By Steve Sears
Gerd Stabbert, a member of the Lions Club of Chester, for the third consecutive year is taking part in a sleep out to raise awareness for homelessness.
Stabbert is Team Captain of the Chester Lions Club Sleep Out: Executive Edition – 2020 – Newark.
In 2018 and 2019, Stabbert slept on the streets of Newark, but this year’s event will be virtual. He and teammate, Fred LaForge, will be sleeping in their backyards. The event dates are Thursday, November 19 – Friday, November 20, from 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Stabbert, 45, joined the Lions Club about 5 years ago, and the group has had an almost 30-year relationship with Covenant House in New Jersey. “They were first introduced to it with Sr. Mary Rose,” says Stabbert, “who was one of the leaders of the Covenant House, and since that time the Chester Lions Club has been donating funds and participating in the shelters by serving dinners and bringing meals there continuously.” Covenant House representatives would regularly speak at Lions Club meetings. “I was fortunate enough to hear Jim White – who is the Executive Director of Covenant House of New Jersey – speak, and he brought some of the young adults with him to share their experiences with the Lions Club.”
His interest fueled, a month later in 2018 a sleep out was scheduled, and Stabbert saw it as an opportunity to learn even more. The evening of the event, he toured the facilities, met some of the young adults living in the dorm-style rooms, and saw the learning center where they are educated for their future, as well as on-site offered behavioral therapy, legal and medical services. “They really work to get these kids back on their feet and get them off the streets and reintroduce them to real working, or a life to pursuing education,” Stabbert says.
After the tour and hearing the residents speak, at 11 p.m. he and LaForge headed out to their respective sleeping bags to endure the evening. “It really shows you how difficult it is, just for one night,” confirms Stabbert. “It was very, very cold out the first time, we could hear sirens going almost all night – almost constantly, and you hear feral cats screeching and fighting with other animals. Even though you’re out there 7 or 8 hours, you get very little sleep, and you realize that these young adults are going through that on a nightly basis. They don’t know where they’re going to get their food, and the next day you appreciate that you get to go back to your warm home, and it makes you want to do more for them.”
Stabbert also mentions that, although year number two was warmer, it really didn’t help that much. Being homeless is being homeless.
Stabbert, 45, is an attorney for Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C. of Florham Park, whom he recognizes for promoting social awareness, and allow attorneys like himself to do work to raise funds or volunteer for organizations. Stabbert, who has been married since 2003 to his wife Aimee and is a dad to Ava, Evan, and Arianna, wants also to emphasize the support of the Chester Lions Club. “Without that club locally, I wouldn’t have become familiar with the Covenant House, and that’s just one example of the charities or local services that the Lions Club supports. That’s the reason I got into the Lions, to help others less fortunate and help the community.”
Stabbert and his team can receive donations up to a month after the event. Visit sleepout.org, enter “Stabbert” in the search bar, and donate. Covenant House is located at 330 Washington Street, Newark. The website is www.covenanthousenj.org.