SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – JESPY House has grown since it started in 1978 from an organization that served four local residents to a nonprofit that now services 250 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. JESPY gives them life skills to live independently, obtain gainful employment, and helps clients successfully age in place.

When it comes to finding a job, JESPY House has its clients covered. The organization helps clients of all ages find work throughout Northern New Jersey.

 “Clients have the opportunity to sample different job opportunities,” said JESPY House Executive Director Audrey Winkler. “For instance, a client may want to go into retail, but doesn’t really know what retail is. Retail could be any number of things and we make them aware of the wide variety of options.”

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JESPY House works with a number of employers to place its clients into jobs. The nonprofit has a program titled WREE (Work Readiness & Employment Engagement), which counsels, supports, and assists clients with finding work. To date, JESPY clients have obtained jobs with companies and businesses such as Prudential, UPS Store, Newark Airport, Turtleback Zoo, and local stores Kitchen a la Mode and Sadie’s.

Kitchen a la Mode sells kitchen tools and gadgets and decorative items and Sadie’s sells clothing and accessories. Both stores are owned by South Orange resident and entrepreneur Cat Fisher, who works with JESPY House to teach clients how to work in the retail industry. Under the program, clients have volunteered at either one of the shops one day a week. Clients learn money and time management as well as organizational and customer service skills. The engagement with those two local stores has been successful, and one of the clients was later hired to work there. A number of JESPY clients also volunteer at Daughters of Israel, New Eyes for the Needy, and local senior centers.

“Such volunteer opportunities are great,” Winkler said. “Clients can see what resonates with them. We have a client at Genova Burns law firm who has been promoted to the marketing department and is now proofreading and editing briefs,” Winker said.

Many clients live in housing provided by the nonprofit organization. Both residential and community clients enjoy participating in numerous extracurricular activities and clubs and learning skills essential to day-to day living.

As younger adults ages 18 to 25, clients participate in the Transitions program, which provides skill-based training on managing their household, money and budgeting skills, decision making, social awareness and social etiquette, among other skills.

Within the Transitions program, clients also learn pre-vocational skills including how to look for a job, navigating the workplace, ways to succeed at work, and how to use proper social skills in the workplace.

“Transitions is developing quickly,” Winkler said. “Young people are learning a lot of their life skills to become independent.”

JESPY House also has a program for older adults, called Aging in Place, which is also growing because people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are now living as long as the average population.

Under the Aging in Place program, which has been partially funded by the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, clients receive an increased amount of coverage for medical screenings and medical condition monitoring. Monitoring and acute observations are also done by JESPY case managers and clinical department team.

The Aging in Place program offers healthy living workshops that are led by JESPY’s in-house nurse and guest facilitators. Physical and occupational therapists are also available to help clients.

JESPY House will soon have a Grand Opening for the Michael Och House – A Center for Aging at JESPY. Nine (9) clients will live at the accessible residence and each will have their own bedroom. Shared rooms within the home include a laundry room, dining room, kitchen, recreation area, fitness room, and other amenities.

JESPY House staff will be available on site 24/7. “The programs, services, and activities we will have for our clients who are advancing in age will ensure that they remain engaged and are well cared for,” said Winkler. “The Och House and our Aging in Place program are essential to their changing health needs and their continued growth and independence in the community.”