GARWOOD, NJ - Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) was honored Thursday with the Humanitarian of the Year award at the Annual Gala Dinner Dance of the nonprofit Community Access Unlimited, held at the Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott. Also honored were Senate Majority Leader Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Christopher Zucosky, owner of Phoenix Specialties in Garwood, NJ.

Sweeney has focused on improving the lives of people with disabilities since his daughter was born with Down syndrome, which gave him firsthand insight into the poor treatment of people with disabilities.

"When my daughter was born, I felt I was born into a new world. It has made me a better person and friend," Sweeney said, lamenting that people with disabilities are often marginalized by the wider community. "People with disabilities have feelings and personalities just like everyone else."

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Sweeney noted the positive work Community Access Unlimited (CAU) does for people with disabilities. CAU is a Union County-based, statewide nonprofit that strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community. The agency supports its members with housing, vocational and life-skills training, education, advocacy, recreation and more.

"They're changing lives for people with disabilities and parents," he said. "They're making a difference, and we in the state have to support them. We need to value the people who serve our loved ones and treat them with respect."

Scutari, who served as a Union County freeholder and freeholder chairman prior to his move to the state legislature, received CAU’s Public Leadership award. He applauded the organization for its efforts and touched on his

"They're doing a marvelous job in an area that is sorely underserved," he said. "We need these types of agencies to do the job that government doesn't do, to help underserved individuals as they do here."

Zucosky, whose business has been providing CAU with janitorial supplies for more than 20 years, was honored with the Geller Award for volunteerism. He supports CAU in a number of ways, including contributing to and attending CAU's annual walk-a-thon, golf outing and theater production, among other activities.   

"It's a great organization," he said. "I really respect what they're doing. I have a lot of friends who have children with disabilities and it's a great way for them to see how their kids can be involved with the community."

The dinner drew more than 500 attendees, including members of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, including board chairman Sergio Granados.

"We truly believe in the mission of Community Access to serve their members and every single person who comes to their doors," he said. "We stand alongside them now and in the future making sure we serve people with special needs and others in partnership."

CAU also presented the annual Colleen Fraser Award certificates and $1,000 scholarships to two members of the agency who will utilize the funding to further their efforts in advocacy for people with disabilities and at-risk youth, Steven Agolia and Alejandro Amaya.

For more information about CAU and its services, contact by phone at 908-354-3040, info@caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.

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