Life Worth Living, Cumberland Prosecutor, Inspira Combine for $1M Grant from Sen. Bob Menendez
AC JosepH Media
VINELAND – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., joined John Fuqua, founder of the nonprofit Life Worth Living, Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae and other local leaders on Tuesday in announcing $1 million in Fiscal Year 2023 federal funding for the launch of a no-cost summer camp as well as year-round support services for youth in violence-impacted and disadvantaged areas in the county.
The federal grant will provide funding to purchase equipment and hire staff for the camp, which will also include 30,000 hours of supportive services to area youth between the age of 10 and 24, year-round case management services to address physical and mental health, mentoring for academic success, and economic mobility by an array of licensed providers.
The program will also expand access to area Police Athletic Leagues and local recreational activities through increased funding, training of youth/young adult volunteers, and addressing barriers to youth engagement.
“At Life Worth Living, our mottos are #WeBetterTogether and #DoTheWork,” Fuqua said in a statement released by Menendez’s office. “This bipartisan funding will allow this coalition to work together to actually do the work.”
Webb-McRae, a native of Vineland, said the funding will increase the collective impact of community-based organizations by increasing access to resources and activities which support youth living in communities most impacted by violence.
“The Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to violence prevention and intervention efforts aimed at improving outcomes for at-risk youth,” Webb-McRae said. “I thank Senators Menendez and [Cory] Booker, as well as Congressman [Jeff] Van Drew, for securing the funding for the Cumberland County Youth Violence Cessation Initiative.
“This truly is a foundational investment in public safety that will pay dividends in Cumberland County for years to come.”
Amy Mansue, president and CEO of Inspira Health, which will also participate in the grant, said the funding will have a positive impact on addressing the violence affecting Cumberland County families and children.
“Each year we receive more than 400 visits that are related to violence of some kind at Inspira Medical Center Vineland,” Mansue said. “We urgently need to correct this problem, and this initiative and these funds are critically important to helping curb the cycle of violence in this community.”
Menendez said the grant’s coordinators, such as Life Worth Living, Webb-McRae’s office and Inspira, are setting into motion concrete action to make a difference.
“They aren’t just talking about making a difference for local kids, they’re taking action,” Menendez said. “Because far too often, the work that goes on in Washington can feel disconnected from the residents and citizens it affects.
“As we come together to announce federal dollars going towards Cumberland County, I know that committed public servants like Amy, Jennifer, and John will use this funding to benefit the kids who call this area home. And as result, I know that Cumberland County’s best days are still to come.”
The funding is part of the $181 million for community projects that Sen. Menendez secured in the government spending bill that passed the Senate in December 2022. The projects the Senator fought for in the funding bill will make critical investments in education, health care services, infrastructure, and public safety and will help improve communities across the state.
“Addressing the gun violence epidemic and interrupting cycles of violence, especially among our youth, require a comprehensive, community-oriented approach like the one Cumberland County has undertaken,” Booker said in a statement. “I met last summer with Cumberland County officials and the dedicated organizations working to keep their communities safe, and our discussion renewed my conviction that we must invest in their life-saving work.
“I will always fight to bring home resources for research-backed initiatives like this that keep our youth from becoming involved in the criminal justice system and help our communities thrive.”
The violent crime rate for New Jersey was 195.4 crimes per 100,000 people while the national average was 398.5 crimes per 100,000 people. Cumberland County was more than double New Jersey’s and significantly higher than the U.S. as a whole at a rate of 421.2 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
In Bridgeton, along with the County’s two other major municipalities (Millville, and Vineland), Controlled Dangerous Substance with a Weapon arrests increased by 14.3% from 2018 to 2021 but increased by 300% for youth and young adults aged 10-25 years old.
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