Bordering the city of Trenton, Tender Hearts is a family oriented non-profit organization that has been helping various households across the county for over 40 years. Originally established in 1977 by Mary Van Hise and her husband James, Tender Hearts has remained true to its core values and still, today, fulfills the same purpose as when it first opened: aiding the needs of impoverished families.

It all started when a fellow neighbor of the couple, lost their home and all belongings to a fire. Helping their neighbors regain stability, the Van Hises realized that such tragedies, which place families in horrid situations, occur everyday. With this realization, they took initiative and began operating Tender Hearts from their own living room, issuing impoverished families and soldiers overseas with necessary essentials. Eight years later, Tender Hearts made became an actual store front. Throughout the years, the organization moved from two store locations on Nottingham Way. Today, the store permanently stands at 320 Scully Avenue in Hamilton Township, just down Olden Avenue.

While Tender Hearts may appear as any ordinary consignment shop, the amount of work that occurs behind the scenes is tremendous. From collecting pasteurized goods, to securing and packaging specific items such as baby clothing, winter coats, etc. to help those in need, the team of volunteers are helping soothe the crisis of poverty present within the community. The permanent group of volunteers of Tender Hearts including Shannon Van Hise Ermi, daughter of the Van Hises, and April Green, daughter of Mary Van Hise’s former best friend, have adopted the true passion for helping others that the original owners cultivated 42 years ago.

Though the shop charges for clothing items, all prices are extremely inexpensive and the profit is reinvested into keeping Tender Hearts open and pay for things such as rent and canned goods. Beyond helping others with clothes and food, Tender Hearts has even aided people in maintaining shelter, by assisting with expenses such as electricity bills and rent. All volunteers of Tender Hearts do not receive compensation and thus, open up shop five days a week at their own will.

With the help of donors, regular customers, and any other volunteers willing to lend a hand, such as the Interact Volunteer Club of Trenton Central High School, Tender Hearts aspires to increase the progress they have achieved thus far. Specifically, the organization hopes to “keep Tender Hearts going, to give back to others just as my parents did, and to inspire people to think about others instead of themselves. Hopefully, I will pass this tradition onto my kids so that they can inherit it like I did,” says daughter Shannon.

To learn more about ways you can donate, volunteer, or shop at Tender Hearts, visit their FaceBook page (

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