Project Self-Sufficiency says ‘boo’ to Covid

Newton. A combination of creativity and spirit made the Spookmania drive-by happen despite health protocols.

Newton /
| 02 Nov 2020 | 03:43

Susie Mittelstadt of Hampton, dressed in costume, played the violin along to Halloween music as folks drove by to say hello through their masks. They received pre-ordered goodie bags that included candy and a craft.

“This is awesome, Mittelstadt said. “What a great idea given the times and a way to keep the Halloween spirit going.”

The weather couldn’t have been more Halloween-appropriate for Thursday’s Spookmania at the Sussex County Family Success Center at Project Self-Sufficiency. It was ominously dreary, like in a movie .

When the center’s typical in-person merriment was usurped by COVID-19 restrictions, staff members remained undaunted. They reinvented the event, turning the fundraiser into a virtual and drive-by happening.

The Sussex County Family Success Center at Project Self-Sufficiency is a program of support which includes parenting skills training, economic self-sufficiency services, family activities, legal education services, information about health and nutrition, referrals, advocacy, and other services. All activities are free and open to the public.

Ever since the pandemic hit, the non-profit has come up with inventive ways to keep its services and celebrations going. Those who did not feel comfortable leaving their homes enjoyed ghoulish crafts and spooky games over Zoom, while others drove through the agency’s Newton campus.

Amanda Keesser of Newton is a home visitor with Project Self-Sufficiency.

“It’s so great to be able to do something for the community even thought we couldn’t have our usual indoor Halloween party,” she said. “It’s fun, and people are really appreciative.”

The Project Self-Sufficiency supervisor, Kyersten Giger, said the whole event was aimed at keeping spirits up for families the agency serves. “We wanted to create something with energy,” she said.

Project Self-Sufficiency Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon said, “We continue to be amazed by our dedicated staff who have demonstrated boundless enthusiasm and creativity as they address the unique demands of serving our participants during this pandemic. Today’s events have allowed children and families to kick off their Halloween weekend in a safe yet spectacular way. We are particularly grateful for the support of the Family Success Center Parent Advisory Board during this challenging time. This event launches our seasonal festivities and we are looking forward to helping families celebrate Thanksgiving and the holidays.”

For information about the Sussex County Family Success Center at Project Self-Sufficiency, visit