Project Self-Sufficiency’s long-awaited mobile services vehicle was unveiled at a festive event on Thursday, March 15th. The new program, PSS Journey: Opportunity on the Move, will enable the agency to reach residents in the more remote regions of Sussex and Northern Morris Counties where residents may not have easy access to personal vehicles or public transportation. Funding from Impact 100 Garden State, a New Jersey women’s philanthropic organization, was used to purchase and retrofit a recreational vehicle with internet access, computer work stations, and counseling and classroom space. The roaming vehicle will be staffed by a driver, a case manager, and a computer instructor, and travel a set schedule throughout Sussex and Morris Counties delivering the services which the agency has successfully provided for 30 years. PSS Journey was the brainchild of longtime Project Self-Sufficiency staff member Patrice Green who identified a need for mobile services in northern New Jersey.
“This innovative means of providing services is based on a challenge which has long plagued the residents of our area of the state, namely access to transportation in order to secure the services they need for themselves and for their families,” explains Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency. “Onboard PSS Journey, families will be able to receive one-on-one counseling sessions where they will work with a case manager to develop an action plan. Individuals can participate in computer training, obtain help with resumes, cover letters, and interview skills, and access information about job openings and community resources. The vehicle will also carry much needed basic essentials like food, clothing, diapers and warm winter coats to the more remote towns in our area.”
PSS Journey will travel a rotating schedule through the Sussex County municipalities of Franklin, Hamburg, Hopatcong, Montague, Ogdensburg, Sussex and Vernon, as well as the towns of Jefferson and Netcong in Morris County. Each of the municipalities will have access to PSS Journey roughly two days each month, from approximately 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (with the exception of holidays). Services will be offered to individuals in four distinct stages, beginning and ending with meetings with the case manager. Stage One will include a one-hour counseling session and the creation of an individual action plan along with a discussion of community resources. Stage Two will emphasize the development of resumes, cover letters, interview skills and other services related to job searching. Computer instruction will be the focus of Stage Three under the guidance of a computer instructor trained in QuickBooks as well as Microsoft Office applications. Stage Four will focus on the distribution of food, clothing, and infant care items, and will include a discussion of holiday assistance and other needs.
“Project Self-Sufficiency’s new mobile service vehicle will bring career building skills practically to clients’ doorsteps in order to help them enter the job market,” said Senator Steve Oroho. “What an outstanding service it will provide to so many local residents.”
Assemblyman Hal Wirths concurred, adding “Project Self-Sufficiency is always looking for ways to better assist individuals in need. As a former State Labor Commissioner, I can attest to the value of the career services that PSS is looking to provide to clients and it will be immeasurable in helping them to secure employment.”
Now in its fifth year of collaborative giving, Impact 100 Garden State has funded more than one million dollars in transformative grants to non-profit organizations serving residents in the New Jersey counties of Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Sussex. The organization’s mission is to provide high-impact grants to organizations that reach underserved populations, to raise the profile of those that are less well known, and to highlight unmet needs in the areas of arts and culture, children and families, education, environment, health and wellness. Each year its members contribute to the grant funds and vote to determine the recipients.
“I am thrilled that our Impact 100 members voted to fund Project Self-Sufficiency this year,” said Merle Johnson, President of Impact 100 Garden State. “We were all blown away by their well-presented and innovative program. We are particularly delighted that the project will help people living in Sussex County. It is one of the counties included in our mission and this is our first grant to a nonprofit there.”
Several local residents and businesses were identified as key contributors to the development of PSS Journey. “We are indebted to longtime Project Self-Sufficiency supporter Michael McNamara for his assistance in securing the recreational vehicle as well as its winterized storage facility,” added Berry-Toon. “We would also like to thank the staff at Express RV for their superb and timely work in retrofitting the vehicle to our exact specifications, as well as Mark Maruska of Gravity DesignWorks for designing and producing the PSS Journey logo and exterior wrap for the vehicle.”
“We are immensely grateful for the resources made possible by a donation from the Ellman Discovery Fund, under the guidance of Blake and Cathy Ellman, which will be used to provide essential operational and staffing needs,” added Beverly Gordon, President of Project Self-Sufficiency’s Board of Directors.
Organizers are currently working with municipalities and school districts in the service areas to get the word out to families in need. Interested participants will be able to access the PSS Journey schedule on the Project Self-Sufficiency website and on the program Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PSSJourney.
“With PSS Journey, the agency will be able to meet immediate basic needs and provide preliminary services to the area’s most vulnerable individuals and families,” explained Berry-Toon. “The ultimate goal is to enable them to stabilize their situation, encourage them to access center-based services and assist them along their own journey to lasting self-sufficiency.”
Project Self-Sufficiency is celebrating its thirtieth year of providing services to families in the New Jersey counties of Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon. 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.
Those who are interested in learning more about the programs offered at Project Self-Sufficiency, are encouraged to call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org. More information about Impact 100 Garden State, a Special Project Fund of the Community Foundation of New Jersey, is available at www.impact100gardenstate.org.