Pride and dignity

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Unloading sponges at the St. John of God fulfillment center in Westville recently were client Ryan (left to right), the organization’s Brother Sean McIssac, client Luanne and St. John staffer Isabel Jones.

St. John of God helps clients build self-esteem through work

A sense of hard work and dedication permeated the St. John of God Community Services fulfillment center on a recent morning as some 46 adult paid clients unloaded sponges and put items on racks with center staffers guiding them.

“I love working here,” said center client Mark, who has been at the center for 20 years. “I’ve made friends and I love getting paid every two weeks.”

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(St. John of God requested The Sun use only the first names of clients.)

At the nonprofit’s complex in Westville, Mark racked sponges for sale at a local Walmart, with support from St. John of God Skill Development Specialist Angelica DeLasSalas. They were then unloaded by clients Luanne, Ryan and Susie, with help from St. John of God staffer Isabel Jones and Brother Sean McIsaac.

The fulfillment center produces piecework for companies and retail stores in the Delaware Valley, said Zachary Cooper, senior executive of communication and marketing for St.  John of God. Priscilla Lydon, its senior executive of mission advancement, noted how the clients’ work life builds their self-confidence.

“It helps in every way,” she observed. “They do a full day’s work and it gives them a sense of pride and dignity.”

” … And they feel like they are making a contribution to society,” Chief Development Officer Jeff Sanders said.

Another benefit of the work is social, like being in school with classmates, Cooper explained.

“They improve their socialization skills and forge friendships with their peers,” Lydon pointed out.

Besides the fulfillment center, St. John of God has clients working for Holy Grounds, an in-house business that sells coffee to local stores. Others work for companies like Walmart and Heritages stores through the Supported Employment program.

Staff job coaches show the clients how to write resumes and teach them interview skills, as well as visiting employers “to help them work with the clients,” Lydon said.

“It’s all about choice and preference, and we try to meet the goals of the people we serve.”

St. John of God serves hundreds of individuals with developmental delays and disabilities, according to Sanders. They include 154 adult clients in the fulfillment center; the House of John; and the Supported Employment program, plus 109 children and their families in an early intervention program for children up to 3 years old.

“Most of these services for children are provided in the home. We work with the family as a whole, and provide them with tools and strategies,” said Lydon, who added that the St. John of God team of practitioners and physical therapists travels to homes in Camden, Gloucester and Cumberland counties.

To help support itself, St. John of God will hold its second Summer of Cash 50/50 on Friday, Aug. 4, at 1:30 p.m. on Facebook LIVE (@SJOCGSwestville). Tickets are $20 each.

For more information about programs or services provided by the organization or to make a charitable donation, go to

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