ATLANTIC CITY — Facing eviction and a permanent shutdown of services, the Turning Point Day Center for the Homeless turned to a local philanthropist for help.
On Thursday, Joe Jingoli wrote a check for $25,000 and submitted it to the day center’s landlord, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and saved the facility.
The day center, located on Bishop Richard Allen Avenue, assists homeless people in Atlantic City and works to make them “productive” citizens.
The Rev. Collins A. Days, who helps coordinate the day center, said the facility will reopen next week. It closed Thursday because of an eviction notice from the landlord.
“We are so appreciative of Mr. Jingoli,” Days said. “He’s going to make sure the rent is paid. … We are so happy that people can continue to come here.”
The services offered at the day center include job training and career counseling, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, life skills, senior services, veterans services, day laborers, meals, a laundry room and showers.
Liz Thomas, a spokeswoman for Jingoli, said he visited the day center several months ago and was “taken” by what he saw there.
Jingoli is the founder of the Facilitating Active Recovery Mission, or FARM, Team, in Lawrenceville, Mercer County. It assists young adults in addiction recovery by teaching them life skills and helping them find a career.
Thomas said Jingoli hopes to work with the leaders of the Turning Point Day Center, including Days, to expand the FARM Team to Atlantic City.
Jingoli and his construction company have overseen projects all around the region, including the generators at the Atlantic County Criminal Courts Complex, the former Revel and the Atlantic County Utilities Authority’s Landfill Gas to Energy Project.
He is also the general contractor and construction manager of the $206 million Gateway Project in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood and is an investing partner in the transformation of the Trump Taj Mahal to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
But while Days is thrilled the day center is saved, it should have never come down to an eviction notice because the city government was supposed to give it a $50,000 grant to stay open.
Days and City Council President Marty Small blame Mayor Frank Gilliam, who has declined to give the money to Turning Point.
Gilliam did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The $50,000 grant was supposed to come from the remaining $1.3 million given to the city by the MGM/Mirage Corp. in 1996. The pot of money was also known as the AC Endowment Fund.
The purpose of the funds was to invest in “public purpose projects” that benefit Atlantic City residents and businesses, according to previous press reports.
In November, then-Mayor Don Guardian and Small chose 10 organizations to receive grants from the remaining $1.3 million that included the day center, the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City, the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation and the Atlantic City Police Foundation.
“We wanted to make sure the funding was spent wisely on behalf of Atlantic City residents and businesses,” Guardian and Small said in a joint statement in November. “We chose to focus on recreation, nonprofit public organizations and infrastructure projects that will directly benefit the interests of Atlantic City.”
None of those organizations has received the promised grant money.
Small said Gilliam is withholding the funds because he’s mad he was not part of the process to pick the organizations in November.
“(Gilliam) is playing games because he didn’t get to participate, but the contract clearly stated that the mayor and council president had to choose the organizations,” Small said, adding Gilliam needs to now sign off on the checks so they can be delivered. “Don Guardian was the mayor at the time. If Turning Point (would have closed), people would have Frank Gilliam to blame.”