5Help.org

1864a9ea 29ea 43e0 91dc 8849f4c003e0 5help 1

How Millstone teens raised $117K, collected thousands of pounds of food for COVID relief

App Asbury Park Press - How Millstone teens raised $117K, collected thousands of pounds of food for COVID relief

Jerry Carino – Asbury Park Press

Last spring, as the New Jersey EMS Task Force struggled to grapple with the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic, the nonprofit’s treasurer was introduced to teenage siblings who wanted to make a donation.

Joe Anderson was grateful for any help his first responders could get as they scrambled to collect personal protective equipment.

“They were like, ‘We’ll raise some money for you,’ and I’m thinking we would get a $200 donation,” Anderson recalled.

Heather and Drew Paglia rounded up $20,000. When Anderson heard the total, he nearly fell off his chair.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’” he said. “They said, ‘What else do you need?’”

Last spring, as the New Jersey EMS Task Force struggled to grapple with the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic, the nonprofit’s treasurer was introduced to teenage siblings who wanted to make a donation.

Joe Anderson was grateful for any help his first responders could get as they scrambled to collect personal protective equipment.

“They were like, ‘We’ll raise some money for you,’ and I’m thinking we would get a $200 donation,” Anderson recalled.

Heather and Drew Paglia rounded up $20,000. When Anderson heard the total, he nearly fell off his chair.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’” he said. “They said, ‘What else do you need?’”

Heather and Drew Paglia drop off holiday gifts as part of 5Help Foundation's outreach.

 

The Paglias, who live in Millstone Township, have asked that question over and over since last March. Heather is 14 and Drew is 17. The nonprofit they launched in the pandemic’s early days, 5Help Foundation, has collected and donated $117,000, plus 6,000 pounds of food, 3,300 pairs of shoes, 3,000 holiday gifts for kids and 1,500 winter coats to those in need.

“I call these two my rock stars,” Anderson said. “Drew and Heather are incredibly humble, yet they understand the big picture and what’s going on around them. It’s extraordinary for people their age.”

‘Doing God’s work’:Lunch Break chief kept charity going during COVID, earns MLK honor

Heather, an eighth-grader at the Hun School in Princeton, was named New Jersey’s top youth volunteer (middle-school division) by the annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. She received a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion and an invitation to the program’s virtual national event in April, where 10 of the state honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of the year.

“The message,” Drew Paglia said, “is you can make a difference no matter how old you are.”

Other charities you can help:These Jersey Shore charities keep going, even in the pandemic

‘Small donations are good’

The idea dawned on Drew and Heather last March, as they brainstormed ways to help the small businesses, senior citizens and frontline health care workers coping with COVID-19, the lockdown and its fallout.

Why not ask for $5?

“Not everyone can donate, but if we ask for $5, this is a way to get more people to do it,” Heather said. “Many people think small donations don’t help. We wanted to let people know small donations are good.”

They launched a GoFundMe campaign and a website,”>www.5Help.org. But the early returns of around $3,000 were disappointing. Seeking a better way to get the word out, Drew wrote to several news outlets. Good News Network featured the Paglias, and it caught the attention of Fox News.

Heather and Drew Paglia (right) appear with Steve Doocy (left) on Fox News in March to discuss 5Help Foundation.

On April 8, Drew and Heather were interviewed on Fox & Friends by co-host Steve Doocy. Things took off from there.

“We knew we would get a lot of recognition from that,” Heather said. “We also thought it would encourage other teens to help out.”

Right on both counts. Donations began pouring in from all over. Grateful emails arrived too, from as far away as Las Vegas and Texas. To better serve areas where the donations came from, the Paglias moved their fundraising from GoFundMe, which didn’t track donor details, to the 5Help website. They also turned the operation into a full-fledged nonprofit, with U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., helping expedite their nonprofit 501(c)(3) status.

Heather and Drew’s mom, Cindy Paglia, has a background in finance. She made sure transactions were chronicled and assistance got to the right places. The vast majority of donations came from New Jersey, and the Paglias set about the mammoth task of putting them to work.

“I didn’t envision that it would be this big,” Drew Paglia said. “Back in March, it started out as a local initiative. Then we kept expanding it and getting bigger and bigger. I’m so proud of what we’ve done and how many people we’ve impacted.”

‘We would not be eating’ without it: Fulfill partnership helps families slammed by COVID

Filled to the brim

Here is a rundown of some of notable causes supported by 5Help Foundation over the past year:

  • More than 6,000 pounds of food collected and delivered to six food pantries in four counties, including Fulfill in Neptune. The home garage of the family of peer partner Tim Rohrer, a fellow Millstone resident, provided crucial storage space. “We filled it to the brim multiple times,” Cindy Paglia said.
  • $11,000 raised for Allaire Community Farm in Wall, a nonprofit that runs programs for people with special needs and veterans — and helps rescued animals.
  • $11,000 raised for a veteran in Plumsted after a tree fell into and severely damaged his home. 
  • $2,000 raised for Abma’s Farm in Wyckoff, Bergen County, after teens were accused of vandalizing the farm and abusing the animals.
  • 3,300 pairs of shoes collected for people in developing countries.
  • 1,500 meals served to frontline health care workers in New Jersey and as far away as Las Vegas.
  • 3,000 holiday gifts collected for children, distributed by 20 agencies working with families in need.

The outreach continues. Two weeks ago, Heather and Drew filled Cindy’s SUV with supplies and dropped them off in Camden at Yorkship Elementary School, where the gym has been converted to a Code Blue warming center for the homeless.

“We went into the gymnasium and people kept coming up to us,” Drew said. “They were so grateful, saying ‘Thank you so much. God bless you.’”

The EMS Task Force's Medical Ambulance Bus visits Drew and Heather Paglia (holding banner) as a thank-you for donating $20,000.


To show appreciation for the $20,000 donation that helped purchase desperately needed personal protective equipment last April, the New Jersey EMS Task Force sent their ambulance bus to the Paglia home and gave the siblings a tour.

“Drew and Heather are basically honorary members,” Anderson said. “They are absolutely phenomenal.”

To donate, volunteer or be a corporate sponsor with 5Help Foundation, visit the website at www.5help.org.