Maplewood Township Meeting: A Seat at The Table

New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP), JESPY House Inc., and SRS Strategic Associates, LLC have been working on the NJACP-JESPY Model Inclusive Healthy Communities (IHC) Program for the last two years. Currently, in its final year of funding, the program initiatives have expanded and flourished from the original conception. While each year the program has evolved, the premise has remained the same. How can we create a more inclusive environment for people in the Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) community of South Orange, NJ?

For the program’s final year, the grantees decided to prioritize “A Seat at The Table”, acknowledging the need and importance of including people with IDD to have a voice in the local community policies and issues. This type of inclusion is necessary to create permanent change and influence in the local government and improve the lives of all people within the South Orange community.

Over the last two years of this program, Jespy House has made impressive strides to cultivate connections and relationships with local community leaders and, in so doing, created more awareness of not only the JESPY House clients but the IDD community as a whole. In February 2023, JESPY House and NJACP met with department heads of Maplewood Township to educate the audience on JESPY House, the IDD community, and the IHC Grant Program. JESPY Community Relations & Outreach Supervisor Tara Roberts gave an insightful introduction to the IDD community, the history of JESPY House, and the programs that are offered at their facilities today.

Participants of the Township meeting responded very positively to the meeting. Many members offered advice and contact information to connect with JESPY House. The audience was interested in JESPY’s Work Ready program and wanted to learn more information on the program with the hopes of hiring a JESPY client. Connections were made with the local law enforcement and fire department. The eagerness from the department heads of Maplewood Township was very encouraging. Many people who participated in the meeting were excited to hear about the success of JESPY House and expressed interest in reconnecting again in the future.

The progress made at the Maplewood Township meeting suggests positive strides have been made to break down barriers between the abled and disabled community. NJACP, JESPY House Inc, and SRS Strategic Associates imagine a bright future where both communities work together to understand each other’s needs. The members of the NJACP-JESPY Model team would like to thank the Division of Disability Services (DDS), the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University for their support throughout the grant period, allowing them to increase visibility for IDD individuals in South Orange.

Maplewood Township Meeting Attendees Included the following:

• Interim Township Administrator Gregg Schuster

• Assistant Township Administrator Bailey Barnett

• Assistant CFO April Miller – represented Finance in place of CFO Joe Kolodziej

• Captain Peter Kuenzel – represented the Police Department in place of Police Chief Albert Sally

• Community Development Director Annette De Palma

• Community Services (Recreation, Arts, & Culture) Director Melissa Mancuso

• DPW Director and Township Engineer Paul Kittner

• DPW Superintendent Cesare Riccardi

• Health Officer Candice Davenport

• HR Administrator Diana Davila

• Head of Library Services Amanda Eigen- represented the Maplewood Memorial Library in place of Library Director Sarah Lester

• Municipal Court Administrator Ryan Bancroft

• Township Clerk Liz Fritzen