Bernadette Griswold, Executive Director
Bernadette became Executive Director of Community Access Unlimited (CAU) in February 2019.
After graduating from East Carolina University with dual degrees in Human Environmental Science/Family and Community Services and in Elementary Education, Bernadette found a career she was passionate about in November 2003. Her first position with CAU was as an Independent Living Skills Coordinator, developing and implementing independent living skills curricula for adults and at-risk adolescents. She also created and conducted staff and member trainings, as well as facilitating anger management groups at the Union County Jail.
As CAU grew, so did Bernadette’s responsibilities. As the Advocacy Assistant Director, she tracked legislation, developed positions and responded. She organized federal, local and state campaigns and recruited, developed and trained organizers with disabilities. In 2006, Bernadette was promoted to Assistant Executive Director, for which she maintained all contractual obligations, including outcomes, reporting, licensing and program inspections. She ensured the health and safety of members through rigorous program inspections and records review. She successfully achieved targeted levels of service and secured opportunities for development and growth.
In 2008, Bernadette became the Managing Assistant Executive Director of CAU, administering all aspects of CAU programs supporting people with developmental disabilities. She oversaw staff development and training and continued to maintain compliance with agency policies and contractual obligations. She also oversaw all agency quality assurance functions, including CAU’s expanding nursing and behavioral staff. She was responsible for analyzing budgets and ensuring fiscal policy compliance. During this time, CAU residential programs expanded from 13 to 50.
Bernadette became CAU’s Associate Executive Director in 2015. She adhered to national best practices to administer a social service agency with 1,100 full- and part-time employees and managed an operating budget of more than $33 million. Bernadette developed and implemented short and long-range plans and continued to oversee the expansion of programs, including writing grants, developing new programs and implementing a host of agency fundraising activities. She developed and operationalized CAU’s statewide Support Coordination program and continued developing and maintaining close working relationships with members, families, legislative leaders, and community organizations.
Bernadette is a member and active participant on many community boards, including:
- NJ State Representative for the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), 2005-Present
- Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD), 2013-Present
- ABCD, co-founder Support Coordination Alliance, 2015-Present
- American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, New Jersey Chapter, 2005-Present
- National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, 2008-Present.
- East Front Condominium Association, Board Member, 2005-Present
- Joelle Manor Condo Association, Vice President, 2005-Present
- North Broad Street Condo Association, Secretary, 2005-Present
- 1250 North Broad Street Condo Association, 2005-Present
- 502 Morris Avenue Condo Association, 2005-Present
- Linrose Manor Condo Association, Secretary, 2005-Present
Sidney Blanchard, Associate Executive Director of Community Relations
Sidney Blanchard is the founder and former executive director of Community Access Unlimited (CAU). CAU began in 1979 from the back seat of Sid’s Volkswagen beetle. Soon outgrowing the car, Sid oversaw the growth of the organization from its initial three staff and $90,000 budget to its current 1100 staff and combined $100 million budget. He handed the keys to his enterprise to Bernadette Griswold on February 1, 2019.
Sid is a pioneer, leader, and ardent advocate in providing community supports to people in need. In addition to founding and leading a multi-million dollar human services organization, he is a founding member of the New Jersey Residential Provider Association. He was a founding board member of Families and Community Together, Inc. (FACT), a care management organization for children and youth services in Union County. Sid is the president of the New Jersey and Region IX chapters of the American Association of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), which is the oldest professional association of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the country.
Sid’s vision and foresight led CAU to be one of the first nonprofits in the nation to pursue the federal low-income housing tax credit to acquire property. Today, he is the founder and chief executive officer for two real estate holding companies, Creative Property Management of New Jersey, Inc. and Community Access Institute, Inc., representing over $60 million in assets, over $3.0 million in operations, 235 units of housing and 130,000 square feet of commercial space.
Sid is a current member and active participant in many organization including:
- American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, New Jersey Chapter, President 2000-Present; Region IX Vice President, 2003 – Present
- Association for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD), 2011-Present
- Families and Community Together, Inc. (FACT), 2000-Present
- NJ Alliance of Children, Youth, & Families, Inc., 1994 – Present
- Human Service Advisory Council (HSAC), 1988 – Present
In 2012, Sid was appointed to the Union County Task Force on Homelessness by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the NJ Task Force on Homelessness by Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey.
Sid has authored numerous papers and led presentations on the topics of affordable housing, at-risk youth, and people with disabilities. His papers and presentations include the following:
- “Housing Policy for Special Needs Population in New Jersey” Powerpoint presentation, multiple governmental and provider associations, 2011 – Present
- “Thinking and Acting Out of the Box : Funding for Housing, Programs, and Services”, Framing the future of CWLA’s Family Unification Porgram National Training Conference, Washington D.C., January 19-January 31 2003
- “Alternative Funding for Housing Programs and Services”, Changes Conference Region II, Federal A.C.Y.F., September 12 2002
- “Independent Living Housing Cross Systems Forum”, National Special Invitation Conference, NILA January 14, 2002, Washington D.C.
- “Building Agency Assets and Developing Housing for Our Kids”, National Conference Workshop, National Independent Living Association, August 16, 2001
- “Community Living as a Movement and Developing the Resources to Survive”, WC/ARC Convention, 1996
- “Agency Purpose and Structure and the Person Served”. Region IX, AAMR, 1995
- “Housing Symposium”, University of New Hampshire, by invitation only – National Conference for NIMH, 1992
- “Creative, Holistic, Community Based Alternatives; Services and Financing.” American Association on Mental Retardation, National Convention, May 31, 1989
- “State Planning for MR/DD in NJ.” First Annual Social Workers’ Forum, Kean College Social Work Program, May 18, 1989
- “Creative, Community Based Services: Your Place or Mine?” National Symposium on Creative Financing of Services and Homes for People with Disabilities, April 10-13, 1989
- Presenter at the Low-Income Tax Credit Seminar, National Housing Institute. Funded by the NJ Department of Community Affairs, May 7, 1989
- “Where Will Home Be?” Symposium on Creative Financing for Community Housing for Persons with Retardation, Mental Illness, or Physical Disabilities, November 18-19 1988. Sponsored by the Advocacy Center for persons with Disabilities, Inc. (Formerly the Governor’s Commission on Advocacy), State of Florida
- “DYFS: The Issues of Aging-Out of Services.” Thirteenth Annual Adult Protective Services Institute, Kean College, 1988
- “The Non-Profit Agency; Cultivating and Preserving an Atmosphere of Creativity for Success, American Association on Mental Retardation”, National Convention, May 30, 1988
Rolando joined Community Access Unlimited in 2007, as the director of clinical services for the Transitional Opportunities Program. Over the past ten years, Rolando has continued to show personal and professional growth while taking on added job responsibilities. In 2011, he was named Youth Services Employee of the Year and was later promoted to assistant executive director for the DD4- Supervised Apartment Programs. In 2016, Rolando was promoted to Senior Assistant Executive Director.
Rolando is involved with various national and state affiliations. Rolando is a member of the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Youth with DDD Committee, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), The Leadership Institute, and NJ Alliance. Rolando also oversees the Helping Hands Self Advocacy and Jump Start Consulting groups.
Rolando graduated from The College of New Jersey with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Rolando has over 16 years experience working with and advocating for those that require support services. He thoroughly enjoys helping others and is honored by having the ability to actively participate in Community Access Unlimited’s mission.
Assistant Executive Director
Marshall was born in New Jersey and raised in Scotch Plains. With the exception of a few years residing elsewhere within the state, he has been a lifelong resident of Union County. Marshall has a wealth of programmatic and organizational experience in children and family services. He has championed the causes of at-risk youth for nearly three decades. Prior to coming to Community Access Unlimited, he served as director of a program in North Jersey that partnered with up to 20 treatment homes and coordinated the efforts of three agency-owned professional parent homes. In that role, he oversaw the program in serving at-risk children, adolescents and families.
Previously, Marshall spent more than 20 years honing his childcare, counseling and managerial skills while working for an agency in Somerset County. Beginning as a youth counselor at their shelter program in 1989, he rose through the ranks to become the agency’s Director of Residential Services in 2013. In that role, he coordinated a 24-hour direct care staff and services to residents of seven adolescent residential facilities, including a youth shelter, group home, transitional living and supportive housing program.
Senior Assistant Executive Director
Quality Assurance and Training
Rosemary graduated from Kennesaw State University with a degree in Psychology but knew that she wanted to be influential in creating better lives for people with disabilities long before that. It started with her first position as a recreation organizer & direct care position for a mental health provider and progressed into quality assurance work and trainings.
Rosemary has held 4 titles in the timeframe that she has been with Community Access. She was originally hired as the Quality Assurance Coordinator in 2004 and has continued to grow and learn with each promotion. The Quality Assurance team started with just her at the helm and has now grown to encompass two additional QA staff members, one trainer, and ten nurses in varying roles at CAU including program support, quality assurance, home health care, and assistance at the CAU Day Program. Her personal belief in maintaining high “quality of life” standards for our members and her eye for detail has helped her direct CAU’s staff so that they remain on top with each licensing success and CARF accreditation.
Sheila graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Upsala College and has served in the social services field for over 14 years. She started her career at Community Access Unlimited in 1996 as a residential coordinator for the supervised apartment program. Since then, she has consistently taken on more responsibility and used her expertise to grow into her current position as assistant executive director. Sheila is also responsible for direct managerial and programmatic responsibilities for DD services. Sheila focuses on assisting individuals in improving the quality of their lives and on providing quality services to all persons with disabilities.
Assistant Executive Director
DD Support Services
Aisha graduated from Rutgers University in 2007 with a BA in sociology and minor in psychology. While at Rutgers, Aisha completed field work studies at the Douglas Developmental Disabilities Center and after that experience, decided she wanted to pursue a career in the social services field. She became a part of Community Access Unlimited shortly after graduation as an assistant support counselor at the Summit program and quickly showed her commitment to ensuring the quality of life of her members daily. Within two years, Aisha was promoted to a coordinator position and ran her program efficiently.
In 2010, Aisha was promoted to director of Residential Services and has shown her constant dedication to the members at CAU. Shortly after in 2011 she was promoted to assistant executive director. Aisha continues to remain a positive person and dedicates her time to ensuring the individuals at CAU are getting the best quality of life and are seeking other ways to improve that quality of life.
Maxine is a graduate of Montclair State University where she acquired a bachelor of science degree in Family and Community Health. Maxine began her professional career as an elementary school teacher but stepped away from that role to work with individuals with disabilities, with whom she knew her skills as a teacher would make the greatest impact in affecting positive changes in the lives of others and being a devoted advocate for needed support services.
Maxine began her career in social services 16 years ago and joined the Community Access Unlimited family in 2004. Since then, Maxine has been promoted several times from program Assistant Director to Director and then to her current position as Assistant Executive Director. Maxine is a leader in CAU Family Connections team and provides mentorship supports to staff and families of individuals with disabilities. Maxine is also a member of the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) since 2010. Her passion and dedication for the work she does with her members and staff at CAU have lead her to be well regarded among peers and those she supports.
Billy graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2006 with a BA in sports and leisure management and a minor in physical education. While at ECSU Billy worked part time in a group home providing daily supports to individuals with developmental disabilities. During that time Billy found his calling in assisting individuals with disabilities and made it his full time profession. In 2009 Billy relocated to New Jersey and began his career with Community Access Unlimited as the Quality Support Specialist and then the Director of Quality Assurance. Currently the Assistant Executive Director of Membership Development, Billy works with individuals and families throughout the state to secure service and ensure individuals are getting the best quality of life. Billy is committed to advocating for people with disabilities and finding news way to enhance their lives.
Assistant Executive Director
Alison is the Assistant Executive Director of Support Coordination services which provides individuals with a team of knowledgeable staff members who help identify resources in their communities while navigating the intricacies of obtaining division funded services.
Alison holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Economics and Spanish from Rutgers University. Her career began at Eric B. Chandler Health Center as a Spanish language medical interpreter in 2009. There she was able to help patients through not only interpretation in the examination room, but through care management and patient education. She went on to work for the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, actively recruiting patients and coordinating their care while they participated in a public health study funded by the National Institutes of Health. She quickly found a passion for helping others through both direct service and policy analysis. Working with this vulnerable population and witnessing first hand how a dynamic holistic health approach to their health conditions drastically improved their health outcomes made the next step in her career path clear.
In 2013 Alison joined CAU as a personal preference program consultant and in June of that year obtained her Division of Developmental Disabilities Certification to assist in creating the Support Coordination Department as a support coordinator. Within one month’s time, Alison was promoted to Support Coordination Supervisor where she helped to develop standards that enable Support Coordination to offer premium quality services to its members today. Throughout her career at CAU, Alison has been fortunate enough to been given the opportunity to further influence the trajectory of Support Coordination services, keeping at the forefront the aim to assist members in obtaining services that help promote independence, community involvement, and job development. Alison is dedicated to maintaining exceptional service quality and furthering the mission to help individuals with intellectual and development disabilities gain community access through person-centered services that help them to lead fulfilling, productive, happy lives.
Assistant Executive Director
DD Support Services
Diego Rossell is the Assistant Executive Director of Residential services in DD5. Diego has more than 15 years of experience supporting individuals with development disabilities and/or serious mental illness in our community. His career began at a New York non-profit agency providing services to people with developmental disabilities, where Diego served in various capacities ranging from supervising day habilitation services and supervision of vocational programs, to evaluation of adaptive physical education programs. He has worked through various roles in his career advancing quality services that enrich lives and build future supports for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Through his work, Diego has been able to continue improving the quality of life and advocating on behalf of the individuals he currently supports on a daily basis. His career at CAU began in 2009 as an Assistant Director overseeing both community and residential programs within the DD services placement program. Along the way, through his diligent work and positive work ethic, he was promoted to Director of Residential services in 2017. Through his growth, knowledge and experiences put forth in his day-to-day work regimen, Diego was promoted to Assistant Executive Director of DD5 in July 2018. Diego has established positive, rewarding relationships with our members at Community Access Unlimited and looks forward to fulfilling our mission for many years to come.
Tracy attended the University of Connecticut and graduated with a dual degree in Sociology and Human Development/Family Studies. During winter and summer breaks, Tracy worked part-time with adults and children with disabilities, and after graduation made the easy choice to pursue a career in human services. After her undergraduate studies, she obtained her Masters in Social Work from Rutgers University and went on to receive her certification as a Licensed Social Worker in 2010. Shortly after receiving her LSW, Tracy began her career at CAU as a behaviorist and was quickly promoted to the Managing Director of Behavioral Services. In 2012, Tracy returned to school and became a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) in 2014. She is a member of both the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and Applied Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and was awarded the Office & Administrative Staff of the Year in 2015 by Community Access Unlimited. Tracy is dedicated to helping individuals learn alternate ways to communicate their wants and needs and is passionate about improving the quality of life for all of the individuals that are a part of the CAU family.
Assistant Executive Director
DD Support Services
Growing up watching her aunt help children in the foster care system, Tyechia caught the service bug at an early age. She stumbled across CAU in 2009 through a close friend and joined the team as an assistant support counselor after studying social work at Seton Hall.
As she advanced through multiple positions to assistant executive director, Tyechia fell in love with DD support and creating positive outcomes for her members. Now a leader and graduate of the Union County Nonprofit Leadership Fellows Institute, the most rewarding aspect of Tyechia’s job is still seeing her members smile and overcome challenges.
Assistant Executive Director
DD Support Services
Valerie’s experience in DD supports began during childhood. Having an older brother with special needs showed Valerie at an early age what supports people with disabilities need to navigate life, and she has been an advocate for the needs of others ever since.
Valerie started on a 10-year journey in social services after graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in labor studies and employment relations in 2006. In 2011, Valerie opened her own dance company, where she used her professional training in both performing arts and human services to develop a unique dance curriculum for children and adults with disabilities to be included in an integrated class setting. As she enters a new chapter as an assistant executive director, Valerie feels privileged to serve CAU’s members and is committed to ensuring that their lives are full.