What a blessing the Pascal Sykes Foundation has been for the low-income, working-class families of South Jersey.
Founded in 1992, the Monmouth County-based foundation for the past several years has funded some major initiatives to remove the roadblocks from the path to success of the working poor.
By the time the foundation finishes its work and closes in four or five years, it will have spent more than $50 million strengthening South Jersey families.
Its efforts have shown foundation officials what’s needed and what works, and they have shared their insights with health and human services professionals nationwide.
Pascale Sykes started modestly in its targeted area of Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties in 2011, granting community and faith-based organizations $193,000 to help children in poverty in Cumberland, the state’s poorest county. That focused on child care, parenting skills and literacy.
That same year, the foundation made its first donation, $267,000, to Atlantic County nonprofits in support of the Father’s Care Network and the Western Atlantic Family Support Center — the latter for two family centers, the former to a group of four agencies and the county jail working to reunite fathers (and not just former inmates) with their families.
The following year Pascale Sykes began a major initiative to provide access to employment and needed services beyond what public transit offers. Daily community shuttle bus service was started in Atlantic County, in partnership with government agencies and nonprofits, and by 2015 was running in all four of the targeted counties.
That year also saw the foundation launch a multi-million-dollar, 10-year economic development initiative to aid small businesses in the counties — one part through the nonprofit New Jersey Community Capital and another with a marketing campaign to draw tourists and businesses to what it branded “New Jersey’s Heartland.” Last year the foundation added a $1.5 million grant to Community Capital’s THRIVE South Jersey program in support of small business lending.
Awareness of the foundation’s multi-pronged approach spread, and when it organized a Working Together for Working Families conference last year at Cumberland County College, more than 300 attended, including leading advocates for low-income families.
Then this month, foundation President Francis P. Sykes led a presentation on its programs and methods at the National Health and Human Services Summit in Arlington, Va.
The foundation’s success has been built upon its ability to get multiple agencies working together and sharing information about clients for the timely and appropriate addressing of their needs.
All agencies involved collect data and work together to evaluate it, allowing adjustment and improvement of plans for individual families and the overall effort.
The work has helped many families in the four counties and also has led to principles that will help guide service providers elsewhere. Chief among them are two — the foundation’s whole family approach with multiple agencies working with all family members, and its insight that having two responsible adults in a family is a necessary prerequisite for help and success.
“The data from numerous studies as well as data from our grantees demonstrate that adults and children thrive best when there are two responsible, dependable adults working toward family well-being,” Sykes said. “Ideally it’s mom and dad. However, if that’s not possible, a close relative or friend could be integrally involved with the household, serving as a support for family members.”
This is how the Pascale Sykes Foundation has helped “families trying to do the right thing.” By the time it has finished in a few years, it will have made quite a lasting difference in the area of New Jersey needing it most and also beyond.