UNION -- Outside on the green practice hole at the Suburban Golf Club, an instructor watched patiently as a golfer lined up chip shot after chip shot.
Inside the clubhouse, the practice swings, that is, the tentative, shy glances, had been set aside as about 90 couples and members of Community Access Unlimited celebrated their love and affection.
The April 28 event was the 16th Annual Couples Night, said CAU assistant executive director Aisha Arroyo. The theme was “Under the Sea,” and featured a lobby filled with funhouse-style displays that allowed the couples a playful way to share their affection.
“We honor our committed couples who have been together for two years or more,” Arroyo said.
CAU provides support and housing services for people with developmental disabilities and at-risk youth throughout New Jersey. CAU members live independently, learn life skills, and work and participate in their community.
The organization’s support encourages members to socialize, build and maintain healthy and loving, personal relationships, Arroyo said.
Eddie and Elaine Matthews have been married for 24 years.
Eddie was one of CAU’s first members, after founder Sid Blanchard helped him transition from an institution so he could begin a life on his own supported in the community.
Elaine said, “Daddy Sid” and his VW, the original CAU office, made all the difference.
Blanchard, in 1979, drove all over Union County in a Volkswagen Beetle, using a $90,000 grant to find housing and secure support services for 20 individuals who were then living in institutions. That was the start of CAU. Today, the non-profit agency serves nearly 8,000 people statewide
“We are good company together,” Elaine said.
Eddie said CAU helped him get back in touch with his brother, Herbert Lee Kitchen, with whom he had lost contact for three decades.
“They do a lot to help us out,” Eddie said. They are planning a visit to North Carolina, where his brother lives, he said.
Elaine said they recently saw the Disney movie, “The Beauty and the Beast.”
“That was a really good movie,” she said. “You should see it.”
Emmett Smith and Nicole Nagel have been together for three years.
Nicole said Emmett is, “understanding, loving and surprising.”
He said they are planning a trip to Disney World in Florida.
Beverly G. Williams and David Matthews sat holding hands near the windows watching the sunlight fade over the golf course. They have been a couple for four years.
She smiled fondly at him as she said he was a kind person, and he smiled back.
“She is beautiful,” he replied.
Calvin Gibson and Joyce Segur were enjoying the music. He has been a member of CAU since 1995.
“He is a nice person and I liked him when we first met,” Joyce said. “He’s nice and handsome.”
Eddie Matthews said he and Elaine are together because of CAU, and their lives are better for it.
“CAU does a lot for people in the community,” he said “They help people live on their own, and teach them how to do things, like how to shop. It means a lot.”
About Community Access Unlimited
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 38th year in 2017, 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 right. CAU currently serves more than 8,000 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.