WEST ORANGE, NJ — For the last 38 years, Main St. Counseling Center has been available to residents of West Orange and the surrounding area. The center, located on Marcella Avenue — despite its name — has provided counseling for individuals, couples, families, veterans and seniors. In the decades since beginning as a startup with a $500 budget, it has expanded to include a staff of 36 social workers under the leadership of Executive Director Steve Margeotes.
“Our primary focus is individual work and family work,” Margeotes, who has worked at Main St. Counseling since it opened in 1980, said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on May 31. “We also see seniors, couples and veterans. Anyone who has been affected by trauma, we help to not let that hamper their lives.”
Margeotes said building the center was slow work, and that it was able to expand because the staff never set goals they knew could not be reached.
“Don’t follow the money; you have to stay focused,” he said. “It was slow, and we stayed the same regardless of what town you live in or where you come from. We wanted to become a viable alternative for people and the key is to focus and not try to go too big.”
Grants are a huge source of funding for the counseling center. This year the Hyde and Watson Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit group, awarded Main St. Counseling a $20,000 grant to make renovations to its building; this is the largest amount the counseling center has received from the foundation.
Additionally, Main St. Counseling was awarded $5,000 from the Codey Fund; $5,000 from the Jansen Foundation; $5,000 from the PSE&G Foundation; $9,900 from the Novartis Foundation, and $2,000 from the Montclair Foundation in the last year.
“It’ll go directly towards services, and some will allow us to renovate the building some more,” Margeotes said of the funding. “We want to make the building as friendly as our services are. It also enables us to hire more staff, even with the three dozen therapists we already have.”
Going forward, Margeotes said he wants to make counseling a less taboo topic for people.
“Our key thing is not to expand for expansion’s sake,” he said. “The goal is, if they come in for treatment, that’s something that speaks for itself. Recently we’ve seen how many celebrities were talking about counseling and mental illness and I think that’s helped make the process legit.”
For a business to be going strong after 38 years is an accomplishment, though Margeotes said the center still feels like a new organization.
“It’s gratifying to see it sustained from humble beginnings and see how much it’s grown,” he said. “I’m very proud of it. It still feels like a startup. It still feels fresh. So we’re going to be here going forward, helping hundreds of people.”