Thursday, February 11, 2016

Free Literacy Strategies Workshop for Families

Project Self-Sufficiency will host a free workshop, “Literacy Strategies for Families,” on Tuesday, March 1st, at 6:00 p.m.  Participants will discuss strategies for helping families to support their child’s reading achievement, especially children who are struggling readers.  Resources and hand-on activities to use with children will be provided.  The workshop is presented by Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children, in conjunction with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network.  Refreshments and childcare will be provided. 

Project Self-Sufficiency is a community-based non-profit organization which specializes in services for low-income families in northwestern New Jersey.  Programs offered at Project Self-Sufficiency include family literacy education, computer training and job placement services, assistance with parenting skills, childcare, counseling and advocacy, referrals, and help with emergency basic needs.  Information about the programs and services offered at Project Self-Sufficiency is available at or by calling 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500. 

Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill Street in Newton.  “Literacy Strategies for Families” is free and open to the public, but registration is required.  Register on line at

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Board of Social Serivces Provides Food to Local Children in Need

The spacious food pantry housed at the Board of Social Services in Newton supplies emergency food for individuals and families all year long.  Lately, the program has also been providing food for children enrolled in the Project Launch Newton afterschool program during the week, and offering backpacks brimming with nutritious food for 1,500 children in Newton and Hopatcong over the weekend.  The agency was alerted to the students’ need by Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children, whose goal is to bring parents and professionals together to collaborate in service to local families.  Providing the food to the students is in keeping with the food pantry’s mission, according to Carol Novrit, Director of Social Services in Sussex County.  “We are feeding children.  What in the world could be more important?”

Project Launch Newton is a free afterschool enrichment program conducted by Project Self-Sufficiency in the Merriam Avenue and Halsted Middle Schools for children in grades 4 – 8.   Students receive homework help and a healthy snack, and then participate in a variety of activities centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) themes.  The grant-funded program did not allocate monies for providing a snack for the children enrolled in the program, despite the fact that the program specifically focuses on nutrition as a core component of the curriculum and allows for time to consume food as part of the afternoon schedule.  Consequently, thousands of dollars were being spent to feed the students, all of whom had been at school since the beginning of the day.  

“We are exceptionally grateful to Carol Novrit and all of the volunteers at the Board of Social Services who work diligently to provide nutritious food for the children enrolled in the Project Launch Newton after school program,” commented Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency, the non-profit agency which administers the program in the Newton School District.

The food pantry at the Board of Social Services resides in space donated by the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and is staffed entirely by volunteers.  Along with a cadre of habitual volunteers, Rita Oroho regularly stops by the pantry to stock shelves, stuff grocery bags with food for patrons, and assemble the weekend bags for the students.  The food pantry is in constant need of donations, and could also use more volunteers.  “This is a ‘low time, high impact’ kind of service,” notes Oroho, citing the ease of the work and the impact on those who receive the food each week.  “We try to do as much as we can for everybody.”

Novrit commends the staff at Project Sussex Kids for alerting the Board of Social Services to the plight of those students who now cart home food in their backpacks each Friday.  “We’re feeding many of the children enrolled in the Project Launch Newton program, as well as those kids who receive free or reduced lunch in the Newton and Hopatcong school districts.”  The bags contain items like granola bars, as well as food which can be easily prepared, such as cereal and macaroni and cheese.  “Our volunteers work tirelessly to put these bags together because it’s important for them to make sure that these kids have something to eat.”  Novrit adds that the bags contain enough food to sustain one child over the weekend, and is often packed with a little extra, since many of the children report that they share the food with their siblings and other family members.  “It’s better than having the kids come back to school hungry on Monday morning.” The agency is looking to expand the reach of the food pantry into other municipalities and school districts in the coming months.  “Our mission is to feed people.  Right now this pantry helps people all over the county, but people can’t always come into Newton when they need food.”

The food pantry at the Board of Social Services is located at 83 Spring Street in Newton.  Information about Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children, can be found at  Project Launch Newton is funded with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant funds through a grant agreement with the New Jersey Department of Education.  For information about Project Launch Newton, call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500 or at 844-807-3500, or visit the program’s website,