The work of Community Options has been helping people with disabilities build lives for themselves for more than three decades and that work continues today.
The national nonprofit organization, which celebrated its 34th anniversary on Feb. 9, is headquartered in Princeton with offices across the state.
The Woodbury office services counties in Atlantic, Camden, Cumberland and Gloucester; the Moonachie office services Bergen and Passaic counties; the Moorestown office services Burlington County; the Lawrence Township office services Mercer County; the Edison office services Middlesex and Monmouth counties; the Denville office services Morris, Essex, and Sussex counties; the Forked River office services Ocean County; the Hillsborough office services Somerset County; and the Westfield office services Union County.
The nonprofit offers a Red Ribbon Academy II in Hillsborough; a S.T.E.P – School to Employment Program in Moorestown; Daily Plan It locations in Denville, Moorestown, Princeton, and Wayne; Presents of Mind in Flanders; and Vaseful locations in Edison and Princeton.
Founded in 1989 by Robert Stack, Community Options’ mission is to develop housing and employment supports for persons with disabilities, according to a press release.
Armed with the consistent philosophy that all people need to experience freedom, dignity and self-determination, the organization’s budget has grown to exceed $330 million.
With this funding, Community Options operates 650 community homes and supports over 5,000 people with disabilities and their families across 11 states.
“New Jersey is proud to be the state where Community Options began serving people with disabilities 34 years ago, improving the lives of thousands of New Jerseyans,” Former Gov. Chris Christie said.
He added that as governor, Community Options was instrumental to his administration’s work to help ensure that community-based services are available for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Community Options focuses on community-based care for people with the most complex and significant disabilities, medical and behavioral health challenges, according to the nonprofit.
The person-centered services have vastly improved the quality of life for thousands of people with disabilities who were once relegated to large-congregate settings.
“When I founded this nonprofit, I hoped we would find the humanity to operate and the generosity to fund services for Americans who are most vulnerable,” said Stack, president and CEO of Community Options.
With operations in states from Utah to New York, several dignitaries commented on the anniversary.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said in a letter, “This is an exciting milestone! As you look back, take satisfaction in all that you have accomplished, reflect on those you have had the good fortune of working alongside and comfort in knowledge that you have made your community a better place.”
In Maryland, Community Options worked with the state to establish a unique program that serves children with complex behavioral challenges and disabilities.
“Congratulations to Community Options for its 34 years of service to our nation and our local communities,” Gov. Wes Moore said.
The program has allowed children who were moved to out of state facilities to return home.
“Here in Maryland, we are making service a priority, and I want to thank Community Options and their staff in Frederick, Montgomery County and the Greater Baltimore region for leading the way,” he said.
Dorothy Goodwin, chair of Community Options’ Board of Directors, said Community Options has led one of the most significant social movements in American history.
“In my 20 years of experience in the field, no other organization has made more of an impact on the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities,” she said.
Many of the individuals who exited institutional settings have gone back to school or obtained jobs that they love.
“Employment for people with disabilities is close to my heart,” said Phil Lian, chairman of COE. I joined the Community Options Enterprises (COE) board at the request of my close friend, Robert Stack, but I stay because I see firsthand how employment gives meaning to the lives of the people the organization supports, and of course COE always pays full minimum wage or better for all work.”
With thousands of people still on waitlists for home and community-based services, the organization hopes to continue to grow and will always try to rally more people around its mission.
Jim Buckley, treasurer for Community Options and senior vice president at Citi, said he is thrilled to be involved in a nonprofit organization that has experienced “a rare anomaly” of significant growth over three decades.
“Community Options has made an impact that is directly proportionate to its growth,” he said.
For more information about Community Options, visit www.comop.org.