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Fax: 973-956-1173
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Foundation History

Foundation History

(Written by Jack McCabe)

The Foundation for the Handicapped has its roots in an organization that was known as Athletics for the Blind and Handicapped, Inc., which opened in a storefront on Belmont Avenue in Haledon in 1964. This opening was the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream of Leonard Cohen and his wife Betty Venard, both of whom wanted a meeting place for handicapped people that offered rehabilitation, vocational training, and job placement that would contribute to self-esteem. The emphasis was on athletics, recreation, and arts and crafts.

When Athletics for the Blind and Handicapped, Inc., had problems meeting their monthly rent of $125, Cohen contacted the Wayne Rotary Club for assistance. Cliff North, then president of Wayne Rotary, appointed a committee consisting of Rev. William Strain, Dr. Leonard Pine (chairman), Dick Huntington, Gustav Hoefelder, Casimir Kordys, and Bill Smith, along with non-Rotarian Charles Jantzen, who had a handicapped son. Upon investigating the organization, the committee found no specific program of activities, and funds were being raised by members who made doormats from rubber tires and tried to sell them door- to-door. However, the committee believed that the organization was on the right track, and that there was a need to create employment and provide training in a working environment that would promote social exchange and a feeling of self-worth.

Working outside the Rotary's framework, the committee sought a site for relocation, and discovered a building and outbuilding in Wayne that had previously been used as a sewage disposal plant. The plant had been declared surplus and vacated by the township's utility department. Dr. Pine, a member of the Township Council, interested the municipal government in the project, and with the Council's backing, presented their request for use of the site to Mayor Edward Sisco, who enthusiastically supported the cause and arranged for leasing of the property, which is on 30 Woodridge Terrace. The original, 650 square foot building became the group's first workshop, and in 1968 the organization changed its name to Foundation for the Handicapped.

Recruiting of handicapped personnel began, and the original workforce consisted of eight handicapped workers and one volunteer supervisor. A few of these workers came from the Belmont Avenue facility, which had been required to close. They did a variety of jobs on a sub-contract basis for local industry, including DuPont and Shulton, and the organization received no federal, state, or county funds, operating as a free enterprise with private funding.

By 1972, the Foundation for the Handicapped had grown to the point where the facilities were inadequate, and in November of 1973, the Edward Sisco Memorial Center, a 1,200 square foot addition, was completed. New tables and equipment donated by Uniroyal helped furnish the addition, and a managing director was added to direct a staff that had grown to 25 handicapped workers and three volunteers with professional backgrounds. Robert Kittel was the Foundation's original director, employed on a part-time basis. In April of 1979, a second addition was made to the building that expanded the area by 3,000 square feet. Dr. George E. Shriver, formerly an executive for Uniroyal's research facility in Wayne, joined the Foundation as its managing director, and proceeded to put the organization on a sound business basis. A third addition, this one of 1,000 square feet, was made in 1981, and is now used primarily as a warehouse and storage area for projects, supplies, and equipment required because of the growing workload. The number of employees had increased to 50 by 1981, with a paid managing director, seven paid supervisors, and eight volunteer supervisors and helpers. The total output of the Foundation for the first eleven months of 1982 exceeded $180,000, nearly three times the value of the work performed in 1976.

Foundation customers have changed over the years, with the list including Hunter Douglas, E.I. DuPont, Chemplast Plastimatic, Bishop Electric, Reddy Corporation, Electro Catheter, Latin Percussion, and other northern New Jersey businesses and industries. A 2,000 square foot addition was made in 1986, when the Foundation consisted of 50 people, a full-time director, eight supervisors, an administrative assistant, and six volunteers. By 2002, the staff included a director, executive assistant, production supervisor, part-time supervisor, and volunteers.

In addition to income from jobs performed for local businesses, additional funds are supplemented by contributions from charitable, fraternal, and business organizations, along with the benevolence of individuals. The Foundation is totally self-supporting, and contributions are used to cover capital equipment and subsidize overhead expenditures.

The purpose of the Foundation for the Handicapped remains the same as it was from the beginning - to provide meaningful work for handicapped persons who are unable to work in the marketplace for remuneration based on their abilities. The Foundation also contributes to their well-being by providing a facility where they can increase their self-worth and self-esteem, have the opportunity to work with others, and to participate in organized activities as they take their place as useful members of society.

Design Donated by Computer and Financial Associates Inc.
Photographs Donated by Ken Gold

© 2012 Foundation for the Handicapped, Inc.

30 Woodridge Terrace
Wayne, NJ 07470
Phone: 973-956-1313
Fax: 973-956-1173