Meet Moorestown’s 92-Year-Old Citizen of the Year

For most South Jersey residents, the word wealth comes to mind when thinking of the historic Burlington County community of Moorestown. Less well-known is the town’s poverty, including the many residents who live in the town’s 633 affordable-housing units.

For over a quarter of a century, Monique Begg has been a heroine to more than 500 of the town’s underprivileged youth.

For her work to support them through the Friends Enrichment Program (FEP), a Quaker-based organization she founded in 1997 with the help of the Moorestown Monthly Meeting, she was lauded as Moorestown’s 2024 Citizen of the Year.

Begg, 92, is still a driving force in the organization she founded for underserved young people and their parents.  She was inspired to start FEP when she noticed that  low-income children were getting in trouble with the Moorestown police, not for criminal acts, but for nuisances offenses like “making noise at all hours, picking people’s flowers, running into streets, and riding their bikes on sidewalks and people’s property,” she says. “Nobody wanted to help. People started saying, ‘They don’t belong here, they’re not like us,  meaning,  ‘They don’t have the money we have, they’re not the right color.’

“That’s when God started pushing me around,” Begg, a devout Quaker (Religious Society of Friends), remembers. “I said, ‘We need to work with the troubled young people to train them to become leaders. The kids need more activities to keep them busy and out of trouble.’”

Since its founding, FEP has provided more than 1,100 scholarships to fund music, art, dance and karate lessons, summer camp, leadership programs and sports clinics for Moorestown’s impoverished youth. Sunday-afternoon educational programs, often with an environmental focus, are also offered to FEP participants and their parents.

“My hope,” Begg says, “is that FEP will be replicated in other communities.”

Rachel Simmons was a troubled 12-year-old who joined FEP while a student at Moorestown’s William Allen Middle School.

“I was exposed to many things that I may have never had the chance to, with my mother being a mother of six,” Simmons says. “I wouldn’t be the successful woman I am today without this program. It literally saved my life.

“Mrs. Begg never gave up on me. I am who I am today because she believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.”

Simmons earned a B.A. in psychology from Rutgers and is working on her master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis. She’s employed as a school therapist, program director and vocational coach.

“I love Mrs. Begg  like she is my very own grandmother, and she will forever have the most precious place in my heart,” she says.

FEP partners with the Moorestown Library and Parks and Recreation Department,  and the Perkins Center for the Arts,  for its programs. The nonprofit receives annual grants from the D’Olier Foundation and the local First Presbyterian Church. Fellow Quakers and other benefactors have chipped in with fundraisers and donations.

Begg, a French Canadian, grew up Catholic, with wealth and a maid. Before moving to Moorestown in 1978, she and her late husband, Edwin, were known in Medford as rabble-rousers and were targets of hostility because of their support for progressive and environmental issues, especially the health of Medford’s lakes. Says her son Daniel, “None of this stopped my courageous parents from continuing their activism.”

Her son notes the irony that his mother went from nearly being arrested in Medford for her outspokenness to being named Citizen of the Year in Moorestown almost 50 years later.

To learn more about the Friends Enrichment Program and how you can help, click here or visit the Facebook page of the Friends Enrichment Program.

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