LIVINGSTON, NJ — In 1979, Sally Cohen was among several Livingston residents who began meeting to implement changes that would improve the lives of people with special needs in areas of accessibility and handicapped parking. Many years later, that group developed into what is now known as the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD), with Cohen remaining an active committee member.
On Monday evening, the Livingston Township Council honored Cohen for her 40 years of service to the LACD and recognized her for making significant contributions to the special needs community.
“We hear many times how great our town is, how welcoming we are and how inclusive,” said Mayor Al Anthony. “And we have a lot in town—we have a lot for developmentally disabled, we have two cerebral palsy schools, we have Spectrum360, we have LifeTown, we have JSDD, which just broke ground—but it starts with the volunteers and what you all do…Everything that you’ve started and that you do, we recognize, and we’re so appreciative of it.”
The mayor and council presented Cohen with a special citation honoring her for being one of the founding members of the LACD and thanking her for improving the quality of life in Livingston. The proclamation specifically applauds Cohen for “exemplifying sensitivity to people with special needs and for her generous donation of time and energy to creating and promoting programs on their behalf.”
“On behalf of all the hundreds and maybe thousands of people with special needs that you, personally, have helped over the year, and on behalf of the LACD, I thank you,” said LACD Chair Bob Gebroe, who also extended gratitude to the township council for providing this “well-deserved honor for a beautiful person.”
Gebroe explained that when Cohen and her small team of volunteers began meeting, their first project was to construct a ramp at the old town hall.
Their next endeavor was to focus on handicap issues at the Livingston Mall, such as making it easier for handicapped people to reach merchandise and providing more accessible restrooms and parking options. These situations were later improved at the Livingston Public Library and Saint Barnabas Medical Center as well.
According to Gebroe, one of the team’s biggest accomplishments at the time was establishing a program at the town pool that set aside an exclusive swim time on Sundays for people with special needs and their families. This is a program that continues to exist today, he said.
“Subsequently, in the last couple of years, this committee has expanded into recreational and social issues,” said Gebroe. “We have three huge parties throughout the year [and] we have an after-school sports program, and that all started with Sally and her crew in 1979.”
As she accepted the proclamation on Monday, Cohen felt the support from many friends and family members, including her 87-year-old sister-in-law, who could not attend but showed her gratitude by sending flowers.
In addition to thanking her family, friends and fellow volunteers, Cohen also thanked current and former members of the governing body for always being willing to discuss new ideas.