Ocean City woman sets up photo exhibit, silent auction to help the homeless

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Magdalena Kernan, 21, of Ocean City, has set up a silent auction to help the homeless in Atlantic City. Magdalena Kernan, 21, of Ocean City, has set up a silent auction to help the homeless in Atlantic City.

ATLANTIC CITY — A resourceful South Jersey college student is drawing on her talents as a photojournalist, activist and event planner to help raise awareness and funds to aid the plight of the homeless.

Magdalena Kernan, a 21-year-old senior political science major at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and a professional photographer from Ocean City, embarked on a class project in 2012 by engaging homeless people in Atlantic City. In the process, she made dozens of emotionally moving portraits of the individuals.

Those pictures became part of a successful exhibit at the Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville. But Kernan knew that she had to do more, as she has always been dedicated to charitable causes. Kernan’s efforts have resulted in a fundraising event to aid the city’s homeless.

The “Faces of the Homeless” event will be an exhibit of her photographs and the work of local artists, silent auction of sports memorabilia and other goods, and live music by the band Argo 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 at the Melting Pot restaurant, 2112 Atlantic Ave. in Atlantic City. All proceeds will aid the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Covenant House.

“I was struck by the fact that as a society we often pretend that homeless people are not there, right in front of us,” Kernan said. “I have seen well-intentioned people literally walk over and around homeless people to feed the feral cats who live under the boardwalk. I am an animal lover/owner/activist myself, but it seemed as though they cared more about the cats and pretended that the homeless people weren’t there. Maybe they think that if they turn a blind eye to the people, then they can’t feel the extent of the problem.”

According to Kernan, an Ocean City High School graduate, what began as a school project grew into a passion to help people off the streets and back into productive lives. She partnered with the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Covenant House to launch her project.

“One of the goals of my photography is to point out the displacement and disparities among the poor,” Kernan said. “Too often, individuals who are well-off enough to help, simply do not. Even worse, a large portion of the local businesses that profit from our community decline to give back anything. As a result, the homeless represent a major under-served segment of the population and the gap widens between the homeless and the high-functioning levels of society. I thank the Melting Pot for stepping up and recognizing the issue, and helping us to find a solution and raise awareness.

“The goal of the “Faces of the Homeless” project is as simple as its name: to place a face and a story to as many homeless people as possible,” she said. “I want people to understand that only a few difficult circumstances separate the homeless from the ‘mainstream’ of society.

Kernan said that one boy she met had just graduated high school at Mainland and had nowhere to go.

“Days after my interview with him in Atlantic City, when I was trying to follow-up with him, I was told that he had committed suicide. We have to help our people,” she said.

Melting Pot’s marketing director Theresa Mobilio said the restaurant is proud to endorse Kernan’s work and to host the event.

“Magi is a very talented photographer who is using her skills to draw attention to homelessness and thus raise awareness of one of our country’s most vexing problems,” Mobilio said. “Magi is showing how one person can make a difference. The Melting Pot is honored to advance her efforts.”

Kernan spends many hours out on the streets and under the Atlantic City Boardwalk passing out food, water, vitamins, used clothing and nourishment to the homeless. With their full consent, she documents the encounters then assists in providing them with shelter or getting them to appropriate service contacts.

“Some of the most common general areas of need involve food, health and dental care, drug and alcohol treatment, and of course, shelter,” Kernan said. “All of these things cost money; a lot of money. So when I thought about the best way to help, organizing a fundraiser seemed like a great place to start.

“I have also found that homeless people have families looking for them, or relatives that were unable to locate them or even know where they were. With the technology today, there is no reason that we cannot provide our comrades with the Internet identity that they want in hopes that someone they have been looking for finds them.”

There is no fee to attend the event. Donations are accepted and all proceeds from the silent auction will go to one of the two designated Atlantic City agencies. For a $100 donation, attendees may obtain limited edition signed prints of Kernan’s work and for $200, they will receive a coffee table book of her work, which is currently in production but will be on display.

Magdalena Kernan, 21, of Ocean City, has set up a silent auction to help the homeless in Atlantic City. Magdalena Kernan, 21, of Ocean City, has set up a silent auction to help the homeless in Atlantic City.

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