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2023: A Year in Review

2023: A Year in Review

January 10, 2024

Throughout 2023, our work continued to grow 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 and supportive housing, and community building.

In 2023, we relaunched the city's Financial Empowerment Center to provide one-on-one financial counseling; we released a new resident-led and resident-driven plan for the neighborhood we serve; and, in partnership with St. Joseph's Health and CAPC, we cut the ribbon on Barclay Place — 56 units of affordable, "healthy home" housing.

We also officially launched the New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services (NJ4S) Passaic County Hub, which provides prevention and intervention services to address the youth mental health crisis in Paterson and neighboring towns. Additionally, we became the lead agency at our fourth Full Service Community School — Paterson's International High School — and opened the expansion to our Great Falls Youth Center.

In 2024, with the help of friends like you, we will continue to expand our programs and services to create even more opportunities for Paterson youth and families. We're also excited to celebrate our 30th anniversary year, and look forward to many more years of serving Paterson and the Great Falls Neighborhood!


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

On Monday, January 16th — Martin Luther King Day — our Paterson Youth Council (PYC) held their 17th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Recognition Awards. Nearly 200 guests joined the teens at The Brownstone for a breakfast and awards ceremony. PYC members honored four Paterson youth who empower their community through exceptional community service and also recognized adults and organizations making a difference in the lives of young people.

Meanwhile, at the Rogers Meeting Center behind NJCDC's headquarters, our AmeriCorps members were honoring MLK Day in a different way. They held a Clothing Drive and distributed donated clothing to 130 Paterson residents in need!

We officially relaunched the City of Paterson's Financial Empowerment Center

On January 17th, the City of Paterson and NJCDC announced the relaunch of the Paterson Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) — New Jersey's only FEC — which provides free, one-on-one financial counseling to all Paterson residents. The FEC goes beyond basic financial literacy, with trained counselors helping clients achieve financial goals like building savings, reducing debt, opening a bank account, and more.


We assisted with relief efforts for the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

In early February, severe earthquakes struck southern Turkey and northern Syria. Jennifer Aydin, a Turkish-American cast member on Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey wanted to use her platform to help the people affected by the earthquakes. She partnered with Paterson — home to the United States' largest Turkish community and a large Syrian community — and NJCDC facilitated her fundraising efforts. Together, we raised over $25,000 to donate to impacted communities.

We launched our Great Falls Peer Financial Literacy program

Financial literacy education is vital for youth in Paterson, where nearly 30% of children live below the poverty level. The Great Falls Peer Financial Literacy curriculum teaches Paterson high school students topics like saving for college, preventing identity theft, and creating budgets. Students received a small stipend to start a savings account, and were encouraged to teach their peers what they learned, helping more Paterson youth break the cycle of poverty.

We gave Paterson youth a chance to express themselves through our Saturday Youth Arts Program

In February, we also kicked off our Saturday Youth Arts Program. Arts education is so important to a well-rounded education, but many schools lack the funding to provide this programming. Every Saturday for 12 weeks, 45 Paterson elementary school students expressed themselves creatively through drumming, dance, arts & crafts, and more.


We held Read Across America Day at Our Schools

Every year, schools across the country celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2nd. This year, more than 50 volunteers read to preschool students at our Paterson Family Center (PFC) Preschool and elementary school students at the Community Charter School of Paterson. Our readers included Senator Nellie Pou; Real Housewives of New Jersey cast members Jennifer Aydin and Dolores Catania; representatives from Paterson Public Schools, the Paterson Fire Department, and the Paterson Police Department; employees from AvalonBay, Spencer Savings Bank, and Peapack-Gladstone Bank; and many others. We're thankful to all these volunteers for helping to instill a love of reading in our youngest students!

We unveiled the new Great Falls Neighborhood Plan

Two years ago, Great Falls Neighborhood residents began the planning process for a new strategic plan for the neighborhood's revitalization. NJCDC facilitated this resident-driven process, which included community needs assessments, community meetings, and stakeholder focus groups. In March, we unveiled the completed Great Falls Neighborhood Plan, which features six goals for the neighborhood over the next ten years.

We held our 8th Annual Casino Night

On March 24th, NJCDC held our 8th Annual Casino Night at the Brownstone. Guests enjoyed games like blackjack, roulette, and craps, and well as food, music, and a photo booth. Through our supporters' generosity, we raised $35,000 to help Paterson kids prepare for college. Save the date for this year's Casino Night, on Friday, March 22nd!


We took 40+ Paterson teens on an Ivy League Tour

Since 2017, our annual Ivy League Tour has shown our students that with hard work and determination, going to an Ivy League school is within their reach. This April, more than 40 students from our programs visited Harvard, Brown, and MIT, where they met with faculty and staff, toured campuses, and learned more about the academic opportunities available to them. At Harvard, the students even met with Isabela Gonzalez, a Great Falls Teen Center alum in Harvard's Class of 2026! We're very proud that over the last few years, a number of our students have enrolled in schools including Stanford, Yale, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins.

Teens at our Great Falls Youth Center hosted a fashion show

Our Great Falls Youth Center gives over 100 high school students a safe place to hang out after school, where they sharpen their academics, learn life skills, and just have fun. In April, we received a large shipment of new merchandise featuring the Youth Center's new logo, and our students celebrated by hosting a fashion show to show off all their new gear. The students love wearing the new merchandise to school and introducing even more of their classmates to the Great Falls Youth Center!


We held our 14th Annual "Fore the Kids" Golf Outing—and celebrated our CEO's birthday

On May 8th, we held our 14th Annual 'Fore the Kids' Golf Outing, which was postponed from 2022 due to repeated inclement weather. More than 100 golfers helped us raise over $110,000 for our programs and services. The outing was even more special than usual because it was also our Founder & CEO's birthday! In addition to the wonderful food served by the club, guests also enjoyed a special birthday cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to Bob.

We brought 40 teens to visit Washington, D.C.

Each spring, we honor the late Senator Frank Lautenberg by bringing a group of Paterson teens to visit our nation's capital. This year, 40 teens toured Union Station, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Capitol; visited many monuments; and spoke with our Congressman, Bill Pascrell. This trip gives Paterson youth a chance to travel somewhere new, learn more about our country's history, and get inspired to make a difference in their community.

We were awarded $1,000,000 from the Regional Foundation to revitalize our neighborhood!

In May, we received a grant from the Regional Foundation of $1,000,000 over 5 years. This funding will enable us to better engage with local residents to implement the new Great Falls Neighborhood Plan. It will also support new neighborhood revitalization efforts such as expanding our Full Service Community Schools, promoting community gardens, and providing small grants to local residents looking to improve their own community.

Our Board of Trustees gathered for a retreat

On May 31st, our Board of Trustees gathered for a special board retreat. Throughout the day-long event, they toured our facilities, met with program participants, and discussed NJCDC's strategic future. We're so glad our Trustees got a first-hand look at our programs and services and their impact on the Great Falls Neighborhood and Paterson!


We partnered with the Regional Plan Association to host the Paterson Preservation Fair

On June 3rd, the Regional Plan Association (RPA), in collaboration with local partners like NJCDC, held the Paterson Preservation Fair at Mary Ellen Kramer Park. Guests went on many tours about the history of Paterson and the Great Falls, including a tour of the newly-reopened Hinchliffe Stadium. NJCDC worked closely with the RPA to incorporate historic preservation and the arts into the revitalization goals of the new Great Falls Neighborhood Plan.

We celebrated Paterson graduates of all ages

Throughout the month of June, we celebrated hundreds of students graduating from our schools and programs. At our Paterson Family Center's annual Moving-Up Ceremony, 41 students moved from pre-K 3 to pre-K 4 and 59 pre-K 4 students graduated and entered Kindergarten. The Community Charter School of Paterson (CCSP) held Moving-Up Ceremonies for 100 Kindergarten students finishing their first year of school, as well as 100 4th grade students moving to middle school. CCSP also held a graduation ceremony for over 100 8th grade students moving on to high school. We also celebrated the 30 members of our Paterson Youth Council, who completed their yearlong leadership development program.

AvalonBay employees beautified the Great Falls Neighborhood

Every year, scores of employees from AvalonBay Communities come to Paterson for a day of service in our neighborhood. This year, they spent the day cleaning up litter in the Great Falls National Historical Park and planting a garden outside the Community Charter School of Paterson.


We cut the ribbon on Barclay Place

On July 10th, we cut the ribbon on Barclay Place, which provides 56 affordable housing units to Paterson residents with chronic health conditions. The innovative project was the result of a collaboration with many partners, including lead partner St. Joseph's Health and New Jersey Community Capital. Located down the street from the hospital, Barclay Place also has a ground-floor wellness hub to provide on-site services. This project received the Governor's Excellence in Housing Award, New Jersey Future's Smart Growth Award, and others as the first project of its kind in the state.

Summer was a season of learning and service

Throughout the summer, we offered free academic and enrichment programming to students of all ages. Our Teen Centers and Great Falls Youth Center provided engaging enrichment opportunities and academic support. Thirty teens in our Junior YouthBuild program cleaned up their community and earned a salary, while the Great Falls Youth Corps gave five teens summer employment experience within the Great Falls National Historical Park.

Our Summer Youth Arts Program introduced 70 students entering grades 1-5 to drumming, dance, arts & crafts, and more. At the end of the program, the students went on a trip to the Crayola Factory. Our Bridge to Success program prepared 50 rising freshmen for the transition to high school. Additionally, the Community Charter School of Paterson held an academic summer program for over 300 students.


We held our 9th Annual College Sendoff

NJCDC's bold vision is to prepare every child growing up in the Great Falls Neighborhood to graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Our College Sendoff supports them in this goal, giving scholarships to graduating Paterson high school students attending college in the fall. This year was the first year since 2019 that we could hold the event in person, and, thanks to generous donors, we distributed nearly $25,000 in scholarships!

We celebrated the academic achievements of our program participants and alumni

In August, we also celebrated some of the many program alumni who are accomplishing great things academically. On August 9th, 10 young Patersonians attending prestigious colleges and universities gathered for a dinner at our Rogers Meeting Center and discussed their academic journeys — and plans for the future. The following week, we celebrated five Paterson students who started college this fall. Each student received gifts to help them share their school spirit!

We held our 15th Annual "Fore the Kids" Golf Outing

On August 28th, we held our 15th Annual 'Fore the Kids' Golf Outing at the Glen Ridge Country Club. Even though this was the summer's second golf outing, the golfers were still excited to come back out and support our work. After a long day of golfing, guests gathered back at the clubhouse to enjoy lunch and find out the winners of the day's prizes. Thanks to their generosity, we raised almost $110,000 for our programs and services!


Generous donors made sure our youngest students started school ready to learn

This summer, two high school students from Franklin Lakes raised money for backpacks and school supplies for the 105 three- and four-year-old students at our Paterson Family Center preschool. The high school students felt that they have so many educational opportunities in their town, and they wanted less fortunate kids to have those same opportunities. Before the school year began, PFC families received a backpack for each student, so they could start the school year ready to learn!

We launched the NJ4S Passaic County Hub

On September 20th, the new New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services (NJ4S) Passaic County Hub held their first Kickoff event. NJ4S is a new initiative that addresses the youth mental health crisis by providing intervention and prevention services to all youth in the state. NJCDC was chosen to run the NJ4S Passaic County Hub, and our staff have been hard at work serving students throughout Passaic County.

We celebrated the 20th anniversaries of our Preschool and NJCDC's headquarters

In September 2003, after several years of renovating an abandoned locomotive factory, NJCDC officially opened our headquarters at 32 Spruce Street. In addition to offices for NJCDC staff, the building also houses the Paterson Family Center (PFC) preschool. On September 26th, we celebrated PFC's 20th anniversary with a special ceremony and gifts for students and their families. We also honored three teachers who have been working at PFC since it first opened!

Later that week, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of 32 Spruce's dedication ceremony on September 29th. We heard from many people who have been involved with NJCDC over the past 20 years, and even had a special cake made to look like our headquarters.


We held our 9th Annual Great Falls Neighborhood Block Party

On October 21st, more than 1,000 neighborhood residents joined us at the Community Charter School of Paterson's (CCSP) Middle School campus for a fun-filled day. Guests enjoyed inflatables, carnival games, lively music, and more! Several groups also had tables with information on services for residents, and the Paterson Fire Department brought their Smokehouse so children and families could learn how to safely respond to a fire.

We celebrated the 15th anniversary of our charter school

On October 27th, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Community Charter School of Paterson (CCSP). CCSP was founded in 2008 by NJCDC—aided by community members and parents—to provide Paterson youth with a high-quality education that also strengthens the community. Fifteen years later, the school now has over 900 scholars in Kindergarten through 8th Grade.


We held our 29th Anniversary Gala

On November 8th, we welcomed 300 guests to our 29th Anniversary Gala at the Westmount Country Club. Our sponsors helped us raise over $250,000 for NJCDC's programs, and guests enjoyed great food and music. This year, we honored the Passaic County Board of County Commissioners and Ron Ladell, Senior Vice President at AvalonBay Communities, all of whom are longtime supporters of our work. Throughout the night, guests also heard from different program participants about how NJCDC has transformed their lives.

Sen. Nellie Pou helped swear in NJCDC's newest AmeriCorps class

AmeriCorps is NJCDC's oldest program, and we consider it the bloodline of our organization. On November 9th, we held a Swearing-In Ceremony for our newest class of AmeriCorps members. Senator Nellie Pou led the members in their oath to serve the community over the next year.


We cut the ribbon on the Great Falls Youth Center expansion

In September of 2022, we broke ground on an expansion to our Great Falls Youth Center, adding new spaces that will help us serve even more Paterson youth. On December 5th, we gathered at the Great Falls Youth Center to cut the ribbon on this expansion! Guests heard heartfelt remarks from two students and an alum about the impact of the Youth Center. We also honored Mrs. Marilyn Clark, whose generous donation made the expansion possible.

We welcomed a new resident just in time for the holidays

In December, our Hawthorne Heights apartments gained a new resident when Timothy Royster moved in shortly before the holidays. Hawthorne Heights is a supportive living environment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Residents learn to live independently, but NJCDC staff are on-site to provide support as needed. So far, Timothy is enjoying having his own space, and he can't wait to learn new skills like cooking!

We made the holidays magical at our 30th Annual Holiday Toy Drive & Party

Every year on Christmas Eve Day, NJCDC's AmeriCorps members host a Holiday Party for Paterson youth and their families. Our AmeriCorps members spent several months collecting donations, and gave out over 7,000 gifts and toys to almost 1,400 Paterson kids. In addition to gifts, guests also got to take pictures with Santa, play games, and make holiday crafts!

Every year on Christmas Eve Day, NJCDC's AmeriCorps members host a Holiday Party for Paterson youth and their families. Our AmeriCorps members spent several months collecting donations, and gave out over 7,000 gifts and toys to almost 1,400 Paterson kids. In addition to gifts, guests also got to take pictures with Santa, play games, and make holiday crafts!

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