UNION COUNTY, NJ — De Lacy Davis calls his staff into his office at the Family Support Organization of Union County. He puts the phone on speaker. “I have a reporter on the phone,” he tells them, “And she wants to know how we start our day here at Family Support.”
With that comes a burst of energetic voices joined together, the clapping of hands to a steady beat. “We’re a little bit of R-E-D, we’re a little bit of H-O-T. Red hot! Red hot!”
Davis picks up the phone again. “That’s how we start every day here,” he says.
Davis, 53, is in his third year as executive director of the Family Support Organization of Union County, an organization that assists children with complex emotional, mental health, or behavioral issues. The nonprofit organization is partnered with New Jersey’s Division of Child Behavioral Health Services and is funded by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Child Behavioral Health Services.
Davis’ life story is the kind of story you read about — a remarkable journey in which he has made serving the community his life’s work. He was a police sergeant in East Orange for 20 years, a charter school principal in Newark for 5 years, the founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality and, in 1999, brought Winnie Mandela, South African activist and politician, to the states.
He is the father of four children — now grown, three of whom he adopted, quite literally, off of the streets. He raised these children — who were all between the ages of 12 and 16 when adopted — as a single father, and with the help of his mother. They came from violent backgrounds of abuse and neglect, and under Davis’s loving care thrived and blossomed into successful, independent adults.
His work as a father is mirrored in his work as an advocate for those he serves. “I’m at advocate of disenfranchised people,” said Davis, who explains that many of his kids at FSO have been in and out of group homes and involved with gangs. “I’m working with these children and we will fight to the last breath. We need to shift the culture from enabling to empowering. When they leave here they are ready to rock the world.”
All of these experiences, says Davis, have prepared him for the important role he plays at FSO. And it is this role that has earned him the Community Services and Partnership Organization Award, awarded to him by Community Access Unlimited at their Awards Night Celebration, which was to be held April 5 at the Pantagis Renaissance in Scotch Plains. The organization, located in Elizabeth, provides support to adults and adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities and at-risk youth.
The celebration is held every year to recognize staff, members, and community leaders who have made a significant impact on the lives of teens and adults with special needs.
Alyssa Mistretta, fundraising coordinator at CAU, says that the organization has made a huge impact in the community. “Community Access is a leader in the social movement,” said Mistretta. “We serve people with disabilities and at-risk youth with residential and educations services. This is a celebration of staff, members of our community, and community leaders who have really made an impact on the lives of adults and teens with special needs.”
Another recipient of a CAU award was Sam’s Club of Linden, who received the Employment in the Community Award.
Site manager Lafina Turner says that Sam’s Club provides hope. “We provide opportunity for adults that may go unnoticed at times,” said Turner. “Sam’s Club wants to provide a job than can lead to careers, good shopping experiences, and giving back within our community. I think every company wants to service the community they work in. We are always looking for people to join the team not only to get a good job but to build a career.”
Davis said that his work in the community is truly a labor of love. “I’m humbled,” said Davis of the recognition. “I’m honored. It’s very exciting.”
For more information on CAU visit www.caunj.org.