Jack & Jill Introduces New Reading Corner at FAMILYConnections

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Earlier this month, the Greater Essex County NJ Chapter (GECC) of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. announced the grand opening of a new Reading Corner at FAMILYConnections in Orange, NJ during National Family Reading Month.

A celebration and ribbon-cutting was held Sunday, November 20, to mark the opening of this space which was designed by GECC to increase literacy in children between the ages of Kindergarten and third grade who frequent the FAMILYConnections offices.

During renovations...

During renovations…

On hand to help: Maplewood Township Committeeman-Elect Frank McGehee and his wife Marie McGehee, who is the Community Service Chair or the GECC.

Before and after pictures show a stark contrast between a dilapidated space and a warm and inviting corner stocked with books and other media specifically tailored for children.

The Reading Corner named “Healing Hearts through Healing Words” is the cornerstone of GECC’s literacy initiative that integrates reading into therapeutic activities designed to heal and strengthen families. The Reading Literacy Corner was funded through a grant awarded to GECC from the Jack and Jill of America Foundation, Inc. the philanthropic arm of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

Partnering with FAMILYConnections, a venerable New Jersey organization supporting families and children, is a natural outgrowth of Jack and Jill’s mission to address the needs of children within its local communities.



A service-minded organization dedicated to nurturing leadership among African-American children ages 2-19, Jack and Jill achieves its mission by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty.

“Both FAMILYConnections and Jack and Jill have, at their core, a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of children everywhere,” said Carolyn “Cookie” Mason, GECC’s outgoing Foundation Chair and current Vice-President. “The Jack and Jill Foundation is committed to leveraging its resources to make sustainable, impactful and deep-rooted change within our communities. The Reading Corner is just the beginning of the work that our chapter is doing to improve the educational, physical and social-emotional well-being of children within our community.”

“In addition to the Reading Corner, GECC is working with FAMILYConnections on a second grant we received from our national Jack and Jill of America Foundation to provide early intervention, in-home support to families and children in the hopes that children will be given “a right start” to academic and personal success. Moreover, the proceeds from GECC’s recent Harvest Soiree event held on November 11 at the Maplewood Country Club will also benefit FAMILYConnections. We know that FAMILYConnections has a wide impact in the community,” added Mason.

Young children between the ages of 5-8, who may be grappling with mental health issues or whose parents may be dealing with substance abuse and other challenges, will be identified and the Reading Corner will integrate the entire family into a reading program to help with issues that may arise during their therapeutic activities. The Reading Corner will be used to facilitate parent-child interactions, and foster critical emotional awareness in the children that may alleviate the stress they are undergoing. Reading together connects families and nurtures emotional bonds between parent and child.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Greater Essex County Chapter of Jack and Jill on the creation of a Reading Corner for our clients. Our organizations share common goals – nurturing children, helping teens succeed, and building strong families. These goals come together on this project. I thank everyone who has helped to make the Reading Corner a reality – not only Jack and Jill but the vendors who have donated their services. Everyone at FAMILYConnections is very excited to have this new resource, including our Board of Trustees and the families we serve,” noted Jacques Hryshko, FAMILYConnections Executive Director.

FAMILYConnections has served New Jersey families for more than 125 years. The organization provides specialized programs include professional counseling, skills-building, training and prevention services to over 4,000 children, adults and families each year in Essex County and surrounding communities. FAMILYConnections boasts an impressive roster of funders, both governmental and private foundations, and collaborating partners that support the extraordinary work of this acclaimed organization.

Needless to say, the new Reading Corner is applauded by staff and clients alike. Jennifer, a FAMILYConnections Coordinator, noted the impact the new program is already having on the families;

“The new Reading Corner is a comfortable and cozy space where children have the opportunity to sit in a safe place with their parent to learn, laugh, and bond with one another. I have been privileged to see the interaction between a mother and her daughter. Mother and child counted numbers together, identified shapes, and genuinely enjoyed the company of one another. The Reading Corner can only enhance the powerful work we are doing with families to build relationships, and therefore our communities.”

FAMILYConnections clients raved about the new program and noted the immediate impact it had for their families:

“This is amazing! FAMILYConnections offers so much to our children and families! The agency offers more than other programs that I have been to. My sons would love this space, the cozy couch, and the calm colors,” stated Octavia.

Chyanne, another client in the Strong Mothers programs said, “FAMILYConnections is really a place I can come to learn, feel comfortable, and educate myself and my children. The Reading Corner is a great addition. This can help my son go above and beyond in school!”

Crystal Mullins, President of the Greater Essex County, NJ Chapter Jack and Jill of America, Inc. was unequivocal in her support for FAMILYConnections: “The Greater Essex County Chapter, NJ of Jack & Jill of America, Inc. is proud of its affiliation and work with FAMILYConnections. The Reading Corner project brings to life one of our organizational aims which is to seek for all children the same advantages which we desire for our own.”

The Greater Essex County of Jack and Jill welcomes inquiries about this program. Donations for the Reading Corner are accepted and leadership for the organization can be reached at jjgeccpres@gmail.com. To find out more about FAMILYConnections and their programs call (973) 675-3817.


About Jack and Jill of America

Jack and Jill of America, Inc. is an organization founded in 1938 with the mission of stimulating the growth and development of children through educational, cultural, civic, recreational, health and social programs inspired by mothers. Through its more than 230 chapters organized in seven regions across the United States, the organization consists of more than 30,000 family members which includes, mother members, fathers and children ages two through 19. Jack and Jill Chapters also support non-profit organizations through its philanthropic arm, the Jack and Jill of America Foundation, among the first foundations established by African-American families in the United States. Since its founding in 1968, the Foundation has granted millions of dollars to worthy causes supporting children and families.

To learn more about the Greater Essex County NJ Chapter of Jack and Jill America, Inc. click here.

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