More than 450 Sussex County families will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings this year, thanks to the generosity of local businesses, churches and individuals who donated voluminous amounts of food for Project Self-Sufficiency participants this November. Agency staff and volunteers recently bagged hundreds of frozen turkeys, along with fresh produce, cans of cranberry sauce, vegetables, stuffing mix, dinner rolls, and freshly baked pies and distributed them to local families.
“The public health crisis has plunged many of our participants into a situation where food insecurity has become a deeply troubling issue. The overwhelming generosity of our friends and neighbors is appreciated now more than ever,” commented Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency. “Despite the pandemic, we still have a lot to be thankful for this year.”
Thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables were provided by longtime Project Self-Sufficiency volunteer Michael McNamara and his family in recognition of McNamara’s recent birthday. “My whole family is involved in supporting Project Self-Sufficiency all year long,” noted McNamara. “At this time of year, we are celebrating my wedding anniversary and my birthday along with Thanksgiving. I have been fortunate in my life and I am honored to be able to use this opportunity to help those in need. Especially this year, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together.”
The First Presbyterian Church of Newton Youth Group, along with help from the congregation, donated 200 freshly baked pumpkin pies. “This is our thirteenth year baking pies for Project Self-Sufficiency but because of the pandemic we had to do things a bit differently,” commented Colleen Duffy, Associate for Family Nurture at the First Presbyterian Church, who noted that the traditional in-person youth group activity was expanded to include at-home preparation by members of the entire congregation to accommodate social distancing requirements. “The expansion of this project beyond our Youth Group has invited our entire congregation to share God’s love with those in need in our community.”
Fresh fruit was supplied by John Mathews, and retired Project Self-Sufficiency staff member and current volunteer, Stephanie Sumpman and her husband, Glen. Frozen turkeys were donated by the ad hoc group of approximately 20 men and women known loosely as the College of Knowledge; the donation was spearheaded by Project Self-Sufficiency Leadership Council member Roy Knutsen. The group meets at Kathy’s restaurant in Fredon and has supported everything from baseball teams to the local fire department.
Deliveries to homebound families were provided by parishioners of the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, a tradition which has been in place for 34 years. A joint Thanksgiving food drive was also conducted by Board member Dee Fernandez and Leadership Council member Kathy Nauta, with the help of their friends, families and neighbors, culminating in donations of gift cards and funds to purchase bushels of canned goods and fresh produce.
Mary and Jim DiCarlo donated 200 frozen turkeys with the help of Hayek’s Market which secured and delivered the birds to Project Self-Sufficiency. “The thing that impresses me the most about Project Self-Sufficiency is their mission to help make families self-reliant. They offer such comprehensive programs, and they have a monumental impact on the community. You cannot find a better organization that brings their level of success. In this economic climate it is so important for people to support those of our community who are struggling now, and I am happy to be in a position to do so. Our grandparents were impoverished immigrants who had nothing and lived on the kindness of others.”
Generous donations of turkeys, food, baked goods, gift cards, and funds were also received from Fran and Tom Diffley; Girl Scout Troop #97317 of Hardyston & Franklin; Kiddie Academy of Sparta; Reverend Brown Elementary School; and numerous other individuals and families.
Project Self-Sufficiency has provided services to families in the New Jersey counties of Sussex, Warren, Morris, and Hunterdon for more than 30 years. Programs include career guidance, computer training, help with obtaining a high school diploma, parenting skills classes, legal assistance and education, financial workshops, health education, childcare and family activities. The agency offers help around the holidays, formal dresses during prom season, and assistance with emergency basic needs, such as food and clothing to its participants. Most services are free, and many are open to the public.
To donate, or to find out more about the programs and services available at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.