NORWESCAP marks 40 years of making a difference locally

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    SUSSEX COUNTY-On Sept. 4, the No Room for Poverty National Rally took place. The rally was an opportunity for Americans to come together in an effort to solve the nationwide epidemic of poverty. Among the lush green fields and bustling side streets, the old farms and new wave specialty shops, who would think that there would be an underlying poverty problem in Sussex County? But Sussex County is home to many families and individuals in need of a variety of different services, including food, shelter, and healthcare. Luckily, it is also home to an organization working hard to solve these types of problems. Northwest New Jersey Community Action Program, better known as NORWESCAP, has been working to bring those in need to economic stability and independence since 1964. It is a not for-profit organization, working with and through the community to give those living at or below the poverty level an opportunity to become self-sufficient. The program's mission is "to help low income people overcome the obstacles of poverty to self-sufficiency," said NORWESCAP Executive Director Terry Newhard. Ideas for the formation of an organization such as NORWESCAP began formulating in 1955, when President Johnson first picked up on the issue of poverty and began initializing his "Great Society" plan. With the signing of the Economic Opportunity Act on Aug. 25, 1964 and the subsequent opening of headquarters in Phillipsburg on July 25, 1965, NORWESCAP was officially born as a Community Action Agency of the state of New Jersey. By 1966, NORWESCAP had a budget of three million dollars and was able to open one dozen service centers in the three counties. Originally, NORWESCAP served the three counties of Warren, Hunterdon, and Sussex. Following the replacement of the Office of Economic Opportunity with the Community Service Agency in 1974, NORWESCAP faced budget fluctuations, which went anywhere from one million dollars in 1976, to four million dollars in 1979. Just as the financial situation began to look hopeful for NORWESCAP, in 1981 the Omnibus Reconciliation Act disbanded the Community Service Agency, dissolving approximately 800 of the nation's community action agencies. In September, 1981, with little more than 1,000 community action agencies remaining nationwide, President Ronald Reagan began the Community Services Block Grant, reducing NORWESCAP funding from an average of $1.5 million to a block grant of $154,000. Newhard has been the NORWESCAP Director since 1983, and has seen the program grow throughout his time in office. "[We've changed] in many, many ways. [We] started in three counties and now are in six," he said, referring to the 1985 expansion to cover the three additional counties of Morris, Somerset, and Passaic. But the coverage area is not the only aspect of the program to have changed. According to Newhard, NORWESCAP had an early budget of "a few hundred thousand when we started. Now we have a $25-million budget, with funding coming from federal, state, and local sources. We receive some United Way, but it's mostly government funding." The government however is not the only organization that helps NORWESCAP in meeting its budgetary needs. The agency also receives donations from a large number of funding partners, such as A&P Supermarkets, Exxon Mobile Foundation, AT&T, JCP&L, and 3M Foundation, as well as from the freeholders of each of the six counties in which NORWESCAP operates. The community can also help. In NORWESCAP sponsored activities, such as the "Launch-a-Ball" activity at Skyland's Stadium, a Children's Day at the New Jersey State Fair, and a golf outing, the community is able to help NORWESCAP in its effort to bring self-sufficiency to low-income individuals. "Seven and a half cents of every dollar goes into administrative costs, but if you look at other not-for-profits, it's usually much higher," commented Newhard. NORWESCAP is divided into fifteen departments offering more than thirty different services to approximately 39,000 individuals within its six county radius. Among those services are food banks, childcare programs, Headstart programs, housing programs, shelters, and emergency programs. But the list keeps growing. One of the newest services to be offered in the near future and one of which Newhard is particularly proud is the introduction of Federally Qualified Health Care facilities. "We're in the process of opening two primary healthcare facilities. Out here, there are very few services taking Medicaid or the uninsured. They'll probably be opened some time next year, so that's very exciting." With all the exciting programs they currently offer, NORWESCAP's 230 employees might easily forget a quickly approaching landmark date. July 25, 2005 will mark NORWESCAP's fortieth year serving the people of Northern New Jersey. There are no specific plans for an anniversary celebration. It seems that NORWESCAP has been busy doing what they've always been doing, aiding the community in the effort to eliminate poverty.