A Sussex County nonprofit agency received a special visit Thursday from New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy, who saw first-hand the impact the coronavirus crisis has had on some the county’s most vulnerable population.
Murphy, the wife of Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, visited Project Self-Sufficiency in Newton as part of her New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund efforts. The nonprofit was one of a few Sussex County nonprofits awarded grant monies from the fund, which was founded by Tammy Murphy and has provided, since its April incorporation, 150 grants in excess of $3.2 to agencies on the front lines assisting those populations most in need.
Murphy, wearing a red mask, was greeted with several songs, including a rendition of “Mr. Golden Sun,” by children enrolled in the agency’s Little Sprouts Early Learning Center. As she waved her hands back and forth, Murphy thanked the children for their songs of hope, telling them “thank you all, you are all so great!”
Murphy also learned more about the agency’s New Jersey Youth Corps program, which helps students who dropped out of high school obtain their GEDs and further their educations or careers. She stepped into a math class and spoke to several students about their futures before she gave a helping hand inside the agency’s food pantry.
Murphy spoke to different clients as she toured the campus including Sean Chamer, of Hopatcong, who underwent a routine shoulder surgery and suffered a stroke at the age of 38. He was permanently disabled, lost his job and was unable to afford to feed his children.
"I’ve been through a lot and I’ve had some dark days, (but) I’m alive because of this place getting me back on my feet,” Chamer told Murphy. “There is life after stroke.”
Murphy, who resisted the urge to hug Chamer but instead gave him a “shoulder bump,” offered him her well wishes and thanked him for sharing his story.
In addition to assisting clients in need during the pandemic with family support and case management services, virtual home visits and more, the agency has seamlessly provided free food to those in need, serving 5,000 individuals, providing 70,000 and distributing about 20,000 bags of food throughout the month of August.
“By redoubling their efforts to support working families, Project Self-Sufficiency is yet another example of the resiliency and compassion that has helped uplift so many throughout our state during this difficult time.”
Project Self-Sufficiency’s Executive Director Deborah Berry-Toon was honored to have Murphy tour the campus, noting that the agency is “humbled and inspired” by the support they have received.
“Volunteers have conducted food drives, local businesses have stepped up with funding and we have been fortunate to secure support from hundreds of individuals so that we can meet this unprecedented need in our community.”
The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund is in the process of reviewing an additional 400 grant requests statewide. Other organizations that obtained grants in Sussex County include the Sparta Ecumencial Food Pantry, Foodshed Alliance, Birth Haven and Family Promise.