‘Diamonds in the Sky’ gala recognizes honorees, raises more than $42,000
More than 140 people gathered at the Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, NJ on April 22 for Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.‘s annual Diamonds in the Sky gala.
“It was a special evening to celebrate our own shining stars with our supporters, friends, staff, and trustees. The event helped us to raise more than $42,000 towards the continued expansion of innovative services for those in need.”Abilities CEO Cynthia B. Wildermuth.
Pictures from the evening can be found: https://photos.app.goo.gl/HibLWpXgPUmry69NA
Photography by Cathy Miller
This year’s honorees were:
Individual Achievement– Jessica DeJesus
Jessica, center, receives an Individual Achievement Award during Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.’s annual Diamonds in the Sky gala on April 22 at the Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, NJ. With Jessica are Abilities CEO Cynthia B. Wildermuth (left) and Mission Engagement Manager Charissa Buskirk (right).
Jessica’s passion for creating, along with the support of her staff, has provided her the opportunity to earn a paycheck and gain increased independence. While similar to most traditional day programs, Washington’s niche is creating beautiful, seasonal arts and crafts sold at various events throughout the year. Each item sold that Jessica creates, she’s earning money!
“Focusing on each individuals’ skills, and breaking down the process into steps, allows everyone in the program to participate in making items and earning money,” says Cathy Setzer, Washington Day Program Supervisor. “Jessica excels in many areas, but her ability to hand sew with needle and thread is outstanding! She’s able to create many pieces from start to finish and with support from staff will make decisions on coordinating patterns or colors, and learning new sewing techniques. We’re so proud of her accomplishments!”
Jessica has been attending Washington program for 11 years and has been improving her crafting skills since. “I use the money I make to go on vacation. I really enjoy being able to do that.” said Jessica. When she’s not busy making new items to sell, Jessica enjoys painting, word games, and is currently assisting with growing butterflies.
Congratulations Jessica on receiving the Individual Achievement award! Keep up the hard work.
Individual Achievement– Erin Quinn
Erin, center, receives an Individual Achievement Award during Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.’s annual Diamonds in the Sky gala on April 22 at the Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, NJ. With Erin are Abilities CEO Cynthia B. Wildermuth (left) and Mission Engagement Manager Charissa Buskirk (right).
Erin began her journey with Abilities through Project SEARCH, an internship and employment preparation program for students in their last year of high school that takes place at Atlantic Health- Newton Medical Center. During Erin’s internship, she was a positive life force in three hospital departments, always came ready to work, and was willing to pitch in whenever the hospital needed some extra assistance. “She made us feel good with her presence, lighted up our day, and made a tremendous lasting impression with all hospital staff,” commented her hospital staff mentor.
Working with Abilities’ Employment Pathways job coach, Erin completed the Project SEARCH internship and applied the skills she’d learn by successfully securing employment as a Food Service Representative with Atlantic Health- Morristown Medical Center. Erin brings a smile to work every day, always offers to help others and has impact on her coworkers by always providing a positive perspective. Because of her dependability, positive attitude, and amazing work ethic, Erin was recognized as Employee of the Month by Atlantic Health Morristown in April of 2022! When asked about her favorite part of the job Erin said, “serving with coworkers and creating friendships at work.”
Erin returns to Project Search Newton as a guest speaker offering peer-to-peer support and employment advice with the current internship class. In her free time, Erin goes on runs and walks, enjoys singing, watching, and performing in musicals.
Congratulations Erin on receiving the Individual Achievement award! Keep smiling!
Community Partner- Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System received the Community Partner Award during Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.’s annual Diamonds in the Sky gala on April 22 at the Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, NJ. From left are Abilities CEO Cynthia B. Wildermuth and Lillian Scott and Giovannina McGrath representing Atlantic Health System.
The Community Partner award honors those who have greatly impacted Abilities and individuals with disabilities. Atlantic Health System (AHS) has been a valued community partner and supporter in a variety of ways throughout the years.
Atlantic Health Newton Medical Center is a host site for Project SEARCH and recently expanded a second internship program at Hackettstown Medical Center. Project SEARCH offers high school students with disabilities an internship and career development opportunity. Interns work directly with hospital staff and management in various departments throughout the hospital. Outcomes have been exceptional, resulting in successful job placement rates well above the state average! In addition to hosting Project SEARCH, AHS has also been a valuable employer, hiring several individuals at Newton, Morristown and Hackettstown Medical Centers.
Atlantic Health Hackettstown Medical Center Community Advisory Board has been a funding partner for several years, awarding grant funds to support Abilities’ Health and Wellness initiative. The “Cooking Club” builds social interactions between peers in the class, learning together, and focusing on exercise, health, nutrition and cooking.
Thank you, AHS, for being a valued Community Partner and the unfailing support that has allowed so many opportunities for the individuals that we serve.
Volunteer- John Schmidt
John Schmidt, center, receives the Volunteer Award during Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.’s annual Diamonds in the Sky gala on April 22 at the Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, NJ. With Schmidt are Abilities CEO Cynthia B. Wildermuth (left) and Mission Engagement Manager Charissa Buskirk (right).
John Schmidt has volunteered his expertise in public relations in support of Abilities since 2019. He has written numerous news releases to promote Abilities’ programs, people, and events, and has worked with local publications to ensure these stories receive media coverage.
“When I started a consulting and freelance writing practice in 2018, I wanted to find a charitable organization that didn’t have its own communications staff and offer my services. I had a great experience using the SustainAbilities Recycling Program, and decided to reach out to Abilities,” said Schmidt. “I’m happy to work with the amazing people at Abilities, who make a difference in the lives of so many people and families.”
Schmidt has 35 years of experience in public relations and corporate communications. He has held executive positions at BASF, Lucent Technologies, Global Crossing, and AT&T, and currently works for Knowde, a digital sales and marketing platform for chemicals. He has a BA in journalism from Duquesne University, an MBA in marketing from Montclair State University, and in 2017 he earned Accreditation in Public Relations. Currently, he serves as an advisor to the Transformational Leadership program at Seton Hall University.
Schmidt has been an ordained minister in the New Apostolic Church for 39 years. He and his wife Donna have two children, two grandchildren, and a 13-year-old Lab/Shepherd mix named Duke.
Thank you, John, for all your “behind the scenes” efforts in keeping Abilities in the face of our community!
Special Recognition- Pohatcong Police Department
The Pohatcong Police Department received a Special Recognition Award during Abilities of Northwest Jersey, Inc.’s annual Diamonds in the Sky gala on April 22 at the Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, NJ. From left are Abilities CEO Cynthia B. Wildermuth, Pohatcong PD Detective/Sergeant Ryan Barsony, Abilities Phillipsburg Program Supervisor Ruth Scheier, and Pohatcong PD Sergeant Michael Cozze.
In 2018, Abilities moved one of their day programs and small thrift shop to 1224 S. Main St in Pohatcong Township. This move significantly increased their footprint in the Pohatcong and Phillipsburg community, not just for those with disabilities, but also for those in need of thrifting options. Part of the acceptance to the community, has been the overwhelming support shown by our first responders at the Pohatcong Police Department.
Sgt. Mike Cozze was the first to introduce himself with not just a visit, but to also advise that Walmart had four wheelchairs to donate. He offered to pick them up and assemble them for the persons we serve in program. Since then, Chief Scott Robb, Sgt. Cozze and other officers have gone above and beyond to assist us with operations. From training our entire staff on “active shooter” response protocols, to offering direct and compassionate support for persons served in crisis, to patrolling our property during off hours, there are so many reasons to offer our sincerest acknowledgement and appreciation for their service.
We take this time to recognize and thank Chief Robb, Sargent Cozze and the entire force for their commitment to the Pohatcong community, their quick response in emergencies and their evident compassion and respect for persons with disabilities.