Generosity of community provides Thanksgiving meals for hundreds

Project Self-Sufficiency coordinatres effort

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  • Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency, stands with John Matthews, of Hinkley Auto. Mathews donated scores of fresh produce to the agency to be part of Thanksgiving meals for those less fortunate in the community. Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • Apples came in by the dozens to be part of the Thanksgiving meals.

  • A volunteer brings produce into the main room at Project Self-Sufficiency to be part of the meals

By Laurie Gordon

— “The outpouring of generosity from the community is just overwhelming,” said Project Self-Sufficiency's Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon.

There's really no better way to sum up what went on at Project Self-Sufficiency on Monday as deliveries of donations arrived and volunteers gathered to prepare Thanksgiving meals for those less fortunate in the broad community.

Hundreds of Sussex County families will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey with all of the trimmings this year, thanks to the generosity of local businesses, churches and individuals who donated voluminous amounts of food. Agency staff and volunteers bagged hundreds of frozen turkeys, along with fresh produce, cans of cranberry sauce, vegetables, stuffing mix, dinner rolls, and freshly-baked pies and distributed them to local families in need.

Al Kasharian, of Kash's Farm, was on hand delivering produce.

“We love helping great agencies like Project Self-Sufficiency,” he said as he unloaded bags of onions and other produce. “John Matthews is great getting us involved.”

Fresh produce was donated by Matthews of Hinkley Auto Sales, who obtained a donation of baskets of apples from Gulick Fruit Farm and supplemented the contribution with over 1,500 pounds of carrots, potatoes and onions. The donation was made in the memory of Mathews’ longtime business partner, Nelson Hinkley who passed away two weeks ago.

““I can't believe he's gone and I miss him terribly,” Matthews said. “This is something he would have liked to see us do and it's such a great cause.” He added, “Nelson and I worked together for a long time and we did a lot of things together for the community, so I felt that this would be an appropriate way to honor him. I admire the work that Project Self-Sufficiency does getting people back on their feet. They get people back into the workforce and facing in the right direction.”

The Youth Group from the First Presbyterian Church of Newton donated 200 homemade pies to the Thanksgiving feast. Apples for the pies were donated by Race’s Farm.

“The Youth Group has been making pies for Project Self-Sufficiency for the past nine years,” said Colleen Duffy, Associate for Family Nurture at the First Presbyterian Church. “It has become a tradition and the kids love serving the community in this way year after year.”

Led by Roy Knutsen, another huge contributor was “The College of Knowledge,” a group that meets at Kathy's Restaurant, in Fredon, and serves as Santa Clause to many great causes. The group has supported everything from baseball teams to the local fire department.

The College of Knowledge has been donating Thanksgiving turkey’s for about 10 years,” Knutsen said. “We start collecting money at the beginning of November and deliver the frozen birds three days before Thanksgiving so that they will thaw for ready roasting. Most of our members have had successful careers or are still working and have always enjoyed wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. We get a warm sense of joy and fullfillment knowing that we are helping families who for whatever reason cannot do so themselves. God bless America.”

Project Self-Sufficiency is celebrating its thirtieth year of providing services to families in the New Jersey counties of Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon. Programs include career guidance, computer training, help with obtaining a high school diploma, parenting skills classes, legal assistance and education, financial workshops, health education, childcare and family activities. The agency offers help around the holidays, formal dresses during prom season, and assistance with emergency basic needs, such as food and clothing to its participants. Most services are free and many are open to the public.

“The generosity of our friends and neighbors towards Project Self-Sufficiency participants is deeply appreciated during the holiday season,” Berry-Toon said. “We have a lot to be thankful for this year.”

To make a donation, or to find out more about the programs and services available at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit <URL destination=" ">

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