Coalition To Host Forum Focused On Poverty In Middlesex County

MIDDLESEX COUNTY – A coalition of government leaders, social service providers, students and educators will gather Oct. 19 to discuss poverty in Middlesex County.

Middlesex County and its Human Services Advisory Council, the Rutgers Bonner Student Leaders in Civic Engagement and Service Education, Middlesex County College’s Democracy House students, and a host of other agencies will provide a thought-provoking discussion to highlight the pervasive and escalating grip of poverty in Middlesex County and New Jersey.

The Middlesex County Poverty Forum is scheduled to be held 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Crabiel Hall on the campus of Middlesex County College, 2600 Woodbridge Ave., Edison.

“Poverty is a growing problem here in Middlesex County, especially with the tough economic climate found nationwide,” said Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti, chairperson of the County’s Human Services and Senior Services Committee. “In Middlesex County, the majority of those living in poverty are children. We must work together to find solutions and to help those most in need of our help.”

“As the recent data indicate, the number of people living at the ‘poverty level’ is increasing at the same time services for low-income families are being cut,” said Joann La Perla-Morales, Middlesex County College President. “The Poverty Forum is an opportunity for New Jersey residents to become aware of the very real issue and to encourage citizens to take action to improve services for the economically disadvantaged. We are very proud that our Democracy House students are playing a significant role in the workshop.”

“It’s great to be part of this collaborative effort of students, community leaders and government officials, all working to better the conditions of our Middlesex County residents. As a student, I feel that it is important to be useful and involved in the community that I live in,” said Laurent Reyes, a sophomore in the Rutgers Bonner Leader Program.

The keystone of the Poverty Forum will be an opening power point presentation by the Poverty Research Institute of Legal Services of New Jersey, which will be followed by individual presentations focusing on issues that impact not only the poor but the middle class.

Bill Waldman of the Rutgers School of Social Work, formerly Commissioner of the NJ Department of Human Services, will speak about the vanishing middle class. The Rev. Lisanne Finston of Elijah’s Promise will present a segment on food security. State Senator Joseph Vitale will lead a session on healthcare. Eileen O’Donnell, Executive Director of Coming Home of Middlesex County, and Melissa Bellamy, representing the Division of Housing and Social Services, will address homelessness and affordable housing.

Small breakout discussion groups led by students from Middlesex County College and Rutgers will follow the presentations. It is in these sessions that action plans and future advocacy efforts will be developed and shared with all forum participants at the end of the evening.

Sponsors for the event include: the Middlesex County Human Services Advisory Council, Rutgers Bonner Student Leaders in Civic Engagement and Service Education, Middlesex County Office of Human Services, Middlesex County College Democracy House, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Metuchen, United Way of Central Jersey, Elijah’s Promise, PRAB, Jewish Renaissance Foundation, Central Jersey Community Development Corporation, Rutgers School of Social Work, Coming Home of Middlesex and Community Child Care Solutions.

“On behalf of the Middlesex County Freeholder Board, I encourage residents to come out and be part of this critical discussion,” said Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano. “Coming together as a community will strengthen our efforts.”

Refreshments will be served and childcare will be provided on site.

Visit the following link to RSVP:, or for more information contact the Middlesex County Office of Human Services at 1-732-745-4186 or e-mail

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