|Left front, Kim Paxton; back (L to R), Heather Alonge, Oni Struthers, Dot Libman and Dick Plambeck.|
The state of New Jersey covers needs of special education students up until the age of 21, after which they are no longer eligible. PRIDE extends services beyond graduation from ECLC schools. Some funds are available through self-directed day services and ECLC’s clients have chosen PRIDE to be their agency. Areas of concentration include social skills, community skills, vocational skills and independent living skills (e.g. laundry and food preparation). The goal is to help clients lead the most fulfilling life that they can. Clients have a variety of cognitive and physical disabilities, including Autism, Down syndrome and others. PRIDE is happy to have visitors and volunteers.
Funding is through NJ state for “usage”. Contributions are needed for investments in facilities like buildings, vans, etc. PRIDE started 26 months ago as a day-care center with 18 clients and 2 staff members. It has grown to 61 clients and 14 staff. There are multiple programs: PRIDE 1, PRIDE 2, PEP (PRIDE Evening Program) and PRIDECO (providing career opportunities). For example, PRIDECO just started a packaging center for Tiffany & Co. e-commerce. PRIDECO is also planning a shredding business. The goal is for clients to spend their day at PRIDE in multiple programs, not languishing in their homes. PRIDE clients are transported by Access Link, a service by NJ Transit for people with disabilities.
PRIDE clients can choose their own mix of programs. Clients perform a lot of volunteer work and they feel good about doing it. Dot introduced two clients, Oni Struthers in PRIDE 1 and Kim Paxton in PRIDE 2, to tell Kiwanians about their experiences.
They described their PRIDE daily activities and goals. Today, Oni did a session of Yoga and then went to the bank to cash his PRIDE paycheck (for work done at the Center). Then he went to the Kiwanis meeting. Recently, he has volunteered by making cupcakes for the soldiers in Iraq.
Kim told of skills she is working on, including making choices, communicating, time management and team building. A new skill she is developing at PRIDE is drawing, which she never did at home. She also described therapy dog training, called the “puppy training program.” The puppies are for “Canine Companions” and “Paws for People.”
Oni described the PRIDE book club. In that activity, clients travel to Panera Bread where they buy a drink and read a book. The book club is reading “Just as Long as We’re Together”, a book about friendships. The clients voted to choose this book to read. His favorite thing about PRIDE is being with his friends and all the great staff.
Heather Alonge, who introduced Dot at the beginning of the program, returned to the podium to tell members about ECLC’s funding needs. They have plans for PRIDECO development that come with a large budget. They need a hydraulic table, shrink-wrap machines, aprons, etc. She asked the Kiwanis Club to make a contribution. She also asked club members to make individual contributions using the “Donate” button found on the ECLC website. Just be sure to type into the “note box” that the donation is to go to PRIDECO (or whatever project you want to support). Click here to go to the ECLC home page and then click on the “Donate” button. Then follow the instructions on the screen. Nancy Holt, chair of the Kiwanis Benevolence Committee, said that they will consider increasing the clubs giving to ECLC for the PRIDECO program.