Back-to-School Fair Helps Hundreds

A child receives a free haircut at the Project Self-Sufficiency Back-to-School Fair.

SUSSEX COUNTY, NJ - More than 300 children and their families turned out for the 11th annual Back-to-School Fair at Project Self-Sufficiency on Thursday.  Information sessions taught parents how to detect and prevent child sexual assault, gave them tips on assisting their children with their homework and introduced them to scouting programs in the area.  Maureen Murphy-Smolka and Guada Jacob, co-chairpersons of the Family Success Center Parent Advisory Board which spearheaded the event, offered a free seminar to participants, “Each Day is a Fresh Start,” aimed at helping parents to prepare their children for school.  Meanwhile, children got free haircuts, played games and received back packs brimming with free school supplies.  Representatives from local social service organizations were on hand to discuss topics ranging from household safety to literacy.  Agency staff members and volunteers handed out school supplies, played games, organized crafts, and provided dinner and snacks.

“Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to offer the Back-to-School Fair to our participants again this year,” noted Claire Willetts, Program Coordinator at Project Self-Sufficiency.  “The helpful information and services available to families at this event prepare both children and their parents for a successful school year.  We are grateful to all of the social service agencies, businesses and volunteers who took time to lend a helping hand to local families in need.”

Participating social service organizations included the Boy Scouts Patriots Path Council, Care Plus New Jersey, Inc., Caring Partners of Morris/Sussex Counties, the Division of Child Protection & Permanency, Children’s Mobile Response/Family Intervention Services, Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services, Family Partners of Morris & Sussex Counties, Ginnie's House, Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, Legal Services of Northwest New Jersey, Literacy Volunteers of Sussex County, Neighborhood Healthy Services Corporation, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Newton Police, New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, NJ CEED/Sussex County Public Health Nursing, Newton Medical Center Health Education, NORWESCAP, Parent  Interactions with Schools/Teachers, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health Childhood Lead Prevention Program, Planned Parenthood, Samaritan Inn, St. Barnabas Fire Safety House, Summit Oaks Hospital, Sussex County Special Child Health Services, Sussex County YMCA, Trans Options, and others.

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Stylists from several area salons volunteered their time to offer free haircuts to students including Becky’s Hair Therapy, George Michael Salon, His ‘n’ Hair, Salon Fig and Total Image.  “The stylists who volunteer to cut hair at the Back-to-School fair each year are to be commended for their graciousness, patience and enthusiasm,” noted Project Self-Sufficiency Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon.  “The children look beautiful, and the parents are delighted because the service is free and available to their families each year at the fair.”

Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.   The agency has served more than 19,500 families, including more than 30,000 children, since its inception in 1986.  Project Self-Sufficiency’s mission is to provide 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.  For information about any of the services provided at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500, or visit

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