ELIZABETH, NJ – The achievements of ten people with disabilities were celebrated last week at Community Access Unlimited (CAU) in Elizabeth during the agency's annual Performance Recognition Night. Each of the individuals, all CAU members, were recognized by their fellow members, staff and family for their accomplishments in a variety of areas, from independent living to employment and recreation.
"Every year we recognize members who have accomplished some of the goals they've been working to attain," said Aisha Arroyo, an assistant executive director at CAU. "This is a celebration of steps they have taken to increase their ability to live fulfilling lives independently within the community, our core mission."
Some members targeted getting a job while others were marking long-term employment, according to Arroyo. One member made progress in assistive technology, others in socialization and some in advocacy, attending the Partnership for Policymaking, a leadership development and advocacy education program for adults with developmental disabilities sponsored by Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Nicole Nagel, a CAU member for nine years, was recognized for participating in more recreation activities and for working at the Goodwill store in Union.
"I like to go to Devils games and out to dinner with friends," she said. "Just being with friends."
Nagel also enjoys working at Goodwill, "especially getting paid," she said.
John Bradley, a CAU member for 19 years, was celebrated for working at the Preakness Healthcare Center for senior citizens for 33 years. He plans to retire this April.
"I like to talk to the residents," Bradley said. "When I bring them food on the floors, I stop and talk with them. A lot of them know me."
Simon Martins, a CAU member for several years, was recognized for improving his life skills. Previously he had trouble behaving and holding a job. Now he has steady employment at the CAU, goes to the gym regularly, attends CAU recreation events and goes home every weekend to be with his family. He even plans to visit Brazil in December.
"It feels good (to be recognized)," Martins said. "I really like CAU. They always help me with my goals. When I have problems, they always calm me down and help me."
Onekia Grier, director of employment services at CAU, spoke before each honoree was presented with their awards.
"It's important to be recognized for the work you do," she said. "When you work, we all see you and we all are very proud of you."
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), a Union County-based nonprofit that strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community, supports its members with housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.