ELIZABETH, NJ - Bernadette Griswold has assumed leadership of renowned nonprofit Community Access Unlimited (CAU) as executive director. Griswold succeeds Sidney Blanchard, who after 40 years has stepped down as executive director but remains with the organization as associate executive director of community relations.

CAU is a Union County-based, statewide nonprofit that strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community through comprehensive supports. CAU is one of the largest human services agencies in New Jersey, boasting an operating budget of more than $60 million, $50 million-plus in assets and more than 1,000 employees. Across New Jersey, more than 5,000 individuals and their families benefit from the supports CAU provides.

Griswold joined CAU in 2003 as an independent living skills coordinator. In that position, she developed and implemented independent living skills curricula for adults and at-risk adolescents. She also created and conducted staff and member training, as well as facilitating anger management groups at the Union County Jail.

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As CAU grew, so did Griswold’s responsibilities. In 2006, she was promoted to assistant executive director, for which she maintained all contractual obligations, including outcomes, reporting, licensing and program inspections. She ensured the health and safety of members through rigorous program, inspections and records review. She successfully achieved targeted levels of service and secured opportunities for development and growth.

In 2008 Griswold became managing assistant executive director, a position that allowed her to continue growing as an administrator. She administered all aspects of CAU’s programs supporting people with developmental disabilities, oversaw staff development and training and continued to maintain compliance with agency policies and contractual obligations. She also oversaw all agency quality assurance functions, including CAU’s expanding nursing and behavioral staff. In addition, she was responsible for analyzing budgets and ensuring fiscal policy compliance. During this time, CAU residential programs grew from 13 to 50.  

Griswold became CAU’s associate executive director in 2015. While in this position, she adhered to national best practices to administer 1,100 full- and part-time employees and managed an operating budget of more than $33 million. She developed and implemented short- and long-range plans and continued to oversee the expansion of programs, including writing grants, developing new programs and implementing a host of agency fundraising activities. She developed and operationalized CAU’s statewide Support Coordination program and continued developing and maintaining close working relationships with members, families, legislative leaders and community organizations.

"Every step of my career development here at Community Access Unlimited prepared me to take the reins as executive director," Griswold said. "I developed a passion for supporting our members and providing them with the opportunity to live independently and lead normal and productive lives as citizens integrated into the community. I also developed the administrative skills and knowledge of the human services sector that will enable me to continue the great work of our founder, Sidney Blanchard."

Harold Poltrock, Esq., president of CAU's board of trustees, said he is confident Griswold will be successful as she continues growing the agency and leading its fight for its members.

"I’ve known Bernadette for 15 years and I am more impressed with her each year," he said. "She is the driving force and orchestrator for our best programs. She ensures we get the most out of every dollar and opportunity for the well-being of CAU’s members.”

Griswold is a graduate of East Carolina University with dual bachelor of art degrees in human environmental science/family and community services and elementary education and is working toward her master’s degree in leadership and public administration at Centenary University.

She is a member of, and active participant on many human services organizations, including:

  • New Jersey state representative for the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)
  • Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD)
  • ABCD, co-founder Support Coordination Alliance
  • American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, New Jersey Chapter
  • National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

About Community Access Unlimited

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 40th year in 2019, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU gives a voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little power in society, assisting its members with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization, and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil rights. Currently serving more than 5,000 individuals and families, CAU continues to grow each year. For more information about CAU and its services, visit caunj.org or contact us at 908.354.3040, info@caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.

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