ELIZABETH, NJ – Since Josephine’s Place opened its doors in October 2003, hundreds of women have passed through its doors and have made the center their second home, taking lessons in English, yoga, and Tai Chi Chih or participating in parenting and support groups.

The drop-in center on Elizabeth Avenue has grown so popular that it was almost bursting its storefront walls. So when the space next door became empty, the logical step was to break through and expand Josephine’s Place to 4,900 square feet.

“This gives us the space that we need, and we are now able to accommodate more women,” said Sister Judy Mertz, Josephine’s Place’s director, adding. “There is a waiting list.”

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Established by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, Josephine’s Place is dedicated to serving women in an economically poor area who often have little or no knowledge of available resources or opportunity. Most of the programs are determined by the women, who, after making the suggestion, then take the lead in recruiting additional participants, while the director secures the services of a volunteer to provide the instruction. The topics span a wide variety of subjects such as computer literacy, quilting, knitting, English, and exercise. The center also hosts support groups for victims of domestic violence and parents of autistic children, among others. One aspect of Josephine’s Place is its focus on health and wellness, in particular physical fitness.

Said Sister Judy, “We will be able to use the extra space for exercise programs during the day, which we previously have not been able to do. We were only able to offer those programs at night. This makes us more compliant with our mission to empower women.”

While women continue to discover Josephine’s Place, the ever-present need for volunteers is increasing. Said Sister Judy, “We especially need volunteers to teach English and computer skills.”

In its 12 years in existence, Josephine’s Places has made its mark on the community and has been recognized as an asset. In April 2009, it received the Unity Achievement Award from the Union County Human Resources Commission. The following month, the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center recognized Josephine's  Place as a "Good Samaritan" during the annual Elizabethport Pride parade.

Josephine’s Place is located at 622 Elizabeth Avenue, Elizabeth; 908-436-0099; www.josephinesplace.org.