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Union County nonprofits gather to learn how to better serve county residents

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Union County Freeholder Vice Chairman Sergio Granados and Karen Dinsmore, assistant director of Union County Human Services.
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UNION COUNTY, NJ - More than 120 members of Union County nonprofits and government gathered last week to learn how they can be "Doing Good More" at the 2016 Union County Nonprofit Consortium Networking Conference, held at Suburban Golf Club in Union.

The day-long conference featured panel discussions with nonprofit leaders and presentations by nonprofit experts intended to provide attendees with helpful insights into better managing their own organizations or departments. Equally important was the opportunity for attendees to network and create relationships, according to Sid Blanchard, executive director of Community Access Unlimited.

 

"One of the most effective ways for nonprofits to better serve those who need our help is through collaboration," Blanchard said. "Each of us is focused on our mission and we can't be all things to all people. Yet often our services can supplement those of other agencies and partnerships result in all of us 'doing good better.'"

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CAU is a statewide Elizabeth-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, providing supports in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.

The conference was sponsored by the Union County Non-Profit Consortium, which comprises 11 county nonprofits and the Union County Government.

"(The conference) is about making sure we put community first," said Sergio Granados, vice chairman of the Union County Board of Freeholders in addressing the audience. "Our nonprofits in Union County are like no other. Now, when so many of our residents are struggling, they count on you more than ever."

 

Of Union County's more than 550,000 residents, 11 percent live in poverty, 5.7 percent are people with disabilities and 5.2 percent are unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

"You see people coming in needing more resources," Granados continued. "You are finding ways to give that support in Union County."

A morning panel discussion focused on helping nonprofit professionals run more effectively so they can do just that. The discussion was led by Janice Lilien, CEO of YMCA Union County, and Joanne Oppelt, executive director of Caring Contact, a crisis listening line, both of whom talked about how they turned around their agencies when they were struggling. The panel also featured Richard Hlavacek, executive director of FACT (Families and Community Together); Ella Teal, president of the Urban League of Union County; and Linda Flores-Tober, executive director of the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless.

The discussion covered a variety of topics, including better managing one's day; managing and maximizing the effectiveness of boards, such as through committees and training; partnering with other nonprofits; keeping to the mission and creating a strategic plan; and measuring quality as a means to improve service.

"Learn to be nimble," Hlavacek said. "You have to be able to make very quick judgments. You won't always be right but being grounded…and taking control of the organization is most effective."

Other presentations and panel discussions covered human resource and financial challenges, both today and tomorrow, and strategic fundraising.

About CAU

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 37th year in 2016, 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 support and no voice 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 6,000 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.

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