Judy’s Comments

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation has been awarded a 2021 AARP Community Challenge Grant

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation has been awarded a 2021 AARP Community Challenge Grant

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), a not-for-profit organization based in Hackensack, NJ, has been awarded a 2021 AARP Community Challenge Grant.

AARP New Jersey aims to support the efforts of communities to become a great place for its residents. Their goal with the Community Challenge Grant is to give organizations the opportunity to create a project that will improve and support a community.

NNJCF is grateful to have received the 2021 AARP Community Challenge Grant, and will implement the “Women’s Mural Project: Celebrating Black Suffragists and Achievements of Black Women in Englewood.” This project will showcase the stories of Black women in Englewood and highlight their accomplishments.

A professional artist will design a groundbreaking mural on the wall of the Women’s Rights Information Center in Englewood, adding to the aestheticism of the city. Additionally, this project will bring the community together by involving residents to participate in the mural design through workshops that will teach them about the history of Black suffragists.

AARP New Jersey State Director, Stephanie Hunsinger expressed her enthusiasm for NNJCF's project. “We are incredibly excited to support the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation as they work to make immediate improvements in their community to encourage promising ideas and jumpstart long-term change.”

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Strengthen Our Sisters: the Remarkable Work of Sandra Ramos

Strengthen Our Sisters: the Remarkable Work of Sandra Ramos

On a cool November night in Wanaque, between the police station and a laundromat, I walked into the office of Strengthen Our Sisters, a homeless and domestic violence shelter for battered women. Two busy volunteer secretaries, one at her desk in the back and the other at her desk by the door to my right, greeted me. To my left, on both ends of a row of solemn black chairs (the kind you might find at the doctor's office), laid piles of colorful toys and three gallons of milk. In the center, packed with women of different ages and backgrounds, stood Sandra Ramos, the founder of Strengthen Our Sisters (SOS).
After her divorce in 1970, Sandra took in a woman fleeing her abuser despite neighbors who said that they "didn't want a battered woman on their block". Since then, this attitude towards domestic violence has changed and it's no longer viewed as a private family affair. However, this shift doesn't always translate into action.
"People say things but [are] not doing what they should be doing," Ramos says. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's taken more action against domestic violence than her. For over 30 years, Sandra Ramos has dedicated her life to ending the cycle of domestic violence. She runs seven licensed shelters, two licensed day care centers, a thrift store housed in an old church and a food pantry. Since 1998, she's developed and taught a course called "Dynamics of Domestic Violence" at Ramapo College, educating others on the cyclical nature of abuse. She goes above and beyond to fight for what she believes in, and what she believes is, in her words, "the radical notion that women are people".

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Uncertain to Unstoppable: Shaping Girl Leaders of the Future

Uncertain to Unstoppable: Shaping Girl Leaders of the Future

Hands shaking.  Eyes shifting.  Words breaking.

I couldn’t help but cringe as my best friend struggled to give a presentation to our 5th grade class.

This was history class and the project assigned us each a different state to report on.  She had New York.  From her nervous habits, she could’ve been talking about the Land of Make Believe for all I knew.  The only noticeable aspect was how uncomfortable she looked.

This was 5th grade.  As a junior in high school, I’ve ultimately witnessed countless experiences like this.  As a performer ranging from dancing in tutus at 5 to singing blues at 17, I’ve never had an issue speaking, or doing anything, in front of a group.  However, I realize this isn’t the case for most.  

When pondering what to do for my Girl Scout Gold Award, an 80-hour service project making a positive impact on one’s community, I was immediately brought back to my 5th grade experience.  If only my friend had been told how to compose herself, how to speak confidently, or simply how to not seem nervous, her experience would have been stellar.  

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100+ Girls Attend STEM Summit at NJIT

100+ Girls Attend STEM Summit at NJIT

Liza Negron Sutowski, Counsel, Exxon Mobil Corporation, presented the keynote address to the 1st Annual STEM Summit for high school girls held April 9, 2016 at NJIT, Newark. Opening remarks by co-sponsors Jacqueline L. Cusack, Ed.D, Executive Director, Center for Pre-College Programs at NJIT and Judy Chapman, Founder of Garden State Woman Education Foundation welcomed the girls to the event. Charlotte Gillis handled registration and on-site planning for the college.

A panel of executive women in STEM careers was moderated by JoAnn Dixon, Secretary of the Garden State Woman Education Foundation. Panelists were Gloria A. Bachmann, M.D., Director of Women’s Health Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Marcia Firenze, CEO of Case Medical; Amy Eskilson, President/CEO of Inrad Optics.

The Interactive Activity and Networking was organized by Levelle Burr-Alexander, Ph.D, Senior Director for Curriculum and Program Development, Center for Pre College Programs.

After lunch a panel of women in STEM careers shared their career paths. Participating were Adasayo Sansui, Insight Analyst/Varick Media Management; Faith and Hope Zimmerman, Founders/Owners ZIMARCH; Candace Lynch/Inrad Optics; Loraine Hutcher, President/MarTech Systems

Jack Killion, trustee of the Garden State Woman Foundation, was moderator of a panel of current NJIT students who shared their personal stories with the attendees. Participating were Joshua Abraham, Suah Yekeh, Nikeita Tomlinson, Crystal Gould, Tiaja Harley.

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Crash the Political Glass Ceiling

Crash the Political Glass Ceiling

We need you to crash the glass ceiling for future New Jersey women striving to become our political leaders!

As you may know, not one of New Jersey's congressional seats is occupied by a woman. 

At the state level, the numbers are only marginally better - of the 120 seats in the State Legislature, only 35 are held by a woman and only 5 women are part of the Governor's 22 member cabinet. 

And the local level is just as dismal – only 89 of our 566 towns have a woman mayor.

The problem is a national one.  Almost five times as many men hold elected office in the United States.  We rank 90th in the world in the number of women serving in their legislatures - behind Mexico, China and Pakistan.

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Seven Year Old Me

Seven Year Old Me

There's a story my Dad likes to tell of me when I was seven-years-old. He was in my older sister's room, doing some home repairs, when I walked up to the doorway and stood there for awhile. After watching him work, I asked: "Why don't you do it like this instead?" and offered him my free advice, which was a better way of doing what he was doing. Something he realized as he stared over at me and my innocent suggestion.

In all honesty, I like this story too because it makes me sound a whole lot smarter than I actually was as a kid. But, there's truth in this moment that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind lately: when we are so submersed in our own ways of being—our own fixed mindsets—we often become blind to things we can do better.

Kristen, my younger sister, went on a lot of trips this Summer. One of which included a trip to Nashville, TN, with our Uncle Steven. Among the many conversations they had on the road together — Kristen was left remembering something he said about a friend of his: "...but that's the only way she knows how to be." It makes me think about our trips to Third World countries, where we're so quick to correct. "It's better to farm like this," "treat a fever like this instead." In essence, "I know this is the only way you know, but there is a better way to do what you're doing." Until people see it, or hear it, or read it—it's all they know. So we teach them.

My mind wanders, trying to understand why we're hesitant to accept correction we're so quick to hand out. As a country, we've become increasingly medicated, isolated, depressed and obese. Distressingly so.

It's easy to look at other countries' poverty and forget our own. We're slow to admit, or even consider, there are better ways of living for us too. Ones that go beyond the swipe of a credit card. I recently heard a pastor describe his role in the community: "I'm just here to help you guys learn how to love each other better." I suppose that's always been the role of a pastor, but I've never heard it put so simply. It stayed with me, and left me reflecting on ways love needs to be learned. Maybe there were other things we should learn to do better too.

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A Visit to Haiti

I haven't really wanted to sit down and write this, mostly because I haven't known what to say. Writing is often a way for me to make sense of things, to wrestle through thoughts and come to some sort of conclusion, and I knew I didn't have any good answers for what I saw and experienced in Haiti. I don't have any good answers, but I know we need to look for them.

It's been three weeks since I boarded the plane in Port-au-Prince, eager to escape the warmed odor of its streets. The dust wasn't bad to leave behind either as I coughed it up bit by bit on the flight home. My mind had started to regularly refer to that country as hell and I felt like I was being delivered. Even now, I'm amazed at how little I had remembered from my first trip there in 2007, as a High School senior. I've come to believe there lies an enormous difference between knowing that poverty exists and physically experiencing it smile up at you, in the form of a small child, quietly asking for a "foto."

Dayspring Ministries, the non-profit I traveled with (founded by my grandmother), has done great things for the people of Haiti. These were the things I remembered. The orphanage children: the ones that are well fed, clothed, and have a safe place to live. The sponsored school children: the ones that receive an education and eat lunch. The sponsored widows: the ones that now have homes.

I had forgotten about the slums we had to drive through to get to the orphanage, shacks on the mountainside, children without pants, calloused feet and garbage on the sides of the roads. One million people still live in tents post-earthquake. Gosh, blue tarps were everywhere. Statistics hardly describe it. So I cried. I sat out in the truck one night and cried because I had forgotten suffering was real—that people live in huts and schools are made out of plywood and tin and people don't know how to prevent cholera.

My grandmother was right in what she told me that night about being encouraged by the good work being done. The orphanage is raising leaders for the country, Dayspring is expanding its reach and us being there showed people they were loved. But I cannot help feeling responsible, believing that somehow my costly life is not just costly for me. My lack of giving, my failure to utilize skills, my disregard—it's costly for that man in the market aggressively trying to sell sugar cane. We've got to take care of each other.

Dayspring is changing Haiti, I've seen it. I'm not trying to down play that—I just want to ponder the possibility of doing more. I want to have more conversations about tangible, creative solutions and not feel paralyzed by the multitudes of problems in this world. It paralyzed me that night in the truck, and many nights since, but I don't want to shy away. Too much depends on us.

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Women Who Volunteer

What motivates women to volunteer? Women are known to volunteer more often than men and on average volunteer more hours over a year. Also, the more actively involved a woman is in her own life the more likely she is to volunteer.

My own experiences in the world of volunteerism have been varied and sometimes sporadic. I have to admit I don't have a favorite charity but I do find myself attracted to organizations and people who provide direct help to its recipients as opposed to organizations who act as "middle men."

I began my exploration into the motivation of women volunteers by interviewing Mary Dougherty, the recipient of the inaugural 2011 Spirit of Community Award and wife of Morristown, NJ Mayor, Tim Dougherty.

Mary is a community leader in her own right – Chairwoman of the Morristown Democratic Party and Vice Chairman of the Morris County Democratic Committee. She is in a league with other generous women who also work behind the scenes, quietly helping people who have a need. This is usually accomplished without acknowledgment or recognition.

I know there are many women like her and I wanted to find out what drove her to seek out others who would benefit from her insight and expertise. Very often "help" takes the form of connecting people who have something to share.

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A Billion + Change

Garden State Woman Joins A Billion + Change to Envision the Future of Corporate Service

200 companies pledge nearly $1.8 billion in pro bono services to nonprofits.

Garden State Woman has joined A Billion + Change, a swiftly growing national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars of pro bono and skills-based volunteer services from corporate America to build nonprofit capacity. In less than a year, 200 companies have pledged an estimated $1.8 billion worth of skills-based services to nonprofits, keeping the campaign on track to inspire 500 companies to create or expand a skills-based volunteer program in their workplace by 2013. Garden State Woman will join the campaign at the White House on June 27, 2012 for a forum on "A Billion + Change in Action: Connecting to the Future of Corporate Service." Leaders in industry, civic engagement and policy will convene at this forum to discuss opportunities for businesses to scale efforts and partnerships to meet the social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century through skills-based service. They will also explore ways to align corporate skills-based service programs with national initiatives to boost innovation, competitiveness and models of effective collaboration.

"We are proud to be part of this campaign and a role model for woman-owned businesses to encourage their employees and family to volunteer.  Garden State Woman has demonstrated our commitment to volunteerism through the founding of the Garden State Woman Education Foundation in 2007".   -Judy Chapman

Wednesday's forum will challenge each pledge to look ahead at what they are poised to do. "Our challenge now is to expand A Billion + Change while partnering effectively with nonprofit professionals so we can change communities for the better," said Senator Mark Warner, Honorary Chairman of A Billion + Change. "It's through collaboration and collective impact that A Billion Plus really does add up to meaningful change."Every day, A Billion + Change pledge companies harness the skills and talents of their best and brightest to build nonprofit capacity, create empowering opportunities for veterans, strengthen our workforce, improve STEM education and to promote global development.

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First NJ Heroes of 2011

First Lady Mary Pat Christie today named Jean and Clark Paradise, founders of Your Grandmother’s Cupboard, the first New Jersey Heroes of 2011.
For octogenarians Jean and Clark Paradise of Toms River, what could have been a quiet retirement has developed into a labor of love that is helping approximately 1200 of New Jersey's seniors, homeless and working poor every month. Today, First Lady Mary Pat Christie honored that commitment as she toured the non-profit organization they started, Your Grandmother's Cupboard, and named the couple the first New Jersey Heroes of 2011 for their work aiding those in need.

"Jean and Clark are true New Jersey heroes," said Mrs. Christie. "Wanting to help those less fortunate in their community, they answered a call to action, demonstrating that no matter what your age, you can still make a difference in the lives of others. They set an example we can all follow and I am proud to name them New Jersey Heroes."

Your Grandmother's Cupboard began five years ago after the couple had worked with a local pastor to serve the homeless in a nearby tent city community. While food pantries and shelters do what they can, the Paradises discovered a need to provide non-basic necessities for good health and hygiene for those who could not afford it. Through the kind donations of fellow New Jerseyans ranging from monetary contributions and supplies to trailers to store the goods, Your Grandmother's Cupboard got its start. Funding for the organization is still derived from donations by individuals and other groups.

Today, Your Grandmother's Cupboard operates from locations in Toms River and Phillipsburg, bringing clothing, shoes, blankets, household and personal items to those who need it most. The "Cupboard" serves communities in Garfield, Passaic, Paterson, Hoboken, Dover, Phillipsburg, Easton, Edison, New Brunswick, Trenton, Jackson, Lakehurst, Lakewood, Toms River, Seaside Heights, Bayville, Forked River, Swainton and all surrounding areas.

A NJ 211 responder organization, "Cupboard" volunteers and vehicles also are able to respond to emergency calls within 2 hours or less to bring necessities to the person or agency making the call.

To learn more about the work of Your Grandmother's Cupboard or to donate goods, contact www.yourgrandmotherscupboard.org.

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Joanna Tested Positive for Breast Cancer Gene

At 27, filmmaker Joanna Rudnick held a piece of paper with devastating information: positive for a deleterious mutation. She had always suspected cancer ran in her family - her mother is a 20-year survivor of ovarian cancer, and her grandmother and great-grandmother both fought breast cancer. But after testing positive for the BRCA (breast cancer gene) mutation, she had evidence that she could be next.

"They give you the information and then they're like. 'Don't Panic. Don't be neurotic. Don't be paranoid.' But your body can go off at anytime, and that pressure starts right away."

How much would you sacrifice to survive? Filmmaker Joanna Rudnick knew the information could save her life. And she knew she was not only confronting mortality at an early age, but also was going to have to make heart-wrenching decisions about the life that lay ahead of her. Should she take the irreversible preventive step of having her breasts and ovaries removed or risk developing cancer? What would happen to her romantic life, her hopes for a family?

Since starting to get to know Joanna we have learned she is expecting her first baby in the Spring!

As a science journalist and documentary filmmaker, Joanna did the one thing that made sense - set out to make a documentary exploring how the mutation was changing her life, while reaching out to other women and families caught up in the same confusing decision-making process.

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NJ Executives Partner with Jr. Achievement

Women's Future Leadership Forum - A Day of Inspiration and MentorshipGave Fifty Promising High School-Aged Girls Skills to Succeed

On December 10, a panel of female New Jersey executives inspired by example in sharing personal success stories with fifty promising high school-aged girls from Morristown, Newark, Bloomfield, Linden and Rahway and fifty women of diverse professional backgrounds as their mentors at the Madison Hotel, Morristown, NJ.

After the panel discussions, students spent valuable one-on-one time with their mentors learning how to give a 'personal' elevator pitch and then were accompanied by their mentors to Junior Achievement Personal Finance breakout sessions.

"We had a great group of students, and I was extremely impressed with their questions and how they engaged, " said Pamela Craig, event chair and chief financial officer at Accenture. "JANJ cares deeply about helping students, and that dedication reflects Accenture's commitment to its corporate citizenship initiative, Skills to Succeed, which helps people develop skills that enable them to get a job or build a business."

Pictured above: Bellaria Jaramillo, CFP, Managing Director, Wealth Financial Group, MetLife; Michelle Lee, Regional President, Northeast Community Banking, Wachovia, A Wells Fargo Company; Pamela Craig, Chief Financial Officer, Accenture (Chair); Trisha Rozas, Chief Information Officer, Guy Carpenter; Nellie Borrero, Global Inclusion & Diversity Director, Accenture (Moderator); and Patricia Barksdale, Vice President Global Wealth Management, Merrill Lynch.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 204,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world's most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Through its Skills to Succeed corporate citizenship focus, Accenture is committed to equipping 250,000 people around the world by 2015 with the skills to get a job or build a business. The company generated net revenues of US$21.6 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2010. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

About Junior Achievement® (JA)

Junior Achievement is the world's largest organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, Junior Achievement provides in-school and after-school programs for students which focus on three key content areas: work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Today, 126 individual area operations reach more than four million students in the United States, with an additional 5.7 million students served by operations in 122 other countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.ja.org. Locally, Junior Achievement of NJ (www.janj.org) will impact 39,000 students this school year.

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A Dentist Making House Calls

Susan Tarnofsky is leaning over a patient, dental mirror in one hand, glinting silver drill in the other. She wears a regulation plastic mask over her mouth, and her assistant, holding yet another instrument, glances at her, wondering why she hasn't begun the procedure. But, before continuing, she pauses briefly, turning her gaze to the patient. "Wow, what a pretty shirt you have on! I like the pink flowers," she marvels, wrinkle-lines creasing into a smile under her regulation mouth mask.

You'd probably think Dr. Tarnofsky's speaking to a nervous-looking child—maybe a five or six year old girl on the verge of tears in the dental chair. But that isn't the case. In fact, the patient is thirty years old, and a victim of cerebral palsy, a disease that severely impairs one's mental abilities and makes day-to day life and interactions difficult. Doctor Tarnofsky, who works for the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped, deals with mentally and physically impaired patients every day.

The National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped, a foundation Tarnofsky's been involved with for over ten years, offers oral care to needy patients--the elderly, mentally handicapped, and generally disabled population. The care is especially important to this needy segment of the population, whose medical expenses usually aren't covered by Medicare or Medicaid. The organization, which is a charitable affiliate of the American Dental Association, includes about 15,000 dentists across the country. One reason the organization's so convenient is because it flexible—it travels directly to its patients. Tarnofsky and her assistant, by way of van that houses dental materials, trek wherever patients are located—mainly in old age homes and institutions for the handicapped. Once there, Tarnofsky faces unique challenges with each new patient she treats.

In order to complete her procedures successfully, Tarnofsky must develop unique ways of communicating with patients and making them feel comfortable . Because none of the patients are medicated for dental procedures, Tarnofsky explains, she must find individualized ways of relating to them. For instance, in order to connect to a mentally handicapped patient, "you might say something that you might ordinarily say to a five year old—something to distract them from feeling nervous." (Hence, clothing-related compliments work well). Though these conversations are, many times, one-sided, it's important to engage patients in conversation and distract them—especially during lengthy procedures. If they get nervous, Doctor Tarnofsky notes, people oftentimes want to get up in the middle of the procedure—something that's obviously impossible if she's trying to complete a filling and a patient has a nail-sized hole drilled into their tooth! Tarnofsky also faces major roadblocks when treating autistic patients, she explains. Because autistics have difficulty communicating, and even dislike eye contact, Tarnofsky's friendly approach isn't as effective.

Given the plethora of challenges they bring, then, what inspires Tarnofsky to treat handicapped patients? Tarnofsky, who decided to go into dentistry because of the combination of medicine and artistry it involves, was spurred to help handicapped at a young age. She recalls a particular moment during one a summer as a camp counselor, as she was about to meet her group of children. She'd been informed a handicapped child was part of her group, but vividly remembers the first moment she met the child—and the first sensations of nervousness she experienced. "I remember watching [the child] approach with the crutches that strapped onto her forearms, and saw her kind of jolting towards me, because she walked with an uneven gait. I remember being scared because I never met anyone before who had used crutches , and I was nervous because I didn't quite know what to do or how to react--I remember being quite intimidated by the situation." Eventually, though, the camper's cheerful demeanor stripped away Tarnfosky's nervousness, and she became specially attached to the idea of helping the handicapped.

She's progressed a long way from the one day as a nervous middle-school camp counselor. And though she's learned to weave past the layers of mental and physical disease in order to communicate with patients, she still encounters fresh challenges every day. For instance, one day a man grabbed her wrist and wouldn't let go, and her assistant had to wrench him free. In the middle of procedures, patients can burst into unpredictable fits or emotional outbursts. One mentally impaired woman even threatened to call the police in the middle of an extensive procedure.

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Mary Robinson Founded Good Grief

Garden State Woman caught up recently with Mary Robinson, Founder of Good Grief, to learn more about how the organization provides education, advocacy and year-round peer support group programs for grieving children, teens and adults. 

How long have you been working with Good Grief?

 Since our founding in December 2003.

 Have you worked in the non profit sector before? If so, in what capacity?

 While getting Good Grief up and running I worked as the Director of External Affairs and Development for Homefirst, Inc. and from 2000-2004 I was the Executive Director for the New Jersey State Chapter of Rainbows, Inc.  From 1997 – 2000 I ran a consulting company, Robinson & Associates providing grant writing, development consulting and database development for nonprofits.

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40% of Homeless Were Foster Children

It was a normal Sunday. Church. A cup of coffee and the newspaper. A whim to purchase a paper other than our regular. And there it was. The article on Roots & Wings. Somehow, my life would never be the same. I was immediately taken in by the plight of the young adults that age out of the foster care system in New Jersey. Nationally, 12 to 18 months after aging out only:

• 2% obtain a bachelors degree
• 84% become a parent
• 25% are homeless
• 51% are unemployed
• 45% do not complete high school.

They often “couch surf”, sleeping on couches from home to home until they have worn out all welcomes. In fact, four out of ten homeless Americans were once foster children.

More than 10 years ago, Irene de Grandprè, a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer, was working with a boy in the foster care system. As he approached the age of 18, Irene was horrified by the prospects that lied ahead for him. Once reaching 18, the child ages out of the system with little to no state support. They are adults and happy to be no longer part of the system. Yet without the support structure of family, life-skills, money, a job and most importantly a place to stay how can they possibly succeed? Roots & Wings was born. Despite DYFS having made improvements since Irene founded Roots & Wings the support for aged out foster children is still limited. With more than 500,000 foster children in the child welfare system nationwide, approximately 20,000 to 25,000 aging out each year, and more than 465 children aging out every year in New Jersey alone, the system is stressed.

I was voted in as a Board Member. My passion for the cause must have shown as before long I was voted in as President. I joined the organization at a precarious time. Irene had retired and the remaining founding board members, as often happens, were starting to reach their volunteer limits. The board had an almost complete turnover in board members. The new board members and I worked tirelessly to build structure, business processes, and a strong foundation to the organization. I had often put in an excess of 40 hours per week sometimes working through the night while my children slept. Thanks to the continued support of some ex-board members, we succeeded in bringing Roots & Wings into a new phase. We built a web site, ran fundraisers, wrote grants, and hired a Program Director to look after the growth of our precious clients.

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The Crowleys

Aileen Crowley, A Tower of Strength:          Could you deal with adversity like this? When Megan Crowley was 9 months old, Aileen Crowley and her husband John noticed their daughter didn’t seem to be developing as quickly as had their oldest son. Her muscles did not seem to be working correctly.

Nine months later, in 1998, Megan was diagnosed with the rare Pompe disease. Only 5,000 to 10,000 people worldwide have it, and there is no known cure.

The Crowleys were told the disease would kill their daughter before she turned 2. The same day, they learned that their then 7-day-old son, Patrick, had a 25 percent chance of also having it. Turns out he did. The couple’s oldest son, John Jr., nearly two years older than Megan and now in 8th grade, is fine.

Pompe is a genetic disease. Both Aileen and John carry it, but neither had a family history of the disease. At the time the Crowley children were diagnosed, there was no treatment, either to lessen the impact of the disease or extend a patient’s life.

Reacting like any parents would, John and Aileen used every resource and every waking minute to battle the disease.

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Russ Berrie Award

Nominations for the 2010 Russ Berrie Award for Making a Difference will be accepted through March 26. New Jerseyans who have made a significant difference in their communities through a heroic effort or a lifetime of service are eligible for cash awards of up to $50,000. Members of the community are invited to nominate New Jersey residents whose deeds, carried out in the state, make them worthy of recognition.

 Established in 1997 by the late Russell Berrie, founder of Russ Berrie and Company, Inc., and Ramapo College of New Jersey, the awards honor “unsung heroes” from throughout the state. Up to 19 individuals will be recognized for making a significant difference to the well being of their community during the annual spring awards ceremony at Ramapo College in Mahwah. The Russell Berrie Foundation will provide monetary awards of up to $50,000, $35,000 and $25,000 as well as runner-up grants of $2,500 each. 

"Through this award, we honor the contributions of people who don’t seek recognition for what they do, yet generously give of themselves to make the world a better place,” said Angelica Berrie of Englewood, president of The Russell Berrie Foundation.

Last year, the top honorees included a patient care technician whose quick thinking likely saved the life of a truck driver whose gas tanker overturned and exploded, the founder of a project to help Kenyan schoolchildren and an EMT who has been volunteering on her township’s ambulance corps for more than 35 years.         

Kevin Williams, a 2009 honoree who was awarded $35,000 for helping Maasai schoolchildren through the Maywood Rotary Kenya Project says, “Like all the other nominees, I never expected any kind of acknowledgement just for doing the right thing. I must admit that knowing I was chosen for the award pushes me to work harder and longer at making a difference for others.”

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Using Passion for a Purpose

At 37, Ellen Maher, Board Chair of New Jersey Goals Ahead (NJGA) started playing ice hockey and pursuing a life long interest and passion. She is a huge NY Rangers Fan. Ellen plays forward – either right or left wing - on a women’s team, the Renegades in Morristown, NJ. Last year she, along with three other teammates from New jersey traveled to New Brunswick, Canada to play in the “World Pond Hockey” championship with over 100 international teams – both men and women teams – competing against each other. As Ellen says, “It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Five years ago, in 2004, Ellen took her passion to another level and formed New Jersey Goals Ahead, a 501C3 with a mission of proving financially challenged children the opportunity to learn to play hockey free of charge. The first group of kid skaters from Union and Morris counties hit the ice in 2005. In 2006 the first group of kids from the greater Newark area participated. By the Spring of 2007 over 30 kids were participating in weekly sessions in Union and Essex Counties.

A fifteen person board manages the non-profit and the coaching is handled by volunteer professional coaches who are supported by high school players who volunteer their time.

Both boys and girls are eligible to participate with girls accounting for about 30 percent of the kids learning to play hockey. All equipment is donated. Typically weekly after school clinics are held over an 8- 9 week period during the Spring, Fall and Winter. NJGA also takes a limited number of aspiring young hockey players for four days to a summer hockey camp held at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, hosted by partners Canadian Hockey Enterprises.

While NJGA does not yet field a hockey team, program participants are often able to place kids with sufficient skills and good academic records with other teams in the area.

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The Beez Foundation

The second semester of her freshman year of college, Jenn Beisswanger was thrilled to realize her dream of becoming of Nittany Lion as she transferred to one of Penn State University’s campuses. Unfortunately, after only one week in her new school, Jenn experienced a grand mal seizure and a few days later, in January of 1998, surgery was performed by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey to remove a lemon-sized tumor in her brain.

In April, a second surgery was performed, this time at Memorial Sloane Kettering, and 90% of the tumor was removed. After an MRI in August indicated that the tumor was still growing, Jen underwent 6 weeks of radiation, trekking into NYC for treatment at MSK.

In remission, Jenn returned to Penn State in 1999 and completed both her second semester of freshman year and the first semester of her sophomore year. In December 1999, a routine MRI showed that the tumor was again growing and was more aggressive than previous. After another year of treatment, in January of 2001, her team of doctors determined that Jenn had exhausted all traditional treatment options and suggested that she undergo a stem cell transplant. Despite her valiant struggle, at the age of 22, Jenn succumbed to an infection following the transplant.

 Because Jenn was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was 18, she was treated as a pediatric patient and was moved by the younger children that she encountered. Her compassionate nature gave her the ability to focus on others, even during her own battle. In fact, she once left her hospital bed in the middle of the night to offer help to an elderly woman experiencing great pain. During the course of her treatments, Jenn volunteered at the hospital, reading to pediatric kidney dialysis patients, and worked as a camp counselor.
 
Determined to do something positive in her daughter’s memory, and to continue Jenn’s legacy of compassion to other pediatric cancer victims, Susan Giardina developed the Beez Foundation. Her first step was to put together an advisory board, comprised of Jennifer's friends, local business executives and doctors from the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, to provide guidance and to review grant proposals for research funding.
 
With the help of her advisory board, a three-fold mission was created for the Beez Foundation:
  1. Educate people of the prevalence of brain cancer in children (it is the #2 cancer in kids behind leukemia and the number one pediatric cancer killer) and to make parents more diligent in recognizing the symptoms
  2. Provide seed money to support the first phase of research in brain cancer     
  3. Offer patient services for children and their families as they battle this disease
 The Foundation created a number of fund-raising activities to raise the capitol necessary to fulfill their mission. Keeping with Jennifer's philosophies, most are family-oriented, fun events within the local communities and designed to have a strong community bond with local businesses and organizations cooperating in the various events. The most popular of these activities is the annual Rubber Ducky Race, on the Delaware Raritan Canal. In their last run, they dropped 5000 ducks into the canal, each sponsored for $5 a piece. The “owner” of the winning ducky wins a donated cruise. In addition to the Duck Race, the foundation also has a strong sponsor in the Somerset Patriots baseball team. For seven years, the Beez Foundation has run the Diamond Derby, which allows kids to run the bases on the field following Sunday home games, and has passed out materials and information on The Beez Foundation and pediatric brain cancer to game attendees. The Foundation is also developing a program called “Art from the Heart” which collects decorated hats to be passed out to children who have lost their hair from cancer treatments. 
 
As a result of their fund-raising efforts, The Beez Foundation has donated $125,000. These funds seeded brain cancer research, which has resulted in a white paper presentation by one of the doctors they funded. Money has also been allocated to support patient/family services, including sponsorship of 400 nights at the Ronald McDonald House, annual sponsorship of a camper at Paul Newman’s Double H Hole In the Woods camp, and sponsorship of a woman authoring a children’s book about cancer.
 
To volunteer or to participate in the fund-raising activities, please go to www.beezfoundation.org.

 

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Let's Hear Your Story

Do you have an intense personal story about how YOU conquered an insurmountable obstacle encountered while traveling on the Road of Life? If you do, then…

Let’s Hear Your Story!

Tony Lombardo and his wife Vivian are friends of GardenState Woman. Along with their three children, they are well versed in facing adversity. Tony, a talented athlete in his youth, has been afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis for over twenty-eight years.

Rather than let the disorder overwhelm him, Tony has learned to successfully utilize his experience to help others. He has written a book with Craig Schwab entitled “On Both Sides of The Fence…How to Successfully Lead a Fulfilling Life Despite the Presence of Any Physical Challenge.”
 
As indicated in the subtitle, “On Both Sides of The Fence”  is a “how to” book which focuses on successfully leading a fulfilling life regardless of the type of physical challenge which has entered into your life.
 
With the help of Monmouth College students, Tony has created his web site: Let’s Hear Your Story (LHYS) at www.letshearyourstory.com. This inspirational site showcases stories written by others depicting how to fight and conquer adversity. The LHYS site also lists favorite music, poems, movies, books and links that have helped overcome their “hurdles.”
           
You must have a compelling story to share with the rest of us. Perhaps you know  someone who does. If so, please log onto Tony’s site to share it with him. Undoubtedly, this inspires countless individuals.
 
Thanks so much for sharing!

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