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Friends Enrichment Program helps underserved children

Moorestown resident has spearheaded nonprofit for decades

DANIEL BEGG/The Sun: A group of children enjoy the Friends Enrichment Program of Moorestown Meeting’s summer honeybee project at the Perkins Center for the Arts.

Since its 1996 inception, the Friends Enrichment Program of Moorestown Meeting (FEP) has helped provide underserved children in Moorestown with life-enriching activities and scholarships.

The nonprofit volunteer program has now raised more than $200,000; issued more than 1,000 scholarships to about 400 children; and performed a simple mission, to reach out to financially disadvantaged kids in the township with a message of love and inclusion.

The group also awards scholarships for summer camp, art classes or sports clinics, private music lessons and other positive activities at no cost to parents.

According to FEP head Monique Begg, after she began serving on the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Moorestown Meeting, she proposed that it produce a cookbook of Friends’ recipes filled with Quaker history, anecdotes and jokes, with proceeds dedicated to the provision of “wholesome recreational opportunities to underprivileged children of Moorestown.” 

The proposal was approved and a cookbook committee was assembled.

“What had pushed me to do this is that, at the time I undertook it, which takes – before you want to do the project and before you start doing it and you’ve got the approval of everybody – it takes about a couple of years,” Begg said. 

“We call this in Quaker terminology … ‘leading from the spirit,’ … when you’re pushed to do something you really don’t want to do against your will.”

In April of 1997, the “Moorestown Friends Heritage Cookbook” was published and quickly became a local bestseller, bringing in funds to help enroll kids in activities at the Perkins Center for the Arts, at summer camps and other places.

After the project ended, the First Presbyterian Church of Moorestown donated a substantial amount of money to the FEP, which has helped keep it going ever since. The group ran a weekly program of children’s activities in the Moorestown Friends Meetinghouse until March 2020, when the pandemic put a hold on in-person events. 

According to Begg, a few of the FEP’s activities that were offered at the meetinghouse are now being integrated into children’s programs at the Moorestown Library and Perkins Center for the Arts. She explained how COVID has made enrolling children in the program difficult, but acknowledged how meeting virtually has its benefits.

“(Now) when we enroll, and we try to enroll them (the children) with no face, just on paper, just through the internet (and phone) … it doesn’t work very well,” Begg noted. “The pandemic changed everything, plus the meetinghouse is not even open … The interesting thing is that people Zoom in and what’s interesting in the meeting is that, yes, we get members from old days.”

The FEP will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, and will host an event at the library on Sept. 10 related to the environment. Begg’s son Daniel noted how as the head of the organization, his mother would like to pass the torch to someone new.

“My mother has been the driving force of FEP,” he said. “It’s been her passion and her commitment that has made FEP possible and allowed it to flourish over the years.

“Now, of course we … have to phase into the next generation of FEP and bring in more volunteers.”

For more information, visit the FEP Facebook page.

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