By Laurie Gordon
The Project Self-Sufficiency campus was a-buzz with children, parents, representatives from a number of county resource agencies, a pop-up farmers market, free haircuts, a band and a member of the Sheriff's canine department named Nutmeg on Thursday evening for a back to school fair. Hosted by the Sussex County Family Success Center and Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children, at Project Self-Sufficiency, the fair prepares families for a successful academic year.
The event featured workshops about substance use trends, healthy and inexpensive school lunch and snack ideas, and developmental screening for children. Children were invited to play games and receive free haircuts and backpacks filled with school supplies.
“We are pleased to be able to help both parents and children to prepare for a successful school year at the annual Back-to-School Fair,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director at Project Self-Sufficiency. “We commend all of the social service agencies, businesses and volunteers who have taken the time to lend a helping hand to local families in need.”
Professional stylists from several area salons volunteered their time to offer free haircuts to students. Participating salons included Blackbird Barber Shop, John’s Barber Shop, Oasis Salon, Scissor Joint and Village Mane.
“I’ve been open for almost 10 months now, and I wanted to make kids feel good and confident going back to school, “said Lisa Greene, owner of Blackbird Barber Shop. “I truly believe a nice haircut and self care goes a long way. It’s hard for many people who are in need to get quality haircuts.”
Music was provided by the Bill Wright School of Music. Exhibitors from local social service agencies provided interactive activities for children. Sussex Macaroni Kid coordinated craft projects for children with the help of a squad of dedicated volunteers.
Morris County Prevention is Key discussed the warning signs of adolescent substance abuse with the use of a mock-up of a teenager’s bedroom. Registered dietitians at ShopRite offered suggestions for healthy and inexpensive school lunch and snack foods for families. Project Self-Sufficiency’s Home Visitation staff explained childhood development screening, including the use of assessment tools and online portals for pinpointing developmental milestones for young children.
Devon Caroll represented NORWESCAP.
“We're the local resource referral for Sussex County and attend the fair every year to educate parents about what we have available,” she said.
Rhoda Seider coordinates the garden at Project Self-Sufficiency, and she and other volunteers were on hand to talk about the garden and give out healthy samples.
“It's all volunteers who make the garden happen each year,” said Seider. “We have our first planning meeting in February, and the produce starts coming in May. It's available four days a week for those in need and is planned, planted and distributed lovingly.”
Non-profit agency Project Self-Sufficiency has served northwestern New Jersey families for more than 30 years. The agency offers 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.
Other participating social service and health care organizations included Atlantic Health System Psychiatry Collaborative Hub, Care Plus NJ, Caring Partners, Center for Prevention & Counseling, DASI, DAWN Center for Independent Living; New Jersey Department of Child Protection & Permanency; Family Interventions, Family Partners of Morris & Sussex, Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, League of Women Voters of Sussex Highlands, Legal Services of Northwest New Jersey; Literacy New Jersey – Sussex County Programs; Macaroni Kid, Sussex, NAMI Sussex, Newton Medical Center, Sussex County Health Department, NJ CEED, Office of Public Health Nursing, Northern New Jersey, Safe Kids, Safe Communities, Child & Family Resource Services, Partnership for Maternal & Child Health, Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Project SEARCH; Project Self-Sufficiency, Project Self-Sufficiency Master Gardeners, SCARC, Shop Rite of Newton; Sussex County Division of Social Services, the Sussex County Library, Sussex County Special Child Health Services, YMCA, Youth Advocate Program, Zufall Health Center; and others.
For information about any of the services provided at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org. Information about the Sussex County Family Success Center can be found at www.sussexcountyfamilysuccesscenter.org. For more information about Project Sussex Kids, the Sussex County Council for Young Children, visit at www.projectsussexkids.org.