WOODBRIDGE — A couple of years ago, a group of parents with special needs children who were near the age of 21 approached township officials and had requested a need for a center for adults with special needs.
The public school district pays for special needs children through 21 years old; however, after that, there were no available programs and services in the township after the children age out of the public schools.
Working together, the township has found a permanent home for Our House Inc., a private, non-profit organization that provides innovative day program, employment and recreational services to adult individuals with developmental disabilities, at the newly remodeled Cypress Recreation Center at 881 West Ave. in the Port Reading section of the township.
Officials including Mayor John E. McCormac, Michele DelCorsano, president and CEO of Our House, Inc., Tara Johnson, director of Our House at the Cypress Recreation Center, members of the Woodbridge Township Council, township officials, parents and adults with specials needs at the center, gathered at the grand opening of Our House, Inc. and Help Autism Solutions on Jan. 18.
Our House programs and facilities across the state offer an environment that supports career development through vocational exploration, community integration and interpersonal skill development. The site in Woodbridge is the fifth location for Our House.
McCormac said Hess Corporation donated its former training center at Milos Hall in Port Reading and the adjacent parking lot and park space to the township when the corporation sold its gas stations, refinery and office buildings in the township a couple of years ago.
The mayor said township officials had a vision to turn the space into two ufnctions — a night time and weekend facility for cheerleading and wrestling organizations and a facility for special needs adults.
McCormac said for cheerleading and wrestling organizations, gym allocation space is limited in the township.
“They get the short end of the stick and [at times] have to go out of town and pay [for facilities],” he said. “Now they have a place to come all night and all weekend in the township for practices, matches and competitions.”
McCormac said there has always been a special place in their hearts for the special needs population in the township.
“The Woodbridge Development Center used to house up to 500 special needs adults at the Knights of Columbus,” he said.
The mayor said he and former Councilman James Carroll attended events for the special needs adults at the Woodbridge Development Center including Christmas in July and Santa Claus on a firetruck handing out presents. He said Carroll was instrumental in bringing Our House to the township.
Last fall, Our House, Inc. moved into a temporary facility at the American Legion in the Iselin section of the township before moving into the permanent location in Port Reading.
“When we look back on the many years we served in public service in Woodbridge, I can’t think of anything better than turning this into a place for the special needs adult population,” McCormac said. “I just feel so good. I have goosebumps now thinking and talking about it. I think it’s wonderful.”
DelCorsano said township officials completely transformed the former Hess Building.
“What they have done has just been amazing,” she said. “It’s humbling to be part of this, to be able to work with such amazing people in the township. They have transformed the space and now we can transform lives. That’s what we do every day: work with people who change our lives for the better. We are truly grateful.”
McCormac said the negotiation process with Our House, Inc. was probably the most difficult contract negotiation process the township has dealt with.
“We just couldn’t say no,” he said, explaining with contract negotiations there is a lot of give and take. “We gave a lot and they took and that was OK. … How could you say no to these two ladies [DelCorsao and Johnson] given the job they do?”
Contact Kathy Chang at email@example.com.