Hearts of Mercy Lends a Helping Hand in Barnegat

By ERIC ENGLUND | May 15, 2019

Barnegat Township — Several years ago, Barnegat Township resident Kristin Santorelli was driving through town and sensed there were people who were very much in need.

“I saw families with strollers and small children walking in the rain or snow – I was curious and wanted to know more,” she said. “One day I met families and individuals and heard their stories. I realize how thankful I am for my family, friends and all of the opportunities I have been given throughout my life, along with the help and support that was so often needed. Many of the people we are building relationships with weren’t given these privileges. They need hope. I think of the movie ‘Blind Side’ – we can all take part and make a big difference in someone’s life and ask for nothing in return.”

The result was she and her husband, Mark Santorelli, established Hearts of Mercy, in partnership with numerous faith-based and charitable organizations.

“We meet many that have been evicted, have lost jobs, moms and kids leaving unhealthy situations, and families or individuals living with friends and are ‘homeless,’” she said. “Love, acceptance and open hearts go such a long way. Everyone needs and deserves a second chance.”

For example, Santorelli said numerous families do not have regular transportation available.

“We sponsored a young boy named Anthony for football,” she said. “He normally would not have been able to go to practice. he had a great season. The coach saw Anthony’s talent and the potential. The school counselor and teachers were so happy for Anthony and noticed a difference in his school performance. We keep in touch with the families throughout the year. We want them to continue to have hope and see the never-ending possibilities for their future.”

Santorelli said one of Hearts of Mercy's priorities is offering mentoring to the children in the area.

“They may have a single parent that are busy working and trying to keep it all together or no adult in the home the majority of the time,” she said. “These sweet children need that extra touch with homework, tutoring, a ride to practice, someone to listen and remind (them) how special they are.”

Tom Banks, a Hearts of Mercy board member, said the group is planning summer activities, such as sponsoring children for recreation department day trips, youth summer camp at Camp Haluwasa, Lakewood BlueClaws baseball games and trips to Long Beach Island.

“It would be so wonderful for these kids to have a chance to get away for a day,” said Banks. “They’ll have an opportunity to meet new friends.”

Santorelli said the group is also seeking more board members and volunteers.

“We’re also hoping to get funding from grants or the town,” she said. “All we’re trying to do is make life better for kids and their families.”

For more information, call Santorelli at 908-783-0269 or log onto hearts-of-mercy.org.

— Eric Englund


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