Choices 2013 Summer
CHOICES Summer 2013
Community Options, Inc. provides housing and employment support to people with disabilities.
Philosophy: All persons, regardless of their level of disability, can and should live and work in the community with dignity, choice, and self-determination.
Susan Kyrillos to Chair Community Options’ 25th Anniversary Gala
Community Options, Inc. announces Susan Kyrillos as chairperson of the Community Options’ 25th Anniversary Gala. The event will take place in May 2014 at the Hilton Hotel in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
In 1989, Robert Stack, President and CEO, founded Community Options at his kitchen table in Bordentown, New Jersey. Now, almost twenty-five years later, Community Options is the eighth largest nonprofit organization in New Jersey and has expanded to eight states while remaining true to its mission.
Susan Kyrillos is a longtime supporter of Community Options. She lives in Middletown, New Jersey with her husband, Senator Joe Kyrillos and their two children. Mrs. Kyrillos has maintained a distinguished career in both the private and public sectors. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Master of Arts from Seton Hall University. Community Options is honored to have Susan Kyrillos as the Chairperson of our 25th Anniversary Gala.
Community Options 25th Anniversary Gala Committee Members
- Tom Bracken
NJ Chamber of Commerce
- John Crowley
- Delia Donahue
- Gail Gordon, Esq.
Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader
- David Norcross, Esq.
Blank Rome LLP
- William Rue
Toys “R” Us Begins Hiring Initiative for People with Disabilities
Fortune 500 giant, Toys “R” Us (TRU), has begun a partnership with Community Options to staff their distribution center located in Mt. Olive, NJ. Realizing the tremendous benefits that hiring people with disabilities provides to corporations, TRU has begun a campaign to add a substantial number of workers with disabilities to their workforce in their NJ distribution center, along with many other locations throughout the country. Community Options has been selected as the sole provider of disability employment services to TRU.
Looking for an established service provider with a record of proven success in disabilities services, TRU approached Community Options about beginning a partnership in the spring of 2013. The intention of this partnership is to add up to 15 people with disabilities to their workforce by the 2013 holiday season. In June of 2013, the first member of this program was successfully integrated into the workforce and has already begun their contributions to the team. There are now four people who have been brought into the Mt. Olive operation. Adding people with disabilities to a workforce not only increases diversity, but also increases retention rates and lowers hiring and training costs (U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy). Community Options looks forward to a continued partnership with TRU that will provide more employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Community Options Expands into Central Pennsylvania
Executive Director, Brian Dion continues to expand at exponential rates in the Leigh, York and Philadelphia counties area. Citing need against a stellar reputation, Mr. Dion has dramatically expanded supports for Pennsylvanians with developmental disabilities throughout the central region with 12,000 people living in institutions, Pennsylvania still struggles with institutional closure. In Pennsylvania, Community Options operates 38 homes for 99 people.
NJ Political Leaders visit Community Options’ Homes
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula displayed his continued support of disability awareness when he toured a Community Options group home. On Tuesday, June 11th, Chivukula visited with residents at their group home in the Monroe community in order to get a better understanding of the community supports available to individuals with disabilities.
The group home Chivukula visited is the home to three men, Abhi, Richard and Robert who found new lives when they moved into the house, in 2001, 2006 and 2007 respectively. Like many who live in the community, these men faced Hurricane Irene and witnessed the flooding of their home. The home was completely destroyed and the men had to be evacuated by boat. They relocated for a year and a half while the house was gutted and renovated. According to Maria Bowles, the Executive Director of Community Options, “This is their home, so this was a major adjustment for them,” but it is just one example of the many growing and learning experiences individuals can gain when they have a chance at life in the community.
Chivukula has long advocated for disability rights and awareness. He remarked that despite the devastation of the house after Irene, there is a silver lining in the fact that the renovations allowed for improvements such as all tile floors and a larger, wheelchair accessible shower. According to Bowles, “Upendra is a dynamic speaker and great community leader. He spoke at the Cupid’s Chase 5K run this past year, which is our annual event held each Valentine’s Day weekend. When he says he is going to be somewhere he is there; I know he has a busy schedule but he really is a man of his word.”
“The work that Community Options is doing is nothing short of fantastic and I’m grateful for the opportunity to witness it first hand,” said Assemblyman Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “One of the greatest things we can do for those that face challenges is to help them help themselves. By working tirelessly to maximize their true potential, Community Options helps individuals with severe disabilities rise above these challenges with dignity and grace while bolstering their self-sufficiency and independence, something we all strive for regardless of our limitations.”
Community Options Receives a Three Year Grant in Tennessee
Community Options has received a three-year federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The grant funding provides a unique opportunity for our two organizations to develop a strong, long-term partnership and to assess our two organizations to determine what we are doing well and how we can improve our current systems to best serve individuals with intellectual disabilities who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence. Community Options and our partner agency Genesis House, Inc., a domestic and sexual violence intervention agency, have established a collaboration that we have named Putnam Access. Our focus is on creating systemic change to improve the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities who experience domestic and/or sexual violence who live in Putnam County, Tennessee.
Sexual abuse of people with disabilities is at epidemic levels. Research shows that 83% of women with developmental disabilities have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Of those individuals with developmental disabilities who have been sexually assaulted, 49% experienced ten or more abusive incidents in a lifetime, and 96% knew the perpetrator. In addition to facing an increased risk for sexual assault, women with disabilities may face difficulties escaping abusive situations because they often depend on their abuser to help them with daily routines and basic life skills. This dependency, on top of potential physical limitations, communication barriers, fear, and isolation, can make leaving an abusive situation and reporting abuse extremely difficult.
Community Options Receives Contract Award in New Mexico
In April 2013, Community Options received a contract award from the New Mexico Department of Health – Developmental Disabilities Supports Division (DDSD) that not only renewed but also increased State General Funds (SGF) for our adult services. This award enabled us to expand the number of those we serve in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque to 16 qualifying individuals. Effective July 1st this year, the contract was valued at $141,888 for up to one year.
Under this award, we will continue to provide vocational assessment for participants’ pursuit of competitive employment and career opportunities suited for their strengths, abilities, and interests. Building a team of people surrounding the individual, we will develop a coordinated “person-centered” plan of natural supports to drive their growth through opportunities for community integration. For their overall well-being, we complete health assessments and related planning. Funded activities also include promoting self-determination and citizenship through such avenues as registration and participation in voting opportunities, as well as self-advocacy trainings and self-advocate group meetings.
“Community Options is excited about the ability to expand supports to individuals with intellectual and development disabilities through SGF in New Mexico,” says Karen Hensley, Community Options Regional Vice-President. DDSD Funds for SGF Services are contracted directly with provider agencies. At the start of this year, the DDSD issued a mandated Request for Proposals state-wide in order to continue contracts with providers. In this competitive process, Community Options was among those selected for contracts – and one of a limited number receiving additional funds – to continue providing vital services that will lead to more meaningful, independent, and healthy lives.
People with Disabilities Really do Have a Friend in Pennsylvania
As the CEO of a multi-state nonprofit organization supporting persons with developmental disabilities, I see what states are making a difference and what states are doing very little. Pennsylvania’s Governor, Tom Corbett is really making a difference. His budget initiatives for the Commonwealth of PA are very notable. His budget will expand services to provide home and community based services for 380 individuals on the waiting list, 700 students graduating from special education, and 100 individuals from state centers.
$18.5 million to provide services to young adults who are graduating from special education system to enable them to live independently in the community.
$1.5 million to serve an additional 118 individuals with autism spectrum disorders in home and community based settings.
$20 million to serve an additional 1,680 individuals with physical disabilities in community settings.
He will also work towards consolidating licensing departments. He seems to be putting the funding towards the services rather than the government. In fact they are more focused on actual services and less on redundant regulations. While the Governor really doesn’t seem to give stump speech on our issues, he has really put initiatives in place that are more quixotic than doing business as usual.
President & CEO
Community Options, Inc.
Team ComOp swept the 400-meter walk event, with Peter Johnansen coming in first. Dustin Stewart won second place with Paul O’Neal taking third.