SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Throughout the year, South Plainfield’s Social Services/Welfare Department works tirelessly to help residents in need and now, with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the borough, members of the community are turning to the department more than ever.
“With so many more families staying home and losing income, the borough now has more residents who are in need of help,” said Heather Barry, L.S.W., the department's director. "There may be people who are not aware that South Plainfield has a department of social services that is here to help.”
Year-round, South Plainfield’s Social Services/Welfare Department works to help residents in need or those who are dealing with illness or other situations causing financial hardships. The department provides agency referrals as well as financial assistance for emergency prescriptions, utility bills and more while also ensuring that the shelves of the South Plainfield Food Pantry, which is run out of the senior center, are fully stocked.
As a self-sustaining department that relies solely on donations, Barry told TAPinto South Plainfield that everything – whether monetary or tangible – that comes in to social services is ‘logged and accounted for’ and, at the same time ‘every donation that goes out is documented.'
“Everyone’s situation is different, and we provide assistance in various ways to offer support that will benefit them and meet their specific needs. While we try not to turn anyone away, our services are available to South Plainfield residents only” said Barry, urging residents looking for help to contact the department directly. “We will work with each family to create a plan of support. We do our best to get them through whatever difficult situation they are facing".
Since mid-March, said Barry, the department has received an outpouring of support. “There has been an amazing response from residents and organizations within our community,” said Barry, adding, “In just the first few weeks, we have had churches, businesses, and residents donating food, toiletries, paper goods, and gift cards.”
Support for families in need has also come from the South Plainfield School District; in addition to food pantry items, the district raised several thousand dollars through the sale of ‘United We Roar’ T-shirts. The fundraising effort was twofold in that proceeds from the shirts will be used to purchase gift cards from local businesses, which will in return be donated to social services for families in need.
“The district will buy the gift cards from South Plainfield businesses and then donate them to social services to distribute,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak. “They know best who needs them and it is not up to us to determine who is or isn’t needy.”
“This was an amazing effort to unite our community when it was really needed and, now with the school district’s plan to purchase gift cards from our local businesses, it continues to make an extremely positive and hopeful impact on our town,” said Barry. “I am so truly grateful to all who have participated, because they have truly helped their neighbors and friends affected by this crisis."
At this time, said Barry, requirements to receive food and other essentials from the pantry are pretty much the same; one must provide proof of residency with valid documentation of address. However, due to the senior center being closed, pantry hours are by appointment only.
“If someone is in need of food or other supplies from the pantry, we are asking them to please call and make an appointment for a pick up. No one is allowed in the building, so we are packing the food and bringing it outside for pick up,” said Barry.
Additionally, said Barry, the pantry is currently ‘fully stocked’ and ‘not in need of any food donations at this time,’ Household products, especially paper goods and cleaning supplies, however are ‘desperately needed.’
With the senior center currently closed to the public until further notice, the department of social services is available by appointment only. To drop off any donations, or for assistance including obtaining food pantry items, contact Heather Barry at (908) 226-7625.
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