Community Partnership: Gateway Community Action Partnership

Century Savings Bank collaborates with Gateway Community Action Partnership in support of the following programs. In addition, to financial support, Century employees volunteer hundreds of person-hours to helping make each of the following programs a success:

Gateway is consolidating its award-winning Literacy Volunteers of Salem/Cumberland program into a full-service literacy services department that addresses economic and health literacy issues as well as the adult basic education services currently provided.

Gateway department consolidation will incorporate homebuyer preparation, housing counseling, individual development account (IDA), and community credit union components from a financial literacy standpoint along with a health literacy component provided through the existing expertise of the agency’s Head Start and Women, Infants & Children (WIC) programs.

Gateway’s Literacy Volunteers program reorganized in 2009 and transitioned from an adequate program to an exemplary one that has become a statewide model for excellence. Gateway’s Literacy Volunteers program received the Literacy New Jersey (LNJ) Alice M. Leppert Award for Outstanding Affiliate Achievement in 2011 and 2013. Gateway is both an LNJ affiliate and accredited by ProLiteracy.

Literacy, in terms of academic, economic or health, is the cornerstone of self-sufficiency and self-sufficiency and an improved quality of life are at the core of Gateway’s mission.

Literacy is that gateway to self-sufficiency for adult learners in Salem and Cumberland counties. Training volunteer tutors, matching them with motivated adult learners and providing on-going support for that match are essential ingredients to program success.

Learners achieve grade level improvement that is measured annually by the program’s trained assessors and these advancements improve their employment situation, create new and better employment opportunities and make them higher functioning individuals or family members who are more engaged with the important, everyday decisions life requires.

Gateway’s Literacy Volunteers has expanded services to include collaborative efforts with Pathstone and Revive SJ to provide ESL and conversational classes.

Gateway Literacy Volunteers believes everyone should have an opportunity to read. Literacy Volunteers exists to improve the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills of adults in Cumberland and Salem counties who read at or below the sixth grade level. We bring dedicated adult learners and committed, well-trained volunteers together for their mutual growth and satisfaction and for the good of their families and the community by providing free, student-centered instruction.

More than 40 million adults in the United States are functionally illiterate. They cannot read a newspaper, fill out a job application, or share a story with their children at bedtime. More importantly, these adults cannot read street signs or even the directions for medications that they give to their children. Many lack the skills to cope successfully as workers, parents, and citizens. They may have good work experience, and a solid work ethic, but their inability to read keeps them from achieving their goals.

More than two million residents of New Jersey speak a language other than English at home. Strengthening English skills can help non-native speakers become more confident, productive and active members of their communities, which improves and strengthens those communities.

Adult learners are paired with volunteer tutors in their area. Tutors and learners meet once a week for one to two hours in a private space in a public place, such as the local library. Tutoring sessions are scheduled at a mutually convenient time and day.

Tutor training classes meet once a week for 5 weeks and are held at various locations in Salem and Cumberland counties. Day and evening training is available.

Tutors must be 18 years of age or older, with a high school diploma or equivalent. Tutors should be able to understand English well enough to communicate clearly. Interested volunteers must complete the 15-hour training and required course work to be eligible to tutor.

Training is free, but tutors are asked to commit to one year of volunteer tutoring. Tutors and learners meet once a week for one to two hours in a private space in a public place.

In 2014, Gateway’s Literacy Volunteers program continued to train tutors in county-specific sessions in Salem and Cumberland counties. Numbers reflect a slightly higher illiteracy rate in Cumberland County 21% compared to 15% in Salem) as well the larger population in Cumberland as compared to Salem.

  • 28 trained tutors, including 8 in Salem County
  • 88 total trained tutors on roster
  • 62 active tutors (18 in Salem County)
  • 46 matched tutors (12 in Salem County)
  • 43 learners assessed (7 in Salem County)
  • 57 active learners (40 basic literacy, 17 ESL)

In addition to having two members of the Century Savings Bank staff serve as volunteer tutors, our supports provides:

  • Tutor training books and additional education materials
  • Staff prep and instructional time
  • Tutor/learner assessments, matches and on-going support
  • Direct service staff support of tutor/learner match process

Gateway’s Literacy Services Department conducts First Time Home Buyer education classes to educate potential homebuyers in every aspect of the home buying process. Classes are designed to help potential homebuyers understand budgeting and credit, mortgage and financing, shopping for a house, home maintenance and the closing process. According to recent New Jersey Kids Count, approximately 60 percent of Cumberland County families spend more than 30 percent of their household income on rent. That is third highest in the state. In Salem, it is approximately 52 percent and in Gloucester, it is approximately 50 percent.

As part of a Literacy Services Department, housing counseling, first time homebuyer, IDA and credit union clients will be referred, as appropriate, to vital adult basic education literacy services. Likewise, health literacy activities and services information will be shared with clients who enter Literacy Services through home ownership/housing.

Housing Counseling/IDA/First Time Home Buyer Program

  • Century sponsors a dozen participants for six-session course to cover costs for materials, staff prep and instructional time and light refreshments. Bank staff have also volunteered to provide instruction on topics including: Budgeting, Loan Application Process and Establishing Good Credit among others.

Gateway Community Action Partnership is Mill Creek Urban Farm, a three-acre community farm on the site of a former housing project on Mill Street in Bridgeton, was created in 2009 to generate a sustainable source of food for area residents and promote community building.

Gateway is utilizing the Earth Box container gardening system, two greenhouses that include hydroponics, and plantings in raised beds to generate a sustainable food source. The Mill Creek Urban Farm has approximately 1,300 Earth Boxes in use. Gateway staff is nurturing and harvesting plants that include tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, squash, green beans, melons and salad greens and distributing the produce throughout the community.

Gateway has created a network of volunteers from the community to help in this project. Gateway has also developed a community garden section of the farm where residents grow their own produce. The hydroponics facility also houses an employment and training program that focuses on individuals with disabilities and disadvantages.

  • Century Savings Bank and Mill Creek Urban farm partner to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to area seniors and low-income individuals at area community centers, adult day care and senior housing complexes.

The five Head Start Centers serving 255 children in Gloucester County will continue a savings education program provided by Century Savings Bank.

The bank, center, and administrative staff collaborate to make savings fun for the pre-school children and help plant the seeds for economic literacy that will grow for the entire family. Century will also make banking information available to families and provide basic sessions on savings and budgeting.
Each child will receive a piggy bank and $1 in quarters to get their very own savings started and be part of a program-ending party that celebrates a collective goal achieved.