The Haddon Heights Experience
In the 1970s public assistance 'welfare' programs in New Jersey were managed largely through a network of County Boards of Social Services. However, each community also had its own General Assistance Program to provide aid for certain individuals who did not qualify under the state's welfare guidelines. The amounts available to such individuals were limited to a money payment of less than $200 per month, plus some limited medical coverage. In addition, a low personal income threshold disqualified a host of people who earned more than a few hundred dollars per month. Thus every local community had a small population of at-risk residents who were poor, disabled and in need. Since then, New Jersey encouraged the elimination of local assistance boards, concentrating most assistance at the County level. The change did not solve the ongoing dilemma of how to render some assistance to those who failed to meet the criteria for county or local assistance.
Back in 1980, Sue Watson, the Welfare Director at Haddon Heights, was experiencing problems in trying to get appropriate relief to persons in need of help but who simply "fell through the net" of government programs. Sue heard of an organization called the "Good Cheer Club" in nearby Audubon and decided to meet with its president. That meeting led to the eventual formation of Haddon Heights Good Neighbors, Inc.
Based on the Audubon Good Cheer idea, Sue Watson invited representatives from the churches, schools, businesses and civic organizations in Haddon Heights to serve on an initial committee that would organize and oversee the start-up of HHGN