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, known as Sid to CAU’s members and staff, is the founder and executive director of Community Access Unlimited. From the back of his Volkswagen Beetle to 80 West Grand Street, Sid has guided the agency to its current staff of 1,100-plus strong, a $62 million annual operating budget, and $111 million in assets. He is a pioneer, leader, and advocate of providing community supports to people in need.
Sid’s efforts to create better lives for thousands of youth and adults over the past four decades has not only established CAU as a national leader within the human services landscape, but embedded CAU into the fabric of Elizabeth and the state of New Jersey. A nationally-recognized speaker on social policy, disability, child welfare, and housing issues, Sid is an active member of the Human Service Advisory Council (HSAC) and the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities (ABCD), president of the AAID’s New Jersey chapter, AAIDD Region IX vice president, and a gubernatorial appointee on the NJ Task Force on Homelessness.
Rolando Zorrilla, Managing Assistant Executive Director
Rolando graduated from The College of New Jersey with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and possesses more than 16 years of experience in support services. He joined Community Access Unlimited in 2007 as the director of clinical services for the Transitional Opportunities Program and has worn many hats since, including assistant executive director of a supervised apartment program.
Today, Rolando is the oversees all CAU residential programs as the managing assistant executive director and is an active member of the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Youth with DDD Committee, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), The Leadership Institute, and NJ Alliance. He thoroughly enjoys helping others and is honored to participate in CAU’s mission.
Marshall Christie, Assistant Executive Director of Youth Services
Marshall is a lifelong New Jersey resident with a wealth of programmatic and organizational experience in children and family services. Prior to joining CAU in 2018, he served as director of a program in North Jersey that partnered with up to 20 treatment homes.
Marshall also spent more than 20 years honing his childcare, counseling, and managerial skills at an agency in Somerset County, where he climbed the ranks from youth counselor to director of residential services. In this position, Marshall coordinated a 24-hour direct care staff and services for residents of seven adolescent residential facilities, including a youth shelter, group home, transitional living and supportive housing program. After nearly three decades of championing the causes of at-risk youth and their families, Marshall is delighted to bring his skills and experience to CAU.
Rosemary Schaefer, Senior Assistant Executive Director of Quality Assurance and Training
Rosemary graduated from Kennesaw State University with a BA in psychology and a strong desire to provide support to individuals with disabilities. Starting as a recreation organizer and direct care worker for a mental health care provider, her work eventually progressed into the realm of quality assurance and trainings.
After joining CAU as a Quality Assurance Coordinator in 2004, Rosemary’s team has grown from a one-woman band to a staff of more than 20 QA experts, trainers, and nurses who provide program support, quality assurance, home health care, and assistance at CAU’s day program. With a sharp eye for detail that has helped secure licensing success and multiple CARF accreditations for CAU, Rosemary’s original aspiration to deliver a better quality of life for people with special needs continues to motivate her every day.
Sheila McDowell, Assistant Executive Director of Intake & Emergency Placement
Sheila received her BA in psychology from Upsala College and joined CAU in 1996 as a residential coordinator. After a few short stints at other organizations, Sheila knew CAU was her home when she saw the quality of its support services.
Using the knowledge and personal growth she has gained at CAU, Sheila’s approach to her role as assistant executive director is informed by equal measures of compassion and pragmatism. Never one to shy away from responsibility, Sheila’s enthusiasm for helping people with disabilities and ensuring that they live fulfilling lives only continues to grow.
Aisha Arroyo, Assistant Executive Director of DD Support Services
Prior to receiving her BA in sociology from Rutgers University in 2007, Aisha began honing her skills at the Douglas Developmental Disabilities Center. It was there and then that she set her mind to a career in social services, joining the CAU team as an assistant support counselor at the Summit program shortly after graduation.
Thanks to her devotion to CAU’s members, Aisha was quickly promoted to program coordinator and then director of residential services. Now the assistant executive director of an entire cluster of programs, Aisha’s positivity and empathy steadily guide her in ensuring quality support for her members.
Maxine DaCosta, Assistant Executive Director of DD Support Services
Maxine is a graduate of Montclair State University, where she received a BS is Family and Community Health. Initially stepping into the professional world as an elementary school teacher, she soon realized her true purpose was to affect positive change in the lives of people with disabilities.
Since joining CAU in 2004, Maxine has earned numerous promotions and serves as a leader on the CAU Family Connections team, providing mentorship to staff and families of individuals with disabilities. An active member of AAIDD, her passion for and dedication to providing the best supports to her members continues leading her to success.
William Busch, Assistant Executive Director of Membership Services
Billy received his BA in sports and leisure management from Eastern Connecticut State University, where he worked part-time as a direct care provider for people with disabilities. His experiences there influenced him to pursue his calling and make direct support his full-time gig.
In 2009, Billy relocated to New Jersey to join the team as CAU’s quality support specialist and later the director of quality assurance. As the RESNA-certified assistant executive director of Membership Services, Billy brings both altruism and commitment to the table as he strives to secure services for individuals and families across the state. Now pursuing his master’s in in education with a concentration in assistive technology, Billy brings unparalleled expertise in caring for members with new and emerging supports.
Alison Goodrich, Assistant Executive Director of Support Coordination
Armed with a BA in economics and Spanish from Rutgers University, Alison began her career in 2009 as a Spanish language medical interpreter for the Eric B. Chandler Health Center in New Brunswick, NJ. Through her work there and later at the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, Alison discovered her purpose was to use her direct service and policy analysis skills to help vulnerable populations.
Alison joined CAU in 2013 as a personal preference program consultant and gained her DDD certification to become a support coordinator. Now the assistant executive director of support coordination, Alison is dedicated to maintaining exceptional service quality and furthering CAU’s mission to help individuals with disabilities gain community access through person-centered services.
Diego Rossell, Assistant Executive Director of DD Support Services
Diego boasts more than 15 years of experience in supporting individuals with disabilities and mental illness. Having served in capacities ranging from supervising day habilitation and vocational programs to adaptive physical education, he joined CAU in 2009 as an assistant director overseeing community and residential programs within DD services placement.
Through his advocacy for individuals with disabilities and positive outlook, Diego was able to move up from director of residential services to assistant executive director in just one year. Building relationships with CAU’s members is the best part of Diego’s day, and he looks forward to fulfilling CAU’s mission for years to come.
Tracy LeBaron, Managing Director of Behavioral Services
Tracy fell in love with human services during her years at the University of Connecticut, where she received a dual degree in sociology and human development and family studies while working part-time with adults and children with disabilities.
Since graduating with a master’s in social work from Rutgers University in 2010, Tracy’s contagious sense of humor and limitless compassion have secured her speedy rise from behaviorist to managing director of behavioral services. In addition to holding a BCBA certification, Tracy is an active member of the National Association of Social Workers and Applied Behavior Analysis International. Seeing CAU’s members use the alternative communication skills she and her team develop and teach keeps Tracy striving to provide the best behavioral services possible.
Tyechia Wade, Assistant Executive Director of 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.
Valerie Poku, Assistant Executive Director of 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.