Would the world be a better place if women ran everything?
We may never know. But Morris County certainly is better off thanks to 17 ladies who took matters into their own hands two centuries ago.
They called themselves the Female Charitable Society, and their mission was to help Morristown families affected by the War of 1812. That organization evolved into Family Service of Morris County, which today touches 7,000 lives across northern New Jersey with pre-school-, adult daycare- and counseling programs.
This video, by our production company, traces the origins of one of the state’s first social safety nets. Our thanks to re-enactors Carrie Fellows, Karen Ann Kurlander, Donna McNamara, Ann Stachenfeld, Peg Shultz, Ariadne Montfalcone and Larry Cohen, and to the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, the Kellogg Club and Karen Ann Kurlander for graciously providing authentic historical settings.
Thanks also to Family Service volunteer Roland Ekerdt and to the Morristown & Township Library for combing their archives, and to CEO Patrice Picard and her staff at Family Service for their enthusiastic support.
Family Service of Morris County: One of America’s first safety nets celebrates 200 years in Morristown
By Kevin Coughlin
To fall on hard times in 1813 was to fall very hard indeed.
“The safety net was your friends, your family, your neighbors. That was the only safety net that there was…and these were very traumatic times that people were going through,” Donna McNamara said at a special ceremony on Sunday.
Donna heads the bicentennial committee of the nonprofit Family Service of Morris County, which invited friends and volunteers to the Presbyterian Church in Morristown to mark the contributions of 17 church ladies whose good deeds two centuries ago reverberate to this day.
They called themselves the Female Charitable Society back then, and their aim was to help “the worthy poor” of Morristown–mainly, the families of soldiers fighting the War of 1812.
The society’s first directress, Alice Cogswell Fisher, was the minister’s wife. Members divided Morristown into sections, and met once a week to sew for struggling residents. Louisa Macculloch, matriarch of what is now the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, was a guiding force for more than four decades. Clothing, food and charcoal for heating were dispensed to the needy by women volunteers.
Over the years, the organization’s name would change a number of times and its scope would broaden to encompass all of Morris County. The Central Bureau of Social Service, as it became known in 1913, bore the hallmarks of a modern social service agency.
“Shall we pauperize our poor, or help them become independent and self-respecting?” reads an entry from the minutes of a meeting.
Professionals were hired, and concerns were expressed for the prospects and privacy of the people they served. The Visiting Nurse Association, Morris County Tuberculosis Association and Social Service Exchange can trace their origins to this movement. The late Cornelia Kellogg, whose home now serves as Morristown’s Kellogg Club, led the bureau for much of the first half of the 20th century.
Family Service of Morris County, as it’s been called since 1947, now has modern offices at 62 Elm St. and a 100-person team providing a range of pre-school-, adult daycare and counseling services that touch 7,000 lives across Northern New Jersey.
War still creates needs, just as it did 200 years ago. Family Service offers financial planning for soldiers having trouble readjusting as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“What happened 200 years ago really isn’t so different from what we do today,” said Executive Director Patrice Picard, who oversees a $3.6 million budget derived from fundraising, sliding-scale fees and government grants and contracts. The bicentennial celebration will continue on April 14 with a ball at the Short Hills Hilton, and a symposium for social services professionals later this year.
Patrice compared Family Service to a group of general practitioners.
“We help the whole family,”she said. “We’re not specializing in domestic violence. Our population is people who are working. Not the homeless or seriously mentally ill. Just people trying to make ends meet.”
Proclaiming Jan. 27, 2013, as “Family Service Day” in Morristown, Mayor Tim Dougherty pledged his support to a “wonderful organization” and urged it to “keep up the good work.”
The Rev. David Smazik, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, said his congregation was blessed to have 17 women respond to the community’s need in an era of limited resources. Incredibly, Family Service of Morris County carries on the tradition, he said.
“They continue to keep the passion and the energy going. I think we see organizations that ebb and flow, and unfortunately, sometimes they just lose that passion. But they’ve kept their passion for service going throughout that whole time.”
It’s quite a responsibility, said Patrice.
“While society has changed, and the organization has changed, the need for better lives and stronger communities remains,” she said. “As we celebrate our 200th anniversary, we are also planning for our third century of service. We can only hope that our vision will be as enduring as the vision of the founders and the volunteers who followed in their footsteps throughout history.”
Please click icon below for captions
The Morristown Junior Colonials Youth Basketball League has rescheduled its “Coats & Cans for Kids!” clothing and food drive, during an 11-game basketball tournament that will take place at Frelinghuysen Middle School on Saturday, Jan. 28 from 1:30 – 6:30 p.m. The tournament and drive were postponed last Saturday due to the snowstorm.
The fourth- through eighth grade teams, their parents and spectators are encouraged to bring in new or gently used outerwear and/or non-perishable groceries that will be donated to Family Service of Morris County (FSMC) and the Interfaith Food Pantry of Morris County (IFP).
Morristown resident Dan Hajjar, a coach with the Junior Colonials, is organizing the collection and arranging to have the items delivered to local families in need through the two agencies.
“We often hear about global problems of hunger and poverty, but we forget that these problems exist here in our community. Through my involvement with FSMC and IFP, I’ve seen firsthand the effects that family insecurity can have on so many people in our community. We decided to use the tournament as an opportunity for our kids, their families and spectators to help others and make a positive change in our community.”
The basketball tournament is open to the public. Items being sought are new and gently used coats and jackets, mittens, gloves and hats as well as canned and boxed food such as soups, spaghetti sauce and vegetables (low salt preferred), cereal, rice and pasta.
Family Service of Morris County (FSMC) is a private, nonprofit organization changing lives in the community for nearly 200 years. Founded in 1813, FSMC provides a variety of vital services to over 7,000 children, families and seniors to help them get through the most challenging times in their lives. These services include giving children the best start in life, building and maintaining healthy families, keeping seniors independent and in their own Homes, and preventing substance abuse in families and communities through education. For more information about FSMC call 973-538-5260 or visit: www.fsmc.org.
The Interfaith Food Pantry provides primarily non-perishable groceries to Morris County families having difficulty making ends meet. Through its program and other agencies it serves, the Pantry helped feed 5,000 families in 2010, distributing 727,000 pounds of food. In addition to providing emergency and supplemental food, IFP provides nutrition counseling, referral services and educational programs for youth groups. For more information, call 973-538-8049 or visit www.mcifp.org
By Jack McFadden, LCSW, Family Service of Morris County
Our country has been at war for close to 10 years now. For Morris County soldiers and their families, there are actually two battles: The soldier’s combat abroad and the family’s struggles at home. Each family member has their own story to tell. Each carries unseen wounds and emotional scars.
When stationed in Iraq, EOD Army Specialist Sgt. Samuel Robinson of Morristown lived in constant fear, always remaining alert. Highly trained in resilience, he became skillful at performing his mission on a daily basis. His adopted new family was his service unit–he could depend on them and they could depend on him. Over time, communication with home diminished and the tone changed.
Things changed for everyone. At home, his wife Peg repeatedly answered the question of her youngest child, “When will Daddy be home?”
Her eldest, Tara, complained that she was tired of driving the kids around and babysitting while Mom worked.
The middle child David became quiet; he quit playing sports, stayed in his room after school, and began to fail math.
Peg worried constantly about the kids, paying bills, and answering questions that had no answers.
Then came the announcement of Sam’s homecoming. While excited, a part of each family member was afraid of that day. They wanted things to return to the way they were before deployment, but they had established a new way of life. They no longer knew what felt “normal.”
Upon his return home, Sam said, “Things have changed and I’m not the same. I don’t sleep well, I drink too much, and I don’t want to be with friends. I want to end my marriage, but I have a duty to my children.”
This story of bridging the gap between the old normalcy and the new-normalcy is the typical story of the Military Families and Veteran Outreach program at Family Service of Morris County. We focus on how a new normal could come about.
Peg would like to try to make this happen, even though she sees Sam is not the same man she married.
Over time, and with help through FSMC veteran peer-to-peer counseling sessions, Sam begins to see the promise and value of the family. He begins to recognize the impact of deployment and social isolation on his emotions and the effect on his wife and children.
Then he sees that there were two battles: One in Iraq and one at home. He allows himself to feel and, as he does so, his wife sees in him what she thought she had lost. They begin to create their new-normal, Sam rediscovers his family unit and the kids trust that Mom is happy and that Dad has returned and not deserted them.
At FSMC, we are here to help military families. I have served in Vietnam myself and understand what military families are experiencing. Our services are completely confidential and free of charge. If you or someone you know is a returning veteran or the family member of a soldier, please contact us for more information. (http://www.fsmc.org/services/families). FSMC has been serving military families since we were established nearly 200 years ago to help widows and orphans of the War of 1812.
Family Service of Morris County (FSMC) is a private, nonprofit organization changing lives for nearly 200 years. FSMC provides over twenty innovative programs and services to nearly 6,400 children, families and seniors to help them get through the most challenging times in their lives. These services include professional counseling, education, advocacy, and support. For more information about FSMC call 973-538-5260 or www.fsmc.org.