FREEHOLD, NJ — Monmouth County is looking to collaborate with faith-based and other community groups as a way to reach out to people in need throughout the county.

In establishing the Monmouth County Faith-Based Initiative, the board of freeholders on July 5 took the first step in forging a partnership with these groups — first to identify and bring together their services and resources and then to expand them with the county’s support.

 “Our country, since its inception, has relied heavily on the resources of faith-based and charitable service organizations to help care for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals of our society,” said Freeholder Gerry P. Scharfenberger, who is leading the effort. "

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"As state and county budgets continue to tighten, it is important to identify creative ways to save taxpayer dollars without compromising services that people need," he said."The least we can do as elected officials is step in to help expand services through partnerships and lend our county’s support wherever possible.”

The initative is modeled after the Middletown Faith-Based Initiative, which was implemented in Scharfenberger’s home town to provide services and assistance to residents without impacting municipal finances.

 “The lessons we learned at the municipal level, in Middletown, will help us formulate what we need to do at the county level,” said Scharfenberger, who served on its township committee for 13 years, including seven as mayor. “We all benefit when we lessen the need of individuals to depend on government for what can be obtained through the efforts of the private sector.”

The goal of the county-driven initiative is fourfold:

  • To conduct an inventory review of the resources and services available throughout the county to help better organize assistance efforts.
  • To review county resources and services to find where collaboration can be leveraged to reach more people in need.
  • To develop a system to connect residents in need with faith-based institutions or organizations that can help them.
  • To develop an App for residents so they can easily find information and resources; and identify programs for philanthropic support.

An advisory committee will be established and a stakeholders’ meetings will take place in the next several months to jump start the initiative, according to the county.  Updates also will be posted to its website at www.visitmonmouth.com.

This effort comes on the heels of another county effort to open a dialogue with the faith-based community. In May, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office launched its “We Are Monmouth” Initiative, hosting its first conversation among law enforcement officials, representatives from faith-based and nonprofit organizations, educational partners and other community leaders.

Held at the Triumphant Life Church on the former Fort Monmouth campus in Oceanport, the event, titled “Police Involved Shooting and the Community Response,” focused on the impact of trauma upon the community-at-large and law enforcement, as well as the role of faith-based leaders when crisis hits a community.

Organized by the office’s Community Law Enforcement Unit, the conference was the first in the series that will also address such topics as opioids, immigration and bias crimes.

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