Hearts of Mercy Reaching Out to the Needy in Barnegat

Jan 31, 2018

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 ‘Blindside’ – 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 Hearts of Mercy wants to offer 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.”

For the long term, Santorelli said the group wants to combat homelessness and is in contact with a number of local Section 8 housing establishments.

“Assistance with finding more permanent living spaces and help removing the dependence on governmental social service programs is at the core of Hearts of Mercy’s vision,” she said.

Eventually, Santorelli said the goal is to purchase seven acres of land and build a community of tiny houses, which would be less than 1,000 square feet and have only the basic essentials.

“We will provide these tiny homes for homeless individuals or individuals on social assistance for up to one year,” she said. “We are looking to start off with building four or five homes, and the fees that we will charge the tenants will on a sliding fee scale based upon their income or social assistance. Every tenant will have to go through an application process that includes a background check, drug test, financial check, family background, educational background and medical background.”

The organization also sponsors outreach programs for Christmas and Easter, as well as a family fun event for summer.

“So many generous people and sponsors came together to make the Christmas outreach very special,” said Santorelli. “We can’t do all that we do without or supporters, volunteers and partners in the community.”

For more information, call her at 908-783-0269.

— Eric Englund



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