May 14, 2019 | centraljersey.com
Community Options has been helping people with severe disabilities obtain housing and employment for 30 years.
To celebrate the non-profit organizations achievements and growth through those years, officials held the annual fundraising gala in Princeton, where the national office is headquartered.
“Tonight is so significant, it shows the support we get from Princeton and how much people care about those with significant disabilities having housing and jobs in the community,” said Robert Stack, President and CEO of Community Options, at the event that was held on May 9.
An estimated crowd of 400 people gathered inside the McCarter Theater Tent that evening at Princeton University to celebrate Community Options.
“I hope people takeaway from this gala that people with disabilities are like anyone else. They want to live with others, have the same choices as others and want to pursue happiness,” he said.
The non-profit’s mission is to develop housing and employment for individuals with developmental disabilities, according to Community Options officials.
Bernard Carolbelo is one of the people Community Options has helped.
“This place means a lot, it really does. I am proud to be here tonight. We should never again have institutions,” he said.
One of the organizations supporters is Judith Scheide, who is a philanthropist in the Princeton area.
“This is one of the most wonderful and meaningful organizations I have ever supported. This organization fills a need and I hope it continues to go on for another 30 years,” she said.
Scheide said she will continue to support the organization and help them help others all over the country.
Community Options maintains operations not only in New Jersey but in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Maryland, South Carolina and Texas with offices also in Nashville and the Empire State Building, according to officials.
“The changes we have experience over 30 years has just been incredible,” said Phil Lian, Chairman of Community Options Enterprises. “We are celebrating tonight the personal service and achievements of what we have been able to do for so many others.”
He said the people they have helped are able to participate in the daily life that others get to enjoy.
Community Options has a staff of more than 5,600 people that support thousands of people with disabilities, according to Stack.
“This organization is wonderful because the people that are a part of Community Options can live and work in Princeton just like the rest of us,” said Lydia Pfeffier, a long time supporter of the organization. “The organization has a committed leadership and mission that want help the individuals they serve live a full and happy life.”
Former Mayor of Princeton Phylis Marchand was also in attendance to celebrate the organization.
“I am delighted to celebrate this anniversary of Community Options. They are just amazing,” she said. “I am really thrilled to know that they will be opening a new Vaseful Flower shop right here on Witherspoon Street. Not only will the flowers be beautiful, but the employees there are individuals in the Community Options homes, which brings even more of a sense of community.”
Marchand is referring to the new flower store that will open later this month. Their first Vaseful shop was opened in Edison several years ago, according to officials. The shops are a part of the organizations effort to have employment opportunities for the people they serve.
The stores employ people with autism and other developmental disabilities, according to Andrew Park, Managing Director of Community Options Enterprises.
“As a board member and a father of an autistic young man I am glad to be with these guys to tend to the people in society we care about,” said Alec Taylor, head of the Matrix Group. “This organization is a mixture of government and private that helps those who are less fortunate. So I love this organization and could not be any happier to be here.”
Another one of the people Community Options has helped through the years’ is Bernard Krakowsky.
Since 1996 he has been a resident in his own condo in Robbinsville and used to live in an institution in Bordentown.
“I have been with them since 1994. I lived in a house with four other guys when first started with Community Options. I am just happy to be here,” he said.