Our program featured Kelly Post-Sheedy who is the Executive Director of the Joseph H. Firth Youth Center in Phillipsburg. She is a 4thgeneration “Phillipsburger” and has been a perfect fit for the Center since she took over 4 years ago. The Center was established in 1954 through the generosity of Elizabeth Firth Wade, a singer and philanthropist who grew up in Phillipsburg.
The changes in our communities were accelerated by the pandemic and the need to provide opportunities for our children has never been greater. Their normal schedule of afterschool programs, summer camp, and evening programs was disrupted in March 2020 and the Center had to quickly shift gears. A generous donor provided enough to distribute over 21,000 curbside lunches over an eight-month period. The staff turned their attention to social services helping people find employment and housing. They helped students complete and submit their applications for college. They distributed over 20,000 books through their affiliation with Cops ‘N Kids. School supplies were available for the kids studying at home in virtual classrooms.
The in-person programs gradually resumed as restrictions were lifted. They petitioned New Jersey for, and received, an emergency childcare license. That license is now permanent. This allows them to be open for full day childcare, five days/week from 8 AM until 6 PM. The Center served as host for the entire wrestling league because the sports were not allowed in their respective schools. Summer Camp returned in 2021 and 65 kids spent their days at the Center. The kids are introduced to concepts through “words of the week” such as resiliency, integrity, and responsibility. An annual dress boutique gives kids the opportunity to choose from hundreds of gowns and formal attire at a cost of $10/dress.
Kelly gave credit to the Center’s 13-member volunteer Board of Directors for their ongoing support. The families in Phillipsburg continue to rely on the Firth Youth Center to provide a safe, healthy, and educational environment for their children. For nearly 70 years, the Firth youth center has been a place where beautiful childhood memories are created.