Community Involvement

As important contributors to the South Orange, NJ community and beyond, JESPY clients have participated in a number of community-based projects with the goal of helping others. Several of those activities and projects are outlined below. 

Crossing Guard Appreciation Breakfast

In recognition of Crossing Guard Appreciation Week, JESPY hosted a well-attended appreciation breakfast to celebrate the many contributions of crossing guards in South Orange and Maplewood. The event was held in conjunction with South Orange Walk Bike Ride and the South Orange and Maplewood Police Departments. Attendees included more than 30 crossing guards who interacted with Walk Bike Ride Committee Chair Julia Flath; Terri Noland of Walk Bike Ride; South Orange Village Trustees Summer Jones, Karen Hilton, and Olivia Lewis-Chang; Maplewood Mayor Nancy Adams; South Orange Police Sergeant Nicholas Lonero; Maplewood Police Chief Albert Sally; Maplewood Business Administrator Patrick Wherry; officers from both departments; JESPY Executive Director Audrey Winkler; and JESPY clients and staff. 

Colorful and thoughtful appreciation cards were made by JESPY clients and students at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood. The guards received gift cards from the South Orange and Maplewood Police Departments that were generously donated by 7-Eleven. Bagels platters and spreads were donated by Sonny’s Bagels in South Orange. 


'Coffee & Conversation' with Local Clergy

 JESPY presented ‘Coffee & Conversation with JESPY House’, an informational event hosted by JESPY Board President Dr. Ahadi Bugg-Levine. Clergy from South Orange, Maplewood, and surrounding areas including Summit and Livingston gathered to learn about JESPY’s Clinical & Behavioral Support Services, Day Habilitation and Work Readiness & Employment Engagement programs, and to hear first-hand testimonials from JESPY clients. Some of the attendees included clergy from Prospect Presbyterian Church, Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (Father Jim Worth shown right), and Congregation Ahavath Zion in Maplewood; Congregation Beth El in South Orange; St. Rose of Lima Church in Short Hills; and First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, NJ.


MEND Recognizes JESPY Client


JESPY House, client Jessica M. was recognized for her volunteer work at MEND is Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity - Hunger Relief Network. The Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast was held at the Christopher Peacock Showroom in Millburn, NJ. Special thanks to MEND Executive Director Robin Peacock and her team for recognizing Jessica for her hard work and dedication to a volunteer effort that she loves. Jessica (center) was supported during the event by her case manager and JESPY Community Relations & Outreach Supervisor Tara Roberts (right).

Ukrainian Flag Pin Donations

Five JESPY clients dedicated themselves to knitting and crocheting Ukrainian Flag Pins. The pins were sold at the General Store Cooperative in Maplewood and Rocket Ship Print Shop in South Orange, and were also purchased from JESPY by a number of local supporters.

During an event held at Judi House, one of JESPY’s program buildings, clients presented a $1,000 check to Pastor Sviatoslav Hot of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension in Maplewood.

In attendance were Pastor Hot and several staff members from his church, the ladies of the JESPY knitting/crocheting team, Father Jim Worth from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maplewood, clients from JESPY’s Day Habilitation program, and JESPY staff. 

Clients later made an additional $500 donation to the Orthodox Church from the sale of Flag Pins sold at a Ukrainian Fair that was hosted by St. Joseph's.


Inclusive Healthy Community (IHC) Project

The collaboration of the New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP), JESPY House, and SRS Strategic Associates was recently awarded additional funding from the NJ Department of Health (NJ DoH), Division of Disability Services (DDS) to continue the NJACP-JESPY Model Inclusive Healthy Community (IHC) grant project that began in January 2021.  

The NJACP-JESPY Model partners NJACP, SRS, JESPY House, JESPY’s clients, and the South Orange, NJ community to create a more inclusive healthy community for adults with Intellectual and Developmental disabilities (I/DD). The outcomes of the grant will benefit not only people with I/DD, but also individuals with physical disabilities and the community-at-large. Key project components include enhancing accessibility and walkability; placing persons with I/DD on committees that will have an impact on policy, practice, and decision-making in South Orange (SO); and adapting the model so it’s applicable across New Jersey.

The NJACP-JESPY Model project recently completed its two-year cycles. For a complete project overview, click the button below.


Shade Tree Project

JESPY has been working in conjunction with the South Orange Environmental Commission's Shade Tree Group (as part of the IHC project) to identifying areas in the community where shade trees should be planted. In addition to determining locales for shade trees, JESPY clients learned areas where tree stumps should be removed and enjoyed an educational presentation on the importance of shade trees for the environment and the community. 

Clients participated in a planting at Stop & Shop and also planted a pollinator garden at JESPY. Clients are excited about being part of a shade tree donated by JESPY. Within the South Orange community, 175 shade trees were planted in Spring of 2022 with another 175 trees slated for fall.

Also, to contribute to enhancing, beautifying, and protecting the environment, JESPY joined the Shade Tree Group and the Department of Public Works on November 28, 2022 to plant three shade trees in the area of Meadowbrook Place in South Orange. 

Clients have participated in the Group since the summer of 2021 when David Kraiker, who convenes the Group, and Group member Jessica Miller visited JESPY’s Judi House to conduct a presentation about the role clients could play. 

Warmth Project

The JESPY House Social Action Committee annually participates in the Warmth Project. The project involves clients anonymously distributing warmth items throughout the South Orange community.

The Warmth Project provides new gloves, hats, mittens, and scarves for those who are in need of the items during the winter months.

During early December, JESPY House Client Social Action Committee volunteers will affix the items to poles and signs around South Orange, along with an encouraging note. In previous years, the Committee has found that those in need take these items and have been grateful for the important act of kindness.

MEND Food Pantry

Since 2020, JESPY has continually provided support to MEND (Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity) food pantry by holding several food drives. MEND has worked diligently to secure donations for local food banks to address the notable insecurity in the Essex County area brought on by the pandemic and that currently continues.

JESPY clients, staff, board members, and supporters have supported the organization by conducting drives that secured a variety of grocery and personal hygiene items.

JESPY also received support on this effort from the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce and the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association. A number of JESPY clients have worked as volunteers at an area MEND location to package food items and assist with various tasks. 


In Support of Animals

Several JESPY clients did their part to support the Township of Union Animal Shelter by collecting pet supplies and goods. They participated in the collection as part of the #bettywhitechallenge, named after the legendary actress Betty white, who had an affinity for animals.