Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 22
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

CARING COUNSEL: “The people I’ve worked with on the Trinity Counseling Service Board of Trustees and on the Bastille Day Celebration Committee are some of the most wonderful people I’ve met. These connections with people are a great joy.” The Reverend Peter K. Stimpson is director of Trinity Counseling Service, which offers counseling in many areas.

Bastille Day Celebration Scheduled for July 11 as Fund-raiser for Trinity Counseling Service

When you need help, it is an enormous relief to know that it is available. It is even more heartening to know that it will be there for you regardless of ability to pay, that a time of financial hardship will not stand in the way of your getting needed counseling.

This is certainly not always the case, but it is the way of Trinity Counseling Service (TCS). This nonprofit counseling service offers help in many areas, including individual, marital, and family therapy. There is a sliding scale of payments, and no one is turned away. “We see 400 people a week, says The Reverend Peter K. Stimpson, Trinity Counseling director. “67 percent of them need some degree of financial aid. People with more financial need have greater stress.”

In order to provide its wide range of services, as a nonprofit organization, TCS relies on the generosity of the community, including individuals, corporations, organizations, and institutions.

“We have an annual appeal during the holidays, but our major fund-raiser is the Bastille Day Celebration in July,” notes Father Stimpson.

Many people in town look forward to this special event with the French focus, which has been held for the past 26 years. How it came to be the fund-raiser for TCS is a unique Princeton story, he adds.

“Sally and the late Bill Sword were in Paris in 1950, and Bill proposed on Bastille Day, July 14. They had a party every year to celebrate the occasion on Bastille Day, and when Sally was President of the Trinity Counseling Service Board, she recommended ‘Bastille Day’ as the name for our fund-raiser. It has been a great success.”

Paris Trip

And it has grown in all ways, from numbers of people attending to funds raised — from $7,500 the first year to $115,000 in 2006. It has included dinner, dancing, silent auctions, car raffles, and even a chance to win a trip to Paris!

“People have a really good time at the Bastille Day Celebration,” reports Father Stimpson. “They dance the night away! Personally, I have loved every celebration, and we’re glad to have an event born out of a happy marriage.”

This year, because of the difficult financial circumstances affecting so many, the celebration will be on a somewhat smaller scale.

“As a result of these economic times, TCS is making a concerted effort to raise the necessary funds to keep providing our much needed services, while understanding that everyone, including our contributors, is feeling the pinch,” says Lynne Davis, incoming President of the TCS Board. “We have therefore determined that we will lower the price to attend the celebration but still offer a celebratory evening to reach those in need.”

The event will be held at the Beden’s Brook Club on July 11, and instead of dinner, there will be abundant, tasty hors d’oeuvres and drinks, as well as dancing, with The Rich Posmontier Ensemble providing music. The cost to attend is $150, and invitations will be sent out, notes Father Stimpson, adding, “If someone has not received an invitation and would like to come, they can call or email TCS. If they are unable to attend, they can still make a donation.

“The economic recession has brought in a lot of new clients,” he continues. “The typical problem is a man who has lost his job and becomes depressed. Arguments with his wife increase; and their child, whose world is falling apart, and not knowing how to cope amidst all the stress, acts out in school.

Demand For Services

“Counseling for this family can be individual for the depression of the husband, marital for the stress of the couple, and child/family therapy for their child. Tragically, the demand for services like this has skyrocketed at the same time donations have dropped. This year, the Bastille Day Celebration will designate all of its funds to helping families like this one who have been so affected by the recession.”

Since 1968, TCS has been offering help to the Princeton community and beyond. Problems treated include anxiety and stress, depression, post traumatic stress, alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, bereavement, marital, parenting, and school problems.

Originally associated with Trinity Episcopal Church, TCS became independent in 1977, while still maintaining a warm relationship with Trinity Church and the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, explains Father Stimpson.

Founded by the late Rev. Rugby Auer, who believed it was important for the community to address the counseling needs of the poor, as well as others, TCS has grown from an organization with Father Auer, one psychologist and one secretary to 21 counselors in several areas: three psychiatrists, six psychologists, six social workers, four clergy, and two professional counselors.

Quality Counseling

Father Stimpson, director for the past 20 years, holds both a Master of Theology and Master in Social Work degrees, and he continues to counsel clients. “To communicate love for people through counseling is what gets me up in the morning. That defines my ministry,” he explains. “I’m in a unique position as a priest and a licensed social worker. This is my ministry: to make sure that all people are entitled to quality counseling.”

All ages, including children as young as three, are helped at TCS. “We created the Childhood Intervention Initiative, a collaboration with TCS, the Princeton Regional School System, and Princeton Nursery School,” says Father Stimpson. “The focus is early identification and intervention in behavioral and developmental problems, and catching a problem before it spirals out of control. Clients can be at risk children in low income families, and counseling is free-of-charge.”

The counselors see people who are struggling with a variety of difficulties, he adds, with depression currently the major problem. “We also treated 53 clients who had walked out of the Twin Towers on September 11, and were dealing with many problems from that,” he adds.

In addition to its sliding payment plan, PTC is notable for its setting: the former Trinity Church rectory. “We are located in a house,” explains Father Stimpson. “When people enter a house, they are much more at ease. A therapist is there to greet people, my door is ajar, and we give people a warm welcome.”

That is reassuring to clients facing any number of personal problems, and Father Stimpson, who is also author of a recently published book Map to Happiness, is especially glad that more people are willing to seek counseling help today than was true in the past.

“The beginning of strength is the admission of weakness,” he points out. “I have loved being able to offer care to people in need. And, no one is turned away.”

Counseling sessions are generally one-on-one and last an hour. The standard fee is $130, and payment arrangements can be made. Insurance coverage is available.

Hours are Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday until 5. (609) 924-0060. Website: and email:

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