New Destiny FSC’s success story for the month of August reflects the importance of partnership in times of need. As the school year approached, parents and caregivers were concerned about getting school supplies, including backpacks. According to the Lending Tree survey, “31% of shoppers with kids younger than 18 say they can’t afford some school supplies this year.” Moreover, they stated that most parents will have to acquire debt to purchase school supplies (https://nj1015.com/most-parents-are-stressed-out-about-paying-for-back-to-school-shopping/). New Destiny started receiving calls regarding backpacks and school supplies as early as July. When registration opened, two hundred parents registered! Even with this excessive number of requests, more called to sign-up closer to the date of the event. Through the generous funding awarded to New Destiny from the Community Based Child Assault Prevention (CBCAP) initiative, partnerships with local CBO’s, and churches, New Destiny FSC provided backpacks and school supplies to 654 children! Parents and children enjoyed a back-to-school event full of fun and games such as giant Jenga and Connect 4. Ice cream was also given out to all parents and children!! Moreover, other resources provided to parents included Parent handbook cards. These cards contained a QR code that took them directly to a PDF document, where parents could read about their rights in their school systems. It was made available in English and Spanish. Parents were excited to know that there was a document they could refer to when presented with an issue or a question. The staff and volunteers were also available to assist any parent/caregiver that had questions. Covid19 educational materials were available to all on site. Overall, the back-to- school event was a success! Partnerships, donations, and the arduous work of all staff and volunteers made this event one of the most successful in-person special events this year. Concrete services were provided, social connections were made, and families bonded with their children. Bringing HOPE during uncertain times brings joy to New Destiny Family Success Center. Thanks to CBCAP, our partners, donors, volunteers, and staff, the Back-to-School Event of 2022 brought relief and happiness to families that have been negatively impacted by the current recession.
New Destiny FSC hosted its second successful Summer Reading Camp this year at Frank Lautenberg/School 6. The goal of this program was to help K-3 students improve their literacy level in a fun and engaging way. Twenty-seven students participated in a 4-week reading program, where they were assessed at the beginning and the end of the program. Reading specialists from Kimber’s Reading Express used the Ekwall/Shanker Reading Inventory ERP to test reading abilities. The Racial Initiative states that “Poor reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade places children at risk of high school dropout, low earnings, teen pregnancy, poor emotional and physical well-being, and incarceration (Theracialinitiative.org).” As a Family Success Center, we understand the importance of prevention. Consequently, programs such as the Kimber’s Reading Program bring a rich learning experience to the children of our community. All of our Rising Readers showed improvement, but there were two that stood out. Student E and Student N are two of our Rising Readers. They are both going into third grade this fall and are two of our most improved students. When Student E started our program, she could recognize and spell about half of the sight words in the assessment, but at the end of the program she knew how to spell three quarters of the words. She also improved in understanding and using letter combination rules by 28%. Student E also raised her reading level from a frustrational level to an instructional level over the course of the program which shows improvement in word decoding and reading comprehension. Student N demonstrated the same improvement in her reading level from frustrational level to an instructional level. Student N showed improvement in reading and spelling sight words, recognizing, and spelling 38% more of the sight words at the end of the program. She improved recognizing vowels by 100%! All our students increased their score in at least three of the six scoring areas. Students entering Kindergarten improved most in letter and sound recognition and sight word recognition. 1st grade improved most in sight word recognition and spelling, letter sounds, and letter combo rules. 2nd grade improved most in all scoring areas. 3rd grade improved most in vowel recognition and reading and spelling sight words. They worked so hard, and we are so proud of them!
All year round, New Destiny Family Success Centers, Inc. partners with various organizations to better serve our families. As they say, “it takes a village”! Collaboration has always been part of the New Destiny FSC culture. During the pandemic it became a heightened priority. Passaic County CASA for Children has been one of the partners that collaborated with New Destiny FSC to impact many families in the city of Paterson. Today, they continue to struggle throughout the COVID pandemic due to job loss, mental health, inflation, and more. Passaic County CASA provided twenty of our families with monthly diapers, wipes, and formula for an entire year! These items were donated monthly! A month supply, which provided financial relief. One box of name brand diapers costs $58.99, and a pack of wipes $1.78. Moreover, a container of formula is $17.99. All these items add up to a total of $78.76 a month. If we multiply that by 12 months, each family received $945 in donations. When you are in financial need this assistance goes a long way! Our families were so grateful to receive this aid for their babies. It meant less stress and worry. Trying to find formula has been a hassle in the United States due to the recent shortage. Any help for these families meant the world. According to Bare Necessities, “1 in 3 families in the USA have a diaper need. 6– 12 diapers are needed per day for infants/toddlers at an average cost of $100 per month. Diapers and toiletries are not covered under safety net programs such as SNAP (food stamps) or WIC (woman, infants, and children).” We are thankful for this partnership. Due to lack of funding, this program has ended. They are now focusing their resources on other endeavors. As we continue to serve over 2,000 families in our community, we strive to maintain partnerships, increase collaboration, and find innovative programs that can help our community members overcome current challenges. Without partners and ongoing collaboration, our work is impossible. New Destiny FSC is proud to work hand-in hand with other community-based organizations to continue to influence the lives of families positively.
Becoming a United States citizen can be a challenge for many immigrants that come from all over the world. This summer of 2022 we have the wonderful story of a Peruvian immigrant living in Woodland Park who arrived in the late 2000s with her daughter in search of a brighter future. Ms. S’s journey to the United States was not easy, as she faced several difficulties and challenges. One of the numerous difficulties she experienced was the language barrier; her inability to communicate in English made it hard for her to get a job. Her determination and tenacity to provide her family with a better life pushed her forward throughout the years. She eventually came upon our organization, New Destiny Family Success Center, where she learned about our programs, activities, and the other services we offer. Ms. S came into our office in the fall of 2021, seeking assistance with the naturalization process. A member of the New Destiny FSC team was more than willing to assist her with the application process. She provided all the required documents and was able to begin the application right away. She was terrified and anxious, since she had gone to many agencies, and no one could assist her without charging her an exorbitant fee. She was relieved when she discovered that the service was free! On May 27th, 2022, Ms. S contacted our New Destiny staff member who had assisted her to inform her that she had officially become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. Ms. S was extremely thankful for the support and assistance she received throughout her case. New Destiny Family Success Center continues to serve individuals and families by providing a variety of services to help them feel at ease and will supporting them in achieving their goals. We congratulations Ms. S, on officially becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States of America! Our New Destiny doors will always be open for individuals who want to be helped, succeed, and achieve their goals. New Destiny FSC continues to make an impact in the lives of our community members.
In the month of April each year, New Destiny FSC commemorates Family Strengthening Month in a special way!! This year, the agency organized a “Family Strengthening Month Healing Fair”, where families came together and enjoyed a day of healing and fun. Why did we choose the theme of “healing”? Having lived through the pandemic these past two years, many families were negatively impacted financially, mentally, and spiritually. We decided we wanted to bring a celebration of joy while also encouraging families with a rich array of community resources. A total of 151 adults and 165 children enjoyed free food, ice cream, popcorn, games, music, and so much more!! When the idea was presented to our community partners, they immediately jumped on board bringing resources and free gifts for our children and families. Boxes of food were given to families in need by one of our partners. Vendors were available with a diverse mix of community resources and information including a mobile vaccine unit on site for anyone interested in getting vaccinated. Some of the feedback we received from the volunteers, families and interns that assisted at the event were, “It was so good to see children smiling, families bonding, and the passion with which all staff, volunteers and vendors served the community;” “One of my favorite events,” “It was an event well done, organized, all families had an activity to do, it was perfect.” One of our community partners stated that he not been in an event like this before.” As part of our “strengthening families” event, some of the protective factors addressed included: social connections, concrete support in times of need (as evidenced by our collaborators who attended), social and emotional competence of children. Vendors provided tools for parenting and child development. Activities such as Zumba, and the bouncy house for the children allowed them to release stress and have fun. Overall, our goal was and is that families leave these types of events with a sense of hope knowing that there is support in their community even when challenging times arise. We want them to know that NDFSC and its partners will be there to strengthen and support them.
New Destiny Family Success Center (“NDFSC”) is delighted to celebrate and acknowledge the beautiful and strong women of our Paterson community at International Women’s Day every year! NDFSC strives to make this celebration a memorable one for our participants. This year was no exception. New Destiny had the honor of hosting and facilitating a very special Kintsugi event facilitated by M. Soto. It was a memorable healing experience for our participants. New Destiny FSC is confident that what was lived that evening will stay with our participants forever. Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold. Like us, the bowl becomes more beautiful when we embrace its history, quirks, and changes. The event was a success! Twenty-seven women participated. Their experience at this celebration helped them embrace and see the beauty in their pain. There is always a reason for our hardships and watching our facilitator guide our participants through this emotional journey was incredibly rewarding and a contribution to our community’s social and emotional well-being. The workshop was engaging, fun and very passionate. It was amazing to hear their testimonies while holding their repaired golden bowls in hand. Our guests came from varied backgrounds, and we were so humbled to have been able to provide this workshop in English and Spanish through translation. Having such a strong diverse group of women only eased all of us to see that there is room for golden sparks for all women. Females are the backbone of nurturing and if they do not receive healing from their past pains, how can our society move forward? Yet again, NDFSC continues to work fervently to move our community forward through fostering healthy families. We are confident that with continued grace and strong dedication we will be able to provide our community with many more life-changing experiences.
A 2020 survey conducted among immigrant communities showed that 78% of households with at least one undocumented family member face food insecurity. (rescue.org) New Destiny Family Success Center is well known among our community, and families come to us for support in times of need. Last month, our Community Health Worker assisted a family in applying for the SNAP program. Mr. J and his wife came to the office and commented that their third baby’s expected birth was the next day, but that did not stop them from coming in for their appointment. Mr. J explained his family has been struggling because he is the primary breadwinner, and most weeks, he does not complete 40 hours of work. As we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, immigrants have been highly affected by unemployment rates, contributing to the lack of access to nutritious food. Mr. J said his family of five needed financial support. Ms. G expressed that it is extremely hard for them because she and one of their daughters are undocumented and are not eligible to receive assistance from the government at the time, they were seeking assistance. According to a study by the Urban Institute, "1 in 7 adults in eligible immigrant families reported that they did not enroll in government programs because of worries that it would affect their legalization efforts." (rescue.org) After completing the application, the Community Health Worker explained to Mr. J that he would receive a call or an email from the SNAP program and that he could access his application online. Close to two weeks later, Mr. J stopped by the office and happily shared with the Community Health Worker that his application was approved for SNAP! The amount they were approved to receive each month was going to be more than enough. In the end, Mr. J was incredibly grateful and said the funds would significantly help his family. We are proud to continue supporting our families to ensure access to resources and services to reduce stress. Mr. J can now focus on caring for his wife, newborn, and children.
This month has been a blessing to our community members struggling during this pandemic. New Destiny Family Success Center partnered with a local hospital to bring relief. While things appear to be improving for some, many others continue to suffer from the pandemic's devastating impact daily. Many people in Paterson are trying to provide for their families in the face of food insecurity, higher food prices, and unemployment, all factors that contribute to poverty. New Destiny at the Heritage housing site recently successfully finished a program along with St. Joseph’s Hospital providing families with hot meals for 12 weeks. The “Feed the Frontlines Initiative” is a special feeding program that ran for the months of January and February 2022. As part of this program, restaurants in Ridgewood provided freshly cooked meals for FREE! This program benefited our families in need, seniors, disabled or immunocompromised families residing in our community. Seventy-five hot meals were given to our families every week. Twenty-five families in need were selected to receive the hot meals every week. This program has made a difference in the lives of families residing at the Heritage Housing Development. One of our families that benefited from this program was the C family. Ms. C lives with her two minor grandchildren. Due to her health condition, she was scared to go out with the new variant of COVID-19, and the increased cases during the first 3 weeks of January. Ms. C was glad and extremely grateful to get food three times a week throughout the months of January and February. Ms. C did not have to leave her house to buy groceries to feed her grandchildren. She was able to avoid exposure and as she quoted the meals were “a gift from heaven.” On the other hand, The L and the G families were facing financial hardship during these months. To survive and feed their families, they went to local food pantries. They were surprised and thankful that they could get warm, delicious, and nutritious food right from a restaurant, very emotional, Mr. L said: “God bless everyone one of you for these foods.” New Destiny FSC continues to partner with other organizations to provide relief during this pandemic, where families lack the basic needs such as food. Our hope is to continue to provide tools, resources to meet our families where they are, so they can continue to stay healthy and hopeful.
New Destiny Family Success Centers serves thousands of families each year in our Paterson area and beyond. Increasing parental resilience during this challenging time has been our goal as a Family Success Center. Having Community Health Workers on site supporting families not only with vaccination and testing, but other concrete services including rental assistance programs, food, and energy assistance has helped parents and children continue to stay strong and resilient. From March 2021 to November 30, 2021, New Destiny FSC Community Health Workers reached and engaged a total of 1,953 participants – of those individuals, 883 have been fully vaccinated! Our CHWs have connected with a total of 1,070 community members through outreach alone. Furthermore, through a short-term grant opportunity to increase vaccine awareness, we served 1339 individuals from September to December 2021. In total, our Covid19 Response Team served 3292 families! They ventured out in our community and met individuals in Paterson’s most vulnerable places – tabling events, disseminating information, canvassing on foot, engaging in educational conversations. They met the needs of those who were hesitant as well as responded to those who do not speak the English language. They successfully connected families with local vaccination sites, answered FAQs and addressed vaccine hesitancy head on. New Destiny held a total of 11 vaccination events and 79 outreach events from March 2021 to December 2021. CHWs conducted a total of 515 telephone calls to facilitate appointments for our city’s most vulnerable residents: seniors, immunocompromised individuals, persons with limited or no access to technology. We are grateful to be able to serve and continue to serve our community in this capacity. New Destiny is delighted to have extended such crucial and much-needed aide through our Community Health Workers to our city of Paterson.
Every year, New Destiny FSC is overcome with gratitude when we are blessed with donations to give back to our community. This year, November 2021, we can cheerfully say was no exception – 502 families were blessed with dinner donations! Out of those 502 families, sixty-five of them had the opportunity to enjoy a catered family-style dinner at The Brownstone House, a highly celebrated banquet hall located in our very own city. The dinner consisted of waiters and servers attending each table, with full course warm delicious banquet-style foods. The event included: transportation to and from the venue, a photo-booth with on-the-spot unlimited print outs, a ShopRite gift card, but most importantly – an experience that they will carry with them for a lifetime. New Destiny Family Success Center was able to provide forty-three children with a night of joy, gratitude, and most importantly harmony. Harmony in seeing that their parents could enjoy themselves, free of worries. The staff members felt so gratified when overhearing the testimonies of the children, one young girl was heard telling her mother, she would one day hope to get married in a place like that. Another young man was heard being shocked by the very silverware on the table. His friends were also claiming that that was the fanciest place they have ever been to. The staff members coordinated an activity wherein all family members were exhorted to pick up a paper leaf and write one thing they were grateful for this year. The leaves were then taken back to their local school, School 6, and a tree of gratitude was created from those leaves. It was a great time family bonding.
Isolation and lack of social interaction are a few of the issues facing our children during the pandemic. Parents have become teachers, and the stress children are under has affected their emotional well-being. KFF polls stated that 67% of parents are worried about their childrens’ social and emotional health after school closures(kff.org). As a family success center, our staff and ED had many meetings to brainstorm ideas to break the some of the isolation our children are experiencing. After a series of ice cream socials outside our office, a brilliant idea came to mind, “A Hot Chocolate Social.” Thirty children with their families came out! Kids decorated their mugs and enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate. The highlight of this event was the happiness on the faces of the kids! Even with their masks on, you could see their excitement to be out, many of them with their siblings. The success of this story is our children. One of those children has been separated from his mother who was deported back to Mexico. His aunt, who was the person who brought him to the event, said to us, “Thanks for doing this, now, when he needs the distraction, we are grateful for you all.” That young boy knows that New Destiny is a place for release from isolation and fun. For him, he can receive hope that things will get better, and that one day he will be reunited with his mother. For us, hope that we positively impact our community to ensure our families, children, and community have a place they can call home.
New Destiny FSC joins the Dad Take Your Child to School Day Initiative every year. The Department of Children and Families encourages all Family Success Centers to be part of it by creating an event that promotes dads taking their children to school. The goal is to engage fathers and father figures in their children’s education. Since school was remote last year, we had to make it extra special with all children returning to their classrooms! Instead of having dads take a picture at home during online learning, they were able to drop off their children and take pictures at the schools. Our focus was to ensure dads participated and took the time to bond with their children. NDFSC staff partnered with John F Kennedy High School Based Youth Services, Senator Frank Lautenberg School 6, School 2, Paterson Firefighters and Community Policing to recruit dads, and have first responders cheer students on as they entered their school entrances. NDFSC team members also tabled outside each of the participating schools, taking pictures and distributing information about our upcoming programs and community resources. Furthermore, it was the perfect moment to promote our Fatherhood Program! A total of 54 dads and 80 children participated! This is a success for us!! Fifty-four dads took their children to school! As an incentive to promote this initiative, a bowling trip was scheduled. Food, transportation, and fun!! All they had to do was to take a photo at the school and send it to us. We were overwhelmed with joy seeing all the pictures in our inbox. Happiness was present in each child’s face!! Dads’ involvement in their education is imperative. Taking 10 or 15-minutes commute to school can be looked like is not enough time to spend with a child, or make a difference, but it does! Those children that were taken to school on September 17th, 2021, will treasure that moment for the rest of their lives.
Depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses have increased significantly in adults and children during the COVID19 pandemic. In an article written on the implications of Covid19 on mental health and substance use, researchers found that “the average shared of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder increased from 11% (Jan-June 2019) to 41.1% just in January 2021.” Activeminds.org surveyed students and found that: “20% of students stated that their mental health has worsened. The most shocking data found was that 55% of the students did not know where to go to seek counseling.” The lack of a support system combined with knowing where to go for help creates uncertainty, isolation and loneliness increasing the likelihood of anxiety and depression. On August 17th, 2021, 30 children and their parents came to the New Destiny FSC office for the first time since the pandemic to participate in our Back-to-School Event. Witnessing children and their parents sharing in an in-person parent/child activity where they made Healthy Snack parfaits brought so much joy to the team and everyone present!! Moreover, the students and parents talked about how they were looking forward to starting school in person, as well as some of their fears. We invited a counselor to attend the event as well who was able to talk to both children and parents responding to their many questions. It has taken a year and 5 months to bring some normality to our families. New Destiny FSC continues to be a reliable support system where families feel safe to share their struggles and fears. We may not be able to host as many in-person events but staying connected through various platforms is crucial. Our Back-to-School Night opened a door for renewed trust and connections where families feel comfortable and heard. Anxiety and depression may have touched their lives, but together, as a community, we can be that support network that helps families grow stronger and overcome future obstacles and challenges.
Support systems are crucial in everyone’s life, especially for a single parent. July’s success story demonstrates how the support of a mother, staff and collaborating agencies made a difference in a single’s father life and his child. According to a study done by Pew Research on the Rise of Single Fathers, “the number of single father households has increased about nine fold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011.” Usually, single mothers seek out help, when in need. For single fathers, it may be difficult, more so when they are working full-time to provide for their children. Last month, a staff from the Partnership of Maternal and Child Health referred a mother, Ms. A, to New Destiny FSC. She was looking to help her son, a 25-year-old, single dad, to connect him to WIC, 4C’S, and health insurance for his child. She was desperate and did not know where to start to ensure granddaughter received all the services she needed. Ms. A was from another state and did not know the protocols to transfer her granddaughter’s information to the WIC office in Paterson, NJ, or how the child could be enrolled for childcare. Two staff connected her to 4C’S and the WIC office. After a few weeks of follow ups through emails and phone calls, Ms. A was able to make what seemed impossible, possible. New Destiny FSC bridged the gap and connected a mother, a single father, and a child to resources that will provide them peace of mind and assurance that his child will grow up in a healthy environment where all her needs will be met. Furthermore, Ms. A can sleep better knowing that her son and granddaughter will be able to start a new life. As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs state, to achieve self-actualization, which is defined as “A-person’s motivation to reach his or her full potential”, four needs must be accomplished, “Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, and Esteem. Ms. A’s son needed to make sure his daughter was provided the basic needs, and for Mr. A, as a single father, he can go to work and achieve his goals knowing they have all they need to continue this new journey together. Every organization involved in this story is part of its success. The staff, and other agency partners that made it all possible for Ms. A and her family shows how collaboration, determination, consistency, and faith helped a family come out of a difficult situation bringing hope and support when most needed.
New Destiny’s vision has always been to ensure that our families are free to thrive, prosper and build resiliency to overcome any obstacles that may come their way. Before, during and after this pandemic our center has worked tirelessly towards achieving this goal. COVID-19 has marked numerous families in our city, leaving them to fend for themselves during these chaotic times. Recently, Ms. Eleonor P. visited our office and expressed her emotional and financial distress during these times of uncertainty. She informed one of our Community Health Workers (CHWs) that she and her household were facing homelessness threats in addition to a shut-off notice from her electric and gas company. These situations were negatively impacting her financial status as well as the emotional well-being of her family. The CHW that greeted her, upon arrival at the center, quickly approached our participant with a client-centered approach – big eyes, big ears, and small mouth. She listened to Ms. Eleonor and partnered with her to get the financial assistance she needed. Thankfully, together, they were able to successfully obtain full funding for her gas and electric bill. Additionally, our CHW assisted her with filling out the extensive application for COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance. When Ms. Eleonor P. received notice from both agencies regarding the amount of funding she would receive, she was elated and very grateful for New Destiny’s support. She shared that the financial aid that she received not only changed the overall emotional state in her house, but it has also empowered her to think towards her future possibly pursuing college courses in the social services field. Lending encouragement, help and support to families like Ms. Eleonor’s is what fuels New Destiny FSC. Fostering new beginnings for those who are most vulnerable is the core service of all the work performed in our FSC. When we incorporate hope and resiliency in our support with families, we become stronger together – as individuals, as a community, as a city.
What is a way maker? According to lexico.com, there are two definitions. One states, “historical, a person who makes or mends roads; specifically, an English royal official of the 16th and early 17th centuries charged with keeping the highways in good repair. The second one says, “A person or thing that prepares the way for another; a forerunner, a precursor, a prelude.” New Destiny FSC has been able to make the way for many families! Guided by its own Executive Director, Carolyn McCombs, and her passion for the community, families and individuals have been given the opportunity to become part of the team. Nonetheless, this is the first time that both, mom, and dad found employment at our center to serve the community! Thanks to the partnership and collaboration with another organization, doors were opened. “How did it happen?”; you may ask. Let us start with Antonella A. Every year parenting classes are hosted at New Destiny FSC. Due to the pandemic, we had to modify one our curricula, Abriendo Puertas/ Opening Doors. It was hosted virtually through Zoom. Antonella A had expressed interest in attending the class. After attending one of the first in-person events outside the FSC center, she was able to join the class, in which she was an active participant. Furthermore, when asked for her feedback about all events attended, she pointed out that she used to work at an FSC in Newark, and that she loved the way we engaged families and the programs we offered at New Destiny. An opportunity arose for a bilingual Community Health Worker for a Covid19 response grant New Destiny FSC was recently awarded. When she received a call from us explaining the opportunity, Antonella A jumped right into it with open arms. New Destiny FSC has been the bridge to connect Ms. Antonella A, and as a result, her husband was able to obtain an employment opportunity from one of our partner organizations. Why is New Destiny FSC a way maker? Making a path where a family can prosper and thrive is what a way maker does. It is because of teamwork and leadership that New Destiny FSC and its staff have their eyes and ears open. Actively listening to our families’ needs gives us the opportunity to open doors that have been shut. This is a wonderful demonstration of our FSC model in action. It’s story of achievement, success, prosperity, resilience, and joy!
April was Strengthening Families/Child Abuse Prevention month. This year, New Destiny FSC decided to host an in-person activity that would strengthen families, including the protective factors, keeping everyone safe following the CDC guidelines. After discussing various ideas, New Destiny FSC staff chose to do an “Scavenger Hunt Event.” The goal of this activity was for parents and children to bond, get out of their homes, connect to resources from different organizations, and learn more about the rich history of the city of Paterson. Paterson Museum, Paterson Library, Oasis, and Star of Hope agreed to be part of our Scavenger Hunt event. Their staff was available to provide clues to the next site. Moreover, families received information, resources, and learned about the different programs each organization offers. Furthermore, visiting the Great Falls, the Hinchliffe Stadium, and the Underground Railroad was an incredible experience! Many of the families that participated did not know these historical sites were in Paterson. Staff and volunteers were present at all locations to ensure families received information about programs and upcoming events. Furthermore, if parents had questions, someone representing New Destiny FSC was there to assist. A total of eleven adults and eighteen children completed our Scavenger Hunt! 9 families in total. As a reward for completing the Scavenger Hunt, all families received a pizza pie and a drink for the family at one of the best local pizza spots in Paterson, “Broadway Pizza.” Nonetheless, that was not all! One of our partners for this event gave a $100.00 voucher to be used at their thrift store. And last, but not least, all families that participated entered a contest to win a Strengthening Family Month gift basket, which included, family games, a one-year subscription for Disney+, and a waffle maker with ingredients to make waffles at home. Overall, our main goal was to find ways to strengthen families despite the difficulties faced during this pandemic. Social connections were made, parents were informed of the programs available, resources, and activities. Families also had the opportunity to exercise and enjoy the outdoors after many months of isolation sitting down in front of computers. Children had meaningful conversations with their parents while getting some fresh air. Providing an environment where families are able to connect, bond, learn, and acquire resources shows our vision as an FSC, “Families are free to thrive, prosper, and have the ability to overcome.”
“Whenever women gather together, failure is impossible,” Susan B. Anthony-Women’s Rights Activist. March’s success story is, in fact, one we will always remember! For Women’s History Month, New Destiny staff decided to feature one of our own participants. This year we celebrate Ms. P! Ms. P’s story is full of perseverance, hope, and achievement. To understand why we chose Ms. P as March’s success story, we need to start from the beginning. Where was she when she came to our center for the first time? Ms. P had moved to Paterson from NYC. Furthermore, she was pregnant with her first child. She was referred to us by one of our partners as a place that could connect her to various resources and programs. Ms. P describes her first encounter at New Destiny FSC’s front desk as one sent from heaven. She was confused, scared, and did not know where to start. The friendly volunteer at the front desk explained in detail everything we did; moreover, she told her we had a Community Health Worker on site that could provide support and guidance. That warm transfer to our CHW was the beginning of Ms. P’s journey with NDFSC. Being a first-time mom, she joined parenting classes, connected to all resources available for her and her child recommended by the CHW, and took advantage of many of our FSC programs. Ms. P had to face many challenges, including having her child in the middle of a pandemic, which added even more anxiety and stress. Nonetheless, she was never alone. As she explains it, NDFSC’s staff walked with her through ups and downs. What is even more exciting for all of us is that today, Ms. P was recently hired as an employee in our Full-Service Community School program! She is an amazing example that it is possible to overcome obstacles! New Destiny’s FSC CHW Ms. K said, “She has found stability, and a way back to the workforce.” The quote used for this story describes how Ms. P’s story is a success: someone who has overcome many barriers with the support of others who saw all the potential Ms. P has to offer. New Destiny FSC is proud to have Ms. P join our family. In a year and a half, we have seen her growth and development. Her story inspires us to be that support system to the many expectant mothers that walk through our doors looking for a helping hand.
“All great achievements require time,” Maya Angelou. One word that defines February’s 2021 success story is achievement! Our African American History Month Event was hosted virtually for the first time. Collaboration, organization, and hard work were all key to its success. New Destiny FSC’s team was able to put together a virtual event that was engaging, fun, and educational. Every part of the event was carefully planned. Many pre-virtual tests were done to ensure the program ran smoothly. Moreover, the first 50 families that registered for the event enjoyed a “free” delicious soul food meal catered by our number ONE Cook, “Jennie A!” A team of interns/volunteers and staff met at the office to distribute the food to all families. Each family registered received sides which included, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, corn bread, and collard greens. Topped off with two pieces of fried chicken per family member. Our African American History Month event was a success, 50 families joined virtually, 10 of them were new! Collaboration with two key partner organizations contributed to the success of the experience: The Paterson Museum and the Paterson Public Library. Paterson Museum presented the life of Larry Doby, a native Patersonian, who was the second African American player to break baseball's color barrier and the first black player in the American League. The Negro League was special to Paterson as they played many of their games in the city’s legendary Hinchcliff Stadium. A story-teller from The Paterson Library read an inspirational folk story about the positive impact of a grandfather on his grandson’s life and growth. The educational enrichment experience was followed by a few robust rounds of African American History Jeopardy and a battle of Name That Tune led by Project Game Time (with a live DJ). Families participated as teams in both games including dancing, and even one participant who sang! The end result was well worth the time and effort put forth by each staff, volunteer, and community partner. Having events such as this reminds us of the importance of maintaining a strong bond between the FSC, our families and our community partners. A sense of joy and togetherness was present at this event. We may have been separated by distance, but it felt like old times where we all got together at the Family Success Center.
Virtual programming has become the new way to connect with our families, community, and other organizations. Moreover, it has opened doors to new opportunities to engage families. In-person programs had to be modified so they could be hosted through Zoom and other online platforms. One of those programs is Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, which is an evidence-based curriculum utilized at the center to train parents, caregivers, and professionals that care for children ages 0-5. This year, we were challenged to host a two-day virtual training. As a result, two New Destiny FSC staff spent days looking at the current material, adding new resources, and changing in-person activities into virtual activities. The goal was to maintain the focus of each session with relevant material and maintain parent engagement. Participants enjoyed two days of training, 3 hours each day. Topics covered included mental health, child development, nutrition, ACES, Ages and Stages, and advocacy. A list of available resources in the community, such as the local library services was also provided. The training was a success! 12 mothers completed the training, with 9 of them being first-time parenting class attendees!! They took advantage of this opportunity where they learned, bonded with other mothers, shared concerns, and advice. Furthermore, they left with tools and resources that will enable them to continue their role as teachers, advocates, and parents raising children as their “first teacher”. When asked what some of their takeaways of the two-day online training were, they stated the following: “You can never put a limit to how much you can learn; you constantly learning as a parent,” “You are your child’s first teacher & home is the first school,” “I learned to set goals that will benefit my family as a unit. I also learned that an assertive approach works best because it doesn't place blame and gets positive reactions.” “I used to work at an FSC, New Destiny is one place I will recommend to any parent: the level of professionalism, and the information I have learned will always stay with me, thanks to you all.” The success of this story does not lie on the program, or how many parents graduated, but in the connections made. Each mother that graduated knows that she is not alone, and that New Destiny Family Success Center’s door always remains open for them and their families.
Engagement and family bonding are the highlights of December’s 2020 success story. Transitioning to virtual programming has been a challenging, but exciting experience. Looking for creative ways to bring the holiday spirit to our families, we decided to host an apple pie edition cooking class through Zoom, and a gingerbread house contest through social media. Supplies were provided to each family, which all participants were grateful to receive. Part of the engagement process was to ensure that all families took the time to bond and be creative together. The Apple Pie Cooking class was amazing! During the event, we could see all families cooking together, as well as interacting with NDFSC staff and facilitator. Forty-eight children and thirty-four parents/guardians spent time together as families cooking and building a gingerbread house. When parents were asked for feedback at the apple pie event through zoom, one parent said, “I never done this before. I loved spending time with my daughter, and these events have allowed me to do so.” Another family that participated in the Gingerbread House Contest stated, “My husband and I did not have the resources to celebrate the holidays with our children. I am unemployed and my husband works very few hours. My 6 children participated in the gingerbread house contest. They came together and built a beautiful gingerbread house.” This family turned out to be the winner of our 1st place! They won a gift card to Shoprite, where they could buy food for the family, and a gift card to Five and Below to purchase gifts for the children. Our FSC model requires engagement as essential to the work we do. We have creatively embraced our FSC Practice Model methodologies, even in the middle of a pandemic, and have experienced remarkable outcomes. Demonstrating the ability to engage families in Paterson, and other towns of NJ has been a success! Furthermore, maintaining social connections with our community reassures every family that, even without in-person contact, New Destiny always finds a way to maintain our relationship and build strong bonds.
How will the story be told about people surviving 2020 without social connections? The answer is, “extremely difficult.” NDFSC staff is proof that without support and a helping hand, difficult times are unimaginable to endure. This year was full of personal losses. Unborn children, parents, and more were losses experienced by the staff of our New Destiny FSC family. In the midst of the personal struggles and pain our staff members experienced, we never lost our zeal to serve our parents, families and youth who were also experiencing similar crises. This pandemic has impacted every area of life including families’ livelihood, health, mental and emotional stability, educational instruction, childcare, housing and ability to make connections. Just as our families found ways to cope and persevere, our staff has been the support for one another as we have served others. “Self-care” has been our watchword and we have been sensitive to recognize when anyone needed time to step back and process, grieve, recover or re-energize. Thinking about what makes this story a success, one sentence comes to mind, “Unity is Power!” Even though there were days when the challenges seemed insurmountable, there was always someone to talk to or available to give a hand when needed. As one of the protective factors describes social connections, “No one should ever stand alone! We all need a positive social network.” That is who we are for each other, a positive social network. We, New Destiny FSC is what makes this story a success. Where there is unity, there is power and New Destiny Family Success Center is more united than ever to support our team members, our families, and our community.
Isolation and lack of social interaction are a few of the issues facing our children during the pandemic. Parents have become teachers, and the stress children are under has affected their emotional well-being. KFF polls stated that 67% of parents are worried about their children's’ social and emotional health after school closures (kff.org). As a family success center, our staff and ED had many meetings to brainstorm ideas to break the some of the isolation our children are experiencing. After a series of ice cream socials outside our office, a brilliant idea came to mind, “ A Hot Chocolate Social.” Thirty children with their families came out! Kids decorated their mugs, and enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate. The highlight of this event was the happiness on the faces of the kids! Even with their masks on, you could see their excitement to be out, many of them with their siblings. The success of this story is our children. One of those children has been separated from his mother who was deported back to Mexico. His aunt, who was the person who brought him to the event, said to us, “Thanks for doing this, now, when he needs the distraction, we are grateful for you all.” That young boy knows that New Destiny is a place for release from isolation and fun. For him, he can receive hope that things will get better, and that one day he will be reunited with his mother. For us, hope that we positively impact our community to ensure our families, children, and community have a place they can call home.
If we could define in one-word September’s success story: it would be PERSEVERANCE! Ms. S, a mother of two had a dream of finally getting her drivers license. However, she did not know where to go. She had been living in the area for only one month. She encountered various obstacles. First, she did not speak English, which made it harder for her to navigate online or in person. One cool afternoon, before the pandemic started, she was walking through the downtown area in Paterson. Like sent from heaven, as she describes it, she looked to her left and saw our office. She was curious to know why people came in and out of the office. Finally, she came in with a folder full of documents. She seemed confused and distressed. One of our Family Partner welcomed Ms. S and asked how we could help her, and she responded, “I do not know how to start the process of getting my drivers license.” In that moment, our Family Partner told her we could help her. You could see her worries and anxiety almost immediately disappear from her countenance! She finally found a place that could partner with her in one of the most important journeys of her life. As she requested, her appointment was made, and all necessary documents were filled out online. A couple of months passed, and Ms. S called to ask us to reschedule her test. She had failed it the first time. We could hear in her voice that she was disappointed; however, she was willing to give it another try. Another month passed by, and we received the bad news, she did not pass the test. In that second call you could sense she wanted to give up, but no, we assured her that she could do it, that we were going to be here to celebrate with her after receiving her license. On September 23rd, Ms. S texted the Family Partner that had helped her throughout the entire process. She stated in her text, “Hello Ms. A, thanks so much for all your help, I passed the exam! I am getting my drivers license! The whole team at New Destiny FSC celebrated this victory with Ms. S as if it was ours! We are not the ones that get the credit for it, it was Ms. S who did it. She passed the exam! We were only that support she needed. Making an impact in our community is our goal. Knowing that Ms. S will be able to go to work, run her regular errands, and take her children for a drive is what makes this story successful. Because of stories such as this one, the NDFSC staff comes to work every day with high expectations. We are not in the community to sit down and do nothing, we are here to make an impact in the lives of our families, children, youth, and the community.
According to the CDC, “Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.” Many of our families are coping daily with loss, grief, uncertainty, isolation, depression just to name a few of the many mental health challenges plaguing our families. As a Family Success Center, we knew we had to find ways to help. Our team began brainstorming around different strategies to support families during this crisis and decided to bring Art Therapy to our community. Fourteen individuals through our online invite, decided to venture out from their homes to join us at an in-person art therapy class in the fellowship hall of a local church. This class was not just art, or therapy. Every person that took part enjoyed every aspect of it. Some of the feedback we received included, “I was able to be present in the moment, and reflect, it gave me a sense of calm in the midst of chaos.” “The music and meditation were so helpful.” Feeling supported by others, knowing that I am not alone made me feel so much better, and creating my own art allowed me to express what I am going through on a canvas.” “The instructor provided a platform where you were free to express your pain in a healthy and safe way!” The support New Destiny Family Success Center has brought to many families is what makes this story a success. Empathy and love for our community drives each staff, volunteer, and community members to say, “You are not alone, we are in this together”!
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many of our partners, and community members have expressed concern for individuals going through domestic violence. It is more worrisome, if that individual is one of the families we serve. Ms. C came to us before the pandemic looking for help. She did not have work, her daughter was receiving behavioral therapy, and she was in an abusive relationship. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that in New Jersey, wives were the victim 16% (10,829), “overall, females were victims in 75 percent (48,697) of all domestic violence offenses in 2012,” (www.ncadv.org/files/New_Jersey.pdf). When Ms. C came to the center for help, there was not a solution in mind. Her situation was complex. A toxic relationship, issues with her daughter’s behavior, and no work-related experience. The first step was to find a job, so she could move out with her daughter. Nonetheless, she did not know where to start. One of our Family Partners suggested that we start with her resume, which we did. Next step was to apply for a job at one of the Public schools in Paterson working in the cafeteria. After a few months, she finally got great news, she got the job! Unfortunately, two months in she lost her job due to the Covid-19 crisis. Since she had not worked enough hours to file for unemployment, her benefits was denied. All doors seemed to be closed. She left her home to go to a shelter with her daughter. Every week we contacted Ms. C to get an update. When she needed food, we referred her to a food pantry. After a long wait, she received section 8. With only a few weeks left for the voucher to expire, she got an apartment. NDFSC was so happy to hear she found a place for her and her daughter to call HOME. Every step of the way we were there to assist. Her faith was contagious! Even when all was not going how we wanted, she stood strong. Our team saw a leader, an advocate, and a strong woman in action. Today, Ms. C has her own place, her relationship with her daughter has improved, and she found another job!
English as a second language has been one of the most popular classes hosted at New Destiny Family Success Center. Basic and Intermediate ESL classes are facilitated throughout the year at our location. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all programming transitioned to the virtual world. English as a Second Language was one of the programs transitioned online. Virtual ESL classes attendance surprised us all. Students from different parts of New Jersey have joined our classes; moreover, one student from Colombia also participated in our basic course. Transportation, which was an issue before, was no longer an obstacle. Furthermore, the diversity in this class was shocking! Countries from all over the world were represented in this class. Students from Colombia, South Korea, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic literally attended our virtual ESL courses. Our volunteer instructor was so pleased with the class, she decided to host intermediate classes two days a week in the evening to accommodate those who were going back to work. The success of June’s story is defined by one word, “Achievement!” Nine out of ten students who completed the entire basic course passed the final exam to intermediate level, which showed tremendous improvement from the level they initially started. In addition, they are committed 100% to learning English. Every Wednesday and Thursday these adult learners join Zoom for an hour and a half. They learn advanced grammar, write essays, and practice conversation using scenarios provided by the instructor. We look forward to continuing to help anyone willing to learn English skills.
May’s success story speaks to one of the biggest challenges all Family Success centers have faced during this pandemic: helping undocumented families. Many of the calls we have received have been from undocumented individuals looking for financial assistance, food, and sometimes a place to stay. According to Oxfam America, there are 11 million undocumented in the United States, more than half of them women. Many of them working in industries that have been impacted by COVID19 such as farming, construction, food handling, and others. One call we received was from Mr. GM, an undocumented father looking for all the help he could get. He was afraid that his landlord would ask him to leave his apartment. He has not paid rent for three months. Furthermore, he did not have the financial means to provide food for his family, or diapers for his son. Our staff took the initiative to find resources for him. Unfortunately, rental assistance was not available due to his legal status. However, we did not give up. So far, we have been able to connect Mr. GM with Legal Services of NJ. Subsequently, they provided legal counseling, which brought relief to him and his family. He did not know there are laws in place that protect him from eviction. Even though we could not get him financial assistance, he has been able to receive food and diapers. NDFSC has been blessed with community partners that are always available in times of need. We were able to connect him to an organization that delivers food every other week. Moreover, one of our staff has been able to deliver diapers for Mr. GM. There are many cases like Mr. GM, we may not be able to assist them with everything they need in the moment but we at least try to be a listening ear providing encouragement and hope. New Destiny FSC has been able to lend a hand to many families that are suffering the consequences of this crisis. These are dark times; however, NDFSC has been present in our community. Our goal is to be a light of HOPE, LOVE, and ASSURANCE that things will get better!
Volunteers and Staff from New Destiny Family Success Centers in partnership with the Community Food Bank of New Jersey collaborated to provide much needed food relief to some of our most vulnerable and beloved community members. Bright and early on Monday, April 27, 2020, Volunteers and Staff from New Destiny Family Success Centers (NDFSC) gathered in the community room of a Paterson Senior building to distribute food boxes door to door. Over 75 residents received a two-week food supply. Boxes of food contained pantry necessities such as ready-to-eat, boxed cereals and milk, 100% fruit juices, bags of rice and reduced-fat cheese to canned tuna and vegetables. During COVID-19, extended family members that might otherwise meet some of the residents’ food needs were limited in their ability to travel and visit their loved ones. New Destiny Staff and volunteers took the initiative to say, we are here for you! Partnership and collaboration from organizations, staff, and volunteers show that even in crisis, we can make a difference. All who took part in the day’s relief took every safety and health precaution, maintaining social distance, wearing surgical masks and gloves. Residents who requested help in placing boxes in their apartments were accommodated. "I volunteered because I love giving back to the community. It brings me an unexplainable joy when I can help out", expressed Volunteer, Dominique Edwards. This was the exact sentiment experienced by all who gave of their time for such a worthy initiative championed by New Destiny. Executive Director, Carolyn McCombs shared, “it gives us a feeling of gratefulness to know that we can be a blessing to senior members of our community.” The icing on the top of this opportunity was the special article in Tapinto Local news which featured New Destiny’s volunteers and staff in delivering their act of kindness. The link for the article is attached below https://www.tapinto.net/towns/paterson/sections/giving-back/articles/new-destiny-family-success-centers-provides-food-to-city-seniors.
What is Resiliency? According to the Oxford dictionary, “it is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties,” (lexico.com). New Destiny’s March success story shows how in difficult times, we can be strong! Due to the Corona Virus crisis, the entire world had to adapt to new changes. New Destiny Family Success Center was not the exemption. Starting the month of March, we had to endure the pain of two losses. Two of our Community Advisory Board members lost a daughter and a brother. Ms. M lost her daughter, and a few weeks after, Ms. A lost her brother. Even though it was not due to the Corona Virus, it was personal to us. They needed our support. Moreover, the whole community was starting to panic. Some were already suffering the deaths of family members due to Covid19, others were worried about work, and many individuals were struggling with food insecurity. In the midst of darkness, there was light. The support, dedication, and perseverance each staff, and community member has shown is remarkable! The ability to overcome pain shows one of the principles of the protective factors, being resilient. Transitioning from the center to the virtual world, and making sure the community knows we are still here for them is our success story! Moreover, the collaboration from other organizations we have received , and the willingness from our volunteers to help have demonstrated that we are resilient even in the midst of COVID 19.
Parents are very important pillars in the family setting. They lead, protect, and show children the way to navigate life in the present and for the future ahead. New Destiny Family Success Center is proud to offer Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors, an evidence-based curriculum, that trains parents as their child’s first teacher. Moreover, it equips parents/guardians with tools that can be utilized to promote child development in the home. In February, New Destiny had the pleasure of awarding a single father with a certificate after successful completion of the AB/OD curriculum. This milestone was key to Mr. G obtaining full custody of his daughter. His child’s mother was drug addicted during her pregnancy which resulted in family separation and damage to the family unit. As a concerned father, Mr. G was determined to get his daughter out of this drug environment as soon as he could. He needed to prove to the courts, and the Department of Children and Families that he was fit and capable of raising his child. In addition to competing the Abriendo Puertas training, Mr. G was on a mission to demonstrate that he was capable of caring for his daughter. He participated in every class and was fully engaged throughout the course. Even when the weather was not the best, and other parents missed class, he did not miss even one class. He stayed focused and determined not to give up. Furthermore, he made sure every area that needed improvement in his life and circumstances was addressed. Mr. G was very grateful to New Destiny for the training and support he received in eventually securing full custody of his daughter. We were ecstatic to play a role in building a stronger bond between Mr. G and his daughter and enhancing his family’s stability.
New Destiny Family Success Center’s January success story is one we will never forget. A mother trying to make ends meet, while facing adversity, overcame all obstacles! Struggling to support her family, Ms. T was desperate need. She did not know where to turn to since she did not have experience in today’s workforce environment. Paterson’s median household income, according to Datausa is $36,106.00. Housing is extremely expensive, which is the number ONE need for two income households. Ms. T decided to seek help at our family success center because her family could not take care of all expenses with just one paycheck. She was grateful to know that one of our caring volunteers was available to assist her with her job search and resume. Over nine job applications were submitted online, and a detailed skills-based resume was created. Which she was able to use for all her applications. This part is only half of the success. What made an impact in Ms. T’s life and family is what happened next. She is not only getting a job; she also enrolled in a computer skills program which will enable her to be in her field after 3 months of attendance. Having a supporting individual, our volunteer, walk her step by step fulfilled her initial need, and created a new path! One that will lead her and her family to a brighter future!
New Destiny FSC partnered with a local non-profit and a young adult ministry to host its third and largest ever “Unselfie” event which featured family photos taken by professional photographers including framed portraits to go. Over 130 families partook in this holiday festivity including their children, grandparents, care givers and extended family members. Make up artists, DJs, party-organizers collaborated together to bring a fun, festive, interactive experience for every family while they waited to be photographed. This event offered a rich opportunity for family bonding which was memorialized with a beautifully framed family photo. It was the perfect lead into the holiday season demonstrating that the holidays are really about family togetherness and celebrating life.
November’s success story is dedicated to a young woman trying to find a place to live. She is a single mother of a 4-year-old girl and was 5 months pregnant at the time. She was staying in a shelter, since August 2019. The voucher she received from the Board of Social Services was going to expire soon. Unfortunately, the shelter where she was staying, did not have case managers on staff. Case managers play a crucial role in transitioning individuals from shelters to their own apartment. Moreover, they connect individuals to different services depending on their needs. Without support, this young mother had to search on her own for an apartment. She went to numerous organizations, but no one knew where she should go for assistance. Even though all doors seemed closed, her path led her to New Destiny Family Success Center! She was able to connect with one of NDFSC’S staff. They worked together daily to search for apartments that would accept her housing voucher. They called real estate agencies, and landlords one after the other. Furthermore, the Family Partner visited a rental agency on her behalf. Many of the available rentals were denied, because of lead. Other places did not have suitable living requirements. After looking tirelessly, and not finding a place, our mom began to feel hopeless. It wasn’t until the week of Thanksgiving, with only 3 days left on her voucher, that she was approved for one of the apartments!! And, what made it even more exciting is that it was the very apartment she wanted for her new home! She received her keys and moved in on December 2nd, 2019 with her daughter. We are forever grateful that she will have her own place for the holidays, New Year and for the birth of her baby boy! We can certainly say our parent found new strength and resiliency in herself, and New Destiny’s staff modeled HOPE in the face of overwhelming ADVERSITY. New Destiny’s staff rallied around this mom determined “not to give up!” When all was lost, their persistency against all odds brought HOPE to a single mother, her daughter, and her baby boy on the way.
A year ago, New Destiny Family Success Center worked hand in hand with the First Lady, Tammy Murphy, to organize and host the first Family Festival in New Jersey which was hosted in the city of Paterson. The Black Infant Mortality (BIM) Initiative has united organizations, governmental officials, and community members together to find ways to decrease BIM rates. $4.3 million dollars was awarded to the Healthy Women, Healthy Families Initiative. As a result, New Destiny Family Success Center became one of the sub-grantees to have a full-time Community Health Worker on staff. October’s success story is our “First Community Baby Shower!” our attendance goal was 25 mothers, child-bearing age (15-44 years old), focusing on African American women. Twenty-two out of twenty-five mothers came to our baby shower, in addition to nine vendors, the Mayor’s wife, Farhana Sayegh, also honored us with her presence. All gathered in one place for a cause, “Black Infant Mortality Awareness in the city of Paterson.” The infant mortality rates in the state of New Jersey are alarming! The New Jersey Department of Health stated that, "Although the overall infant mortality rate in New Jersey is lower than the national rate (4.7 per 1,000 live births versus 5.9 per 1,000 live births in 2015), the disparity between white (3 per 1,000 births) and black infants (9.7 per 1,000 births) is extreme (patch.com).” Being part of the Black Infant Mortality Initiative is not only part of our core values, but aligns with our vision statement, which points out the importance for families to thrive, prosper, and overcome! Yes, Black mothers are over-comers. They have the right to raise their children in a healthy environment where their needs are met. Our first Community Baby Shower’s success is not about the numbers of attendees. Nonetheless, the unity and support of volunteers, community representatives, organizations, and most importantly, LOVE: love for our community and for our children.
September 2019 Success Story “Dads Take your Child to School Day” is a nationwide initiative that encourages Dads to take their children to school. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that “19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, live without a father in the home,” (http://bit.ly/fatherfacts7). This reality has motivated organizations like the Department of Children and Families to Support “Dads Take your Child to School Day,” for the past five years. This year, New Destiny Family Success Center partnered with Silk-City School-Based Youth Services Program and Sen. Frank R Lautenberg School to host a bowling event, which took place on September 28th, 2019. Dads were given the opportunity to share a photograph taken at their child’s school on “Dads take your Child to School Day,” September 17th, 2019. Eight dads and 19 children enjoyed a wonderful time at Bowlero which included two hours of bowling, games, food, and fun! One of the dads stated after the event, “I realize there are so many missed moments, and opportunities between me and my boys. This event was an eye opener for me, as a father.” Making an impact on a child’s life through a collaborative effort, makes this story not only a success, but a blessing! Moreover, our number one goal: bonding time between dads and children was accomplished! By supporting initiatives such as “Dads Take Your Child to School”, New Destiny Family Success Center, and its partners are reducing poverty, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, just to name a few of the risks associated with the Father Absence Crisis in America (fatherfacts7). Eight dads may seem small; nonetheless, nineteen children will never forget September 17th, 2019 as the day “my dad took me to school. "
Lack of access to food amongst seniors has been an issue of concern for New Destiny Family Success Center. Working with the senior population in the city of Paterson, within our Mobile Senior Success Center, has increased our understanding of the needs and hopes of the elderly. According to Seniorcare.com, “The median household income for a Paterson senior is $21,318.” Furthermore, “4.9 million seniors are food insecure,” (FeedingAmerica.org). We imagined how difficult it is for the average Paterson senior to cover monthly household expenses, and still have money left for food. After a meeting with one of our partners, a miracle happened! We found out about CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program offered by the Community Food Bank of NJ) which provides a two-week supply of groceries to seniors who meet qualification guidelines. In three short weeks, our Mobile Senior Success Center screened and signed up 71 senior residents at one of the 6 Paterson Housing Senior Sites. 71 senior families are now receiving a two-week supply of food every month! That is what we call a blessing; One of the stories that impacted us, while the applications were being taken for the program, was one where the senior’s qualifying income was two hundred dollars over the limit for monthly income. Imagine for a moment, with the cost of food today, $200 dollars is not enough. Thankfully, he will receive a box of food every month, after qualifying for the program. Moreover, our Mobile Senior Success Center Coordinator, JR, is looking into increasing the number of seniors that can participate in the program. August’s Success Story brings warmth to our hearts! Taking care of our seniors in the Paterson Community brings us happiness! They have given so much to their families, and to our society, they deserve to be cared for, loved, and aided. Our Mobile Senior Success Center is not only an enrichment program that provides workshops, programming, and referrals. It brings help in times of need, hope in times of despair, and joy in times of sadness.
Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (AP/OD) is an evidenced-based curriculum for parents of children 0-5 which New Destiny has offered for the past 4 years. Its main focus is to emphasize the role of parents as their child’s first teacher! As of December, of last year, we trained the most parents, acknowledging 88 parents with certificates of completion. Moreover, many professionals from organizations such as, Oasis, 4C’s, Greater Bergen CAP, and Family Workers from various early learning centers participated in our train the trainer sessions. As an incentive, there was a big prize: “A Trip to Sesame Place,” for the center/school which trained the most parents. NDFSC and BJ Wilkerson Early Learning Center were the winners! A total of 16 families along with their children enjoyed a beautiful sunny day at Sesame Place. One of the families that came to the trip had just arrived from Africa the year before. When asked for their feedback, they stated, “It was too much fun. Great opportunity for our family. My children enjoyed it a lot. It was our first time being there and it could not have happened a better way!” Other families said, “It gave me more time to spend with my children. My children interacted more with me and forgot all about electronics or anything on the outside.” “I had a great time. My child is talking about this trip nonstop.” “Staff and everyone were respectful.” “I wish we can take another trip like this in the future. It was all about the moment and time we were spending there!” Making a difference in the community is what New Destiny strives to accomplish every day. Most families that attended this wonderful trip do not have the means to afford it. They were grateful and happy to spend time with their children. Opening Doors, as the name says, opened doors of possibilities to these families that will always be remembers. Parents and grandparents acquired tools to be not only their children’s first teachers, but their advocates, and ambassadors. As AP/OD ambassadors, they will share their knowledge with others in the community, which will impact the lives of our future generation.
June 2019 success story brings us joy and pride. One of our youth volunteers, whom was nominated for the Martin Luther King Award hosted annually by NJCDC is our success story of the month. RC has shown growth in many areas in her time of volunteer work at New Destiny Family Success Center. She is always open to learn, and to give a helping hand when needed. Her maturity and charisma have brought happiness to the lives of all that have had the pleasure to meet her. The first question that comes out of R C’ s mouth whenever she enters New Destiny Family Success Center is: “How can I help?” Having her as our youth volunteer is an honor. Her love for this community drives her to work hard, and to be a positive role model to other youth. Before she left for vacation, she came into New Destiny Family Success Center to give us the great news! She was awarded the Academic Excellence Award, “which only one out of 10 students are chosen for this award,” and she received it along with a scholarship of $500 dollars!! RC is not only making a difference in our community, but in her personal and academic development. New Destiny Family Success Center honors her as our June Success Story, not only for her volunteer work, but for her academic achievements.
The Extra Mile Award is hosted every year by the Paterson Alliance in the City Paterson to recognize volunteers, staff, and other individuals that go above and beyond their roles in the community. Paterson Alliance is a networking organization made up of over 70 members, many of whom run non-profit organizations. Current Mayor Andre Sayegh, former Executive Director of Paterson Alliance, introduced the award idea in 2007. As a result, the first Extra Mile Award Luncheon was hosted at the Brownstone in the city of Paterson. May’s success story is one that we, at New Destiny Family Success Center are excited to share! For the first time, in the history of the Extra Mile Awards Luncheon, “a couple is honored for their volunteer work.” Mr. E and Ms. G have volunteered their time in various ways at NDFSC. For over six years they have given their time to help others. Moreover, they have been active members of NDFSC’s Community Advisory Board, since it was founded. What makes their work extra special? It is their passion for the community which has been passed down to their children. Every time there is an opportunity to help in any way, whether it is organizing the tables, chairs, helping children with their arts and crafts, their kids offer helping hands. Moreover, Mr. E and Ms. G take advantage of most educational workshops that benefit not only them, but their family. Mr. E, Ms. G, and their family are examples of love, passion, and dedication in our community. At New Destiny FSC we believe their story is not only a success, but an example for others to follow.
April’s success story has won our hearts. Mr. M is a single dad with custody of two young children, an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy. Unfortunately, because of being a single father, he was forced to leave his job. He did not have anyone to take care of his children, while he was working. As a result, he became homeless. We have been working closely with Mr. M to find him a place to stay. Sadly, in Passaic County, there are not shelters that will admit men with children. In some circumstances, children and parents are separated from each other. Mr. M could not even consider the idea of being separated from his children. He consistently looked day and night for anyone that could help him resolve his situation. Most programs that are available, he did not qualify for, because he is currently receiving unemployment benefits. New Destiny Family Success Center told Mr. M to apply for housing assistance, and any other emergency assistance programs. He was rejected from all of them. BOOMER! Now, we had a man out on the streets of Paterson with two children with no place to stay. We exhausted all our resources, and even went outside of Passaic County looking for any organization that will help this family.
Our executive director made a direct contact with Passaic County Board of Social Services to inquire about services available for Mr. M’s family. The board of Social Services along with Human Services of Passaic County worked together to find this single father some options. We were able to have them revised his case, which he was originally denied for. Mr. M received a temporary placement at a family shelter and is now receiving some monetary temporary funds. Fortunately, these funds will assist with his current housing condition. As soon as Mr. M goes back to work, rent subsidy will be available for him! This family will be given access to resources that were once denied, thanks to the collaborative effort from our partners.
As the Mobile Senior Success Center Coordinator, Ms. R shared with us a wonderful story we believe should be our March 2019 success story. In her own words, this is what occurred: “During my first week as the New Destiny Mobile Success Center Coordinator, I met Mr. M at one of the Paterson Senior buildings. He was a friendly and funny man, who I did not understand at times because of his Italian accent. He made an appointment with me to apply for the cooling application. After missing his first one, he called the center hoping to get assistance. As a result, I decided to go see him the following day one on one to fill out the paperwork needed for it. During my time with him, he shared a lot about himself. He told me he had lost his wife a few years ago, and that living alone has been hard for him. I empathized with him and listened attentively. Once we completed the application, we talked a little bit more, and he shared his wisdom on life, and how you must cherish the moments you have with your loved ones. There is not one day that he does not miss his wife. When I was gathering my things to go, he embraced me in a hug, and told me he was grateful and thankful for me. Moreover, he stated that I was doing an amazing job! At that moment, I felt so much reward in having made the time to come help Mr. M with his application. Moreover, being there to listen to him made me realize of the purpose of our work.” Being able to assist the senior population in the city of Paterson is our main goal as the mobile program! Many times, all they need is someone that listens to them!! Today, we say with confidence that New Destiny Family Success center gives a hand to the needy, an ear to the forgotten, and hope to all generations.
Immigration has been one of the most controversial topics in our current government administration. Building a wall has been one of the president’s top priorities, which has created an atmosphere of fear among immigrants. February's success story touches us since it is happening regularly in our community. Nonetheless, this story has a happy ending. Ms. C came from the Dominican Republic over 5 years ago and unfortunately, her mom passed away one year after relocating to the United States. Her mother had very aggressive cervical cancer. Moreover, her aunt also died of cancer recently. Her biggest fear was that she had not gone to a doctor to be screened for cancer, since she does not have health insurance. She was afraid to seek assistance due to her legal status. One Sunday afternoon, a New Destiny FSC staff was off the clock running personal errands. MS. C was told that the staff member worked at New Destiny Family Success Center and that she might be able to help her. Ms. C called New Destiny the next day and spoke with that same staff member who referred her to Rainbows of Hope, an organization out of St. Joseph’s Hospital who does free cancer screenings. Within two days, her appointments were scheduled for a Mammogram and PaP. A 44-year-old single woman without health insurance was seen for free! Furthermore, in the process of being checked, other health issues were discovered which are currently being treated. One organization that has been hosting cancer awareness workshops at New Destiny connected her to the right specialists and resources that were needed to give her the best care. New Destiny Family Success Center is not just a Hub for resources!... It is the place that connects the dots to make sure every individual is assisted and connected.
New Destiny Family Success Center has received support of many organizations. They have come to our center throughout the year to offer a variety of services, workshops, and health screenings to the Paterson community. One of those services is health insurance. An Italian working family has been struggling to make ends meet for the past five years. After the passing of the father and provider of this family, a crisis arose. Income was limited, the basic needs were scarce. The youngest daughter, Ms. M was holding three jobs to support her mother, brother, and nephews. Moreover, two years after the death of the provider of this family, the son commits suicide. Just imagine for a moment the pain and struggle of this family. The father figure was not present to support and care for the family, and the only male left that took over the father’s role ended his life. For this family, all hope was lost. Now, with two small children, and a sick mother, Ms. M had to work even harder. Instead of three jobs, she had four. Three work shifts, and the 4th one, and most difficult one, taking care of her mother and nephews on her own. One of her biggest challenges was her mother’s medical expenses. Every month for the past five years, she was spending between $300-500 dollars on her meds. In a cry of desperation to a friend, she was told of New Destiny Family Success Center. One of the health insurance providers was able to connect her to the right representative to look over her mom’s medical insurance and benefits. After waiting for few weeks, she received the great news! Her mom qualified to receive PAAD (Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged & Disabled). Her mom’s monthly medication expense is only $13.00 a month!!! Ms. M was crying at the pharmacy, when she was told how much she had to pay. She could not believe it!!! January’s success story shows the importance of being the hub of resources for not only our community members in the city of Paterson, but other families living in other towns. Through collaboration and connections, we were able to bring relief to a family’s financial crisis. Today, Ms. M donates to our center whenever she can. She believes in the work we do and hopes to help others. She stated that we open doors to a bright path, when all seemed dark and hopeless.
New destiny Family Success Center has been part of the Self-Portrait initiative for two years. In December 2018, NDFSC had the pleasure to host it for the 3rd time. Our center opened its doors to the Emergence Church and Lighthouse to provide space. Moreover, NDFSC staff assisted over 30 volunteers in hosting this event to make sure it was a complete success. Over 80 families gathered to have their pictures taken this holiday season. Food, entertainment, live music, and a family portrait made UNSELFIE 2018 an unforgettable day for all families that attended this magical event! Furthermore, make-up artists and hair stylists made sure all women looked stunning for their Christmas picture. Every family left with a smile! This holiday season, we wanted to center it around family, not toys. Our goal has been to bring a sense of gratefulness, and unity to our community. Every person that came to this event felt the spirit of Love, Joy, and Peace. We are thankful for the volunteers, staff, and donors that make this event possible. They have brought to the Paterson Community access to a service that many of them cannot afford. A free family portrait that will remain in their homes forever.
As we approach the holidays, November is one of the busiest months of the year, gathering donations, organizing events, and making sure all our families are provided with a Thanksgiving meal. November’s success story goes beyond providing a meal. A local area church joined with New Destiny FSC to bring Thanksgiving blessings to over 100 families in the form of frozen prepared Thanksgiving meals from ShopRite. They raised a total of $3,500 to respond to the need. The miracle was that these funds were raised in two weeks’ time and 18 individuals volunteered to hand deliver two dozen Thanksgiving meals door to door two days before the holiday. Volunteers had multiple opportunities to connect with families, especially those they met door-to-door. One story which lingered in the minds of our volunteers involved a mother of two, who had just left her abusive partner. After welcoming the small team of three volunteers into her home and receiving the boxed Thanksgiving meal, she broke down in tears as she thanked them for coming. She shared her story of escaping an abusive relationship and expressed thankfulness that she has been overwhelmed having to provide for her two children. The gift of the meal was a sign that she was not alone in her struggles and she had good reason to be grateful and not stressed about her future. Her story is one of the many stories that happened throughout the year at New Destiny Family Success Center. Nonetheless, without the collaboration of all our partner organizations, churches, and volunteers, success stories like this one would not be possible.
New Destiny Family Success Centers Inc. was chosen as the lead agency to assist the First Lady Tammy Murphy on hosting the first Family Festival in the city of Paterson New Jersey. First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Initiative to prevent Black-Infant Mortality inspired her to host a family festival. Making resources available at one convenient spot allowed families to participate, inquire about benefits, and get connected. African American women in New Jersey are five times more likely to die due to pregnancy complications than Caucasian Women. Furthermore, our state ranks 45th in maternal deaths according to the United Health Foundation. On October 14, 2018 at the Senator Frank Lautenberg Public School (Formerly known as School #6) was privileged to facilitate the family gathering event. Over 60 vendors were at the school to provide services, give out information and link families to benefits. Government officials were present, including our current Mayor, Andre Sayegh, Community Policing, and the firefighters. There were free hot dogs, drinks, and over 150 raffles, including baskets and gift cards, all donated to bless families. 164 attendees benefited from a variety of services, all in one location. Over 2800 people were connected on site. The children participated in face painting, and other activities. Music, games, and the presence of all organizations and government officials made this festival an unforgettable event! After reviewing the surveys and feedback given by all vendors and families, everyone agreed on one answer, “Family Festivals should be hosted more often.” The First Lady Tammy Murphy was so pleased with the response of the community that the next Family Festival is already being planned to be hosted in a neighboring city.
New Destiny Family Success Center is always open to collaborate with other organizations for the benefit of our community. September’s success story is about our partnership with Affordable Housing Alliance, an energy assistance program. September 2018 is our one-year anniversary as an affiliate agency. Many families have been able to receive a financial relief with this program. New Destiny is the only organization in Passaic County currently processing applications. So far, we have served 99 families with a benefit amount totaling in $73,635.93. In one year, we have helped close to 100 families that were at risk of having their lights and gas shut-off. In many instances the participants had already been shut-off but through team work and collaboration with our partner we were able to assist them. Imagine the desperation of these working families, some of them with children who have disabilities. Our partnership with this organization enables us to prevent and give hope in a midst of a difficult situation by providing immediate assistance to these families in crisis.
August’s success story is what we have called 3 miracles in one. Our first miracle was a grant awarded to our center to work with the senior population. For many months, the executive director and staff at Paterson FSC have discussed different ways to help seniors. Most of the elderly come to our programs for services such as translation, nutrition classes, ESL, and many other workshops. Nonetheless, resources have been limited to implement other programs designed to assist seniors. On August 14th, 2018, our executive director, Carolyn McCombs was notified that the grant she had applied for (Paterson Housing Authority’s Resident Opportunity & Self Sufficiency Service from the Department of Housing and Urban Development) was granted to New Destiny Family Success Center! We overflowed with joy! For so long we have wanted to reach out to our senior population. This grant enables us to serve them through our newly developed “Mobile Family Success Center”! Our second miracle was our backpack giveaway. Last year, we were able to give away 60 in total. This year, that amount more than doubled. Over 140 children received backpacks thanks to our partners. Finally, our third miracle was saved for last. Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) chose to visit to our center as her first stop in a series of “listening tours” she is conducting. In an informal gathering of parents in our monthly “Café con Leche” support group, Commissioner Beyer was able to chat informally with our families. They spoke freely about how they have benefitted from our Family Success Center and shared how the department has assisted with other behavioral health needs and concerns. They also shared a few ideas around outreach and expanding awareness about DCF and the innumerable ways families can receive support. New Destiny Family Success Center is a place where dreams and hopes become a reality. August Success stories are proof that miracles do happen, when you believe.
July’s success story revolves around family! Our success story portrays how collaboration and team work are vital to guarantee a successful family event. New Destiny Family Success Center with the support of the Global Peace Foundation, Paterson Community Policing, Paterson Fire Department, New Destiny board members, staff and volunteers made our Family Movie Night one of the most memorable events in our community. Our first movie night held at Lou Costello Park brought together over 50 families with their children. A night of games, food, and our featured movie “Black Panther” made it magical for all. Among the feedback received from attendees was “family bonding and bringing the community together.” They truly reflect who we are as a Family Success Center, a place where hope is restored. Many of our families do not have the resources to go to the movies or may not feel safe when attending local events. The Community Policing and the Fire Department along with all volunteers and staff made this event not only a successful one, but a safe one.
We had a successful Black History Month here at New Destiny Family Success Center. We learned about the numerous aspects of Black culture in a variety of ways. We tried different foods, cooked by volunteers that were delighted to share their family’s recipes with the community. Moreover, children and parents learned about Black history, and were able to experience and learn some of the dances from within the culture! It’s always important to learn about and empower our African-American community, and we made sure to have fun while doing it as well. As the month has ended, we are happy to look back at our success and learning experiences in Black History Month! Nonetheless, the good news does not step there.
Another success story for New Destiny Family Success Center! Carolyn McCombs, New Destiny’s Executive Director was asked by a team of her peers to lead a city-wide initiative focused on countering violence and extremism in the Paterson community. This was precipitated by a foundation called Global Peace Foundation which identified three cities in the state of New Jersey (Camden, Jersey City and Paterson) to engage communities around the risks of violence and strategies for connecting with resources to counteract the risks. GPI is a worldwide organization focused on cross community engagement, building trust, identifying risk factors, and countering violence and extremism. They are funding five community engagement events in all three target cities over the next year with the purpose of gathering residents, exposing them to the myriad of resources in the community and building trust with law enforcement. In the wake of the tragedy at Parkland High School, incident a
Our February’s success story truly demonstrates the importance of Family Success Centers. One of our participants suffers from schizophrenia. Mr. B. came in to inquire on how to apply for disability. Due to his condition, he is not able to find work He has experienced discrimination due to his mental illness. One day, he confided in one of our family partners that he had been robbed recently, and that all his personal documentation was stolen. He was not able to apply for disability without them. He attended a few of our legal aid workshops, but what really motivated him to follow up and get his personal documentation back was our family partner’s persistence. Today, Mr. B. is in the process of getting all his documents in order, and legal services of New Jersey is assisting him with his disability application. He comes every week to thanks us for all the help and support he has received at our center. Living with mental illness is not easy. As we know, there is a stigma attached to it; nonetheless, we assist and welcome individuals like him to our center with open arms.
Our Success Story for January 2017 is centered around Ms. H., who came to our agency in need of financial support with her energy bills. As a single mother working two jobs, her income level disqualified her from many of the programs dedicated to extremely low income individuals. Between working two jobs, and caring for her young child, Ms. H. found little time to procure assistance for herself. After some research, the staff at New Destiny FSC identified the TRUE and PAGE grants. Through contact with the program director, we were able to guide Ms. H. through the application process. Much to our delight, Ms. H. was able to qualify for assistance, and get her lights turned on. Being able to help Ms. H. as she pursues a better life for her family was a truly gratifying experience – it is the very reason why we do what we do.