Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton will open a new headquarters in March for its Burlington County Community Services, which serves people who struggle with poverty, housing instability, food insecurity, immigration issues and other challenges.
The new facility at 460 Veterans Blvd. in Burlington will be bigger, at 7,000 square feet, than the smaller space Community Services has occupied for about 18 years at 801 Burlington Ave. in Delanco.
It also will allow Community Services to do a few new things to better serve Burlington County’s most vulnerable residents:
- Screen clients for behavioral health issues, such as mental health or substance use disorders, and connect them with professional care. People in poverty can struggle with multiple challenges that present barriers to recovery. Stationing a behavioral-health case manager at the Community Services office will enable staff to identify other opportunities for wraparound services to better ensure self-sufficiency.
- Create a “shopping” model in the food pantry, in which clients can pick for themselves what items they need. Previously, volunteers and staff distributed pre-packed bags of food and other items to clients. All food pantry items are free.
The new headquarters is expected to open March 1. Renovations are now under way in the new space.
While the need remains constant, county funding to Community Services in Burlington County recently fell $46,000 from the previous two-year contract, spurring Community Services to find creative ways to cover the difference, according to Arnold Valentin, Community Services service area director (pictured, right). For example, in the new headquarters, staff will embark on an eBay venture, placing high-value donated items online for sale and using all proceeds for those sales on Community Services’ most urgent needs. Longer term, Community Services plans to move its clothing-donation bins to church properties, which will reduce rental costs.
The move is just the first of several planned in the region. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton has three Community Services operations; besides Burlington County, a second is in Mercer County, and the third, in Ocean County.
The food pantry at Community Services’ Mercer County headquarters at 132 N. Warren St. in Trenton will move in the spring to Mount Carmel Guild, 73 N. Clinton Ave. in Trenton (pictured, left). This change will allow the food pantry to expand into a larger space, while also sharing facility costs with Mount Carmel Guild, lightening the overall burden of operational costs for both agencies. Catholic Charities’ food pantry has been on Warren Street for about 10 years. While plans are in the works, an exact relocation date hasn’t been set.
Community Services’ Mercer County administrative operations and programs including Rapid Rehousing, Senior Case Management Services, and SSI/SSDI Outreach Access and Recovery (SOAR) will remain at 132 N. Warren St., where they’ll have room for expansion with the food pantry gone.
“We are excited about the opportunities that our partnership with Mount Carmel Guild will bring – that it will be ‘fruitful’ especially because of the groundwork that the guild already has done to create flower boxes for clients to grow garden-fresh produce at that site,” said Noelle Davies, business manager of Community Services (pictured, right).
And Catholic Charities leaders now are looking at locations in Ocean County to relocate the Community Services space there from 200 Monmouth Ave. in Lakewood.
“The existing site is old and cramped,” Davies explained. “We would like to find a newer, updated building with a partnering agency that could bring new opportunities.”
The overarching goals of all Community Services operations are to reduce poverty and strengthen self-sufficiency. Services offered include: a food pantry, a free store for clothing and household items, financial assistance with rent or mortgage payments, utility assistance, household repairs for elderly residents, financial literacy education, free tax preparation, employment support, legal assistance for immigration issues and ESL classes, holiday programs for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, back-to-school drives, mobile eye care unit, and on-site food stamp applications.
To volunteer, donate or organize collections to support Community Services, call (856) 764-6940 in Burlington County; (609) 394-8847 in Mercer County; and (732) 363-5322 in Ocean County.
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