Sporting a faded band T-shirt, goatee, and shoulder-length hair, 41- year-old Hoboken resident Todd Kinney looks like the sort of friendly, urban Hobokenite who might be found in any local coffeehouse. It’s Kinney’s easy-going demeanor that invites people to sit with him, but it’s his sharp, passionate views about life and philanthropy that make them stick around and order another latte.
On the day I met with Kinney, we discussed one of his favorite subjects: the Hoboken Shelter. For more than eight years, Kinney has been volunteering at the homeless shelter and has significantly impacted it.
“Every single time I go into the shelter I hit the reset button,” Kinney said. “[Volunteering] is very therapeutic.”
For many people who serve their communities, the choice to volunteer is often a personal one. And the organization that people pick often reveals much about what moves them.
“I was at a crossroads in my life and was doing some soul searching,” Kinney explained. “I knew I wasn’t perfect, and I wanted to fix myself. I said, why don’t I volunteer to help those who are less fortunate? So I started going to the shelter.”
Like many shelter volunteers, Kinney started by preparing and serving meals to the homeless guests. Soon after, he chose to get more involved. He joined the shelter’s Board of Directors in 2004, eventually becoming vice president.
“Everyone knows Todd when he comes into the shelter,” said Hoboken Shelter Executive Director Jaclyn Cherubini. “He wants to help, and he will do it all. Todd is so comfortable to be around. He’ll talk to anyone and anyone will talk to him.”
Kinney has also integrated the shelter’s mission into his personal life. He brings his two young sons to the shelter once a month to volunteer and serve meals to the homeless.
“I’ve always found that no matter what troubles you have that you’re carrying into the [shelter’s] kitchen that night – it is a dose of reality to see how fortunate and lucky most of us are,” he said.
“There’s a sense of community within the Shelter, and it is like one, big family,” explained Kinney. “I truly hope that my sons realize that it should be a valuable part of their day-to-day outlook.”
As a teenager, Kinney spent time working for youth sport camps. However, it wasn’t until his early 30s that he began serving his community on a regular basis after going through some difficult personal situations. As the director of business development for an accounting, tax, financial advisory and consulting organization, Kinney is a seasoned networker. By pairing his knowledge of Hoboken with his professional talents, Kinney started happy hour fundraising events for the shelter.
He also initiated the shelter’s most successful fundraiser, the Teak Silent Auction, which raises upwards of $15,000 annually. Kinney ran the auction for the past eight years, doing everything from gathering donations to advertising.
Kinney’s influence can be marked by other people who have taken up the cause. Rory Chadwick, owner of Midtown Authentic in Hoboken, also volunteers at the shelter.
“I was once homeless myself many years ago and called a park bench and the back seat of a Ford Tempo my home,” said Chadwick.
After turning his life around, Chadwick decided to give back to the community. He met Kinney, whom he calls a “true volunteer warrior” and a “role model,” two years ago at one of the shelter events.
“What he does every year by himself is what it usually takes a team of 20 to do. He puts his soul into making sure the homeless people in town sleep and eat,” said Chadwick.
Kinney’s hard work was recently noted at the Hoboken Shelter’s 30th Anniversary Dinner at the Elks Club. He was given a proclamation from the city for his years of service and his fundraising efforts. He recently stepped down from the board to devote more time to his own family and his two sons Zack and Tyler. However, the work he has done to help his extended shelter family lives on.
“Since 1982, the shelter has served 1.6 million meals,” Cherubini said. “I can’t do it alone, our individual volunteers can’t do it alone, and our generous supporters can’t do it alone. But as a community, and with people like Todd, we can do it together.”