I have been given a unique opportunity to put into words my experience of working with Family Services. Though my initial contact with Family Services was the direct result of a big mistake I had made which the State of New Jersey decided would best be rectified by community service work, I have come to realize that sometimes when you may think you are being punished in reality it leads to a fantastic opportunity to better yourself. As I write this I am reminded that I am speaking of a building that I have passed countless times without knowing what exactly they did there. And while I am not experienced enough to date to tell about all the services they have to offer I can offer some glimpses into what I have encountered there.
I have heard it said before that sometimes the best way to forget about your own problems is by reaching out to others. This I have found to be true. While my health problems have severely limited my capabilities to display my talents involving organization and management skills, the idea of being in a situation where I can help regardless of limitations has started a fire in me which I have been lacking for some time. The caring people at Family Services have ignited that fire by going out of their way to find work that I could manage to do without making me feel handicapped or limited.
For the greater part of the last 5 years I have tried to play a part in helping my elderly parents comfortably come to the end of their journey here on earth without having to be put into a nursing home where complete strangers would be dealing with them day in and day out. While I know that such places have their place and that most have a sincere desire to help those who do not have living relatives to care for them, I could not just sit back and watch this happen to my folks. And, as what might happen in these situations, my health took a down ward turn to where I could not work anymore and forced me to seek outside assistance as in disability money, etc. to try and keep my feet on the ground. I found out many months after my parents passed that my health could be affected by providing the 24 hour care needed to care for them. I am not blaming them by any means or denying that I had failed to take care of myself properly for some time. But, in short I found myself after losing both parents, losing my job and deep into a depression I never saw coming. Thus when N.J. decided I needed to do some community service work I felt as if everything was falling apart in my life.
However, after meeting with Nick White and Cindy Cooper I found something I had not seen in quite some time. I found people actually willing to work with my situation and also willing to do whatever it took to help me complete my service work. They understood my health situation and worked to find the best possible scenario where I could be some help to them while fulfilling my obligations to New Jersey. At first I was asked to help out in the thrift store that is on the property and helps fund some of the work being done with families in need or individual needs of others. The store is dependent on other kind hearted individuals that for whatever reason decided that some of their possessions were no longer needed or wanted and instead of either throwing them away or selling them themselves donated the articles to the store. These items range from clothing, dishes, DVDs to knickknacks and hair dryers. I have always loved shopping in thrift stores as you never know what you’ll find and the prices on items can save you a lot of money. Due to leg and circulation problems I unfortunately was not able to put a lot of hours in this position.
So I was offered another position in the shredding room which worked better for my situation because I was then able to either sit or stand to complete my tasks. Although this might seem to others to be a menial job I can’t express enough the absolute trust and reliance this position occurs as I was shredding confidential documents dealing with client’s addresses etc. and various details of their lives. The position allowed me to help my state while fulfilling my obligation, as it was not necessary to hire and pay someone to shred these documents.
Earlier I wrote how sometimes things might seem one way when in truth they have been put into your path as opportunities to have a more fulfilling life. When I first was told about the community service hours I would need to do I was not exactly excited about the commitment I would need to fulfill. However, after getting a taste of doing service work I find that now once my commitment to New Jersey is over I sincerely wish to try and help Family Services in a volunteering way. My experience with Family Services has opened a desire within me to not only do all I can to help my health situation get better but also has given me hope that despite my condition there are many situations out there where I may be able to meet a need for others. Without a doubt New Jersey has helped me survive in my time of need with services that help me with my prescription costs, fuel costs and if necessary transportation to my various appointments and I feel a need within me to be able to repay these services or at least attempt to show they were not given to me in vain.
My new desire to do service work comes also at a time when a AARP article reminded me that my services may be able to be used in helping the elderly or possibly helping out at the nearest Food Bank. Then there is the program I watched on TV on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where I observed how much one life can affect and influence people toward helping others. I also heard a commentary on Dr. King which in essence said the best way to honor him was not by merely observing the holiday named for him but in doing service work on this day. I am aware now that the Lord has been sending me messages but I was not able to receive them due to being all wrapped up in my own problems.
It took the state of NJ and the caring people at Family Services to get my attention and to realize that while there may be a lot of things I am not able to do any longer, there are still a lot of things I can do that may be of service to others. I am sincerely looking forward to being a part of Family Services for many years to come.
Family Service Association is a multi-service, not-for-profit, United Way agency that serves over 18,500 children, adolescents and adults annually. As the needs of the people in this community have become evident, Family Service Association has responded by providing needed services. The agency will enter the next century with a creative administration and service delivery structure. We are excited about the challenge to serve the growing and diverse needs of southern New Jersey families and communities.