ELIZABETH, NJ – Elizabeth resident Gianina Villafana looked out from the podium at the hundreds gathered for Josephine’s Place’s Annual Fall Dinner at Mayfair Farms in West Orange, November 12. She began, “When I first came to Josephine’s Place, I found a new family and friends. I had no one here, everyone was in Peru.

“I found new opportunities were coming my way. I learned English, computers, and childcare. I am so grateful. I was afraid, but now I am strong. Sister Judy is my mother, my sister, and my best friend.”

Her words summed up the mission of Josephine’s Center, the drop in center on Elizabeth Avenue that has been serving Elizabeth women since 2003, led by Sister Judy Mertz and sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth. There, women have a chance to learn a variety of skills from learning how to speak and write English to quilting and workshops on autism, and lots in between.

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The annual dinner celebrated the accomplishments of the women and thanked its supporters and volunteers. This year, the Seton Associates of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth received the Mother Josephine Marie Humanitarian and Infinium USA L.P. was given the Corporate Partner Award. Long time volunteers Sister Ann Pressler, Sister Patricia Reynolds, and Pat Novy were also honored.

Mayor J. Christian Bollwage took the podium, recalling the city’s support of the center since its inception. “You have our support. This has been a great success for our community, and I am proud of this organization.”