The work of Community Options has been helping people with disabilities build lives for themselves for more than three decades. That work continues today.
Founded in 1989 by Robert Stack, the organization’s mission is to develop housing and employment support for people with disabilities, according to a press release.
The Princeton-based national nonprofit – which has offices in New Jersey and 11 other states – celebrated its 34th anniversary earlier this month. Its Woodbury location serves Atlantic, Camden, Cumberland and Gloucester counties and its Moorestown office serves Burlington County.
Community Options operates Red Ribbon Academy II in Hillsborough; a S.T.E.P-School-to Employment Program in Moorestown; Daily Plan It locations in Denville, Moorestown, Princeton, and Wayne; Presents of Mind in Flanders; and Vaseful locations in Edison and Princeton.
With its consistent philosophy that all people need to experience freedom, dignity and self-determination, the organization’s budget has grown to more than $330 million. With that funding, Community Options operates 650 community homes and supports more than 5,000 people with disabilities and their families across the country.
“New Jersey is proud to be the state where Community Options began serving people with disabilities 34 years ago, improving the lives of thousands of New Jerseyans,” Former Gov. Chris Christie said. He added that when he was governor, Community Options was instrumental in his administration’s efforts to help ensure that community-based services are available for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Community Options focuses on community-based care for people with the most complex and significant disabilities, medical and behavioral-health challenges, according to the nonprofit. Its person-centered services have vastly improved the quality of life for thousands of people with disabilities who were once relegated to large-congregate settings.
“When I founded this nonprofit, I hoped we would find the humanity to operate and the generosity to fund services for Americans who are most vulnerable,” said Stack, now president and CEO of Community Options.
Given its work in states from Utah to New York, a number of national officials commented on the organization’s anniversary.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said in a letter, “This is an exciting milestone. As you look back, take satisfaction in all that you have accomplished, reflect on those you have had the good fortune of working alongside and take comfort in the knowledge that you have made your community a better place.”
In Maryland, Community Options worked with the state to establish a program that serves children with complex behavioral challenges and disabilities. It has allowed children who were moved to out of state facilities to return home.
“Congratulations to Community Options for its 34 years of service to our nation and our local communities,” said the state’s governor, Wes Moore.
Dorothy Goodwin, chair of Community Options’ board of directors, said the nonprofit has led one of the most significant social movements in American history.
“In my 20 years of experience in the field, no other organization has made more of an impact on the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities,” she noted.
Many of the individuals who exited institutional settings have gone back to school or obtained jobs that they love.
“Employment for people with disabilities is close to my heart,” said Phil Lian, chairman of COE (Community Options Enterprises). I joined the COE board at the request of my close friend, Robert Stack, but I stay because I see first hand how employment gives meaning to the lives of the people the organization supports. And of course, COE always pays full minimum wage or better for all work.”
With thousands of people still on wait lists for home and community-based services, the organization hopes to continue its growth and rally more people around its mission.
Jim Buckley, treasurer for Community Options and a senior vice president at Citibank, said he’s thrilled to be involved in a nonprofit that has experienced “a rare anomaly” of significant growth over three decades.
“Community Options has made an impact that is directly proportionate to its growth,” Buckley noted.
For more information about Community Options, visit www.comop.org.