BELLEVILLE, NJ - To officially kick-off the month of June, known as National Pride Month, Clara Maass Medical Center hosted a socially-distant celebration for its employees on June 1. 

For the event, employees volunteered to decorate their vehicles with signs, ribbons, and with music and horns blaring, brought  visibility and awareness to the month designated to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, and ongoing efforts to achieve equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) Americans. 

“At Clara Maass, we celebrate National Pride Month each year because we welcome people of all kinds and backgrounds, no matter what” said Mary Ellen Clyne, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Clara Maass Medical Center. “Now more than ever before, it is especially important for us to demonstrate love and support in every way possible for every member of our community, and today’s flag raising is just one example” Clyne said.

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“We’ve had to be incredibly creative this year about how we would recognize Pride Month this year, and the Car Caravan seemed to be a great way to celebrate, and in a safe but fun way” said Desyra Highsmith-Holcomb, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Clara Maass Medical Center. “In the end, our team had a wonderful time to dance, laugh and demonstrate support for our colleagues, friends, family and the LGBTQ community” Highsmith-Holcomb said.

The 15-car caravan assembled at the corner of Magnolia and Newark Avenues and snaked through the Medical Center’s campus, waving to employees and onlookers, traveled slowly along Clara Maass Drive and back to Newark Avenue. On its third journey around the campus, the caravan entered the parking deck where, on the fifth floor was met with the sound of music provided by DJ Rich. The hospital’s signature rainbow cookies were distributed to the small group of employees in attendance.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was limited to employees and invited guests including Michael Melham, Mayor of the Belleville Township who provided remarks and Reverend Joel Hubbard of Park United Methodist Church in Bloomfield, who shared a prayer for continued inclusiveness and peace for the community.

All participants practiced social distancing and wore a mask or face covering, as is required of all visitors to the campus.

In 2018 and 2019, Clara Maass Medical Center, a facility of RWJBarnabas Health earned the Healthcare Equity Index (HEI), the national benchmarking tool that evaluates healthcare facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees.

Related article: Nutley's Desyra A. Highsmith-Holcomb Named Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Clara Maass Medical Center

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