When the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the whole world pivoted and so did Patrice Picard, CEO at Cornerstone Family Programs and Morristown Neighborhood House. Under her leadership, combined with the insights of a smart and seasoned board led by Board Chair Ann W. Stachenfeld, some quick decisions were made to adapt to the unimaginable.

As an organization that provides essential services to the community, giving up was not an option. Instead, they put their heads together to see how they could continue addressing the needs of the female veterans, seniors, families, children, parents and all others who depend on them. 

Partnering in the community was a good place to start.

From day one, the organization teamed up with the Community Food Bank and the Cavalry Baptist Church to deliver food to the Morristown community, reaching 275 families in need.

All programs immediately were transitioned to a virtual platform.

But along with instituting new initiatives, CFP had to quickly find novel ways to support existing, signature programs that are deeply embedded in the community.

This transformation sounds a lot easier than it is. But there was no other choice. Female military vets embraced virtual support groups; seniors were thrilled to receive care packages in the mail filled with activities to keep them busy including puzzles while the Cornerstone staff continues to stay in close contact with their caregivers ensuring their well-being; school age kids received math work books and other academic materials so they would have projects to complete with support from on-line learning; training programs helping parents learn to cope were made available and the Friends of the Blind program, which is designed to help the blind and visually impaired, continues through visits conducted by telephone.

One of the most basic roles for Cornerstone is to connect their clients to key resources. That is continuing as always, but the questions are now being answered by telephone!

Remaining financially sound is also a top priority.

As the CEO, Patrice has her finger on the pulse of the organization.In that role she is responsible for overseeing effective operations, efficient processes, strong financial positioning, and visionary leadership.Establishing open and candid communications while collaborating with her Board of Directors using Zoom, Patrice paved the way to thoughtfully revising the budget, renegotiating their county and state contracts, and then approaching their funders who accommodated them by accelerating the distribution of their payments.

After reluctantly postponing their annual gala, they reinvented their fund raising efforts by launching a virtual auction instead. With the guidance of their Director of Development, Gwenn Heller-DellaPelle, they generated $50,000 from that project while continuing to use alternative avenues, including old fashioned phone calls, for nurturing and expanding donor relationships.

With a solid approach to leadership and re-imagining the possibilities, CFP will continue to be one of Morris County’s iconic nonprofits.