Project Self-Sufficiency takes it on the road

Group rolls out mobile RV called ‘Journey’

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  • Photos by Laurie Gordon The side of the new mobile unit with the message of its mission

  • Journey will be traveling to Franklin, Hamburg, Hopatcong, Montague, Ogdensburg, Sussex and Vernon.

  • Kate McNamara represented the McNamara family, which was instrumental in obtaining the new mobile unit.

By Laurie Gordon

If someone can’t come to you, you have to find a way to get to them.

Long-time Project Self-Sufficiency employee Patrice Green thought about all of the essential services that the non-profit provides for people in the community at the Newton campus and had a kind of crazy, outlandish, wonderful idea: What if Project Self-Sufficiency went mobile?

Thanks to their belief in the project and a sizable grant from Impact 100 Garden State, “Journey” is about to start her course in yet uncharted waters for Project Self-Sufficiency. Journey is the name of the mobile RV that was showcased for the first time last month, and the vehicle will now head out to provide services to residents who may not have easy access to personal vehicles or public transportation.

The donated funds were 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 social services which the agency has successfully provided for 30 years.

“This project is amazing as is everything that has been accomplished by Project Self-Sufficiency,” said the Honorable Lorraine Parker, a retired judge who is on Project Self-Sufficiency’s Board of Directors and has, for years, been extremely active with the agency. “I remember when Project Self-Sufficiency started and our office was smaller than this mobile vehicle.”

Project Self-Sufficiency started over 30 years ago as the result of a pilot demonstration grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to fund rental assistance certificates for single parents who participated in education or job training. Dr. George Wilson, who was present at Journey’s inauguration, was the superintendent at Sussex County Technical School at the time and gave them space in the building to start the agency.

“Without you, Dr. Wilson, we wouldn’t be here,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Project Self-Sufficiency’s executive director.

With a full array of services to help people in the community, this new mobile, innovative means of providing services is, said Berry-Toon, “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.”

She added, “We have such a happy heart today, and it’s so great to see PSS Journey become a reality. On board 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 the 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 a.m. to 4 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 just never ceases to amaze me,” said state Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Sussez). “It’s a matter of giving people freedom: the freedom to explore new opportunities and broaden their horizons and this new RV will certainly do that for so many more area residents.”

Sussex County Freeholder Herbert Yartley (R) said, “This new mobile unit will bring Project Self-Sufficiency’s vital programs out to the people who really need them but don’t have access.”

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