Editor’s Note:  This continues the Meet the Leaders profile series in The Alternative Press of South Plainfield.  The objective is to provide our readers the opportunity to hear from South Plainfield’s leaders in government, public safety, commerce and other areas, regarding South Plainfield’s present and future outlook, their background and what they enjoy doing in their private life.  In order to keep the format consistent, The Alternative Press presented each individual with the same five questions. We are publishing their answers unedited.

Meet the Leaders – Margaret Ackerman, Director of Social Services

Background Information:

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I was born in Manhattan, NY and raised in Staten Island. My family moved to South River when I was 16 years old, I graduated from South River High School.

I went to work right after high school and went on to graduate with a business degree from Rutgers University.  I married my high school sweetheart, Bob in 1968. My career before my children were born was in Human Resources.

After my children were born and started school, I became very involved in all their activities. I served as President of the Home School Association at Sacred Heart School as well as a Girl Scout leader for over 12 years.

We have two daughters; Melissa a Physical Therapist married to Michael also a Physical Therapist. Stacey is an Occupational Therapist married to David, a director for a major pharmaceutical company. They have 2 children, Brennan who is 6 and Kevin who is 2.  They are the love of our lives.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Government and Social Services?

In 1982 when our girls were no longer toddlers, Bob and I decided to volunteer in our community. Bob went on the Planning Board and I went on the Welfare Board.  When the position of Welfare Director opened up in 1984, I gladly accepted.  Again back to Rutgers for Social Work certification.

In 1998, Middlesex County Board of Social Services decided to move the welfare operation to New Brunswick.  I was offered a position there, but decided to accept a position in the Tax Assessor’s office. I returned to Rutgers again to work on my Tax Assessor certification. I served as Deputy Tax Assessor until a retirement in the department and I accepted the position of Tax Assessor. I also maintained the Social Services Department during this time, which was a challenge. I retired from full time in the Borough in 2011. 

I maintain the Social Services office in the Senior Citizen building 2 days a week. This is also the location of our town food pantry.

What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing South Plainfield today?

As South Plainfield grows, the need for Social Services increases.  The food pantry and department run strictly on food and monetary donations.  We assist with emergency placements, emergency prescriptions, and utilities as much as our donations allow.  We refer our clients to other services within the county as well.  We serve over 100 families each Thanksgiving and Christmas.  All this is done through the generosity of our community.

What are the top priorities of your “to do list” as Social Services Director?

So many times we cannot fill all of the needs that come before us, but we do the best with careful control of our donations, we are able to help the least fortunate in our community.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I serve as Co-Coordinator of the South Plainfield Domestic Violence team.  I also enjoy decorating my home and working in the garden.  I love to travel and spend as much time with the family as possible.

Five Words that describe South Plainfield are………

We feel like South Plainfield is home since we have lived here for over 40 years. I would best describe South Plainfield as giving, caring, family oriented and a safe place to live and raise a family.  I t would be hard to move away from all the friends we have made here in South Plainfield.