History

Cool Timeline

1979

1979

Under the umbrella of the Association for the Advancement of the Mentally Handicapped (AAMH), Executive Director Sidney Blanchard founds Community Access Unlimited (formerly AAMH-Union) with a $90,000 grant to move 20 individuals with developmental disabilities from state institutions and place them in the community. In its infancy, Blanchard operated the..Read More

1981

1981

The agency’s first supervised apartment program opens, allowing members transitioning to community life to experience supported independent living. An innovative recreation program is also launched for members to enjoy their newfound independence through sports and other activities.

1984

1984

Supports are added for youth in New Jersey’s child welfare system and parents with disabilities through the provision of supportive transitional living programs and education training. The expansion laid the foundation for CAU’s Transitional Opportunities Program (TOP). Helping Hands, one of New Jersey’s oldest and strongest disability self-advocacy groups, is..Read More

1986

1986

Employment services are added to secure community-based jobs for members to reach new heights and decrease reliance on state funding. CAU members and leadership appear in the documentary film “Am I Really That Different?” to educate the public about the movement for deinstitutionalization and supportive living programs for individuals with..Read More

1987

1987

The agency secures its first residential housing units, becoming one of the first nonprofits in the U.S. to pursue the federal low-income housing tax credit to buy property. The strategic move helped finance more than 70 housing units, condos, and apartments in multi-family homes across Union County.

1992

1992

AAMH-Union becomes Community Access Unlimited (CAU).

1994

1994

Sidney Blanchard is recognized by the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s most widely circulated newspaper, as the “Jerseyan of the Week” for his efforts and leadership in providing supports for youth and people with disabilities.

2001

2001

The Colleen L. Fraser Scholarship Fund is established following the passing of Board President Colleen Fraser, who was traveling to a grant writing conference during 9/11. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to two exceptional CAU members to fund their advocacy efforts.

2004

2004

CAU receives the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ (AAIDD) annual Community Inclusion Award, a national distinction given to organizations that outperform in integrating people with disabilities into community life.

2006

2006

CAU receives its first three-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the most prestigious accreditor of health and human services in the U.S. CARF also commended the agency for the quality of its programs and services. CAU becomes the first agency in the U.S. to develop..Read More

2008

2008

Sidney Blanchard is named a fellow of the AAIDD.

2012

2012

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appoints Sidney Blanchard to the NJ Interagency Council on Homelessness. The CAU Community Players, the agency’s integrated theater troupe, stages its first performance, bringing together actors of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.

2013

2013

Working with the faith community of Union County, CAU helps launch the Union County Interfaith Coordination Council to create pathways for its members and different religious groups to worship together.

2014

2014

The Academy of Continuing Education opens at CAU’s Day Program to provide adults with disabilities alternatives to traditional day support. CAU becomes one of the only agencies in New Jersey to provide support coordination to every county in the state outside Union.

2015

2015

CAU receives its fourth consecutive CARF accreditation and begins constructing its current main office. The Supportive Housing Association of NJ awards CAU for its Terrill Road building project.

2018

2018

With more than 1,000 staff, 270 units of housing, 136,000 sq. feet of commercial space, and a $62 million operating budget, CAU continues growing in its mission to achieve independence and community integration for New Jerseyans with special needs.

2019

2019 Transition

In February 2019, Sid Blanchard handed the keys to CAU over to Bernadette Griswold, whose 15 years of direct service, program expansion, administrative, business development, advocacy, and quality assurance experience are already ushering the agency into an era of continued growth and success. Blanchard returned to his grassroots origins as..Read More