From South Orange Township:
The Outreach Team of the Community Care & Justice program worked with the South Orange Police Department and Rescue Squad to collect and distribute coats throughout January. Nearly 150 coats were donated by the community, and the South Orange Rescue Squad held an open house for anyone in need of warm winter coats. Donations that remained after the open house were collected by SOMA Justice for distribution through the Newark Water Coalition or transported to Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange. Anyone in need of coats who missed the event can contact the CC&J Outreach Team at Village Hall, who can help with logistics.
The coat drive was organized by the South Orange Police Superior Officers Association and Policemen’s Benefit Association in partnership with the South Orange Rescue Squad and the Community Care & Justice program. “The open house was particularly successful”, said SOPD Lieutenant Ernesto Morillo. “Our officers were able to leverage their relationships with those in need to invite them in for pizza and introduce them to the CC&J Outreach team.”
With collection points at the South Orange Police Station lobby and the South Orange Rescue Squad building, it was easy for community members to drop off coats, and to get to know their first responders. “We’re always looking for ways to help our hometown community,” said SORS Chief Victor Rothstein, “whether in serving their emergency health needs or keeping them warm. Thanks to our community, we collected well over 100 coats for those in need.”
The Community Care & Justice program was initiated by South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and is a collaboration between the South Orange community, Seton Hall University and Essex County. The initiative seeks to “reimagine” traditional models of law enforcement through the larger lens of public safety and wellness with a greater emphasis on crisis prevention. To that end, Community Care & Justice seeks to engage the whole community – residents, first responders and newly hired social work professionals – in a more proactive, preventative, and collective approach to mental health and wellness and public health and safety. The program is overseen by Trustee Donna Coallier, chair of the Village’s Health and Public Safety Committee, and led Jayme Ganey, Program Director.
Community Care & Justice Outreach is led by Kristin Miller, LCSW and provides supportive counseling and case management services to community members referred by South Orange first responders. Those they encounter that are impacted by issues related to mental health, substance use, domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness, and elder concerns are referred to the Outreach Team. Once a referral is received from Village first responders, the Outreach social workers will reach out to the individual and/or family, conduct an assessment, and connect them with various supportive services and resources within South Orange and, more broadly, Essex County and the state.
Kristin Miller shared: “I am very excited to have our Outreach team participate in our first live community event. The pandemic has greatly impacted our ability to connect with others, so having the opportunity to connect with community members, and talk with them about their needs and their perspectives of our community was amazing. We received helpful feedback regarding what is needed and were also able to provide coats and various referrals for services. I am grateful for the caring and compassionate services provided by our social work team members, Assistant Director Megan O’Brien and MSW Intern Monica Doliscat. I am also grateful for the work of the South Orange Police Department and South Orange Rescue Squad in organizing this event.”
In addition to Miller, O’Brien and Doliscat were on hand to help with the distribution effort and work with first responders to meet with community members. “The coat drive went well,” said Monica Doliscat. “There were a good number of individuals that showed up to get a coat for themselves and their children. Amid doing so, we were able to meet and talk with individuals that would benefit from Community Care & Justice social work services. Overall, I enjoyed being there for the community!”