Cuts to funding not stopping Nutley Family Services Bureau

NUTLEY —

A funding scare notwithstanding, Nutley Family Services Bureau is still functioning, reports executive director Eileen Painter.

NFSB is a nonprofit 501(c)3 charity with a century-old legacy responding to mental health and social service needs of township residents and beyond.

The Chestnut St.-based agency, located just a stone’s throw from the township’s Public Affairs offices, NFSB – which operates a food pantry and thrift shop – has traditionally relied on the township for a portion of its income.

But in 2017, Nutley pared its grant funding to the agency, from $65,000 – the amount allocated since 2009 – to $32,500 and that amount “was slated to be eliminated in 2018,” according to a bureau press release.

However, “on July 25, [township] Commissioner [Steven] Rogers informed us [the grant] would be $25,000 in 2018, primarily for the food pantry,” the release said. “This is very new information and specifics are forthcoming.”

Currently, the bureau is housing the pantry operation in the basement of 169 Chestnut, the former Nutley Red Cross building which it acquired in January 2016.

Rogers told The Observer that his department would be providing some funding to the bureau in January but declined to disclose the amount.

“The bureau has demonstrated to me there is a need for their services,” Rogers said.

However, it remains unclear whether the township’s contribution – whatever it turns out to be – will be sufficient to meet the need for the pantry and/or other services.

The food pantry, the bureau’s largest social service, is limited to eligible Nutley residents and “currently serves over 200 participants bi-weekly and is staffed by volunteers,” according to the bureau.

“While food is donated by Nutley residents and community partners, the NFSB facility and management costs are $40,000 to $50,000 a year. NFSB assumed responsibility from Red Cross in 2016, aware of the increased financial obligations it carried.”

The bureau acknowledged that the overall reduction of the township’s fiscal commitment “leaves a gap for part of Food Pantry plus other program and overhead expenses.”

Nonetheless, the bureau said, “NFSB firmly believes residents value our diverse services. We will pursue other funding opportunities before considering any reduction of services.”

As an example of its other services, the bureau’s Thrift Shop, operating from 172 Chestnut, is a community re-sale shop, staffed by volunteers, which offers with gently-used donated clothing items to the public and 100% of the proceeds support NFSB programs and services.

Bureau management can provide needy Nutley residents with vouchers for the Thrift Shop.

Along with the township assistance, the bureau also relies on thrift shop proceeds, private and corporate donations and outside grants to meet its operating expenses.

The bureau says its “major focus” is to provide “quality, affordable, accessible psychotherapy counseling that address a wide range of people’s concerns. Our insurance-based model is NFSB’s largest revenue source and is utilized by residents of Nutley and other communities …. Nutley residents receive preferential consideration as appropriate in scheduling, fee adjustments and payment plans.”

Group therapy sessions are developed in conjunction with the township and local organizations, such as Nutley Empowering Teens, Girls Teen Leadership, KIDS, Social Skills and Men’s Connection, and are free to Nutley residents.

NFSB will respond to “urgent requests” from appropriate community stakeholders, for such things as crisis counselors supporting Nutley High School and the township or emergency student evaluation to allow return-to-school after incidents, if appropriate, typically at no cost.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.