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2022: A Year in Review

2022: A Year in Review

January 13, 2023

Though 2022 has been a challenging year, our work hasn't stopped—instead, it's grown as the need for our programs and services has increased. We've never been busier. We've been able to serve more than 4,000 children and families daily through our cradle-to-college pipeline of programs and services in the areas of education, youth development, affordable/supportive housing, and community building.

This year, we threw our largest-ever annual Block Party for neighborhood residents; we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated Lou Costello Memorial Park—which contains the city's first playground designed for children with autism and special needs; and we resumed both our annual trip to Washington, D.C. and our Ivy League Tour, where our students visited Brown University and Harvard University, as well as MIT.

Construction is also in the final stages on Barclay Place, a 56-unit "healthy home" apartment building created in partnership with St. Joseph's Health. We are also almost done turning two vacant lots into small apartment buildings for local families. In addition, we are expanding our Great Falls Youth Center, which serves scores of high school students after school daily.

In 2023, with the help of friends like you, we plan to grow our efforts to help students recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, expand our Youth Center, open new affordable and supportive housing, and formally release our 10-year plan for the neighborhood we serve.


We celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy with a weekend of service

To kick off the holiday weekend, on January 15th, our AmeriCorps members hosted a Clothing Drive at our Great Falls Youth Center and distributed hundreds of items of clothing to Paterson residents in need. On Monday, January 17th—Martin Luther King Day—we held an outdoor Drive-Through Food Collection at our Youth Center to help combat food insecurity in our community. Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy came by to help out at the event, and other volunteers throughout the day included Congressman Bill Pascrell, Mayor Andre Sayegh, and Councilwoman Ruby Cotton. At the end of the day, we collected 2,269 pounds of nonperishable foods, which we brought to CUMAC to distribute to Paterson residents.

Earlier that morning, our Paterson Youth Council members hosted our 16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Recognition Awards through a virtual ceremony. Nearly 100 people joined to celebrate the honorees, which included four Paterson teens, an adult, an elected official, and a youth-serving community organization.


We completed extensive renovations on our Indy House residence

NJCDC opened William Waldman Independence House—or Indy House, as we call it—in 2005 to provide affordable housing and supportive services to young men leaving the foster care system. Thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, we were able to renovate the building to make it a safer and more comfortable place to live for our residents. We installed a new HVAC system, painted the entire building, and updated the lighting and flooring.

Our programs spread love through a series of Valentine's Day celebrations

On Valentine's Day, our Paterson Family Center (PFC) Preschool held its annual I Love You" Breakfast, during which parents and caregivers are typically invited to have breakfast with their children and the PFC staff. In 2021, the event was held virtually; this year the breakfast was held in person again, but was limited to PFC staff and students due to the pandemic. Still, this celebration felt extra sweet!

Leading up to the holiday, students at the Community Charter School of Paterson (CCSP)—which we created back in 2008—worked with our AmeriCorps members to create Valentine's Day cards to give to their friends and families. Our residents also enjoyed a sweet Valentine's Day, as art students at Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi donated handmade cards to our Hawthorne Heights residents.


We held Read Across America Day at PFC and CCSP

Every year on March 2nd (Dr. Seuss' birthday), schools all over the country celebrate the joy of reading on Read Across America Day. This year, we were able to hold the event in person for the first time since 2020. Over 30 community leaders and volunteers came to read to our preschool students at the Paterson Family Center and our first, third, and fourth-grade students at the Community Charter School of Paterson. Volunteers included Paterson's First Lady Farhanna Sayegh, Senator Nellie Pou, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, Sheriff Richard Berdnik, County Commissioner John Bartlett, and Superintendent Eileen Shafer, as well as members of the Paterson Police Department and employees from AvalonBay, Merrill Lynch, and St. Joseph's Health.

We celebrated our AmeriCorps members during AmeriCorps Week

AmeriCorps members have been the bloodline of NJCDC since our founding year of 1994, and their work has allowed us to grow into the organization we are today. Our AmeriCorps members each dedicate a year of service to our community, working with students, parents, and teachers in neighborhood schools and our Great Falls Youth Center. In addition to supporting students directly, our members also lead many of NJCDC's community service activities throughout the year. To thank our members for their hard work, we held a week of activities from March 14th to March 18th, including bowling, a movie night, self-care activities, and a cook-in.

With our partners, we held numerous mayoral candidate forums

One of the goals of our Paterson Youth Council (PYC) leadership development program is to encourage civic engagement among local teens. Throughout the year, our PYC members got involved with local affairs in a variety of ways, including hosting candidate forums for different elections. At each forum, PYC members asked every candidate questions about issues affecting Paterson youth and facilitated productive discussions with the candidates. At their Mayoral Candidate Forum in March, nearly 60 community members attended to see what the candidates thought about different issues—like the police, education, recreation, Hinchliffe Stadium, and the COVID-19 pandemic—that affect the PYC members and their peers. Additionally, we worked with fellow non-profits Eva's Village, Oasis, Paterson Habitat for Humanity, and St. Paul's Community Development Corporation to sponsor a Mayoral Forum on Community and Economic Development for the candidates.


We took 35 Paterson teens on an Ivy League Tour

Started in 2017, our annual Ivy League Tour has brought Paterson high school students to some of our country's—and the world's—top universities each year to show them that, with hard work and determination, going to an Ivy League school is within their reach. While the tour was paused in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, this year we held our annual Ivy League Tour in person again and gave 35 high school students the chance to visit three college campuses—Harvard, Brown, and MIT! Our students were especially excited to visit Harvard University, as Isabela Gonzalez—a member of our Great Falls Teen Center and a recipient of our PYC's MLK Youth Recognition Awards—had just been accepted into Harvard's Class of 2026 (and with a full scholarship no less!)

School-Based Youth Services celebrated its 35th anniversary

On April 27, nearly 200 attendees gathered on Zoom to celebrate the 35th anniversary of New Jersey's School-Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP). SBYSP provides middle and high school students throughout the state with free academic support and enrichment, as well as counseling and health services during the school day; they also run after-school, weekend, and summer programming. Today, there are SBYSP programs at 90 middle schools and high schools in New Jersey, including three run by NJCDC—our Teen Centers at Clifton High School, Passaic Valley Regional High School, and Passaic County Technical Institute. We were proud to co-sponsor this celebration along with fellow non-profits Family Connections and Preferred Behavioral Health Group to commemorate this important milestone.

We cut the ribbon on the renovated Lou Costello Park

First opened in 1992, Lou Costello Memorial Park fell into disrepair over time; sadly, not many people felt comfortable visiting it in recent years. A few years ago, NJCDC applied for and received a $50,000 planning grant from the Passaic County Open Space Fund, which allowed us to design a new Lou Costello Memorial Park that would be safer and more welcoming to families. And thanks to federal Community Development Block Grant funds and a donation from the nonprofit organization Alexandra's Playground, the City of Paterson was able to put the plan into action! The new park is a safe space that welcomes all families. It features an inclusive playground designed for children with autism and other sensory needs, and the park's open space is now more welcoming because of the new landscaping and lighting. We're also grateful to the LoConte Family Foundation for their support.


We rolled the bones at our 7th Annual Casino Night

On May 6th, NJCDC held our 7th Annual Casino Night at The Brownstone. Guests enjoyed games like blackjack, craps, and roulette, as well as dinner and dessert buffets—plus a photo booth and music. Thanks to our generous sponsors and guests, the event raised $35,000 for our college readiness programming. Save the date (Friday, March 24th) for this year's event!

We took 30 Paterson teens to our nation's capital

Every spring, NJCDC hosts a trip to Washington, D.C. in honor of our friend and Paterson native, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, for participants in our youth development programs. This year was the first year we were able to hold the trip since 2019. Our teens got to see many historic sites and landmarks in D.C., including Arlington National Cemetery, the Washington Monument, Union Station, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The students also had the chance to visit the U.S. Capitol and meet with Senator Bob Menendez on the steps of the Capitol. They also toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.

We held our 2nd Annual Great Falls Neighborhood Summit

On May 21st, we hosted the Great Falls Neighborhood Summit, giving neighborhood residents a chance to learn more about 10 upcoming construction projects. Speakers at the summit included developers of projects such as the reconstruction and revitalization of Hinchliffe Stadium, the new Visitor Center at the Great Falls, and the replacement of the Spruce Street Bridge. For each project, residents had the opportunity to ask developers questions and learn more about how the neighborhood would benefit. As a place-based community development organization, NJCDC created this event to ensure that local residents hear directly about development and projects in their own backyard.


We celebrated Paterson graduates of all ages

Throughout June, we celebrated students graduating from all of our programs and services, ranging from preschool to high school. Our Paterson Family Center held its annual Moving-Up Ceremony, celebrating over 40 students moving from pre-K 3 to pre-K 4 and over 50 students moving from pre-K 4 to Kindergarten. At the Community Charter School of Paterson, we celebrated 100 Kindergarteners moving up to first grade and also held an outdoor ceremony for 8th Grade Graduation. We also celebrated our Paterson Youth Council graduates, with each teen who completed the yearlong program receiving a certificate and a scholarship.

40 volunteers from AvalonBay cleaned William Carlos Williams Community Plaza

On June 30th, we welcomed more than 40 staff from AvalonBay Communities, who spent the day cleaning up William Carlos Williams Community Plaza and beautifying the park through new planter boxes and landscaping. We're thankful to AvalonBay and our other corporate partners who help us to transform our neighborhood!


Summer was a season of learning!

Throughout the summer, NJCDC offered free academic and enrichment programming to our students of all ages, to make sure they were ready to start the school year off on the right foot. Two hundred students at the Community Charter School of Paterson participated in a month of summer programming, which included academic classes like English and Math, as well as a variety of enrichment activities like gardening, video development, fitness, and financial literacy. CCSP students also went on educational field trips to the Planetarium at the New Jersey State Museum and Storm King Art Center. Over 75 students in our 21st Century Compete for Life program at John F. Kennedy High School participated in summer programming that included classes like creative writing, dance, and debate, as well as field trips to Turtle Back Zoo and Dorney Park. We also held Summer STEAM and Arts sessions for elementary school students, and our Bridge to Success program helped incoming high school freshmen prepare for their transition from eighth grade to high school.


Paterson youth shared their skills in an Arts Showcase

This summer, we offered Youth Arts Programming, which provided four weeks of arts education to Paterson students entering grades 1 through 5. Throughout the program, the children participated in a wide range of arts activities, including dance, arts and crafts, and bucket drumming. At the end of the programs, the students showed their friends and families what they learned at NJCDC's Summer Arts Showcase. The event featured live performances of dance routines and bucket drumming, as well as an art gallery filled with projects made by the students.

We held the 8th Annual College Sendoff

NJCDC's vision is that all children living and going to school in our neighborhood will graduate from high school ready for college and a career. And every year, we're thrilled we get to celebrate the Paterson students who are heading off to college at our Annual College Sendoff. This year, our 8th Annual College Sendoff, held in partnership with Paterson Public Schools, recognized over 50 Paterson youth who were starting four-year colleges. We also gave out over $20,000 in scholarships!


We commemorated the 21st anniversary of 9/11

Every year on September 11th, our AmeriCorps members host a day of service honoring the victims and heroes of 9/11. This year, more than 75 volunteers came together to help beautify and clean up two of our community spaces—the Community Charter School of Paterson and the Great Falls Youth Center. At CCSP, volunteers cleared up litter and debris and planted a wildflower garden. Meanwhile, at the Youth Center, volunteers cleaned up the grounds and planted a variety of flowers outside the building.

We broke ground on the expansion to our Great Falls Youth Center

NJCDC opened the Great Falls Youth Center in 2018 to provide Paterson high school students with a safe space to go after school to do homework and hang out with friends. Four years later, the Youth Center had grown from serving about 20 students a day to serving nearly 100 students every day. To accommodate the growing number of students and engage them in additional activities, we needed more space. Thanks to a generous donation from Mrs. Marilyn Clark, as well as funding from the City of Paterson and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, we were able to start building an expansion to the existing Youth Center, which will include a new multi-purpose room, a podcast studio, and a building for our "College Central" program to help students get into and succeed in college.

We celebrated Indy House resident O'Brien Walters' steps to independence

NJCDC operates over 150 units of affordable housing, many of which also offer supportive services to vulnerable populations. Indy House is a residence for young adults aging out of foster care, and it provides resources and supports to help these young men learn how to live independently. O'Brien Walters moved into Indy House in July of 2020 and spent the last two years learning independent living skills. While living at Indy House, O'Brien started working at UPS, and with hard work was promoted to a supervisor position. In September, he was able to find an apartment in Paterson, and he moved out of Indy House ready to use the skills he had learned. Guests at our 28th Anniversary Gala in November were able to hear O'Brien speak about his experience at Indy House and the help and support he received from NJCDC.


Paterson residents had a fun-filled day at our annual Block Party

On October 15th, more than 1,300 Paterson residents gathered to enjoy our annual Block Party at the Community Charter School of Paterson. Guests enjoyed free carnival games, food, and inflatables throughout the day. Attendees could also visit tables to learn about services provided by NJCDC and other community organizations. Our Neighborhood Help Center also hosted an open house introducing their services and resources, and announcing upcoming events and programs.

The Paterson Music Project celebrated 10 years of music education

The Paterson Music Project (PMP) launched in 2013 at the Community Charter School of Paterson thanks to the hard work of CCSP's former principal Marnie McKoy. In partnership with the Wharton Institute for Performing Arts, the Paterson Music Project's goal was to provide affordable classical music instruction to the students of Paterson. Over the past 10 years, PMP has grown from serving 32 CCSP students to about 500 students throughout Paterson. On October 22nd, PMP began celebrating its 10th anniversary with student performances at CCSP's annual Fall Festival.


We held our 28th Anniversary Gala

On November 2nd, we welcomed hundreds of guests at the Westmount Country Club to celebrate our 28th anniversary. Thanks to our sponsors and supporters, we raised nearly $300,000 for our programs and services. This year, we honored two longtime supporters, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Senator Nellie Pou. Throughout the night, guests listened to remarks from them, as well as from three of our program participants about the impact NJCDC has had on their lives, and also enjoyed live music performed by a jazz quartet.

Our PYC visited BD to learn about careers in medical technology

On November 10th, members of our Paterson Youth Council went on a field trip to BD's global headquarters in Franklin Lakes. The field trip was a part of BD's first-ever Career Awareness Day, and our youth spent the day learning about the different careers available at BD. Students were given the opportunity to speak with current employees about their career paths and also participated in interactive activities to learn more about BD's products and the processes behind them.

We distributed Thanksgiving meals to 500 Paterson families

We launched our monthly FoodBox program last February to provide 500 families with nutritious, nonperishable food each month. The weekend before Thanksgiving, we were able to give our FoodBox recipients a Thanksgiving meal, adding a turkey with all the trimmings—including stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn muffin mix, and cranberry sauce.


We gave hundreds of families holiday meals

On December 17th, we held another festive FoodBox giveaway. This time, we gave all 500 FoodBox recipients everything they needed to make a holiday meal for Christmas, including turkey, mashed potatoes, and vegetables.

We made the holidays magical for nearly 1,500 Paterson kids

Every year on Christmas Eve Day, our AmeriCorps members host our Annual Holiday Party for Paterson kids and families. This party is the culmination of many weeks of work done by our AmeriCorps members, including soliciting toy and gift donations, choosing gifts for the children in our neighborhood, and planning the party itself. This year, we were able to collect more than 7,000 gifts to give to nearly 1,500 children. In addition, guests also enjoyed live music, games, arts and crafts, and a special visit from "Mayor Claus"—Mayor Andre Sayegh.

We welcomed a new resident just in time for the holidays

One of our supportive and affordable housing residences is Hawthorne Heights, which provides supportive services and a place to live for 13 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

On December 17th, Shadiyah became our newest resident when she moved into her apartment just in time for the holidays. So far, Shadiyah has enjoyed socializing with the other residents and developing her independent living skills, such as learning to cook different meals (like pasta)!

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