Through hardwork, dedication and plenty of volunteer's efforts, the job search support and networking group Neighbors Helping Neighbors group has grown leaps and bounds over the past 18 months following its created by River Edge resident John Fugazzie. And now, the group's founder is one of 15 finalists in the Marigold Ideas For Good summer contest.
"My idea of starting _Neighbors-helping-Neighbors_ has made me qualify for this possible grant," Fugazzie said. "I moved pass the essay and the inteview portion. Now it is up to people to vote for me."
The contest, inspired by Catalino Tapia who emigrated from Mexico to the United States at the age of 20 with six dollars in his pocket, built a successful gardening business. Today, at the age of 64, he runs a scholarship fund to help Latino youths have a chance at the American dream.
In conjunction with Encore.org and Road Scholar, Participant Media and TakePart.com offer the monthly contest for participants to follow in the footsteps of Catalino, hundreds of other Encore.org participants, and the characters in the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Fugazzie is in the running for a $5,000 grant to benefit Neighbors-Helping-Neighbors USA, and its expansion.
"I was selected as one of 15 finalists for a possible grant due to the volunteer work I have done in founding NhN a job search group that in a year and a half has 750 members, 20 library programs and 151 success stories in that short time," Fugazzie said.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors was formed on January 27, 2011, when the residents of River Edge and surrounding towns began conducting weekly meetings on a volunteer peer led basis to assist fellow job seekers with networking and support during the extremely difficult task of finding employment in a slow-growth economy.
The group create a level of support for it’s members who are attending weekly meetings and expects a pay-it-forward model where the members all help each other unselfishly.
"I am very proud to have founded this group and be able to now say we are continuing to grow from the original group of five members who meet weekly just 18 months ago," Fugazzie said. "There are now over 750 members and counting who are actively looking for jobs, and the group has produced over 150 success stories. The group is in the process of being formed as a legal non-profit 501 3 c by Rutgers Law School which should be completed by the fall."
The group currently has 20 library based locations with four new locations coming by September.
The voting period, which accounts for 50% of the overall decision, is open until Monday, August 6, 8pm and residents can vote once every 24 hours. To vote for Fugazzie, follow this link. A Facebook account is required to log in to TakePart and vote. Individuals without a Facebook account will not be able to vote.