Every month, Relax Teams invite one non-profit organization to highlight during its Free "Monthly Lunch and Learn Event”. This month’s focus is on Middle Earth (https://middleearthnj.org/), a non-profit, community-based agency located in Somerset County, New Jersey that has been providing services to adolescents since 1972.
In the video above, Marie Strada, Executive Director of Middle Earth shares how the organization started and what they do. Watch the video and hear about their passion for kids and how you can give your support.
Marie shares how Dan Pontillo, the previous Executive Director said yes to a dream work situation for her 24 years ago. They always had a real passion for working with the youth that they serve especially in the communities that are most at risk. Middle Earth is going on its 50th year next year which is definitely hitting a big milestone.
Middle Earth is much more than fun and games for kids. They provide a safe space for kids with good positive role models, structure, and support. The organization serves youth in Somerset county and they tend to focus more on the needier communities. They have a very heavy presence in Bound Brook, Manville, and North Plainfield among others.
How they started
The organization started as a drop-in center in a church basement in Somerville in direct response to kids who came up to community leaders and asked for a safe place to hang out. The church offered a basement and with a group of volunteers, that's how Middle Earth got started.
From the drop-in center, they have expanded greatly over the years. For a long time, they were known as working with “bad kids” who were known to the police or involved in the juvenile justice system. Today, they work with kids as young as 8 years old and as old as 24.
List of Middle Earth Programs:
- Drop-in centers
- Lunchtime mentoring in schools
- A very structured after-school program
- Station house adjustment program
- Employment readiness program
- Student leadership program
Marie also mentions that they are getting young leaders in the community who get passionate about wanting to make their community better so they have a lot of different programs serving a lot of different age ranges than what they're used to. The principles are all the same which is to give kids safety, good positive role models, and teach them about making good choices.
How can we help?
During this time of the pandemic, the organization welcomes any assistance with getting food and clothing among other needs of the families they serve. There are one-time volunteer opportunities and board member positions for those who want to get more involved.
Learn more about the organization.