NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–A close-knit network of corporate sponsors, volunteers, supporters and community members populated the Heldrich Hotel in downtown New Brunswick for the 10th anniversary gala of the Simuel Whitfield Simmons Organization (SWS).

On December 10, this red carpet event raised awareness and funds for the non-profit organization’s scholarship, which provides financial assistance for low-income students pursuing higher education.

While academic support is one pillar of  the organization, their work reaches beyond the wallets of community residents.

Based out of Somerset, SWS extends its helping hand to the entire state of New Jersey.

According to the U.S Census Bureau the 10.8% of the New Jersey’s population lives below the poverty line.

Research and advocacy organization Center for American Progress, notes that from 2013-2015, 11.1% of New Jersey’s households have experienced hunger and food insecurity, resulting from a lack of money or resources.

Through various programs and community outreach, SWS strives to battle economic inequalities in New Jersey.

Founder and creator, Natasha Rodgers, notes it’s important for SWS to meet the basic needs of its people first.

Rodgers centers the organization’s effort on finding out what needs people are lacking that prevents them from achieving success. Whether it is finding a job or pursuing higher education, the organization provides the necessary tools for people to achieve success.

This fulfillment of peoples’ basic needs first, is a holistic approach to generate success in all areas of life, says Rodgers. 

The resources provided range from sending children to school with proper classroom materials to providing people with socks and toiletries.

Greatly inspired by the path of her grandfather, Reverend Simuel Whitfield Simmons, who battled the social and economic ills spawned from the 1967 Newark riots, Natasha has continued on his legacy.

“It’s in the giving, it’s better to give than to receive.” This motto embodies and drives Rodgers and the organization.

Rodgers is a certified social worker in the state of New Jersey and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology.

After working at a few non-for-profit organizations, Rodgers says she realized that most non-for-profits are set up like a revolving door, and can quickly become temporary “band-aids” for serious problems, where immediate needs are met, but long-time solutions are not proposed.

SWS is a complete volunteer based, grass-roots organization, in which all funding goes directly to helping people.

Through strong corporate partnerships with organizations like the United Way, located in Bridgewater, and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the organization has provided services to many people throughout the state of New Jersey and parts of New York.

With an ever-growing increase in volunteers, Rodgers hopes that the organization will be able to meet all requests and basic needs of residents within the next five years.