SOMERSET, NJ – The Franklin Township Police Department’s community relations efforts got a boost yesterday with a $5,000 donation from IT Serve Alliance to fund technology upgrades to the community relations bureau recently opened on Hamilton Street.
Capt. Sean Hebbon, who leads the police’s community relations efforts, said the money will help get the needed hardware for the tutoring and counseling services they hope to launch in the near future.
“Part of it is getting good counseling set up inside,” he said. “We have office space and we want to set up a nice counseling area and connect with mental health professionals to offer counseling that can be done here in a safe environment even if it’s remotely, but we still need the proper setup, the proper technology.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic adding stress to the lives of many residents, particularly parents who have to adjust to the new virtual programs in schools, Hebbon hopes that IT Serve Alliance’s donation will ease the burden on parents.
“If the kids need Chromebooks or because schools are not open sometimes, we want to make sure that there is assistance if students need it,” said Mani Kuchan, president of the Northeast chapter of IT Serve Alliance.
Hebbon is looking to partner with local colleges and older students in the township to offer tutoring to neighborhood kids that might be struggling under the new learning paradigm.
“In this town right now we’re dealing with a lot of different issues, one being just academic … what that brings is parents that are frustrated, so we’re going to bring some technology in here and through that technology we can offer tutoring and other support to parents in this area if they’re having issues with homework,” he said.
Township officials see this donation as a part of its larger development efforts along the Hamilton street corridor, an area that has seen significant economic development in the last decade.
“It’s not just about commerce or development, it’s also about our youth,” said 5th Ward Councilman James Vassanella. “The youth and future generations are the whole reason why we’re working to revitalize this area, not only into a thriving business district, but also a thriving community.”
“The idea is to help the youth in the community because if they’re not part of the revitalization there’s no reason to do it,” he said.
IT Serve Alliance is a nationwide professional association of IT workers and companies and delivered the donation as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts to invest in local communities.
“Typically, the IT industry itself is known as an industry that brings a lot of foreign workers into America,” Omprakash Nakka, an IT Serve Alliance member said. “We’re actually helping local communities where we support what towns are doing in individual communities to try and support education and develop people locally.”
The Northeast chapter has made similar donations across New Jersey, contributing to hospitals, soup kitchens and educational initiatives in places like New Brunswick, Trenton, Paterson, Edison and now Franklin Township.
The township’s Human Relations Commission secured the donation after members of IT Serve Alliance reached out about how they could help support the township. Councilman Ram Anbarasan, who is the council’s liaison to the Human Relations Commission and has a background in IT, helped to spearhead the effort to bring the two groups together. Anbarasan said this is only the beginning of what he hopes to be a long partnership between the township and IT Serve.
“The intent was for us to make a start and bring the two organizations together – the township and IT Serve – and how we utilize the first donation and how they see they’ve added value will motivate them to come back in the future,” said Venky Sadagopan, a member of the Human Relations Commission. “At a high level what we’ve done is we have offered this towards helping the Black youth of Franklin Township because we want to try to utilize the funds to help them by getting some computers here so they can come study and utilize their free time efficiently. We trust that Capt. Hebbon and his team will have those funds flow towards the most required needs.”
Anbarasan hopes that partnerships like this will become more common as the programs and services offered by the community relations bureau expand.
“In my language, we have a saying: A lot of drops of water make a flood. You start with one organization like this and you can get a lot more people and companies involved,” he said.
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