Connie Mercer has a long history of serving the needy. As early as her college days at the University of Chicago, Connie was active in outreach programs. She organized busloads of college students to serve meals to psychiatric patients.
So it’s not surprising that Ms. Mercer found her life’s passion serving the homeless.
Chris Hanson, a friend with the Division of Youth and Family Services, wanted Connie to see something in person. Her friend took Connie to see the wretched conditions of homeless families crammed in motel rooms without any means to cook a meal or refrigerate a baby’s bottle. This wasn’t Trenton; this was in the wealthy town of Princeton, New Jersey. Connie recalls, “He took me to these motels and what I saw horrified me.” It was on this day in 1990 that Connie realized her life’s mission — to help families break the cycle of poverty.
Connie Mercer’s HomeFront non-profit of over 25 years has served thousands of homeless people, providing emergency shelter, affordable housing, food, clothing, children’s programs, independent life skills, and job training and placement. HomeFront provides a holistic program to help homeless families transition off the streets and become independent, contributing members of their community.
As Jalissa, a former homeless client, puts it, “I was that young mother with no help. I was that homeless person.” But because of HomeFront, she is back on her feet and back to serve. “I like doing the volunteer work here…to give back, to pay it forward.”
This past holiday season HomeFront distributed thousands of baskets to families living in poverty. Director Sheila Addison recalls, “It meant so much for the homeless moms and kids to be in a place that was clean and safe and loving on that special day. There were so many smiles and lots of laughter that day!”
Connie’s hard work is far from being over. New Jersey state funding for emergency assistance and other sources of government support for homeless and at-risk families have been slashed in recent years. “We’re focused more than ever on how not to let our desperate families down,” reassures Ms. Mercer.
“With these challenges to overcome, we’re launching a mission-critical initiative: the HomeFront Legacy Giving Program. It’s an important step in helping us fulfill that responsibility for many years to come,” indicates Connie.
Throughout her work at HomeFront, Ms. Mercer has worked hard to advocate for the people she serves and believes in. “It satisfies my soul knowing kids have a safe place to grow,” says Ms. Mercer.
Through HomeFront, Connie Mercer has helped countless lives break the cycle of poverty. For this reason, Ms. Mercer is our local hometown hero.
- Connie Mercer, Founder & CEO
- Sheila Addison, Family Preservation Center Director
- Jalissa, a former client. (Last name omitted for privacy)
- Homefront Matters Newsletter, Spring 2017