ELIZABETH – Community Access Unlimited (CAU) celebrated the accomplishments and achievements of members, staff and community supporters during the last year at the agency’s 26th Annual Awards Night Celebration, held April 21 at L’Affaire in Mountainside. CAU supports people with disabilities and at-risk youth.
The agency honored eight community partners – businesses, organizations and public agencies – that support CAU and its members throughout the year as well as six members for their accomplishments in the last 12 months. The dinner also applauded staff members marking milestone anniversaries as well as members who are competitively employed.
“These are bad economic times,” said Sid Blanchard, CAU executive director. “We see children having their breakfast at school cut. People who rely on bus and train service can’t get to work or the doctor because those routes have been cut. These are times when we need to have heroes and heroines who step up and help us to new levels. Tonight we will recognize some of those heroes and heroines.”
Community partners play a significant role in supporting CAU and helping the agency to accomplish its mission of supporting people with special needs to enable them to lead more fulfilling and rewarding lives, according to Blanchard. That support comes in various forms, from grants and donations to mentorship and volunteerism to participating in CAU events, such as its annual walk-a-thon.
Those community partners honored at the dinner include:
- Jason Balsamello of Hillcrest Academy-South as Educator of the Year for assisting students to become academically successful in a non-traditional high school environment, including CAU members.
- Elizabeth Police Department as Citizen of the Year.
- Union Avenue Pharmacy with the Community Service Award for working closely with CAU to ensure that members receive their medications.
- George Hajjar of Five Star Medical Day Care with the Distinguished Community Service Award for his work developing social service programs throughout New Jersey.
- Charles Evans of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs with the Supportive Housing Service Award for ongoing support of CAU housing and youth programs.
- Dr. Kia Grundy and Dr. Kerri Powell of Trinity Pediatrics as Health Care Professionals of the Year for their care of CAU members.
- Donna McCourt, habilitation plan coordinator at the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities, with the Distinguished Social Service Award for her work with and support of CAU members and programs.
- Union County Savings Bank with the Community Partnership Award for ongoing support of CAU through donations, favorable lending and member support throughout the agency’s history.
“The bank has been truly fortunate to find an outlet for charitable giving such as Community Access,” said Donald Sims, president and chief executive officer of the bank. “The bank will continue to support you.”
CAU members honored included: Glenn Wilks as Community Support Member of the Year; Linda Fishwick as Supervised Apartment Program Member of the Year; Rose Miliano as Supported Living Apartment Program Member of the Year; Joy Smith as Employment Program Member of the Year; Danielle Daley as Recreation Member of the Year; and Jeneba Dorley as Youth Services Member of the Year.
“We very fortunate in this county to have a group of dedicated people who provide these kind of services to our residents,” said Union County Freeholder Alexander Mirabella. “Primarily it’s about independence for our residents that need assistance. The work that CAU provides to our residents to live independently is very important on many levels – self-esteem…being active in the community. That’s a voice that Union County values and needs to hear.”
Blanchard founded Community Access Unlimited in 1979 with a $90,000 grant to move 20 adults with developmental disabilities from state institutions and place them in the community, operating out his Volkswagen Beetle. Since then CAU has enabled more than 7,500 people with disabilities to live independently or semi-independently and become contributing members of the community while also providing them with a growing variety of supportive services.
CAU also has become a champion for at risk youth, operating the Union County Youth Shelter and long-term housing and providing training in skills, vocation and advocacy for youth from 13 to 21.
Sid Blanchard (right), executive director Community Access Unlimited CAU, congratulates Donald Sims, president and chief executive officer of Union County Savings Bank, for the bank receiving CAU’s Community Partnership Award for 2010.
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