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Center For Great Expectations To Receive $1.5 Million From State

Mayor Phil Kramer, Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Center for Great Expectations CEO Peg Wright, left to right, talk during the lawmakers’ tour of the Center.

Leaders at the Center for Great Expectations – the group that provides services for expectant women at risk and women recovering from substance use, and their young children – thought they were losing $1 million due to a cutback in federal funding.

Enter state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Mayor Phil Kramer.

A successful lobbying effort by the trio resulted in a $1.5 million allocation for the Center being added to the state’s 2023 budget.

The three visited the Center at its Dellwood Lane headquarters on July 27 for a tour and a thank-you from CEO Peg Wright and her staff.

Wright founded the organization in 1998, working out of a house in Somerville for a decade before buying three acres on Dellwood and constructing two buildings there, one for adults and their children needing long-term treatment for substance use and mental health disorders, the other, the state’s only residential program serving adolescents with mental health disorders, who are pregnant or parenting, according to the Center’s web site.

The Center delivers a variety of services to about 1,000 women, men and children women and their children yearly, according to its web site.

The Center’s roughly $8 million budget is funded by federal and state grants and private fundraising, Wright said.

The prospect of losing one-eighth of her budget was daunting, Wright said.

The money from the state, she said, is “a huge boost.”

“We lost a lot of federal money, It will allow us to continue to do this critical work and even potentially look at an expansion,” she said.

Coughlin (D-19) was impressed by what he saw.

“What we ought to do as a legislature, as a government body, is care about people, first and foremost,” he said. “And that’s what the folks here do. Being able to in large measure restore the million dollars they lost in federal funding and give a little more means they’ll be able to better serve, better care for the people of New Jersey.”

“We spend a lot of money on a lot of different things,” Coughlin said. “When you can talk about affecting the lives of someone who is in the kind of peril that I suspect a lot of the people who come through here are … how can you not be touched by fact that they’re getting an opportunity they might not otherwise had?”

Peg Wright.

“You really are making a difference,” Coughlin said to Wright. “To be able to be supportive of something like that makes you feel like you’ve done a good day’s work.”

Danielsen (D-17) was introduced to the Center by political lobbyist Dale Florio, a member of the Center’s Advisory Board.

“Dale Florio brought Joe Danielsen in to show him the work that we did,” Wright said. “He was terribly impressed and went to Assemblyman Coughlin, and the rest is history.”

Kramer said that although he had a glancing knowledge of what the Center did, he did not realize the full extent of its services until the July 27 tour.

“I always knew that they had a great mission, and they were fulfilling that mission, young mothers in need,” he said. “I didn’t understand until today the enormous things they’re doing and how they’re helping these people not just get through a rough spot but get through their lives. So, I’m incredibly impressed.”

Danielsen said he and Kramer recognized what the Center does “as a critical service that’s based in Franklin Township.”

“The mayor and I have been in the trenches for years to identify the most critical needs and responding to that need,” he said. “We’re proud that we’re able to facilitate, along with other strategic partners like Assembly Speaker Coughlin, $1.5 million, assuring them they don’t have to shut their doors or turn away women.”

Coughlin said the Center should receive the money is a few months, once the allocation process has been completed.

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