ELIZABETH, NJ — A walkathon tradition was a show of unity and a day of fun on Saturday, Sept. 10, to support life-changing services for people with disabilities and youths at risk.
There were hundreds of Community Access Unlimited members, staff members and supporters in attendance at the Ira Geller Walkathon on Saturday, Sept. 10, in Warinanco Park. CAU is based in Union County and works statewide to help integrate people with disabilities and youths at risk into the community through comprehensive supports. Services include housing, vocational and life skills training, education programs, advocacy and community-based support.
Recognizing a history of CAU helping people in Union County and beyond for more than 43 years, Union County Commissioner Sergio Granados gave credit to CAU Executive Director Bernadette Griswold.
“Bernadette is truly an inspiration to Union County. She’s forward thinking. … You continue to be an organization that is at the heart and soul of Union County,” Granados said.
The event is named in memory of Ira Geller, a former CAU member who had a passion for promoting self-advocacy with his peers and fundraising for the annual walk. Sponsors for the event included Valley Bank, Innovative Benefit Planning LLC and Paradigm Marketing and Design. Union County also provided event support.
Several of the attendees have been CAU members for more than 30 years. In that time, they said, they have found support to grow their independence and find work, a community and positive relationships.
Mary Kurnos joined CAU as a member in 1987 and has been employed by the agency for nearly 30 years. She said she takes pride in her job and living independently.
“I pay my bills and take care of my home and my appointments on my own,” Kurnos said. “They helped me a lot. … My first counselor showed me how to make out artificial checks.”
Sharon Mohry said she has been a CAU member for 30 years and had help with learning how to take care of daily responsibilities to become more self-sufficient. She is excited to be celebrating her first anniversary with her partner, who she met at CAU.
“They helped me with cooking and cleaning the apartment. Now I can do things on my own,” she said.
Mohry added that CAU events are a good opportunity for members to socialize and get outside.
“The walkathon helps us get out and do things and helps us be healthy by walking around the park,” she said.
Nicole Suber, a newer employee in the human resources department at CAU, said that anyone considering working at the agency should know that they make a difference for members with housing and job placement support, among other services. She was attending her first CAU walkathon on Saturday, Sept. 10.
“It’s great to raise funds, so the programs can continue to grow and there can be more activities for the members,” she said. “I also think it’s good to hang out with co-workers, the people you see every day.”
CAU has several fundraising events throughout the year to support agency services for members. Supporters can follow Community Access Unlimited on Facebook to learn about services and future events. Information about jobs is available at caunj.org.
Photos Courtesy of Erin Jerome