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NJCDC Celebrates 29 Years of Transforming Lives

NJCDC Celebrates 29 Years of Transforming Lives

November 14, 2023

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On Wednesday, November 8th, 300 guests gathered at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park to celebrate NJCDC's 29th anniversary. Following a wonderful cocktail hour, guests were welcomed by Martin Vergara, the new Chairman of NJCDC's Board of Trustees. He recognized several of his fellow Board members who were in attendance, as well as our donors, who raised over $250,000 for NJCDC to continue our work of creating opportunities to transform lives. He also recognized our honorees: Ron Ladell of AvalonBay Communities and the Passaic County Board of County Commissioners.

Bob Guarasci, NJCDC's Founder and CEO, welcomed our guests and thanked them for making our work over the past 29 years possible. He then shared a short video highlighting our programs and services from the past year. Following the video, guests were introduced to three of our program participants, who shared their stories with the audience.

Ava Dessources is a seventh-grade student at the Community Charter School of Paterson, which was founded by NJCDC fifteen years ago. Ava expressed her gratitude for all of her teachers at CCSP, for fostering her love of learning and encouraging her to succeed. She said, "The faculty is dedicated to ensuring that we reach our full potential and realize our ambitions, regardless of our chosen paths. CCSP has consistently fostered an environment of unwavering encouragement and perseverance, which will undoubtedly persist in the years to come.

Evie Rivera is a Junior at Passaic County Technical Institute and a participant at our Great Falls Youth Center. She got involved with the Youth Center through volunteering at an arts event, before signing up for their boxing classes and Saturday fitness program. Through the Youth Center, Evie has been able to participate in so many different activities with her peers, ranging from entrepreneurship programs to arts classes to academic support. "Now, I can proudly share my experience with other members of the community who may benefit from participating," said Evie. "To top it off, all of these events and programs are carried out completely for free, to ensure that every member of the community can participate and benefit from them."

When he was younger, Joshua Copeland was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and prescribed painkillers to manage his condition, which he quickly became reliant on. Joshua then faced addiction and homelessness for several years before getting an apartment at Spruce Terrace, one of NJCDC's supportive housing developments. The supportive services at Spruce Terrace gave Joshua the chance to recover and turn his life around. Earlier this year, he moved into Barclay Place, where he has access to on-site healthcare that helps him manage his MS. "Thank you again for everything, Bob," Joshua said. I literally would have never made it this far in my recovery, my education, or in my life if I never heard of NJCDC or 'Bob the Builder.' I look forward to enjoying my new home for years to come."

We then recognized the evening's honorees. Ron Ladell is the Senior Vice President at AvalonBay Communities, overseeing all development activities in New Jersey. AvalonBay is dedicated to building high-quality residential and mixed-use communities for all New Jersey residents; it has also long worked directly with NJCDC to support our programs and revitalize our neighborhood. Each year, AvalonBay employees participate in a major day of service, cleaning and beautifying our program sites throughout the Great Falls Neighborhood. Through their support, Ron Ladell and AvalonBay have invested in Paterson's future, and invested in NJCDC's work that serves more than 4,000 children and families each day!

The Passaic County Board of County Commissioners serves over 500,000 residents throughout Passaic County—including the county seat of Paterson. They advocate for all Passaic County residents, overseeing a range of services including education, mental healthcare, public safety, and more. They have also been longtime friends and allies of NJCDC's work. Through their support, we have received funding that allows us to serve vulnerable individuals in need of housing. They have also supported our work through the Passaic County Open Space Fund, which has enabled our work in restoring and revitalizing public parks and historic buildings in the Great Falls Neighborhood. NJCDC is grateful for their ongoing support of our work, and their unwavering commitment to serving Patersonians—and all Passaic County residents!

Mayor Andre Sayegh briefly addressed the crowd before Paterson's own quartet -- the Anointed Friends -- led the audience in a performance of "Sweet Caroline." Guests then enjoyed a delicious dinner and a dessert buffet, as well as music performed by a jazz trio. The Anointed Friends also performed two more songs—"Happy" and "Say A Little Prayer for You" which the audience was excited to sing along to. After dinner, we announced the winner of our 50-50 raffle, NJCDC Board member Eric Daleo. Eric generously donated his share of the prize—$755—back to NJCDC! The evening then ended with a performance of "Lean on Me" —which many consider Paterson's anthem.

NJCDC would like to thank the following sponsors for their generous support of our 29th Anniversary Gala, and their ongoing support for the past 29 years:

Gala Underwriter:

The Daleo Family

Anniversary Level:


Celebration Level:

AvalonBay Communities Horizon M&T Bank Railroad Construction Company Valley Bank

Friend Level:

Broadridge Financial Solutions Marilyn Clark Enterprise Community Partners Federal Home Loan Bank of New York Lakeland Bank PNC Bank Practical LLC PSE&G TD Bank Windels Marx

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