CONTACT We Care Names Joanne Oppelt New Executive Director

Joanne Oppelt

WESTFIELD – CONTACT We Care, a New Jersey-based nonprofit dedicated to crisis intervention suicide prevention through its telephone hotline, has named Joanne Oppelt of South Plainfield executive director. Oppelt will replace interim executive director Melanie Lester.

Oppelt most recently served as development director for Community Access Unlimited (CAU), a nonprofit human services agency serving people with disabilities and at-risk youth. During her nine years at CAU Oppelt authored and reviewed grant proposals and managed grant funding; served as the agency’s liaison to funders and the business community, including building the CAU Community Network; managed marketing and public relations; and served as an advocate for CAU, its members and in the areas of supportive housing and community integration.

While at CAU Oppelt raised more than $9 million in grant funding, increased annual operating revenue by $1.75 million, increased corporate sponsorship by 25 percent and significantly raised public awareness of the agency through marketing and public relations, including regular media coverage.

Oppelt also serves as an adjunct professor at Kean University. She has nearly 20 years experience in the human services sector. Prior to joining CAU she served as a consultant to health, education and nonprofit organizations; Parental Assistance project director and Parents As Teachers coordinator at Prevent Child Abuse, New Jersey Chapter; director community services at March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, Central Jersey Chapter; and program development manager at Maternal and Family Health Services.

The new executive director will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the agency, as well as fund raising, public relations, financial management, board communications and community and nonprofit industry representation. Oppelt also will oversee the execution of the agency’s mission with a goal of expanding its capabilities, funding, resources and image – and ultimately, its ability to help as many people as possible.

In announcing the search, CONTACT We Care sought an individual whose “passion for providing mental health services will serve to motivate the agency’s entire staff, volunteers and patrons.”

“In Joanne Oppelt we have found the ideal candidate to replace our outstanding current interim executive director Melanie Lester,” said Karen Yutsus, president of the CONTACT We Care board of directors and chair at Novartis. “Her career background in the human services sector, her accomplishments while at Community Access Unlimited and her organizational skills make her perfectly suited to fill Melanie’s shoes and move CONTACT We Care forward, including growing the organization while never losing sight of our mission. Joanne has demonstrated an ability to set and achieve goals and create new avenues of success.”

“I look forward to this new challenge and to working with the staff and volunteers of CONTACT We Care to serve our constituents,” Oppelt said. “I have learned that everything you do at a human services organization must make a difference in the community and meet the needs of the people you serve. And there are many ways to strengthen an organization’s ability to do that. That will be my goal at CONTACT We Care.”

Oppelt is the author of a recently-released book, “Confessions of a Successful Grant Writer,” which reveals her keys to successful grant writing. She a graduate of Bethany College (Calif.) with a bachelor of arts degree in education and Wilkes University (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) with a master of health administration degree. She holds a grants professional certification and is a member of the Grants Professionals Association and Association of Fundraising Professionals.

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