Center for Family Support volunteers make a difference

ELIZABETH, NJ — Volunteers from the Center for Family Support are setting an example for others. Adults with disabilities who attend the CFS Union Autism Day Program, have been volunteering at the Galilee Baptist Church, located on the Elizabeth-Newark border, for more than five years.
Every Thursday, the group comes to the tiny church building, gathers in its community room get to work.

Gabianny Valerio, who started with the CFS program in 2013, is always a willing participant, as are Cedric Clavis, Shawn Njieha and Michael Rodrigues; they work together scrubbing tables and chairs, washing windows and sills, emptying trash receptacles and cleaning the pews with furniture polish.

John Gichuri, supervisor of the Center for Family Support’s Union Autism Day Program, told LocalSource that the group became involved with the church through a friendship between a former CFS staff member and a church member.

“That relationship became the genesis of how volunteering program started,” he said in a July 31 email.

According to Gichuri, CFS members are thrilled to be volunteering at the church.
“They look forward for the day and they start preparing by assembling ahead of time, under staff supervision,” Gichuri said. “Normally, Cedric and Gabianny would have the mops and buckets ready for the assignment. The volunteering activities are also the first step and test for progressing to a paid job, hence marks a major milestone in development of employment skills. The individuals and their families are very happy about opportunity of volunteering at the church, as they tell me that this is their way of offering “kingdom service.”

Deacon Frank Ingalls, a lifetime member of the church, said Galilee Baptist Church members are grateful for the work of the volunteers.

“We take pride in our facility, and the work that is being done here on a weekly basis is helpful and a necessary part of the upkeep of the facility,” he said in a July 31 email.
Gichuri said CFS is happy to help.

“We feel a house of worship should be clean and shining for its congregation,” Gichuri said. “We have been coming here for over five years and our individuals love the assignments and look forward to this each week.”

For more information about The Center for Family Support services, visit its website at