Beginning World Changers Founder Frank Cunningham funded this nonprofit for the first nine years from his own resources, driven to action by a desire to help those who were experiencing extreme hardship. Stop & Shop has supported Beginning World Changers through the Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs.
Tell us about Beginning World Changers.
Beginning World Changers (BWC) was founded in 2011 and began because of a desire to help people and serve the best quality food to the homeless and food insecure. We assist the less fortunate to live healthy, productive lives through human service programs and transitional sheltering.
Summit, New Jersey, is where we began. I went to a soup kitchen one day called the SHIP Program and saw the care and excellent work they were doing. They had created a customizable omelet bar that felt like a nice restaurant. Seeing the love generated and how they were so engaged and passionate, I knew I wanted to be a part of that good work. This program gave me my start.
I wanted BWC to have a great menu with restaurant-quality food. Soul food from scratch is what we do, from fried chicken and collard greens to mac-n-cheese and everything in between. I got a small team together, purchased the food and started serving meals. I funded the meals for the first nine years through my own resources. The cost never bothered me; I wanted to engage with and help people. It has always been about the love of people for me. Eventually, I could take the organization to the next level with a new team and get incorporated. I didn’t know what I was getting into; I just wanted to help people by feeding them food they would love. It has been a wonderful, rewarding experience. A significant way we create lasting connections with people is by sitting down after we serve and sharing a meal with all our clientele.
The love and community that our meals have produced are beautiful. The food is the ticket to bring people in, and it is great to see how much they enjoy it. We end up exposing these individuals to good quality food, and when they get their assistance checks, they spend them on it. Rather than wasting money on processed foods, they acquire a taste for better foods. The main goal is to put people in a better position to get themselves back together again.
A significant way we create lasting connections with people is by sitting down after we serve and sharing a meal with all our clientele.
What services do you supply to the community?
We have created five different programs over the years. The New Beginning Program is designed to get people back on track by helping them acquire all the documentation they need to move forward, such as driver or non-driver IDs and birth certificates. Often when someone is homeless, their ID will get lost or stolen. The lack of an ID can cause problems for individuals trying to get back on their feet, so we help get new ones issued.
The Back Door Program is a unique program that addresses the core needs of those suffering from a highly dysfunctional lifestyle. We assist these individuals in breaking patterns such as addiction so they can return to their lives.
Then, there is the In Return Execution Program, which helps fill in the gaps, providing things like GED assistance and job placement. With this program, we can provide interactive and proactive long-term solutions to help people reintegrate into society.
The Men’s Round Table provides a platform for homeless men to voice their issues and begin a dialog of recognition and reflection. Finally, the Beginning World Changers Food Service Program offers home-cooked meals, bagged lunches and food giveaways for the homeless community.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
Anyone who comes into my organization, Beginning World Changers, must love people! This love drives our cause, and it sets us apart. Whatever income we generate goes right back to the community we serve. The programs we have created are meant to help restore their lives. We do not serve food to the homeless to hold them down in shelters; we want to inspire new life and restoration of good situations. BWC strives to have solutions for people to come back and be better.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
When we started the next level of the nonprofit, I got business cards and started to hand them out. A woman who received my card called me because she knew of a young man staying at a local train station. She was hoping I could do something to help him. It was around eight o’clock at night, and we weren’t open, but I knew I had to do what I could to help this fellow. I went to the station, met the young man, got him something to eat and tried to help him. He didn’t have anywhere to stay because he got kicked out of his home, so I got him into a hotel for the time being. Then, I got him into a shelter; we helped provide him with the necessary clothing and food he needed. This young man eventually got a job and turned his life around.
This individual had nothing, and he could get back on his feet with a bit of help and love. He went back to school, and now he works in the technology field. To still be connected and see him progress year after year is one of the best feelings. With just a little help, you can make a difference in others’ lives.
This story will be everlasting in my mind because he was the first. We now help many individuals who end up getting themselves together, inspiring BWC to work even harder for those results.
The other wonderful part of this young man’s story is that he contacted me once he got back on his feet because he wanted to do what he could to help others in need. He participated in the process, and I thank him for being willing to say, “I want to help.” That was one of the great stories of Beginning World Changers.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
Our organization advocates for the homeless community. When the pandemic hit, everything changed, and our work shifted. We’re not just helping those who don’t have places to stay; we’re helping people who may have gotten laid off or couldn’t stay at their job because they had to now stay home with their children. The amount that we served grew to about 37,000 meals last year. And this does not include the groceries and programs that we do. Now I can hand out around 500 meals in one day.
Food insecurity is a big deal, especially after Covid, and now with inflation, more people than ever need a little extra compassion and help. I see so many individuals who feel ashamed to ask for assistance. Often, I will see someone and say, “Hey, come get some food.” They’ll self-consciously reply, “Give it to somebody that needs it.” So, I’ll catch them later with a to-go meal, which helps break down that barrier. There is nothing wrong or shameful about getting help when you need it. This food is not just for the homeless; it is for everybody. And when people come, I know they feel the love because they stay and don’t want to leave. Personally, this is an achievement.
Food insecurity is a big deal, especially after Covid, and now with inflation, more people than ever need a little extra compassion and help.
What do you want people to know about Beginning World Changers?
Beginning World Changers really cares for people! We’re a nonprofit that puts our all in a hundred percent of the time to help those in need, the most vulnerable population. We go out of our way to help those in need. This team has a love for people and wants to help.
How will you use the funds raised from Stop & Shop’s Community Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good programs?
The Stop & Shop Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs have helped with various services. These excellent programs have aided us in getting supplies and motor vehicle IDs for our homeless population. We work with a local library to provide snacks for the kids during their programming, and funds from these programs have helped with that. Every little bit counts, and we are grateful that companies like Stop & Shop believe in our mission!
All the pieces come together, and the funds we have received through the Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs help us greatly. It’s not just the funds; it has Stop & Shop put up a sign with our name on it. This gives us great exposure and helps Beginning World Changers grow.
The other day I was telling somebody how we’ve got a lot of different grocery store options out there. But Stop & Shop is the number one that really has the love and care for the community and nonprofits. They give back to us so that we can give back to others.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
We are grateful for the opportunity to continue participating in the Stop & Shop programs. The support and advertising are so excellent. The love and care for nonprofits are amazing to see. Our organization is delighted to serve nothing but the best quality with caring hearts and love for those in need!