ELIZABETH, NJ - The statewide nonprofit Community Access Unlimited (CAU) celebrated its 40th anniversary of supporting people with developmental disabilities and at-risk youth on Tuesday. In 1979, CAU’s founder, Sid Blanchard, began operating the agency from his Volkswagen Beetle with a $90,000 grant to remove individuals from state institutions.
Today, CAU has an operating budget of more than $60 million, $50 million-plus in assets and more than 1,000 employees as it strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community through comprehensive supports. Statewide, more than 5,000 individuals and their families benefit from the services CAU provides.
“You can have no community unless everyone is included in the community, regardless of their abilities,” Blanchard said.
CAU has long been recognized for its innovation, both operationally and in how it supports its members. Self-advocacy is a rallying cry at the agency, with members campaigning for themselves and others. The agency also holds a number of events each year that celebrate the abilities of its members, including a “Couples Night” for people with disabilities who are in a committed, romantic relationship. CAU also holds an annual “Prom,” as many people with disabilities never attend a traditional high school prom because they either go to an alternative education program or are never asked. Each June, a musical production that allows members with disabilities to perform side-by-side with the general community captivates audiences of all ages.
The agency also owns more than 250 housing units throughout Union County, including mixed-use properties that allow members to live side-by-side with people without disabilities.
CAU is a founding member of the Union County Youth Networking Committee, 20 public, and nonprofit youth services agencies, child advocates, volunteers, and faith-based organizations. The agency spearheaded the creation of the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council, which promotes inclusion of all people within the community and creates a clearinghouse of faith-based, nonprofit and government community services available to the public, promoting greater awareness of these services.
"CAU has always been so much more than a social services organization to me – it’s a movement to empower and liberate anyone who has ever been told they can’t,” Blanchard said in a recent news release.
About Community Access Unlimited
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 40th year in 2019, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little power in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization, and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil rights. CAU currently serves more than 5,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.