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December 20, 2011

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DCF Commissioner Allison Blake volunteers at Season of Hope Toy Shop
Sussex County program offers holiday gifts for local families
NEWTON - As part of the Christie Administration’s “Season of Service” initiative, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Allison Blake volunteered at the Season of Hope Toy Shop at Project Self-Sufficiency in Newton, Sussex County on Friday, to assist in the agency’s efforts to distribute gifts to thousands of local families in need.
The “Season of Service” was announced by Governor and First Lady Christie on Thanksgiving Eve. The initiative builds on the same commitment to community the Governor emphasized in his 2010 inaugural address with members of the cabinet volunteering their time in a variety of ways over the next month.
The Season of Hope Toy Shop is a collaborative effort spearheaded by Project Self-Sufficiency with the assistance of Pass it Along, the New Jersey Herald, Intercar Mercedes Benz, Sussex Honda, Mugs Media and hundreds of volunteers.  The toy drive helps local parents who cannot afford to purchase holiday gifts for their children.  Families are referred to the toy drive by social service agencies, such as the Division of Youth and Family Services, churches and other non-profit organizations.
“It is so wonderful to see people using their hearts and their talents to help better the lives of New Jersey’s children and families,” DCF Commissioner Blake said. “We are very thankful for the generosity of each person who has been a part of the project spearheaded by Project Self-Sufficiency, and we hope that their efforts will serve as an example for others who may find it in their hearts to support children and families in their communities.”
“The Season of Hope toy drive is unique because it is run by Sussex County agencies on behalf of Sussex County families.  Donors can be assured that the gifts they contribute will stay right here in our area,” noted Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency.  “The toy shop offers gifts for children of all ages, but it also offers the gift of hope and dignity to parents as they search for presents for their loved ones.  We are thankful for the assistance of our partners in this effort, and we are especially grateful for the hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life who have made the Season of Hope toy drive possible for our participants.”
The continued economic downturn has caused many families to turn to the Season of Hope toy drive for assistance this year.  As a result, the toy drive set a goal of 10,000 items for distribution to children of all ages.  Individuals, Girl Scout troops, churches, schools, civic groups and numerous other organizations rallied to conduct toy drives on behalf of the Season of Hope toy drive this year.
Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.  The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children while achieving personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability.  Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 18,000 families, including over 30,000 children.
The Department of Children and Families (DCF), New Jersey’s state child welfare agency, was created in July 2006 as the state’s first Cabinet agency devoted exclusively to serving and safeguarding the most vulnerable children and families in New Jersey. DCF includes the Division of Youth and Family Services, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships and Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, and is focused on strengthening families and achieving safety, well-being and permanency for New Jersey's children.
For information about the Season of Hope Holiday Toy Drive, or any of the other programs and services offered at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500.