that was going on said that we were still there for each other. This simple gesture of placing our hands to our hearts has since taken over our Covenant House New Jersey community. We are determined no pandemic will keep us apart or stop us from the incredible privilege of caring for young people who are in need. We will continue to be there for our young people, for our staff, and for you, our very precious Covenant House New Jersey community. 

Embria's Story

Click to See Embria's Story

As part of our community, I am asking you to join us in sharing love by placing a Hand 2 Your Heart. Our goal is to share 10,000 hands in a show of unconditional love and support for the youth at Covenant House New Jersey. 

  1. Take a picture or a video of yourself with your hand on your heart, looking straight into the camera. Share on Social Media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) using #hand2yourheart.
  2. Then TAG three people who you MISS and LOVE and want to SHOW LOVE to, in honor of the youth at Covenant House NJ.
  3. Challenge those three people to PASS IT ON and share a “Hand 2 Your Heart” message with 3 other people. HELP US SPREAD LOVE… We all need it


Jim White

Executive Director

Sleep Out

Are you a youth in need of help?

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