Community Access Unlimited Honors Community Partners And Outstanding Members

ELIZABETH – The collective accomplishments of a community recently were celebrated at the 27th Annual Awards Night Celebration of Community Access Unlimited (CAU), held April 13 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 seven members for their accomplishments in the last 12 months. The dinner also applauded staff members for their efforts and those marking milestone anniversaries, as well as members who are competitively employed.


“Tonight is recognition of achievement,” said Audrey Vasey, president of CAU’s board of trustees. “Our members feel a great deal of pride on this evening – pride in themselves, pride in their fellow members. What they achieve each day is not easy. The cards often are stacked against them so to achieve their goals is a great accomplishment.”

Community partners also play a significant role in supporting CAU and helping the agency accomplish its mission of supporting people with special needs to enable them to lead more fulfilling and rewarding lives, according to Vasey. 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.

“The support CAU receives from our community partners makes such a difference in so many lives, and so many futures,” Vasey said. “You hear the phrase it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a village to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our members. You need everybody in the community.”

Those community partners honored this year include:

  • Kiana Lawhorn of Independence High School in Irvington as Educator of the Year for her work for the benefit of young people as assistant principal at the alternative high school.
  • Gale Young-Jackmin of the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities with the Distinguished Service Award for her focus on allowing people to live independently in the community and advocating on their behalf.
  • Susan Ucci of the Elizabeth HOME Improvement Program with the Supportive Housing Service Award for creating affordable housing and home ownership opportunities for members of CAU.
  • Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, Inc. with the Distinguished Community Service Award for leading people to mental recovery, independence and quality of life.
  • Dr. Muyiwa Akin Okuribido of Hillside as the Health Care Professional of the Year for providing expert at-home pediatric care.
  • Renee Davidson of the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities with the Distinguished Social Service Award for her role in overseeing the growth of the New Jersey Personal Preference Program.
  • Frank Guzzo of the Department of Human Services with the Community Partnership Award for providing our members with job training, supportive housing and many other supports to increase quality of life.
  • Donna Kennedy of CASA of Union County, Inc. as the Youth Advocate of the Year for her hard work to advocate on behalf of at-risk youth.

While thanking the agency’s community partners is an integral part of the annual awards night, recognizing the accomplishments of CAU members and staff remains at the heart of the evening. The agency applauded members for accomplishments in independent living, life skills, employment and recreation. CAU as an agency also received accolades for its contributions to the community.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21) presented a resolution from the state Legislation recognizing CAU member Adalaide Daskam as the 2010 Advocate of the Year for her role as a co-founder of Jump Start, a self-advocacy consulting business; her efforts in CAU’s Helping Hands self-advocacy group; and her role as a member of the agency’s board of trustees.

“Tonight we come together as a close-knit community,” said Sid Blanchard, CAU executive director. “We come together to recognize some outstanding people, recognize the accomplishments of people who make it possible to be here as a community and to look around and know in Union County we are not only part of the community, we are the community.”

Susan Ucci of Elizabeth HOME Improvement Program accepts her Supportive Housing Service Award from Morris Frasier (center left), CAU housing director, and CAU members John Hargrove (left) and Mark Straka.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21) presents a legislative resolution to Adelaide Daskam (left) recognizing Daskam as the 2010 Advocate of the Year. (Photos courtesy of Community Access Unlimited)

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