Alzheimer’s Association Greater New Jersey Chapter Hosts New Office Reception to Mark June’s Brain Health Awareness Month

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — A full day of events promoting brain health awareness culminated in a ceremonial ribbon cutting and grand reopening reception at the new headquarters of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater New Jersey (AAGNJ) at 23 Vreeland Road in Florham Park on Thursday.

After the Livingston Township Council proclaimed the week of June 10 as “Paint the Town Purple Week,” community organizations like the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (LCDI), Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Atrium Post Acute Care of Livingston and others partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to host educational events, fundraisers and more with brain health awareness as the central theme throughout the week. According to AAGNJ executive director Cheryl Ricci-Francione, more than 100 professionals from throughout the community participated in Thursday’s grand opening events.

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Florham Park Mayor Mark Taylor was on hand at the reception to cut the ribbon alongside Ricci-Francione and Eastman Companies managing partners Michael and Pete Schofel, who own the building and donated a larger space to AAGNJ for the event. Members of the Livingston Township Council were also in attendance, as well as community partners from the LCDI, the West Essex YMCA and more.

“We couldn’t be in a better home than to be in Florham Park, and Mayor Mark Taylor and his entire community has welcomed us so graciously,” said Ricci-Francione. “This is more than a mission for a cause—this is a mission of love and everyone here is here because you have heart and we love you. We’re about to cut this ribbon and start a whole new chapter in not only our lives, but yours as well because you’re our community partners.”

The day’s events began with breakfast at the new Atrium Post Acute Care of Livingston, where a group of local physicians, Atrium staff members and AAGNJ staff members had a question-and-answer session with the Alzheimer’s Association director of global science, Dr. James Hendrix. The research scientist flew in from Chicago to discuss the latest in Alzheimer’s research at both the breakfast and the private reception in the evening.

“This is personal for me—the cause is personal because my mother had the disease and I’ve been a scientist focused on brain diseases for a long time—but New Jersey still feels like home to me, and to have a chapter here that’s active and vibrant again is so important,” said Hendrix, who is an internationally acclaimed scientist leading the charge in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. “I do a lot of these talks around the country, but this one is particularly important to me.

“One of the other things about this reopening of the chapter is that it’s emblematic of the changes that have occurred recently at the Alzheimer’s Association. The reorganization that took place allows us to make sure that every chapter in the nation is committed to every one of our goals, including research. That wasn’t true before we reorganized, but now it is and because of that, we are able to do more for research than we were previously able to do.”

In addition to fielding questions from guests and highlighting breakthroughs in research such as learning more about modifiable risk factors of the disease, Hendrix also expressed his optimism in finding a cure. He said that funding research is crucial because although scientists “don’t always know where it’s going to lead," it will make a difference "if we fund the right stuff at the right time."

“Don’t be discouraged,” he said. “I believe we are on the right track. It is not a matter of if, it is really a matter of when. We will get there.”

With national partners like Hendrix and donor advisor Cathleen Palace, who helped Ricci-Francione plan the AAGNJ event, at the helm, the Alzheimer’s Association as a whole is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.

However, Ricci-Francione explained that the AAGNJ chapter is a team of only eight members who need community partners to help reach their goals. In addition to its overall vision of a world without Alzheimer’s, the AAGNJ chapter is on a continuous mission to recruit volunteers in order to provide community services, support groups and fundraising activities and to help organize its local Walk to End Alzheimer’s events.

During the grand opening reception, Ricci-Francione read a letter on behalf of Alzheimer’s Association chief executive officer Harry Johns thanking the community for its support.

“Our new centralized New Jersey location in Florham Park will allow this chapter’s team of eight dedicated employees to better serve the state in 14 counties from Bergen to Ocean,” Johns said in his statement. “The Greater New Jersey chapter has established a deep presence within the state, spanning nearly 40 years, but this relocation allows us to expand our offerings and presence in areas where there is a growing need for diverse Alzheimer’s and dementia care, support and educational programs. We chose this location because the northwestern counties are underserved with their medical needs, Alzheimer’s support and care.”

The breakfast at Atrium earlier that day included a tour of its new state-of-the-art neuro-gym. Other doctors in attendance included Dr. Emily Bahler, DO, who has a certification in geriatrics; Dr. Deborah Spey, a dermatologist whose mother-in-law has Alzheimer's; Dr. Hemantkumar Patel, an internist and the head doctor at the Atrium; and Dr. Tatyana Marx, a neurologist. 

"I would like to thank the team at Atrium Post Acute Center of Livingston for hosting the educational breakfast, and for their collaboration this month to get the word out about the importance of brain health," said Ricci-Francione, who explained that the Atrium also has a purple ribbon displayed in front of the building in support of Brain Health Awareness Month, and is hosting “Casual for a Cause” days throughout the month to raise money for Alzheimer’s Association research.

Atrium’s collaboration with AAGNJ will continue on Wednesday with a Wedding Expo, where patients will reminisce on their own weddings with their families and community members visit vendor tables. All proceeds are being donated to the Alzheimer's Association.

A lunch-and-learn session followed on Thursday at the AAGNJ’s new office with AAGNJ staff and the management team of Livingston’s Clarendon Adult Day Center, including president Rochelle Smith.

To learn more about the AAGNJ's new location and how it will help the organization establish a deeper connection with the community, click HERE.

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