Betty Morris had two very big families: one was her immediate family, with 16 children, as well as her family-at-large – the residents of the Marion Gardens Housing Complex.
By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View
Back in 1974, when the family was under threat, she took action by heading down to Washington D.C. to fight for the necessary funding to keep the complex alive.
“My mother was a selfless person,” said Lori Walker, the youngest of Morris’ 16 children.
“When the community was under threat, my mother said ‘No, not our home.’ She and her community members formed a team of people and they fought to keep our place to stay.”
Morris, who the executive director of the Jersey City Housing Authority, Vivian Brady-Phillips, called a “woman of action,” was honored by Jersey City officials and the community at-large yesterday when the city unveiled several investments into the public housing complex.
This included a new community center in her name, which will be home to an after school program offered in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County.
The city is also investing in a new Early Head Start facility at the complex and will also be revitalizing the Marion Gardens basketball court.
“This is so important because you know what education does? It gives a child the ability to dream, and make their dream a reality,” said Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman, who grew up the Marion Gardens complex.
The new community center also boasts a resident computer lab, kitchen, and a large meeting space that will accommodate resident programming, as well as private events, city officials said.
Furthermore, the after school program will provide academic programming and hands-on learning opportunities for children in second to eighth grades.
Additionally, the new Head Start program, which provides early childhood education, will be run by the Greater Bergen Community Action organization and will serve children up to five years old.
The investments are part of a broad “comprehensive after-school initiative at each JCHA family site,” including the Booker T. Washington, Curries Woods, Holland Gardens, and Hudson Gardens complexes, the city said.
At the event, Mayor Steven Fulop recognized the JCHA employees for their efforts.
“It is not easy work, you are in an environment with less and less dollars from the federal government and we need to figure out how to make that work, and somehow this team is figuring out a way,” he said.
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_