Back-to-School Fair benefits local families

| 23 Aug 2017 | 02:50

By Laurie Gordon
— Scores of parents and children from all over the area headed to Project Self-Sufficiency on Thursday for the agency's annual Back-to-School Fair. Designed to prepare the entire family for a successful academic year, the event boasted workshops for parents as well as free haircuts and school supplies for children.
During the course of the event, participants were able to attend workshops. Topics included parent-child communication strategies, managing children’s anger, nutrition and healthy relationships.
One of the biggest attractions was the free haircuts. Several local salons volunteered their time to give kids back-to-school haircuts for which a line snaked out of the room where they were being given into the hallway.
“This is great,” said Belem Cruz. “We heard about this event last year after attending Project Self-Sufficiency's Christmas Toy Shop and wanted to come back this year. It's so great for the kids and a great day trip for us.”
She drove with her sons, Anthony and Jonathan, from Delaware, New Jersey for the Back-to-School extravaganza. The event was also about giving her boys a message.
“I want them to know that you get and you give. Today we are getting some great things here and in the future, we will give back to the community in some way.”
Professional stylists from several area salons volunteered their time to offer free haircuts to students. Participating salons included Becky’s; Country Classic Haircutters; John’s Barber Shop; Salon Fig; Scissor Joint; The Village Mane; and others.
“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 Project Self-Sufficiency's Executive Director, Deborah 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.”
In addition to the free haircuts, children were invited to play games and receive back packs brimming with free school supplies. Representatives from local social service organizations were on hand to discuss topics ranging from healthcare to household safety to literacy.
Laura McCann was at the event representing the Sussex County YMCA. “It's great to be here as it's our social responsibility to offer programs that everyone can take advantage of. This is a great opportunity to serve the community.” She said, “The Y offers events that teach safety around the water as well as scholarships.” She also mentioned the YMCA's new gymnasium and other additions coming between September and January.
Susan Pironti was at the event representing The League of Women Voters of Sussex Highlands. “We're encouraging parents to become registered voters so that they have the opportunity to vote,” she said. “Many don't know that they can find the form right on line to register at the Board of Elections' web site.”
Agency staff members and volunteers distributed free school supplies, played games, organized crafts, and provided refreshments. Attendees participated in a raffle to win a $250 Shop Rite gift card. The event was co-sponsored by Connect for Community, a program designed to bring together volunteers from all ages and backgrounds to provide food and toiletries to food pantries, soup kitchens and social service agencies.
“Every year we are delighted to be able to address the needs of both parents and children at the Back-to-School Fair,” Berry-Toon said. “The entire family can leave here feeling much more prepared for a successful school year. We are grateful to all of the social service agencies, businesses and volunteers who have taken the time to lend a helping hand to local families in need.”
The Back to School Fair featured informative, break-out sessions for parents. Project Sussex Kids Program Coordinator Haley McCracken discussed the broad range of personality types exhibited by children and offered tips on maximizing communication for optimal behavior. Licensed clinical social worker Kris Imbrie introduced the Anger Kit, a tool designed to help parents deal with temper tantrums and angry outbursts by children of all ages. Registered Dietitian Natalie Barbaro, Shop Rite, educated parents about easy, nutritional food options for kid-friendly meals and snacks. DASI staff members addressed the formation of healthy relationships.
Participating social service organizations, health care agencies and emergency responders included the American Red Cross; Care Plus NJ; Caring Partners, CMO; Comfort Partners; Connect for Community; DASI; DAWN Center for Independent Living; New Jersey Department of Child Protection & Permanency - Sussex; Disability Rights New Jersey; Family Connections; Family Intervention Services; Family Partners of Morris and Sussex; Family Promise; Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey; Hardyston Special Education Parent Advisory Board; League of Women Voters of Sussex Highlands; Legal Services of Northwest Jersey; Literacy New Jersey – Sussex County Programs; Local Share/Foodshed Alliance; Garden volunteers at Project Self-Sufficiency; Morris Sussex Youth Advocate Program; NAMI; Newton Medical Center Health Education; New Jersey Cancer Education & Early Detection Program (NJ CEED); New Jersey Comfort Partners Program; NORWECAP Child & Family Resources; Partnership for Maternal and Child Health; Planned Parenthood; Project Self-Sufficiency; SCARC; Shop Rite of Newton; Statewide Parent Advocacy Network; Sussex County Children’s Advocacy Center; Sussex County Community College; Sussex County Division of Health; Sussex County Division of Social Services; Sussex County Library; Sussex County Public Health Nursing; Sussex County Special Child Services; Sussex County YMCA; Sussex Macaroni Kid; Zufall Health Center; United Way of Northern New Jersey; and others.
Participants prised the Newton Police Department whose officers made sure security was at the utmost during the event involving so many children.
Non-profit agency Project Self-Sufficiency is celebrating its 30th year of service to families in northwestern New Jersey. The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to achieve personal and economic self-sufficiency, family stability, and to improve their lives and the lives of their children. The agency offers a supportive family-centered environment where life issues are addressed through a combination of individual counseling, peer support groups, case management services, parenting skills training, life skills management training, home visits, childcare and early childhood education, family activities and health education. For information about any of the services provided at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or 844-807-3500, or visit