Hospital Heroines Make For a Hearty Holiday for Lawrence Tenants

This past December Project Freedom at Lawrence held their annual tenant holiday party. Thirty tenants plus guests enjoyed a night of fun, music, gifts, food and laughter. With the generous help of volunteers from Notre Dame and Somerville High School, Gene and Michele Menges, Deborah Heart and Lung Hospital and many anonymous supporters, the event went off without a hitch!

As the tenants gathered in the entrance, many were sneaking peeks at the tables filled with gifts, anticipating the auction.

After enjoying a delicious dinner from Chiarello’s, and getting halfway through the Chinese Auction, the star of the night showed up! Santa escorted by his elves from the Slackwood Firehouse came in ringing bells. Santa made sure to stop at every table and take pictures with every tenant! The photos show laughing, smiling and pure bliss. All photos were printed out and delivered to each tenant’s front door to keep the memory of such a joyful evening. One tenant, began to cry as she expressed to Santa that his visit warmed her heart and lifted her spirits.

As Santa completed his rounds becoming clearly over heated by his attire, he stated how deeply moved and honored he felt to be a part of this special evening. Santa said he could go on forever visiting with our tenants as his heart was warmed by the smiles on their faces.

Every tenant went home not only with their own personal gift bag (donated by Michele and Gene Menges) but also with gifts won during our auction. This auction had over 90 gifts up for grabs covering eight tables. These gifts ranged from coloring books to China dinnerware.

None of this would have been possible without the generosity and selflessness of Deborah Heart and Lung Hospital! For the third year, the nurses and aides at Deborah have gone to extreme lengths to make a significant difference in the lives of so many.  The hospital staff members not only donated gifts but also their time to help our tenants have an amazing and memorable holiday season. Staff and tenants at Project Freedom would like to thank these angels for all they do.

In Natural Disasters, a Disability Can Be a Death Sentence

“Always ask people if they need help.” by 

Several of the 88 people killed in the Camp fire that devastated Butte County, California, in November had disabilities.

Their deaths were only the latest example of a tragic reality: When disaster strikes, people with disabilities are disproportionately affected. There are no statistics that show how many disabled people in the US say they could easily evacuate in an emergency, but around the world, just 20 percent of disabled people say they would be able to do so. And only 31 percent said they would have someone to help them in an emergency, according to a 2013 United Nations global surveyClick Here to read more.

Freedom Village at Gibbsboro Breaking Ground in South Jersey

There will soon be affordable rental properties available for those with disabilities in south Jersey.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday morning for the brand new Freedom Village.

The 72 unit rental community will be built on seven acres of land in Gibbsboro, Camden County.

See WPVI Channel 6 Video by Clicking Here

Lawrence Band Brings Holiday Cheer to Tenants

Tenants from Robbinsville, Hamilton, and Lawrence gathered at Project Freedom at Lawrence to hear holiday and winter season music from the Lawrence Community Band.

30+ band members and 35 attendees made for a packed night of beautiful holiday music and a joyful atmosphere! The band was spectacular and the audience truly enjoyed singing along to all of their holiday favorites.

Why Do I #CripTheVote? Because the Disability Vote is Power

By Randall Oldenburg

Randall Oldenburg is a writer and thinker who is primarily concerned with topics in disability studies. As a philosophy student, he worked primarily on issues at the intersection of disability, language, and ethics. 

As a child, I didn’t think being disabled had anything to do with voting, or vice versa. I saw that my parents always voted, but I didn’t see it as an important part of my life as an American. Experience taught me just how wrong I was.

When I was 18 and first tried to vote, I almost didn’t succeed. There were many hurdles, including obtaining transportation, filling in my ballot, and proving my identity.

I had no driver’s license and didn’t yet have a government identification card. My disability didn’t completely destroy my capacity to vote, though. I didn’t have to worry. I had my brother to vouch that I was who I said I was.

“Can you vouch for him?” The volunteer asked my brother, flitting his hand toward me. I was already stressed, and now I felt my identity being doubted. I felt small. Read More Here

From Norman’s Desk – November 2018

Norman A. Smith, Associate Executive Director

The petition begins: The New Jersey Disability Community wholeheartedly opposes efforts by companies, cities, and states to ban single use plastic straws. These policies create barriers to independence, community integration, and daily living for people with disabilities, work counter to our community ideals of universal access, and place an unnecessary burden on people with disabilities to fight for the accommodations we need to live independently.

 The petition was started because well-intended but unwitting legislators are proposing legislation that will literally force people with disabilities who need straws to drink to bring their own to restaurants.  The proposed legislation is aimed at saving whales and turtles by keeping plastic straws out of the ocean.  A noble and worthy cause, but why pick on people with disabilities who need straws?    

Many people with various types of disabilities rely on single-use plastic straws to drink, eat, and take medication  independently.  Many people reading this can relate to this.  Currently, no alternatives to single-use flexible plastic straws exist that are safe, sanitary, and affordable for people with disabilities. Until these alternatives exist, it is unacceptable to create more barriers to independence and access by restricting plastic straw use.

Much of the fervor surrounding plastic straws is based entirely on viral videos and false statistics.  Plastic straws make up only about .03% of plastic waste in the ocean (fishing nets by contrast make up 46%). To risk the rights to independence and liberty that our community has fought for only .03% of waste is unacceptable to our community!  Furthermore, “offer-first” policies at restaurants have been shown to reduce straw use by up to 80% without creating any barriers to access. 

Everybody wants to save the whale and the turtle, but nobody outside of our community seems to grasp that straws are tools for people with disabilities to live healthy, independent, and productive lives as equal members of our community. The disability community believes in creating policies that protect the environment, but we also believe that this can be done in ways that do not harm the disability community.

Though some cities and states have incorporated “disability exceptions” into their straw ban legislation, the disability  community remains firm in our opposition. Medical exceptions force people with disabilities to disclose their disability to store workers. Requiring this puts an undue burden on disabled customers who already experience discrimination and  victimization.

Misconceptions and stereotypes about what a “real” disability looks like can also lead wait staff to question the validity of a customer’s need for a straw  causing them to deny, harass, or shame the customer. Do we want teenaged wait staff deciding who has a disability?/

The harsh penalties established by straw ban legislation provide incentive for vendors to err on the side of caution by routinely denying straws to anyone who requests them. It is also unlikely that stores will continue to stock plastic straws because of the (false) perception that people with disabilities make up only a small percentage of the population. This again creates an added barrier for people with disabilities. Now, when we decide to go out to dinner, not only do we have to call ahead to find if the space is accessible, but we must also find out if they have straws

While some may suggest that people who need straws simply carry around their own, this is an unfair request for several reasons. First, with straw bans sweeping the nation, single use plastic straws will inevitably become more expensive and difficult to obtain even for individual use. Second, it creates an unnecessary financial burden on people with disabilities who already experience increased rates of poverty, functioning as a form of “disability tax.” Eventually, these costs will be passed on to the taxpayer as the need for straws becomes “medicalized” to justify them as medical necessity so Medicaid picks up the ever increasing expense

In light of all of these reasons and more, the disability community is asking the New Jersey Legislators three things. First to reject any legislation that restricts access to single use plastic straws. Second, create an action plan to ensure the voices of people with disabilities are heard on all legislation before it reaches a vote. Finally, pass legislation that explicitly protects the right of people to access single-use plastic straws upon request in accordance with the ADA.

Maggie Leppert of  the Alliance Center for Independence provided much of the factual  foundation for this column. My thanks to Maggie, a future leader in the NJ disability advocacy community.

 

Norman A. Smith
Follow me on Twitter @normansmith02
Follow us on Twitter @TheFreedomGuys
“Like” us on Facebook.com/ProjectFreedomInc

 

“My Two Cents” – November 2018

Tim Doherty, Executive Director

So, as most of you know, Project Freedom holds our “Angel Award Dinner Gala” around this time in November. It is our once a year fundraiser which honors four individuals or organizations that have somehow contributed to furthering the cause for those with disabilities . Former Hamilton Mayor John “Jack” K. Rafferty was our first honoree, twenty one years ago, and we have continued ever since. I started this event when I became CEO, in an effort to gain support for Project Freedom and raise some funds for our tenant programs.

And each year I would work along with the Board Committee and Staff to generate auction items and to get people to attend our dinner. So, I was flabbergasted when the Committee suggested honoring me this year, along with our other honorees. Of course, I am humbled by the honor and by the fact that the board would consider me a worthy candidate. However, I am reminded that this is also a fundraiser, so that I am also expected to raise funds by getting as many folks that I know to attend this event. Of course I am happy to do so.

Now, in accepting this award, I need to recognize all our Project Freedom staff. We have had tremendous growth over these past six years, and it is due largely to our Executive Team, but also all staff members. Certainly credit goes to Tracee Battis, our Director of Housing Development; Steve Schaefer, our CFO, my own better half, Marion Doherty and, of course, our co-founder, Norman Smith. Also, our new ( almost two years now ) Compliance / Property Manager, Frank Sciarrotta, who contributes daily in supporting our project managers. These folks make my job much easier and enjoyable.

Big Credit goes to our project managers, who are on the front lines every day. Jackie, Joanne, Ceil, Dara, Laurie, and Sammi, and their support staff, Melinda, Jen, Bri, Joyce, Arlene, Judy, and Savannah, who manage the day to day operations of communities, so that our tenants can live in beautiful, well kept housing.

To our accounting Staff, Heather and Sakina, who now manage the books of twenty four entities, each of which need to be kept separately.

To our maintenance staff, Ed, Doug, Ross, Johnny, Frank, Damien, Mike, John, Len, Tony, Jim and Paul, who cut the grass, fix the plumbing, plow the snow and in general keep our buildings and grounds impeccable– I am always proud to show our properties to any visitors–be it the first project or the last–they are housing to be proud of.

To our recreation staff, Dana, Maria, Esther, Mary who work to create social opportunities for our tenants to enjoy, to get people out of their apartments and experience some fun.

To our tenant workers, Nate, Jen, Coby, Jeffery and Jason, who are always reliable.

Finally, to our Board Chair, Herb Schneider, and our Board of Trustees, who bear the ultimate responsibility for Project Freedom’s growth and advancement. Our Board meetings and committee meetings are robust, discussions, with people who care about Project Freedom and the welfare of our tenants. They are always looking to ensure that we are doing quality work that makes a difference in people’s lives.

So, I am honored to be recognized and to share our successes with all our Project Freedom family.

Ceremonial Groundbreaking for Freedom Village at West Windsor

West Windsor —  On a brisk day with bright sunshine in October, Project Freedom Inc. held a groundbreaking ceremony for Freedom Village at West Windsor, a 72 unit affordable and accessible rental community under construction located on Old Bear Brook Road already.

West Windsor Mayor Hemant Marathe, Ph.D., past Mayor Dr. Shing-Fu Hsueh, Council members, Affordable Committee members and many town officials were in attendance.  Also present was Florence Cohen, former chairperson of West Windsor’s Affordable Housing Committee, was the committee member who introduced Project Freedom Inc. to the township.

Timothy Doherty, executive director of Project Freedom Inc., welcomed the guests and speakers followed by Herb Schneider, chairman of the board of trustees, who highlighted Project Freedom’s cooperative relationship with the many towns in New Jersey that are home to Project Freedom communities. 

“Our Project Freedom Villages have been invited into each of the seven towns where we have built a community,” said Schneider, “and we have been warmly welcomed by the town officials and the neighbors. We work hard to establish a spirit of cooperation with our new neighbors and with the town.”

Mercer County Freeholder Pasquale “Pat” Colavita Jr. spoke about the “freedom provided by Project Freedom’s housing.” 

Maria Malo-Messano, Field Office Director, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, praised the inclusiveness of the development and noted that this type of housing  was what the federal government encouraged

Claudia Lovas, Deputy Executive Director, New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, Tony Lyons, Vice President of East Originations for the National Equity Fund, Benjamin Kruger, Vice President Commercial Real Estate for TD Bank,  all spoke about working and partnering with Project Freedom on eight housing projects throughout the years..

Norman Smith, co-founder of Project Freedom spoke about the mission of the organization.  

“Project Freedom housing is the foundation from which people with and without disabilities can build their lives on,” added Smith in his remarks. “What has been started here today will bring freedom to some, a comfortable sanctuary for others, and for everyone the opportunity to say West Windsor is a great place to call their hometown.

The plans for Freedom Village at West Windsor are 72 unit affordable and accessible rental community six two-story buildings with 12 apartments in each building and a Community Center.  Each building will have an elevator for easy access to the second floor and a laundry room on each floor for the convenience of the tenants. There will be one, two and three bedroom units which are designed to LEED Silver equivalency which will insure energy efficient units. Eighteen of the units will be set aside for individuals who have a disability.

The new community is funded through Tax Credits awarded by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, National Equity Fund Inc. TD Bank and Investors Bank. The General Contractor for the project is Costanza Builders of New Jersey Inc., the architect is Joseph F. McKernan Jr. Architects & Associates and the Engineer is ESE Consultants, Inc.   Construction for Freedom Village will take 14 months to complete.

West Windsor Update — October 2018

Project Freedom is pleased to announce the construction of our latest affordable housing community…Freedom Village at West Windsor.  This seventy two unit apartment community will feature one, two and three bedroom apartments, surrounding a large Community center, only steps away from the West Windsor Train Station.  The buildings are a two story design, with private entrances in front and all are totally barrier free and accessible.  The buildings will have elevators, central heat and AC and incorporate Energy Star design features, as well as being LEEDs compliant.  Ample off street parking adjacent to each building will provide easy access to each unit.

Although all units are barrier free and accessible, all units are affordable, and welcome disabled and non-disabled families. These units are regulated as to income eligibility under the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program

Presently, construction is on-going with the community to be completed in the early Summer of 2019.

Tenant Pre- applications will be taken, beginning January 1, 2019 and ending March 1, 2019.  Pre-applications can be downloaded from our website at www.Projectfreedom.org or by calling Project Freedom at Lawrence at 609-278-0075 or by writing to:  Project Freedom Inc., 1 Freedom Blvd, Lawrence, NJ 08648.   Advertisements announcing the acceptance of pre-applications for West Windsor will begin in December 2018, and will run periodically during the first quarter of 2019.

A Lottery has been tentatively set for March 20, 2019 to be held at the West Windsor Municipal Building.   A lottery system will be used to rank prospective tenant applications, establishing a rental list, with interviews being conducted in the order of the lottery ranking.

We will be updating this website from time to time, so if interested please continue to monitor our website for future news regarding this housing development.  For more information please call 609-278-0075.