By Sharon Cirillo
Morristown stands as the heart and soul of one of the most culturally diverse towns in Morris County. Behind the “Green” which boasts high rises, boutique shops, and fine eateries, is an area in need of great assistance. The Morristown Neighborhood House has been a beacon of light serving these residents with programs supporting physical, educational, emotional and social health and wellness for decades.
The “Nabe,” as it is affectionately called by all those who know and love it, is a “home away from home” for so many in the community. At the Nabe and other Cornerstone locations, “we proudly serve children, teens, adults, families, veterans, seniors, and their caregivers, ages two to 102.” This once thriving center is making a strong comeback thanks to some strategic partnerships and support of local businesses and other non-profit organizations.
The push to polish this hidden gem is on, with support from the senior leadership and board of Cornerstone Family Programs, spearheaded by its COO Ayo Sanderson Wilson and her team since January. Thanks to volunteers, businesses like J&S Flooring and CertaPro Painting of Morristown, the “Toddler Room,” “Staff/Teen Lounge,” lobby and hallways got well-needed upgrades. However, so much more needs to be done. The “House to Home Initiative” is underway intending to refurbish well-worn spaces in need of renovation, some of which serve dual purposes.
Surrounded by the affordable housing on Flagler Street, the income-based subsidized programs offer much needed before and after-childcare for working parents. Children, dropped off as early as 7 am, are fed a nutritious breakfast, picked up by buses which take them to school and then back to the center until parents or guardians arrive after 5 pm.
STEM curriculums and college prep courses are offered taking high school students through every facet of the admissions process. From FAFSA filing, SAT/ ACT review to essay writing and applications, the staff shares expertise that makes the difference in the student’s chance of acceptance. Kids remain engaged, and homework is completed all while having access to the technology and resources they often do not have at home.
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”
The icing on the cake is the newly refurbished gym in the works and the kick-off of the Spring/Summer Basketball League and Clinic for grades 3rd – 10th. For only $100.00 children from ALL surrounding towns can participate in the 16-week program. Reminiscent of the days when the “Nabe” was THE place to “Ball Out,” Coach Kenny Smith envisions kids from all ethnic and socioeconomic communities coming together again to play hoops.
Some famous NBA and NFL players have come up through the program, adding to the rich history and pride. Thanks to the recent National Basketball Players’ Association Foundation grant, the gym boasts a fresh new paint job, new equipment, and a spirit of infectious enthusiasm. A refurbished gym floor and new air conditioning are also underway. The program builds confidence, teaches teamwork, and offers much-needed mentorship.
Ayo recounted the day she first visited the Nabe to give a speech on the Importance of Education in the gymnasium almost a decade ago and was “bitten by the bug.” Hoping to fulfill her challenge and calling to help others alongside her dedicated team, she wants to raise awareness of what this facility means to the families that it serves and attract others from surrounding areas as well. The mission is to see every child realize their full potential, quoting Mr. Spock from Star Trek “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”
For more information or a tour of the Morristown Neighborhood House, please contact Jackie Looby at jlooby@cfp-mnh. org to find out how you or your organization can help to make this multifaceted gem sparkle once again!