FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Somerset Community Action Program, Inc. (SCAP) is a not-for-profit organization that has been leading the charge on providing anti-poverty activities for members of Somerset County.

"If there is any type of program that has the ability to transform communities through public involvement, private investments and parental involvement it is  Community Action Agencies and Head Start Programs such as Somerset Community Action Program," Former Executive Director and Head Start Director, Isaac L. Dorsey said. 

SCAP was one of the original agencies formed through a set of domestic programs in the United States by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964-1965. The programs were designed with the goal of eliminating poverty and battling racial injustice. 

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SCAP's current focus is to increase the self-sufficiency, and empowerment of low-moderate income individuals and families through case management, education, employment training, cultural enrichment, and life skills development programs. SCAP also invites members of the community to assist in the planning process in order to enhance their current offerings. 

If a resident meets the poverty guidelines they may be eligible for services offered by SCAP - child development, driver's license restoration, case management/emergency needs, and financial literacy. SCAP is always striving to be as self-sustaining as possible and is always seeking the help of the community through donations of time or money.

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG), are the main funding source for SCAP. According to the site "Community representation and accountability are hallmarks of the CSBG network, where agencies are governed by a tri-partite board. This board structure consists of elected public officials, representatives of the low-income community, and appointed leaders from the private sector."

Somerset County Department of Human Services provides support for SCAP's child development program, and they are the second largest funding source for SCAP. Community members can also donate their time and money to SCAP through their website or they can call 732-846-8888.

Associate Director of SCAP Nina Jefferson handles a lot of the day to day program operations, and she also graduated from the Head Start Program.

"The program holds a special place in my heart and ensuring its continued success is very personal for me," Jefferson said. "The opportunity to give back to something that helped shape so much of who I am today is a blessing, and I am honored." 

Low-cost childcare for children ages six weeks through five years old is offered through their child development services. SCAP has programs for infant/toddlers from six weeks until the age of three, and pre-school for children three to five years of age. Children in the program are provided breakfast, lunch, and snack daily at no additional cost to the family. The research-based curriculum uses the philosophy that children learn best by doing, and it is child-directed and child-oriented. Classroom teachers base learning on the interest of the children to ensure they actively construct their own learning experiences. 

SCAP's child development program also provides on the job training to individuals with a desire to work in the early childhood education profession. Participants receive a certificate of completion after 60 classroom observation hours and 5 hours of professional development. Many of the participants from this program are early childhood teachers today.

SCAP also offers financial assistance to NJ motorists that have had their driving privileges revoked for outstanding surcharges, and fines as long as they are not DWI/DUI related. If eligible participants can receive one time funding to cover costs to get them back on the road.  

Case Management/Emergency Needs services are paired with their financial literacy program to promote self-sufficiency for participants. Eligible clients can receive funds to assist with utility bills, rent payments, food and clothing/furniture costs. SCAP also partners with local agencies and businesses to help pay security deposits as well. 

If a client benefits from the case management program they are encouraged to commit to the financial literacy program, so they can receive information on how to manage their finances. Investors Bank and Wells Fargo are some of the community partners that have provided free workshops to members of the financial literacy program. 

"I became involved with SCAP because of my love for the youth and my personal mission to invest in their future and their education, serving on the  SCAP Board was a natural fit for me," Councilwoman At-Large Kimberly Francois said. 

Francois envisions SCAP becoming a principal partner in providing current and new services at the upcoming youth center. The agency plans to utilize its nonprofit grant funding and will seek new sources of funding to provide programs and services in the youth center based on the community needs assessment the township is currently conducting. 

If you want to find out about other programs offered or help to assist in SCAP's mission please call 732-846-8888.

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