NUTLEY, NJ — Warm hues that dominate the change in colored leaves and a slight drop in temperature mark the start of preparations for the Nutley Family Service Bureau’s annual Thanksgiving Day Initiative.
The long-established bureau has aided Nutley residents since 1913, and has continued to grow with the community, later morphing into a nonprofit organization.
While NFSB strives to empower its residents through many services and programs, the organization additionally responds to the needs of those who experience food insecurity year round. In addition to their donation-based food pantry located on Chestnut St., NFSB coordinates an annual Thanksgiving Day Initiative, which packages Thanksgiving related food products and items for eligible families.
Rather than serving a family a meal outside of their home, NFSB cradles the opportunity for independence by providing all the tools necessary for a family to assemble their own classic Thanksgiving Day feast.
In an over-the-phone interview on Oct. 19 with Eileen Painter, executive director of the bureau, she emphasized that the Thanksgiving Day Initiative is a call to normalcy.
The holiday, commonly known for family, eating and giving, inspired NFSB to equip families with all they need to prepare the autumnal feast in the comfort of their own home, which helps to preserve the holiday tradition.
During November, volunteers from throughout the township will stuff grocery bags filled to the brim with ingredients that include seasonal vegetables, pie crust and filling, cranberry sauce, stuffing and, of course, turkey.
Last year, Painter noted that NFSB partnered with 25 entities, including organizations, houses of worship and local business, to successfully distribute Thanksgiving-related groceries to 80 families.
This year, more than 90 houses are eligible, and an increased number of participants are ready to help NFSB, Painter told the Nutley Journal. This year the Walker Foundation and members of Nutley High School sports teams will assist in packaging grocery bags, Painter said.
According to its website, Nutley residency is a requirement for recipiency, and criteria reflects the higher cost of living in the town, which means participation is possible even if household income exceeds state limits for food assistance.
In order to find out if your family qualifies for the Thanksgiving Initiative, the NFSB staff highly encourages Nutley residents to call and talk to a staff member at 973-667-1884 or visit the website at www.nutleyfamily.org.
The servings contained within the grocery bags vary in amount, based on the size of the family, with sizes available for single, small and large families. Groceries are then packed accordingly to the serving size supplying a single adult, a small family that includes two to four individuals and a large family that includes five or more individuals. For example, Painter said the large family bag includes three servings of each kind of vegetable.
While society is constantly changing, NFSB at 155 Chestnut St., has remained a constant hub of community resources and services, catering to the diverse needs of its local residents.
The organization that emerged from a post-industrial American time period was created by civic minded women who worked to remedy the conditions of rampant poverty. NFSB has since transitioned its efforts over the years due to drastic improvements of government and state programs.
In January 2016, the organization purchased the former Red Cross building, next door to the main office building, and five months later, further changes were implemented in response to the increased complexity of mental-health and social-service programs. The nonprofit expanded its professional full- and part-time staff, implementing counseling.
Characterized by professional yet affordable counseling services for Nutley individuals and families, the NFSB website notes “mental health counseling is the powerhouse of the agency.”
Lifelong growth, insight, and enabling wider choices with increased empowerment on life’s journey are at the core of NFSB’s approach to mental health services, the website says.
Toward the end of 2017, NFSB will be getting another facelift, including building renovations. The major focus of redevelopment is an added lift for an elevator. “This lift will impact how we store food, merchandise goods from the thrift shop and provide universal access stressing efficiency, safety and security,” Painter said.