A friend to those in need

After heading the Friends Enrichment Program for disadvantaged and underserved Moorestown children for 22 years, resident Monique Begg is preparing to pass the torch.

Monique Begg has run the Friends Enrichment Program since it began in 1997. She is currently in the process of passing the torch to other volunteers who will be taking over leadership roles in the program.

If you have ever attended a Moorestown Council meeting or walked past the Main Street Starbucks on a Tuesday morning, you would probably recognize Monique Begg, a familiar face in Moorestown and someone who has devoted many years to the township’s less fortunate.

Since the spring of 1997 Begg has run the Friends Enrichment Program out of the Moorestown Friends Meetinghouse, on the grounds of Moorestown Friends School. At age 88, having headed the program for 22 years, she is ready to pass the torch and step into a more supportive role while someone else, equally passionate about the work, takes the reins. 

According to Begg, the mission of the FEP is to reach out to financially disadvantaged, underserved Moorestown children with a message of love and inclusion and with scholarships to attend summer camp, enroll in sports clinics or art classes, or participate in other life-enhancing, age-appropriate activities at no cost to their parents.

A regular attendee at township council meetings, Begg says through her involvement in and witnessing of discussions at these meetings she became aware of a need she felt was not being met.

“We (Begg and her husband) became really concerned that children of the people in affordable housing didn’t have what they needed in order to not get in trouble – which is appropriate supervision – they were not bad kids,” said Begg.

The initial funds needed to start the program came through the publication and sale of the Moorestown Friends Heritage Cookbook, which Begg oversaw herself.

“At the onset, it was that the proceeds would be dedicated to the provision of enrichment scholarships for financially disadvantaged Moorestown children, however I never expected that I would end up the leader of this,” said Begg. 

In spite of her best laid plans, she ended up succumbing to a growing drive she felt to help these children.

“Inside me I knew this is what I had to do,” said Begg.

To date, the FEP has been able to issue enrichment scholarships to more than 400 children. Typically, participants are referred to the program through Moorestown Upper Elementary School and Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development Inc. 

At its regular Sunday afternoon meetings, Begg says the FEP provides children with a safe place to hang out. They help them develop skills they will need to succeed in a competitive world that doesn’t always cater to the disadvantaged. 

Health, nutrition, leadership, science, personal finance, appreciation of nature and food preparation are just a few areas the FEP explores with children to help expand upon what they learn in school.

Begg believes that getting involved in an underprivileged child’s life at an early age can help offset some of the potential pitfalls young people in their situation fall victim to as they grow and instead set them up for future success. 

The FEP continues to meet regularly each Sunday at the Moorestown Friends Meetinghouse from 3 to 5 p.m. and is volunteer run. If you are interested in getting involved with or volunteering for the FEP, call Begg at (856) 235-3963 or email beggmoed@gmail.com.