BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The mission of Alternatives Inc. is to provide comprehensive services to individuals and families with special needs to enable them to reach their highest level of independence and integration into the community.

The organization serves approximately 500 individuals, providing residential services, housing, supported employment, transition services for high school students and case management.

Alternatives also provides supported employment services to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and a variety of other services for families who have been impacted by homelessness, mental illness or substance abuse. Their services span nine counties – including Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Warren, Ocean, Monmouth, Morris, Union and Mercer – empowering those they serve to live as independently as possible in community-based settings.

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Their tagline, “Dignity through Independence,” underscores the organization’s core values and individualized approach. Their person-centered philosophy encourages self-determination in making life choices around relationships, employment, personal goals and other factors that impact each individual’s overall wellbeing. Their individualized approach provides the unique support needed to achieve personal goals.

The Bridges to Employment program is one way that Alternatives supports success in the workplace. The program offers individualized pre-employment evaluation, preparation and job matching, and provides ongoing support to both the client and the employer to ensure continued success.

Twenty-four-year-old Wadel, who came to America from Haiti with limited language skills, has been recognized as a model employee in the retail position where he has worked for two years with the support he received through this program.

Audra Zammit, manager of the program’s Career Development Center, said, “Wadel is doing wonderfully. He is a star employee and a great example for supported employment success. We are also working with him on acquiring his driver’s license.”

In March 2020, Alternatives activated its Continuation of Operations Plan, began regular Remote Leadership Team meetings and implemented rigorous safety protocols to maintain the health and safety of clients and staff in the context of the pandemic. Many clients, due to age, disability and underlying health conditions, are in high-risk categories particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

By nature, personal connection is essential to the services provided, including 24-hour residential programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Service delivery has been remote when possible, such as the implementation of remote day services when day programs throughout the state were required to close. Alternatives program managers and direct support professionals worked tirelessly to create new and interesting activities for clients to enjoy while they remained at home.

The agency hired a recreation coordinator, whose focus has been the development of meaningful and fun-filled opportunities to keep clients engaged in a stimulating routine.

In spite of these challenges, optimism prevails.

“We, as a community, have been through so much over this past year, and, despite it all, we have come so far,” said Alternatives President, Nancy Good. “We will continue to have hope that the end of the pandemic is near, and for better days to come, and we are so grateful to be able to continue to serve our clients, and for the outpouring of support from the community.”

With an adaptable spirit and dedicated staff, Alternatives remains resilient in helping its clients navigate the challenges of everyday life, even through a pandemic. One client shared anonymously what this impact means to them: “There were times where I really needed them, when I had problems, personal, social, even when I was in doubt. I will never give up Alternatives.”

If you know someone who could benefit from support from Alternatives, Inc, contact Heather Bielefeldt, director of community relations and admissions at 908-685-1444, ext. 279, or info@alternativesinc.org.

There are many ways that the community can support Alternatives as well. Circumstances permitting, Alternatives has several upcoming events on the calendar to help raise awareness and needed funds for the organization.

These include the Dignity Golf Outing at the Basking Ridge Country Club May 24, the fourth annual Dignity Dash 5K, newly added 10K at Duke Island Park Sept. 12 and the seventh annual Dignity Run, motorcycle run and BBQ at the Bridgewater Eagles Oct. 10.

Alternatives is always seeking volunteers who are interested in participating in fundraising events and agency committees. For more information about sponsoring, participating or volunteering at any of the events, contact Anita Feiner, director of development at afeiner@alternativesinc.org or 908-809-8654.