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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hundreds of Children Helped at Back-to-School Fair



Hundreds of children and their families turned out for the 12th annual Back-to-School Fair at Project Self-Sufficiency on Thursday.  Information sessions gave parents tips on anger management, and instructed families about detecting and preventing child sexual assault.  Meanwhile, children got free haircuts, played games and received back packs brimming with free school supplies.  Representatives from local social service organizations were on hand to discuss topics ranging from healthcare to household safety to literacy.  Agency staff members and volunteers handed out school supplies, played games, organized crafts, and provided dinner and snacks.

“Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to offer the Back-to-School Fair to our participants again this year,” noted Claire Willetts, Program Coordinator at Project Self-Sufficiency.  “The helpful information and services available to families at this event prepare both children and their parents for a successful school year.  We are grateful to all of the social service agencies, businesses and volunteers who took time to lend a helping hand to local families in need.”

Project Self-Sufficiency Program Coordinator Melissa Bischoff offered a presentation about the Enough Abuse campaign to participating families.  Parents were educated about the nature and scope of child sexual abuse, and learned about tools necessary for the protection of children.  In a separate session, Licensed Clinical Social Worker Kris Imbrie discussed the importance of managing anger and offered parents tips for positive communication.

Participating social service organizations included Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services; Care Plus New Jersey, Inc., Children’s Mobile Response/Family Intervention Services; Division of Child Protection and Permanency; Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services; Family Partners of Morris & Sussex Counties; Ginnie’s House; Legal Services of Northwest New Jersey; Literacy New Jersey; Mom’s Quit Connection; National Alliance on Mental Illness; Neighborhood Health Services Corporation; Newton Medical Center Health Education; NORWESCAP; Parent Interactions with Schools & Teachers; Partnership for Maternal & Child Health of Northern New Jersey; Planned Parenthood; Summit Oaks Hospital; Sunrise House; Sussex County Division of Social Services; Sussex County Public Health Nursing; Sussex County Special Child Health Services; Sussex County YMCA; and others.

Employees from Trans Options will be on hand to fit and distribute 135 bike helmets to participating children.  The non-profit transportation agency will raffle off brand new bikes equipped with training wheels to two lucky children from the Little Sprouts Early Learning Center.

Hair stylists Roseanne Francavilla, Debi Zingone, Christina Corsello, Renee Pyskaty, along with stylists from area salons John’s Barber Shop, Salon Fig, Total Image and Village Mane volunteered their time to offer free haircuts to students.  Two gift certificates for free haircuts were supplied from Country Classic Hair Cutters.  “The stylists who volunteer to cut hair at the Back-to-School fair each year are to be commended for their graciousness, patience and enthusiasm,” noted Project Self-Sufficiency Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon.  “The children look beautiful, and the parents are delighted because the service is free and available to their families each year at the fair.”


Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.   The agency has served more than 20,000 families, including more than 30,000 children, since its inception in 1986.  Project Self-Sufficiency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to achieve personal and economic self-sufficiency, family stability, and to improve their lives and the lives of their children.  The agency offers a supportive family-centered environment where life issues are addressed through a combination of individual counseling, peer support groups, case management services, parenting skills training, life skills management training, home visits, childcare and early childhood education, family activities and health education.  For information about any of the services provided at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.

Free Family Law Seminar in September

Michele Olenick, Esquire, will offer a free Family Law Seminar at Project Self-Sufficiency on Wednesday, September 3rd, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. 
Learn about court procedures, grounds for divorce, alimony, equitable distribution of assets, parenting time, and other topics related to divorce.  Free and open to the public; registration required.  Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill Street in Newton.  Call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500 to register.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Local Business Donates Car to Needy Family



Project Self-Sufficiency participant Yolanda Dones recently received a newly-refurbished van from Elite Automotive & Tire as part of the used vehicle donation program at Project Self-Sufficiency.  The young woman had been struggling to take her child to daycare and get to work using the public transportation system in Sussex County.  When she learned that she was going to receive a free car, she was shocked.  “I started crying, I was so happy,” recalls Yolanda.  “It feels very good to be more self-sufficient.”

Elite Automotive & Tire owner Dave Hergert coordinated the donation of a 2003 Honda Odyssey to Yolanda.  The local shop is a family-owned, full service auto repair center and New Jersey state inspection station.  “We are one of the three top-performing NAPA auto care centers in the area,” commented Dave.  “We had the car and we did what we had to do to make it work.  NAPA sponsored the vehicle repair work by giving us the parts.  We supplied the labor.  We decided to go through Project Self-Sufficiency because we’re trying to do something local and give back to the community.”

“It is extremely difficult to function as a family in our area without access to a reliable vehicle,” commented Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency.  “This young woman desperately needed a car to get to work, and we are delighted to be able to pass this vehicles along to her.  We are tremendously grateful to Elite Automotive and Tire for their role in this effort.  Project Self-Sufficiency has been fortunate to be the recipient of several vehicles from individuals and area businesses, and we will continue to welcome the donation of good quality, pre-owned vehicles from our neighbors for families in need.” 

Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.  The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children while achieving personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability.  Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 20,000 families, including more than 30,000 children. 

To donate a car to Project Self-Sufficiency, or to find out more about the programs and services available at the agency, call 973-940-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Alternative High School Program Helps Teens and Young Adults to Succeed



High school junior Andrew Amati dropped out of school at the age of 16 because hearing problems made it challenging to function in a large classroom setting.  His high school guidance counselor suggested that he check out the Skylands Alternative High School Program, formerly known as Youth Connections, offered at Project Self-Sufficiency.  A few weeks later, Andrew was enrolled in the program and well on his way to achieving his General Educational Development (GED) Certificate.  He was pleasantly surprised to learn that in addition to the curriculum, the program also offered on-the-job work experience, tips on workplace etiquette, help with resume development and other services.

Like Andrew, approximately 7% of high school students will drop out of school before reaching the 12th grade, according to the U.S. Department of Education.  Students from low-income families are almost twice as likely (13.8%) to drop out of high school as their higher-income peers.  There are many significant reasons teens drop out of high school before graduating, ranging from peer pressure to lack of parental support to failure to address special needs.  A feeling of boredom or lack of engagement at school is another common problem.  While the reasons for dropping out are varied, it is predictable that those without a high school diploma will fare worse economically than their peers.  Without a diploma, they will have a difficult time finding meaningful work.  High school drop outs will earn less, have poor health, live in poverty and have children at an early age, many of whom will also grow up to be high school drop outs, according to EduGuide, a non-profit organization that works with schools and other non-profit groups.

The free Skylands Alternative High School program at Project Self-Sufficiency is designed for teens and young adults who are no longer enrolled in school, or those who have graduated from high school but who may be struggling with literacy.  The Skylands Alternative High School program helps guide participants through GED testing, job training, and placement at a work site, in college or the military.  Once a participant is accepted into the program, they can expect to undergo a battery of assessment testing followed by help with attaining their GED, life skills training, pre-employment training, and other remedial education efforts.  Childcare, lunch and limited transportation assistance is available to all participants.  Upon completion of their education, participants will be placed in internships, followed by placement in paid employment, college or the military.  Follow up support will be provided by Project Self-Sufficiency staff to ensure that the new employees are faring well in their positions.

The small class size within the Skylands Alternative High School program was the key to Andrew’s success.  “The main reason that I dropped out of high school was because I was in classes with a large amount of people.  My hearing problems made it hard to focus.  I needed one-on-one time with the teachers, and I got that kind of attention at Project Self-Sufficiency.”

Andrew completed his school work and passed his GED test on the first try.  He was assigned to an internship at a local restaurant as part of the program.  “I liked that you had to work for 50 hours at a job because it helped me to understand the work environment.” 

“I would recommend this program to anyone who is thinking about dropping out of high school.  I really liked the people because they didn’t judge me,” commented Andrew.  “It gave me a new outlook on how to work in a workplace and how to treat others.”  Andrew is looking forward to starting college in the fall, and plans on pursuing a career in game design.  He will be taking online courses instead of attending classes in person.  “I think it would be easier for me to do at home.  I can learn it by myself.”

Eligibility guidelines for the Skylands Alternative High School program are strict.  Participants must be local residents between the ages of 16 – 21, who fall below the federal poverty guidelines.  Male participants are required to register with the Selective Service System in order to qualify.   

Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.  The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children through the achievement of personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability.  Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 20,000 families, including over 30,000 children. 

For assistance in applying for the Skylands Alternative High School program, or to find out more about the other programs and services available at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.