As she sat in the Freehold office of 180 Turning Lives Around last week, Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks seemed at home talking to the employees of the county-based non-profit about their mission, a good portion of which entails talking to people at their most vulnerable times.
Hendricks heard stories of what brought the women to work for the company that specializes in helping people during times of crisis and shared her own stories from working in a similar field.
With a Executive Director Anna Diaz-White said 180 has been a resource hub for close to three decades and works closely with police departments across the county. As a Monmouth County resident, Hendricks said she was glad to meet the people from the organization as part of Gov. Chris Christie's Season of Service. "When I saw what they do I got very excited about it," she said.
The meeting was part of Gov. Chris Christie's "Season of Service," which also included members of his cabinet giving out free meals to people affected by Hurricane Sandy prior to Thanksgiving.
When given the choice of where she wanted to go, Hendricks said she knew what her first choice was. "There was a chance to come out and do site visits and I thought 'This is where I want to go,'" she said.
Prior to her time in the governor's cabinet, Hendricks said she had worked as a volunteer in similar fields. "It's part of something I care very deeply, personally and professionally for; and, I live in Monmouth County, so I thought 'I can't beat it,'" she said. "Here's a critical service right in my own county. Now I find out they do this work statewide and it's just amazing."
The secretary said organizations like 180 play a pivotal role in the state helping citizens at important times. "It's NGO's like this, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and individuals who get (the point) that as citizens, it's what we do that advance our state (that matters)," she said. "These are my 'sheroes' and I'm glad to spend time with them."
Diaz-White said she was glad to have Hendricks come to one of their offices to see what they do as they continue their service to the communities they work in. The 180 main office is in Hazlet, but the organization also operates out of the Monmouth County Courthouse, Howell and Neptune as well. "We were able to talk to her about certain things that we're doing or would like to do," she said. "She has access to the governor himself and other cabinet members so it's a tremendous plus for us."
She said the meeting can only help them in their service to the people who need them most. "An organization like us would never likely be able to contact or speak with members of the cabinet or the governor's office," she said, adding, "It's a great opportunity to raise awareness of our work among the people that call the shots."
For more information on 180 and its programs, check out the Web site.