ProJeCt of Easton

ProJeCt of Easton

by Liz Reph

In the spring of 1968 America was in turmoil. Demonstrations protesting the war in Vietnam and the draft, that many believed unfairly targeted poor and minority people, were erupting throughout the nation, while racial tensions, already frayed from years of Civil Rights struggles, were becoming increasingly volatile.

In April of 1968, this explosive atmosphere reached a new peak after an assassin’s bullet struck down Martin Luther King Jr., killing him outside a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. When news of his murder reached the public, widespread riots and violent demonstrations erupted throughout the nation – causing many to wonder whether the country was ripping apart at the seams.

It was during this tumultuous time that a small group of religious and community leaders came together to create ProJeCt of Easton – a social support organization committed to combatting the rising tide of social injustice and poverty in the Easton area. “These people didn’t say, ‘who can fix this’,” said Janice Komisor, Executive Director of ProJeCt. “They said, ‘we can fix this.’ And that sort of simple activism, born in the 1960s, continues to be our inspiration today – the idea that if you have the will to come together and find ways to work together, you can solve the problem.”

Although named to reflect the founders’ inter-faith Protestant, Jewish and Catholic roots (which are visual in the name’s unique capitalization), ProJeCt is not a faith-based organization. Rather, it was, and continues to be, dedicated to assisting any individual or family in need. In the early years, this included the formation of basic need and self-sufficiency services such as a food pantry, a dental clinic, a baby clinic, a youth center, a shelter program, a drop-in center for the disabled and a citywide weatherization and housing rehabilitation program.

“There are people who live in your community, who everyday must make real, hard choices between things such as deciding whether to fill a prescription, or pay the heating bill, or put food on the table,” said Komisor. “And when people can’t meet these basic needs, it creates an instability in their lives that in turn makes it even more difficult to break the cycle of poverty.”

Bruce Ehly, a 66-year-old from Easton, understands all too well the reality of making these kinds of hard choices. “I pay rent and utilities and everything else, so month-to-month my money is extremely tight,” explained Ehly. “A little while ago, I was having trouble with my vision and I couldn’t afford to go see a doctor. So ProJeCt of Easton gave me a voucher to get an exam and a pair of glasses – all free of charge. I appreciate that to no end, because without their assistance I never would have been able to take care of my vision, and it would have continued to cause problems.”

In 1979, ProJeCt of Easton expanded its services to include a volunteer run literacy program for adults. In the 1980s, this education initiative was further enlarged to include formal classroom instruction with professional teachers aimed at every level learner. An afterschool program, a summer literacy day camp, and the Easton Middle School Success Program were also added to help provide at-risk school children with year-round support.

“Our overall approach is holistic because our needs as people are holistic,” explained Komisor. “Poverty is a vortex that impacts all aspects of life, so we offer three tiers of assistance – basic need, self-sufficiency and lifelong learning – which, when woven together, can make a measurable impact in people’s lives.”

Today, educational programs aimed at long-term benefits continue to be a major component of the organization’s efforts.  The summer SIZZLE!® program, which helps disadvantaged school children avoid the “summer slide” – a dip in literacy skills that is often more pronounced in children from lower-income families and whose cumulative effect can ultimately lead to dropping out of school and diminished employment opportunities – is available every summer for Easton Area school kids in grade Kindergarten through 4th. Likewise, programs targeting adults and families, such as adult basic literacy, English as a second language, GED preparation and family literacy classes, are run year-round out of ProJeCt’s Fowler Literacy Center on Ferry Street in Easton.

“To me, everything we do at ProJeCt of Easton is an investment in the future of this community,” said Komisor. “Whether you see it in altruistic terms or practical terms, the reality is you cannot prosper and thrive as a community when you have a critical mass of poor people. That’s why we are committed to programs with proven efficacy.

The worst thing anyone can do is to believe that poverty has to exist, because it doesn’t. The truth is, we can solve this problem, and we can build a better community by helping peoplehelp themselves.”


Impact at a Glance

ProJeCt of Easton provides assistance to more than 5,000 people per year in Easton and surrounding communities in the Lehigh Valley. This past year the organization provided support in the form of:

•310 nights of emergency shelter toindividuals

•20,000 bags of food to householdsin need

•Emergency fuel assistance to 111 senior citizens

•In-school life skills instruction for 298 middle school students

•Literacy education including reading, writing and math skills and/or English language/civics studies to 283 adults

•Helped 157 K-4 children to not only avoid the “summer slide”, but actually return to school with higher test scores than when they left


How You Can Get Involved

Simply Savory Event – On Monday, October 6th, ProJeCt of Easton will host its annual Simply Savory event at the Hampton Inn in Easton. The evening features a silent auction, raffle, entertainment and food, wine and beer from the Lehigh Valley’s best restaurants and culinary experts. Tickets are $75 per person and all proceeds benefit ProJeCt of Easton.  Please visit for more information.

Ongoing Support – ProJeCt of Easton is always in need of financial support, food and emergency donations and volunteer assistance.  For more information on how to become a sponsor or make a donation, please visit their website, stop by their administrative offices at 320 Ferry Street in Easton, or call 610.258.4361.

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