Oliver family announces Sheila Y. Oliver Civic Association

Organization aims to mentor, nurture and support next generation of female leaders of color

Renee Oliver, the niece of the late Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, announced Monday that the family is creating an organization to honor her legacy and carry forward her mission of supporting the underserved.

The ultimate goal of the Sheila Y. Oliver Civic Association is simple: To find and nurture the next Sheila Oliver. Leaders, Renee Oliver said, who put community first.

“This is why it’s so important to keep her legacy and name alive,” she said. “There may be a 20-something-year-old girl out there who is interested in being in government but is not aware of who Sheila Oliver is — or the great women in government who came before or after her.

The late Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver at her swearing-in ceremony. (Courtesy photos)

“We want to find them, mentor them, give them resources and support and connect them with other women political leaders who are doing the work right now. That’s what we plan to do through this association.”

The Sheila Y. Oliver Civic Association, which officially launches Monday, is about helping all women, especially those in underserved communities, tackle any number of issues, Renee Oliver said.

“At its core, the association is there to help uplift and empower the next Sheila Olivers of the world so that they, too, can go out into government, public policy or community organizing and create their own legacies,” he said.

“We are uplifting young women of color, yes. But we are also reaching out to women in all disadvantaged communities and educating them so that they can achieve both economic and social success.”

Details of how the organization will work are still being finalized, but Renee Oliver said you can expect the association to not only mentor, but provide scholarship opportunities, as well.

Renee Oliver.

The organization, which already has received funding from a number of groups, intends to partner with other nonprofit organizations and with members of the business community who are aligned with its mission and vision. (See more details on its website, sheilaoliver.com.)

And, while Sheila Oliver is best known for her work in Essex County, most notably Newark and East Orange, the organization will be statewide, according to her nephew, Charles Oliver.

Charles Oliver said the Sheila Y. Oliver Civic Association intends to be active in a number of areas that affect those in underserved communities, most notably affordable housing. In addition tos serving as lieutenant governor under Gov. Phil Murphy, Sheila Oliver was commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.

“A core part of the mission of this organization will be to help those in disadvantaged communities not only achieve economic social status, but also offer them relevant programs, services, education, employment and affordable housing,” he said.

“My aunt was a huge advocate for affordable housing. We want to carry that on.”

Charles Oliver.

The organization has announced plans for an inaugural Sheila Y. Oliver Legacy Brunch on July 20, 2024. Prior to that, Renee and Charles Oliver said the organization will work tirelessly to promote its purpose.

“Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was known throughout New Jersey as a beacon of hope for not only young women of color, but for individuals from all walks of life,” Renee Oliver said. “Our family believes that launching the Sheila Y. Oliver Civic Association is the best way to commemorate the enormous, positive impact she made and allow her to continue making a difference in peoples’ lives for decades to come.”

It’s all about keeping her spirit alive, Renee Oliver said.

“Our Aunt Sheila dedicated her life to public service and advocating for those whose voices were not always heard,” she said. “She inspired young women of color and helped the masses see that they have a place in the world of politics and government and that they can bring positive change to their communities.

“The Sheila Y. Oliver Civic Association will build on that legacy and work to provide the mentorship, training and support that disadvantaged individuals need to pursue their dreams of making a difference and fostering a more just society.”

Gov. Phil Murphy, long Oliver’s biggest cheerleader, said he was thrilled to hear the news.

“Lt. Gov. Oliver was a dear friend, colleague and my partner in government,” said Murphy. “She brought a unique and invaluable perspective to public policy and inspired millions of New Jerseyans, especially young women. I am heartened that her legacy will live on through the Sheila Y. Oliver Civic Association, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization founded to create pathways for young women of color to pursue careers in government, public policy and community organizing.”