Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, but ECLC of New Jersey is already deeply thankful for an expected gift.

          Leon and Toby Cooperman of Short Hills have generously pledged to give a $250,000 challenge grant to support ECLC's campaign to raise $5 million for the P.R.I.D.E. program for adults with special needs.

            Contributions of up to $50,000 made this year will be doubled by a matching $50,000 from the Leon and Toby Cooperman Family Foundation. This $50,000 match will be repeated for the next four years for a potential total of $250,000!

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            The Coopermans support many nonprofits, and ECLC is especially close to them. For 25 years, Toby Cooperman was a Learning Disability Teaching Consultant at ECLC's Chatham school and now serves on the Board of Trustees.

            "We believe in the P.R.I.D.E. mission and want to ensure that P.R.I.D.E. continues for many years to come," said Toby and Leon Cooperman about why they're supporting our campaign.

            This wonderfully generous couple has signed the Warren Buffet Giving Pledge, a commitment in which affluent individuals have pledged to give away the majority of their wealth.

            The two come from modest beginnings and attribute their self-made success story to hard work, persistence and a little luck. They grew up in New York City and met at Hunter College. After graduation, they embarked on divergent career paths. Toby earned a master's degree in special education, while Leon took off to start a Wall Street career at Goldman Sachs, where he rose to become general partner and Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He retired after 25 years, and in 1991 founded a private investment firm, Omega Advisors, which has $7.4 billion under management.

Gift Supports $5 Million Campaign     

            The challenge grant supports a fund-raising effort started last year by another Short Hills Family. In December 2014, ECLC's Executive Director, Bruce Litinger, along with his wife, Renee, and children, Jonathan, Lindsay and Julie, launched an endowment for P.R.I.D.E. In less than a year, they have raised $432,000.

            "We are so grateful for all the support in the past year," said Bruce Litinger, "and hope this generous gift from Toby and Leon energizes our campaign. We need to raise $50,000 before the end of the year to meet their challenge, and I am counting on all our friends and supporters to get us there."

Why is ECLC Fund-Raising for P.R.I.D.E.?

            The P.R.I.D.E. program was started eight years ago for graduates of ECLC’s special-needs schools in Chatham and Ho-Ho-Kus for students with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.

            The schools place a strong emphasis on transitioning from school to work, but for some students, the workplace was not an option. Some graduates were languishing at home, isolated from their peers and the community. So, P.R.I.D.E. was launched to help those young adults continue growing and enhancing their independent living skills.

            P.R.I.D.E. began in September 2008 as a pilot program with 17 alumni. Today, P.R.I.D.E. serves 142 adult clients at two fully equipped centers. The program is so successful that ECLC school graduates from many years ago are returning to enroll in the program. Clients range in age from 21 up to 42. This speaks both to the success of P.R.I.D.E. and, sadly, to the lack of other suitable options for adults with special needs.

            While demand for placement in P.R.I.D.E. continues to grow, government funding is decreasing. The Endowment will help to:

  • Supplement day-to-day operating costs
  • Start new centers when current centers reach capacity
  • Purchase equipment, such as vans, computers and more
  • Provide emergency funding for compassionate reasons related to client and family aging issues

Supporting P.R.I.D.E.

            If you want to join this special campaign to sustain the P.R.I.D.E. program, please consider making a donation at the ECLC Website. Checks should be made out to the "ECLC Foundation" and sent to:

ECLC Foundation
P.R.I.D.E. Endowment
100 Passaic Avenue, Suite 1
Chatham, N.J., 07928

For more information, contact ECLC Foundation Director, Heather Alonge (973-635-1705 X17).

About ECLC

            Established in 1970, ECLC of New Jersey offers "Education, Careers and Lifelong Community." It is an accredited, nonprofit and serves children and adults, including those diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. ECLC operates schools in Chatham and Ho-Ho-Kus, educating nearly 300 students, from ages 5-21. All students graduate ECLC with a clear plan for their future!  ECLC offers employment services through an affiliate, Community Personnel Services, based in Chatham, or opportunities for placement in the P.R.I.D.E. adult day/evening program, which has centers in Florham Park and Paramus. Learn more about ECLC.