News
January 8, 2018

New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) is a comprehensive community development and social service agency based in the historic city of Paterson, New Jersey. We operate a variety of programs and services in the areas of education, youth development, housing, and community building. We serve more than 3,000 children, teens, and families every day, and, having adopted a place-based approach to our work, our efforts are largely concentrated on the neighborhood surrounding Paterson's majestic Great Falls—a neighborhood we call the Great Falls Promise Neighborhood.

2017 marked NJCDC's 23rd year of creating opportunities to transform lives. With the help of our friends and supporters, we had a banner year. Over the last twelve months, we were able to serve more of the children who live or go to school in our neighborhood, as well as their families. This past year also saw the addition of another local playground, and the grand opening of Park Corner Plaza, our first mixed-use real estate development project. In addition, we undertook construction of the new Great Falls Youth Center, scheduled to open in early 2018.

We're looking forward to expanding our impact even more in 2018, but first, let's look back on 2017.

January

We celebrated Paterson's youth leaders and served the community on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Year In ReviewOur Paterson Youth Council hosted its annual Dr. MLK Youth Recognition Awards, honoring four young people, two adults, one elected official, and one youth-serving organization that have made a difference in Paterson and reflect the ideals and virtues espoused by Dr. King. Afterwards, our AmeriCorps program held three service projects, including a Community Resource Fair to connect Paterson families with local services, food, and clothing.

We received a $1 million grant for Neighborhood Revitalization

Year In ReviewNJCDC's work includes the physical transformation of our neighborhood, as well as providing services to its residents. We received a $1 million Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit (NRTC) Program grant to help us undertake renovations of the new Great Falls Youth Center we are constructing, as well as to support important programs like our youth arts initiative and our Neighborhood Help Center.

February

Paterson Family Center celebrated the school's families

Year In ReviewPaterson Family Center (PFC), NJCDC's preschool serving 105 three- and four- year-old Paterson children with an evidence-based curriculum, held its annual "I Love You" Breakfast for its students and their parents and caregivers. The Breakfast was a great way for PFC staff to honor and thank the parents who chose the school for their children's early childhood education, while also strengthening parent-teacher relationships and communication.

March

CCSP's charter was renewed for five more years

Year In ReviewAfter an in-depth review by the New Jersey Department of Education, the Community Charter School of Paterson's (CCSP) charter was renewed for five more years. Created by NJCDC in 2008 based on our belief that we could do more to help advance educational excellence in the City of Paterson while promoting positive youth development and strengthening families, CCSP now serves over 900 students in grades K-8. CCSP Founder Bob Guarasci said, "We appreciate the opportunity to continue to support the education of over 900 kids every day--and I personally appreciate the dedication of our faculty, staff, parents, and our broad array of community partners."

Our Second Annual 'Bet on Paterson' Casino Night raised over $25,000

Year In ReviewMore than 150 supporters joined us on March 3rd to support Paterson's next generation of college graduates. Currently, only 10% of adults living in our neighborhood have earned a bachelor's degree, but NJCDC is working hard to change this statistic and make college the expectation for all Paterson high school students. The money we raised from Casino Night funded college scholarships, out-of-state college tours, the Senior Send-Off ceremony celebrating college-bound high school seniors, and the Dr. MLK Youth Recognition Awards Ceremony.

April

We emphasized the importance of National Service

Year In ReviewTo highlight the impact of National Service programs--which include AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA--at a time when the federal budget proposed their elimination, NJCDC hosted a community service project at CCSP in recognition of the fifth-annual 'Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service'. Elected officials joined forces with AmeriCorps members and CCSP students to beautify the school's grounds and prepare its 'Good Food Garden' for May and June, when it would serve as a learning garden and improve students' access to fresh produce.

AmeriCorps, our first program back in 1994, is the bloodline of NJCDC. We are proud to have the longest continuously running AmeriCorps program in the State of New Jersey.

Paterson teens toured the Ivy League

Year In ReviewAs part of our ongoing efforts to improve college graduation outcomes in the City of Paterson, NJCDC sponsored and organized a trip for forty-four Paterson high school students to explore Ivy League universities over their spring break. The teens toured Harvard, Yale, and MIT, gaining insight into the different programs available to their students. The teens returned from the trip knowing that with hard work, no school is off-limits for them.

May

We released a Master Plan for Westside Park

Year In ReviewAfter a year-long process involving countless community stakeholders, NJCDC unveiled a Master Plan for the revitalization of Westside Park, which has suffered due to neglect and damage from severe storms including Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Funded through a grant from the Passaic County Open Space & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, the Master Plan provides strategic guidance for improving the Park over the next 5-10 years in a way that meets the needs of the community while honoring its historic design.

Youth Trip to Washington to Honor Senator Frank Lautenberg

Year In ReviewEach year, NJCDC brings members of the Paterson Youth Council and other students to an overnight trip to our nation's capital. The trip is hosted in memory of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was a strong supporter of our work and who always made time to meet with Paterson youth. This year, the students were able to plant a tree in memory of Senator Lautenberg, and they did so with both United States Senators--Cory Booker and Bob Menendez--at their sides.

Our 'Fore the Kids' Golf Tournament raised over $110,000

Year In ReviewMore than 90 companies and individual donors joined forces to make our Ninth Annual Fore the Kids Golf Tournament, held at Upper Montclair Country Club, a successful event. Thanks to the event supporters, NJCDC raised over $110,000, which provided critical operating support.

We worked with AvalonBay to build a local playground

Year In ReviewMore than 130 volunteers from AvalonBay Communities worked with NJCDC staff to build a new playground for students at Paterson Public School #3. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment, the playground has encouraged active and imaginative play for the school's 400+ students in grades K-8. Led by Paterson Youth Council and AmeriCorps alum Danny Cobar, now an AvalonBay employee, the volunteers also repainted the school's fence, pulled weeds from its garden, and painted blacktop games such as four square and hopscotch.

June

We celebrated 150+ of Paterson's college-bound high school seniors

Year In ReviewWe worked with the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Paterson Public Schools, and the City of Paterson to hold the Third-Annual 'Senior Send-Off'. The annual event celebrated more than 150 seniors from Paterson Public Schools who matriculated to four-year colleges this fall, and raised over $30,000 for scholarships. The overwhelming majority of these students have now become the first members of their families to attend college.

July

Paterson turned 225

Year In ReviewThe Paterson 225 Planning Committee, chaired by NJCDC CEO Bob Guarasci, organized a series of activities centered around July 4--Paterson's 225th birthday--to highlight this milestone and the importance of Paterson in our country's history.

The Planning Committee created four July events to celebrate Paterson's 225th birthday: a city-wide community service project at the Elysian Fields Community Garden, funded by ADP; a dinner dance honoring a number of individuals for their service to Paterson and its residents; an interfaith prayer service; and finally, a milestone ceremony held on Paterson's actual birthday, which was supported by TD Bank. This important anniversary was prominently featured in many parades and festivals, and the Committee also held a Children's Field Day in September.

NJCDC housing residents headed to Washington

Year In ReviewNJCDC housing residents and staff joined more than 450 of their fellow New Jersey residents at the New Jersey Congressional Reception in Washington, D.C. There, they advocated for affordable housing and expressed their opposition to proposed housing cuts. Josh Copeland, who was homeless for five years and now lives in a building constructed by NJCDC, wowed the crowd with his reflection on how having a place to call home has transformed his life. He said, "For the first time in my life, I'm really happy and I don't want to change anything. And none of this would have been possible without NJCDC." Josh's apartment overlooks the bridge he used to live under, which reminds him of how far he has come.

July and August

NJCDC held summer programs for students of all ages

Year In ReviewOver the summer months, students living in low-income communities like Paterson lose, on average, two-and-a-half months of math skills and two months of reading skills. To combat this issue, NJCDC held free summer programs for children and teens of all ages, helping hundreds of Paterson students start the school year prepared to learn.

These summer programs included PFC's summer enrichment program designed to help four-year-old students successfully transition to kindergarten; a summer arts camp for students entering grades K-6; a program at PS #5 for students in grades K-8; and a number of summer employment programs for high school students, including Junior YouthBuild, the Great Falls Youth Corps, and the Great Falls Neighborhood Corps--which collectively provided more than 60 summer jobs for local youth.

September

We commemorated 9/11

Year In ReviewOn the sixteenth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11, our AmeriCorps program mobilized student, community, and Valley National Bank volunteers to participate in community cleaning and garden revitalization at School 5's Elysian Fields Community Garden. The volunteers also planted flowers, assembled garden fences, stained and painted garden bed boxes, weeded, and cleaned the area in and around the garden. This service project was funded in part by the New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service and Valley National Bank.

We launched a new youth program

Year In ReviewNJCDC started YouthCares, a program which is giving Paterson youth the opportunity to participate in an intensive service learning curriculum that will help them to identify and address critical health issues in their community. By the end of this project, the youth participants will have the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to build healthier and more vibrant communities. YouthCares is funded through New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), the statewide grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Our Block Party celebrated the neighborhood we serve

Year In ReviewTo celebrate the neighborhood we serve--and to provide information to local residents--we held our free annual Great Falls Promise Neighborhood Block Party on Saturday, September 30. Hundreds of Paterson children and families attended and enjoyed a variety of games and rides--including a mechanical shark--while learning about the resources available to them through about NJCDC's many programs, including the Neighborhood Help Center, Parent Academy, and Music Together.

October

We celebrated 23 years of transforming lives at our Anniversary Dinner

Year In ReviewThis year, at our 23rd Anniversary Gala, NJCDC honored NJCDC Trustee Joseph A. Cabrera, Vice Chairman – Eastern Region of Colliers International for his commitment to making a difference in the City of Paterson, and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and its Commissioner Chuck Richman for the DCA's work administering the state's Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit (NRTC) program. Thanks to generous funders, we raised more than $200,000, which is crucial to our work. Supporting NJCDC at the highest level this year were Colliers International and The Daleo Family.

November

We held a ribbon cutting ceremony for Park Corner Plaza

Year In ReviewReplacing an abandoned, fire-damaged building on a formerly blighted lot, NJCDC's Park Corner Plaza--a real estate development project with eleven affordable housing units and two ground floor retail spaces--opened its doors. To mark the occasion and recognize the significant partners and funders who helped make this project possible, NJCDC held a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 9th attended by the Mayor, members of City Council, representatives of State and City government, as well as funders. One of the residents gave a moving account of how she felt like she 'hit the lottery' when she found out she would be living there. Following her comments, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

December

We held our 24th Annual Holiday Party for Paterson families

Year In ReviewOur 24th Annual Holiday Party, held on December 23rd, brought holiday cheer to hundreds of children and families from all across Paterson. The party was the culmination of an annual toy drive, which collected over 6,000 gifts and enabled us to provide boxes of joy to 645 families and nearly 2,000 children--several hundred of whom attended the party. The kids enjoyed meeting Santa, playing in a bouncy house, and having their faces painted. Volunteers included several NJCDC Board members, including our Board Chair Don Buckley and his family, as well as the state's Commissioner of Human Services. The event was generously sponsored by NJCDC board member Bob Daleo and his wife, Linda.

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