Multicultural Family Success Center Opens to Meet the Needs of Community

Elizabeth, NJ ~ On Thursday, January 30, 2014, United Way of Greater Union County (UWGUC) joined with PROCEED, Inc., a UWGUC anchor partner, in the open house of the Multicultural Family Success Center (MFS Center). The MFS Center will serve the needs of families and residents in Elizabeth, NJ.  PROCEED held the open house to showcase to the community, stakeholders, elected officials, and funders, the work of the center and how its programs are designed to assist in strengthening families in need.  Generously funded by the Kellogg Foundation, the MFS Center welcomes diverse families representing many cultures, nationalities, languages, religions, and lifestyles.
“PROCEED, Inc. has been providing resources and tangible support to families for more than 40 years. The agency's close partnership with UWGUC is essential to actualizing our vision of a premier community-based, family-centered gathering place where families can come to receive needed information, services, and support. Our Open House was well attended by over 100 community members and leaders, and afforded us the opportunity to showcase our steadfast efforts to empower families, strengthen family functioning, and increase concrete family supports,” states Teresa Soto Vega, Executive Director of PROCEED, Inc.
All under one roof, the MFS Center’s staff strives to provide support for families in need through an extensive menu of services including: accessing child, maternal, and family health services; working with parents/guardians to develop family success plans; providing economic self-reliance and employment programs for parents; finding and giving information and referrals; conducting life skills training programs; providing housing referrals; organizing parenting workshops and parent-child bonding activities; advocating for families; conducting home visits for clients who are home bound, and more.
An “anchor partner” is a term used by UWGUC to identify charities that provide direct services to Communities of Concern.  In the spring of 2013, UWGUC debuted its community needs assessment study that identified ten (10) Communities of Concern and are characterized by poor school performance, high poverty rates, and less access to health care services: all issues that weaken families.  These characteristics include; 1) insufficient amount of educational programs and resources for children from infancy to young adulthood – 32% of children in Union County, ages 3-5, are not enrolled in early educational programs and many schools within Union County’s urban communities, were ranked as poor performing; 2) lack of employment and increases in underemployment of adults - the economic downturn has seriously become a huge hardship for families who are struggling to support themselves and their families, and; 3) a lack of access to health care resources.   In addition, the Union County population is constantly growing and diversifying, and more recently there has been a significant increase in the Hispanic/Latino population.
In its continuing efforts to target funding and resources to meet the needs of families, UWGUC uses data to assess community needs and then supports targeted efforts that address those needs.  UWGUC convenes strategic partners who serve as funders and/or volunteers within organizations that help support and fund anchor partners.  This formula for success has made UWGUC a significant participant in solving community issues.
“It is important for us to guide and focus on the outcomes our anchor partners achieve and continue to support those organizations making significant change in our communities,” states James W. Horne, President/CEO of UWGUC.  James continues, “in partnership with PROCEED we hope to make systematic change in the City of Elizabeth.”  UWGUC has identified major obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency in the City of Elizabeth and are committed to working with partners to reduce barriers for families seeking long-term, living-wage jobs.  UWGUC’s work with PROCEED will enhance its capacity to help families in need in the City of Elizabeth.