History of Our NJ Nonprofit | Community Access Unlimited

Duplicated History

Since our inception in 1979, Community Access Unlimited has continued to grow to support members to live full and self-directed lives in their communities. We were founded in 1979 with a single grant to move 20 people with developmental disabilities from state institutions to homes in the community. Community Access Unlimited was then known as the Association for the Advancement of the Mentally Handicapped-Union, and officially became Community Access Unlimited, Inc. (CAU) in 1992

Our first supervised apartment program opened in 1981, offering supported independent living to assist members integrating into the community. We also started our robust recreation program with sports and other activities. CAU established supports for youth in New Jersey’s child welfare system in 1984, launching transitional living and education programs that continue today in our Transitional Opportunities Program (TOP) and other programs serving over 100 youth.

By taking initiative to buy property through the low-income housing tax credit, CAU financed its first housing units in 1987, beginning with more than 70 housing units, condos and apartments in Union County. We added employment services to support members in finding jobs in the community, helping them reach new goals and become more financially independent. We were also the first agency in the U.S. to develop a program that allows members to purchase their own homes. The agency now serves over 3,000 members and families and owns 270 housing units.

    CAU programs have been awarded three-year accreditations since 2006 by the prestigious Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

    Our partnerships reflect a commitment to building community and collaboration in New Jersey: the CAU Community Players, an inclusive theater troupe made up of actors with and without disabilities, has been staging incredible performances since 2012, including a virtual production in 2021. We work with the faith community of Union County to create opportunities for worship and advocacy through the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council. Helping Hands, an energetic self-advocacy group for people with disabilities, was formed at the agency in 1984 and continues to engage on issues affecting members.

    CAU has received accolades including the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ (AAIDD) Community Inclusion Award, and a public-private-partnership award for our Terrill Road building project from NJBIZ and The NJ League of Municipalities.

    Executive Director Bernadette Griswold became CAU’s leader in 2019 with more than 15 years of experience in direct service, business development and advocacy at the agency. Building on a legacy of service excellence, she is spearheading expansion in support services, housing and education to make a difference for individuals with disabilities and youth at risk in New Jersey.

    Operating with a budget of $72 million with a staff of over 1,000, CAU is equipped to serve individuals and families statewide and help them reach new heights.

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