Back-to-School Fair showcases community resources

| 24 Aug 2015 | 03:06

There are a lot of resources for parents out there, and on Thursday Project Self-Sufficiency showcased them in a fun-spirited back-to-school event which saw hundreds of children and their parents learn, visit a host of booths and even get a hair cut.

“Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to offer the Back-to-School Fair to our participants again this year,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director at Project Self-Sufficiency. “The helpful information and services available to families at this event prepare both children and their parents for a successful school year."

Family Partners of Morris and Sussex Counties were on hand.

With the motto, “Tomorrow can be a brighter day for you and your family,” representative Cheire Lozow said, “There are a lot of parents who could use our services but either don't know that we exist or aren't aware of all that we have to offer.”

Her message underscored that of many representatives at the event.

“We want parents and kids to know what resources are available to them,” said Lisa Pachnos of Project Self-Sufficiency.

Elsie Lorber, who was on hand to show parents some skills and show them some ideas for learning projects and games that are available right at any dollar store added, “We want to help them get back in the mood for back to school.”

NutritionLauren McCann, membership coordinator at the Sussex County YMCA, displayed brochures and gave out information about the Y's numerous programs and activities. She highlighted their Free Nutrition Lectures available to the public monthly and emphasized the importance of reading labels.

“There's so much sugar in so many things these days,” she said. “Something as simple as a jar of salsa can contain quite a bit of sugar. We urge parents to read labels and teach their kids to do so.”

Skin protectionShe highlighted the Y's child care, education and leadership and swim, sports and play programs.

Tracey Mazzucco, a health educator from Sussex County's Department of Environmental and Public Health Services had an oft-overlooked important message to convey: wear sunscreen.

As she gave out samples of skin and lip protection, she spoke to parents and children about preventing skin cancer and had some tips.

“It's important to apply suncreen 20 minutes prior to going out in the sun,” she said. “A lot of people don't know that.”

She emphasized that just because it's the end of summer, that doesn't mean you can't get too much sun or even sunburned.

“Parents and children need to be aware that when kids are outside playing, they're still exposed to the sun.”

She said sunscreen of at least SPF 30 should be reapplied every 20 minutes and to look for a broad spectrum sun screen.

WorkshopsWorkshops gave parents tips about detecting and preventing child sexual assault, information about local resources for families with children up to the age of eight, and access to support for adults contemplating a college education.

Representatives from local social service organizations were on hand to discuss topics ranging from healthcare to household safety to literacy, and the Newton police were on hand not just to ensure security but to talk to parents and kids about some of the things the force does.

Fire safety was addressed with younger children, and agency staff members and volunteers handed out school supplies, played games, organized crafts, and provided refreshments.

Free hair cutsChildren had fun playing games, receiving back packs filled with free school supplies and getting free haircuts.

Professional stylists from several area salons volunteered their time to offer free haircuts to students, including Salon Fig, Mancuso Salon, Roseann Francavilla, Scissor Joint, and The Village Mane.

“The stylists who volunteer to cut hair at the Back-to-School fair each year are to be commended for their graciousness, patience and enthusiasm,” said Berry-Toon. “The children look beautiful, and the parents are delighted because the service is free and available to their families each year at the fair.”

Deborah Shea was there with her children said her kids look forward to the haircuts by the stylists.

Her daughters, Tegan and Mackenzie smiled as they had their hair done. "The event has evolved in its 13 years to include so much," Pachnos said.

To this tune, there was even a demonstration on how to make easy healthy smoothies in a regular blender.

Community resourcesSussex County Community College representatives Edwina Cariati, Todd Poltersdorf and Theresa Siebert conducted a workshop for adults about the new Campus to Campus college assistance program offered in conjunction with Project Self-Sufficiency.

Tactics for teens and adults interested in learning about the warning signs displayed by predators and victims of child sexual assault were addressed by Project Self-Sufficiency Enough Abuse Program Coordinator Melissa Bischoff.

A discussion of the resources and information available to Sussex County families who are parenting children up to the age of eight through the new Project Sussex Kids program was offered by Program Coordinator Haley McCracken.

For information about any of the services provided at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500, or