Project Self-Sufficiency takes it on the road

Group rolls out mobile RV called 'Journey'


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  • The side of the new mobile unit with the message of its mission Photos by Laurie Gordon




  • Journey will be traveling to Franklin, Hamburg, Hopatcong, Montague, Ogdensburg, Sussex and Vernon,




  • Kate McNamara represented the McNamara family, which was instrumental in obtaining the new mobile unit.




By Laurie Gordon

If someone can't come to you, you have to find a way to get to them. Long-time Project Self-Sufficiency employee Patrice Green thought about all of the essential services that the non-profit provides for people in the community at the Newton campus and had a kind of crazy, outlandish, wonderful idea: What if Project Self-Sufficiency went mobile?

Thanks to their belief in the project and a sizable grant from Impact 100 Garden State, “Journey” is about to start her course in yet uncharted waters for Project Self-Sufficiency. Journey is the name of the mobile RV that was showcased for the first time earlier this month, and the vehicle will now head out to provide services to residents who may not have easy access to personal vehicles or public transportation.

The donated funds were used to purchase and retrofit a recreational vehicle with internet access, computer work stations, and counseling and classroom space. The roaming vehicle will be staffed by a driver, a case manager, and a computer instructor, and travel a set schedule throughout Sussex and Morris counties, delivering the social services which the agency has successfully provided for 30 years.

“This project is amazing as is everything that has been accomplished by Project Self-Sufficiency,” said the Honorable Lorraine Parker, a retired judge who is on Project Self-Sufficiency's Board of Directors and has, for years, been extremely active with the agency. “I remember when Project Self-Sufficiency started and our office was smaller than this mobile vehicle.”

Project Self-Sufficiency started over 30 years ago as the the result of a pilot demonstration grant from the US Department of Housing & Urban Development to fund rental assistance certificates for single parents who participated in education or job training. Dr. George Wilson, who was present at Journey's inauguration, was the superintendent at Sussex County Technical School at the time .and gave them space in the building to start the agency.

“Without you, Dr. Wilson, we wouldn't be here,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Project Self-Sufficiency's executive director.

With a full array of services to help people in the community, this new mobile, innovative means of providing services is, said Berry-Toon, “based on a challenge which has long plagued the residents of our area of the state, namely access to transportation in order to secure the services they need for themselves and for their families.”

She added, “We have such a happy heart today, and it's so great to see PSS Journey become a reality. On board PSS Journey, families will be able to receive one-on-one counseling sessions where they will work with a case manager to develop an action plan. Individuals can participate in computer training, obtain help with resumes, cover letters, and interview skills, and access information about job openings and community resources.”

The vehicle will also carry much needed basic essentials like food, clothing, diapers and warm winter coats to the more remote towns in the area. PSS Journey will travel a rotating schedule through the Sussex County municipalities of Franklin, Hamburg, Hopatcong, Montague, Ogdensburg, Sussex and Vernon, as well as the towns of Jefferson and Netcong in Morris County. Each of the municipalities will have access to PSS Journey roughly two days each month, from approximately 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (with the exception of holidays). Services will be offered to individuals in four distinct stages, beginning and ending with meetings with the case manager. Stage One will include a one-hour counseling session and the creation of an individual action plan along with a discussion of community resources.

Stage Two will emphasize the development of resumes, cover letters, interview skills and other services related to job searching. Computer instruction will be the focus of Stage Three under the guidance of a computer instructor trained in QuickBooks as well as Microsoft Office applications. Stage Four will focus on the distribution of food, clothing, and infant care items, and will include a discussion of holiday assistance and other needs.

“Project Self-Sufficiency just never ceases to amaze me,” said state Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sussez). “It's a matter of giving people freedom: the freedom to explore new opportunities and broaden their horizons and this new RV will certainly do that for so many more area residents.”

Sussex County Freeholder Herbert Yartley (R) said, “This new mobile unit will bring Project Self-Sufficiency's vital programs out to the people who really need them but don't have access. It's about benefiting people in our area and bringing them services that will help.This agency and now the new mobile unit provide such inspiration to so many.”

Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Sussex) concurred. “Project Self-Sufficiency is always looking for ways to better assist individuals in need. As a former State Labor Commissioner, I can attest to the value of the career services that PSS is looking to provide to clients and it will be immeasurable in helping them to secure employment.”

Now in its fifth year of collaborative giving, Impact 100 Garden State has funded more than one million dollars in transformative grants to non-profit organizations serving residents in the New Jersey counties of Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Sussex. The organization’s mission is to provide high-impact grants to organizations that reach underserved populations, to raise the profile of those that are less well known, and to highlight unmet needs in the areas of arts and culture, children and families, education, environment, health and wellness. Each year its members contribute to the grant funds and vote to determine the recipients.

Several local residents and businesses were identified as key contributors to the development of PSS Journey.

“We are indebted to longtime Project Self-Sufficiency supporter Michael McNamara for his assistance in securing the recreational vehicle as well as its winterized storage facility,” Berry-Toon said. "We would also like to thank the staff at Express RV for their superb and timely work in retrofitting the vehicle to our exact specifications, as well as Mark Maruska of Gravity DesignWorks for designing and producing the PSS Journey logo and exterior wrap for the vehicle.”

“We are immensely grateful for the resources made possible by a donation from the Ellman Discovery Fund, under the guidance of Blake and Cathy Ellman, which will be used to provide essential operational and staffing needs,” added Beverly Gordon, president of Project Self-Sufficiency’s Board of Directors.

“With PSS Journey, the agency will be able to meet immediate basic needs and provide preliminary services to the area’s most vulnerable individuals and families,” said Berry-Toon. “The ultimate goal is to enable them to stabilize their situation, encourage them to access center-based services and assist them along their own journey to lasting self-sufficiency.”

Those who are interested in learning more about the programs offered at Project Self-Sufficiency, are encouraged to call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org. More information about Impact 100 Garden State, a Special Project Fund of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, is available at www.impact100gardenstate.org. Organizers are currently working with municipalities and school districts in the service areas to get the word out to families in need. Interested participants will be able to access the PSS Journey schedule on the Project Self-Sufficiency website and on the program Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PSSJourney





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