Special Needs Program Project SEARCH Helps a Childhood Dream Come True

On the Right Track

Special Needs Program Project SEARCH Helps a Childhood Dream Come True

Ever since PJ was a child, he had an admiration for trains.

“Since birth, PJ absolutely loved trains. It probably started with Thomas the Tank Engine,” says Noemi, PJ’s mom. “He really wanted to work as an engineer; it was his ‘train dream.’”

It is not uncommon for people on the autism spectrum to have intense and highly-focused interests, often from a fairly young age. Fortunately, PJ found that his dream of working in the train industry came true after his year-long participation in Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is a nationally- recognized, one-year high school transition program, which provides training and education with the goal of competitive, integrated employment for students with disabilities.

This collaborative program, of which JFCS is the Community Rehabilitation Provider, started in South Jersey in September 2016 through Kennedy Health (now Jefferson Health).

“I loved our experience with Project SEARCH,” said Noemi. “It is a wonderful program. Considering

the help PJ needed, everyone was all-hands-on- deck. The entire Project SEARCH team was very supportive and patient.”

Before he landed his job in the train industry, PJ participated in three 12-week internship rotationsin different departments within Jefferson Health. He learned to write letters of application and compile a resume, honed interviewing techniques, and gained transferable skills. PJ monitored machines in the boiler room, retrieved orders from a handheld device, and completed hardware diagnostics during his internship.

“PJ was always consistent in receiving high scores from his department mentors on work-related behaviors,” noted Janeene Martin, JFCS Employment Specialist for the Project SEARCH Program. “PJ was eager to apply all his experiences

and training in the workforce.” PJ would soon realize that his skills and work ethic, along with guidance from the Project SEARCH team, would put him on the right track to his dream job.

“JFCS was able to connect PJ with a job opportunity as a courier with Edens Corporation, a partner organization with SEPTA. Now PJ gets to work in a job where he is riding the rails all day long, three days a week, from 9 AM – 4 PM. He even rides a train into work,” Noemi says with pride. “His job is to ride the train to various locations, and to deliver important documents to the staff there.”

Headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, Edens Corporation provides a variety of services to include paratransit transportation and ticketing throughout the Philadelphia region.

“One of the biggest rewards,” says Noemi, “is that PJ is coming out of his shell. PJ used to keep to himself a lot, but now he comes home to relay that he spoke up and asked for help on something. He is always pleased to share what he has learned, and how willing the staff is to assist him. Every day, his confidence in himself, and in his abilities, shows. If any parent is on the fence about a program like this, they shouldn’t be. They should just do it. Project SEARCH offers so much support to all the participants … there are just so many benefits.” PJ, when asked to choose two things he liked most about his job, said, “I like interacting with people and being independent.” Riding the trains, it goes without saying, is of course at the top of his list.

The Project SEARCH Program occurs on-site at Jefferson Cherry Hill Hospital, and is a collaboration of community partners including JFCS, Jefferson Health, Y.A.L.E. School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS), and New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). For more information on Project SEARCH, call Janeene Martin at (856) 424-1333, Ext. 3275. To learn more about all of the special needs programming JFCS offers, visit www.jfcssnj.org/special-needs.


No-Cost Caregiver Support Group Offers Resources and More

About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months – and 15% of those individuals are responsible for the care of not one – but two – adults.  Additionally, about 15.7 million adult family caregivers in the United States care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.  Caregivers are not alone in this world. In fact, the numbers suggest that there are many people who share the same concerns, struggles, and hopes on a daily basis.


Registration is now open to join the free JFCS Caregivers Support Group, sponsored by Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice, which offers a welcoming atmosphere where caregivers can openly discuss their stressors, fears, and unique challenges. The group will present a space for caregivers of all ages to discuss topics that only other caregivers would understand, and is facilitated by a licensed social worker.


Those joining the group will learn coping skills, expression of emotions and feelings, and will discover a wealth of information on local supportive resources.

Whether you care for a child, sibling,  grandparent, spouse, neighbor, or parent, the one constant is that a caregiver needs to focus on their own well-being. In doing so, they can give their best attention to others and themselves.  Take time to share your voice and bond with others in this compassionate group, by contacting Sharon Nadler, MSW, LSW, at 856-424-1333, Ext. 1173, or email snadler@jfedsnj.org.


MRS BPO, LLC Employees Make Holiday Donation to Food Pantries


MRS holiday Donation.jpg

MRS BPO, LLC employees generously donated many bags of food to our JFCS Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantries this week!  The MRS BPO food drive, held since Thankgsiving, is part of an ongoing partnership with JFCS, which will include upcoming gift drives, fundraising initiatives, and volunteer events.  Pictured here: Brian Erazmus, Jordan Miller, Jennifer Pate, and Nina Rios.  (Not pictured: Kelly Feoli,  Rob Topolewski, Lisa Saidel.)

Free BRCA Gene Webinar – December 20

Sharsheret will present a free national webinar, “BRCA Genetics In The News: What Do I Do Next?” on Wednesday, December 20th, at 8 p.m. EST.

The webinar features Sharsheret’s own Genetics Program Coordinator, Peggy Cottrell, MS, CGC, who will explore the latest critical genetics research, decode BRCA and other genetic  mutations, and help us understand what steps we need to take next. A Sharsheret peer supporter will share her personal story and a live question and answer session will follow the presentation.

To register for the webinar or to share the webinar with others in your network, click here.

Speaking Out Against Abusers is Paramount


By Lori Garber

Courage to speak out against an abuser is paramount in combating sexual assault.  The question is whether the recent reversal of Obama-era college sexual misconduct rules will discourage reporting by victims at colleges and universities.  Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos,  set an interim guidance for  a higher standard of evidence for victims of  sexual misconduct against their abusers.  Her reasoning was to protect the accused from being punished without legal due process.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Education urged universities and colleges to commit to the prevention of sexual assault and adequately and quickly respond to assertions of the victims of sexual misconduct under Title IX, a federal law prohibiting discrimination in education.  

The standard was a “preponderance of evidence”, where, if more than 50% of the evidence points to misconduct, the abuser would be punished.  DeVos proposes the standard to be  for the stricter, “clear and convincing” evidence, which requires proof that  it is highly probable that the claim is true. 

Critics argue the higher standard puts an undue and often virtually impossible burden on the victims.  Others argue for the rights of the accused.  No one wants a college student to be expelled, jailed or otherwise ostracized based on false claims, but it is imperative that  victims of sexual violence not be afraid to confront their accusers through the legal system and they may if they fear they cannot adequately prove the assault occurred.  At this time, even with  DeVos’ announcement, colleges and universities can still choose whether to use the stricter “clear and convincing” evidence standard or the lesser proof of “preponderance of the evidence”.

Universities have responded.  Syracuse University, University of Michigan and University of Tennessee are among the many institutions of higher learning who will …”continue to resist policies that limit victim protections and will continue with their current policies  addressing sexual misconduct,” indicated a SU official.  Students of sexual violence need the courage to speak out and are more likely do so if they know the administration supports and encourages them to identify and confront their abusers.  

Sexual Predators Have Many Faces

… The use of power and force, whether it be by a high-powered Hollywood executive or a college student, shows no boundaries…

 By Lori Garber

What do Ashley Judd and Terry Crews have in common?  A 5’ 6” actress and  a 6′ 3″ actor and former NFL football player weighing 240 lbs?   Both have been sexually assaulted by Hollywood executives.  Both are victims.   They recently came out and  publicly told their stories of abuse and humiliation.  Sexual predators have many faces and do not discriminate;  the use of power and force, whether it be by a high-powered Hollywood executive or a college student, shows no boundaries.  In the wake of Harvey Weinstein, courage, it seems, is what is needed to stop it from happening.


During an interview with Helen Benedict, professor of journalism at Columbia University, she spoke with NPR host Michael Martin.  Benedict said of sexual predators, “The impulse is pretty much the same – to abuse power. You make yourself feel powerful by degrading others. It’s the same impulse that torture is used. You know, most torturers use sexual humiliation as part of their tools to torture.”


Crews felt powerless.  He tweeted, “Who’s going 2 believe you? (few) What r the repercussions? (many)  Do u want 2 work again? (Yes) R you prepared 2b ostracized? (No)”.  James Van Der Beek, another actor, recently revealed that he  was also a victim of sexual assault, and said in a tweet,  “I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness & inability to blow the whistle.  There’s a power dynamic that feels impossible to overcome.” Many victims of sexual assault are afraid to speak up because of fear of negative consequences. 


As the voices of the Hollywood elite, both males and females, are taking the forefront against sexual harassment, assault, and rape, it is now more than ever, imperative for those in college, where sexual assault and rape are rampant, to speak up and have the courage to do something even when there is concern about the consequences because if they fail to do so, the the abuse will never end.




Register by Nov 22 here: www.jfcssnj.org/wetoo