Essex County teen starts organization to collect hoodies for the homeless population

Through word of mouth and social posts, Zach Rosner was able to mobilize his network to donate throughout the year.

Matt Trapani and Naomi Yané

Sep 8, 2023, 2:31 AM

Updated 316 days ago

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An Essex County teen turned a passion project into a nonprofit to help the homeless. It all started on a school trip to Washington, D.C. While his classmates were taking in the national sites, then-10-year-old Zach Rosner noticed something else that sparked the idea for him to create the organization Hoodies for the Homeless.
“There was a homeless man who was pretty much wearing no warm clothes… He was just freezing, and I didn’t really know what was going on,” Rosner says. “But it just caught my eye and I continued to think of it for a couple of years after that.”
Fast forward three years later to Rosner’s Bar Mitzvah. After receiving several sweatshirts as party favors, Rosner and his family decided to put the hoodies to good use.
“The amount of sweatshirts he was receiving was just enormous,” says his mother Jordan Rosner. “We thought, what a better way to give back than to collect all these sweatshirts that these kids wear for a few months and give them to people in need.”
Hoodies for the Homeless was born. Through word of mouth and social posts, Rosner was able to mobilize his network to donate throughout the year.
“It was really just a community effort to do the donating and to get all the hoodies that I was able to collect,” Rosner says.
Hoodies for the Homeless partnered with Bridges Outreach, an organization working towards ending homelessness. They give out the hoodies while doing fieldwork to help Essex and Union counties’ homeless populations.
“It's a really important and valuable component to our interactions…Hoodies really are a key item that people are always asking us for, especially as the nights start to turn cold,” says Richard Unijacke, of Bridges Outreach.
Since Rosner started Hoodies for the Homeless, he’s collected over 15,000 hoodies and has at least a dozen drop-off locations - including at his home in Short Hills. There are also drop-off locations across the country that his peers started. He says he hopes to continue to inspire other teens to be a force of change.
“A lot of people say that our generation is not looking too great in the future, but I feel like this just shows the opposite, how much we care to make an impact,” Rosner says.
Rosner will be attending college next fall. He says he already has plans to continue collecting sweatshirts at whichever school he attends, and he hopes to get other students to start collecting on their college campuses.
More information about Hoodies for the Homeless can be found HERE.


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