SobelCo is proud to shine the June 2019 spotlight on our client, JESPY House, a nonprofit organization that serves adult clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But that brief description doesn’t even begin to describe the extraordinary transformations that takes place at their South Orange location daily.

The Mission

When adults reach 21 years old, they ‘age out’ of the school system. Until JESPY House was launched over 40 years ago, young people had few, if any, alternatives to help them transition from student life to adulthood. JESPY provides the solution. This nonprofit was created with the goal of building a community where people with disabilities who are 18 years and older live and work together, learning to be independent adults.

Each of us performs hundreds of activities every day that we take for granted. This may include something as simple as crossing a street, preparing a grocery list, interviewing for a job, or using public transportation. But while we accomplish these things without much thought, these same tasks represent significant challenges for JESPY House clients.

But participants at JESPY learn how to overcome these obstacles.

JESPY has training programs that address daily living skills, such as how to create a budget, travel, write a resume, and become ready for the work place through job sampling and job coaching. There are nutritional cooking classes, Zumba classes, photography and poetry classes and field trips – to name a few of the many opportunities at JESPY.  Despite the wide variety of existing possibilities, the list of available classes continues to evolve and shift at the clients’ requests, so there is always something for everyone.   

The Results

With a core focus on life-changing training and a dynamic recreational and athletic/fitness calendar, JESPY achieves its commitment to help those who have a desire to live a life of independence. There are several different types of living arrangements available that encourage independence, ranging from the JESPY House “Residence” (an apartment building with 24/7 support and supervision) to shared housing to independent apartments and condominiums based on the capabilities of each individual. 

Of the 250 current clients, approximately 80% are employed, earning salaries, paying taxes and contributing over $3 million annually to South Orange’s economy. Another 20% volunteer at local nonprofit organizations as they find a way to give back to the community. As impressive as the career successes are, the vibrant social life that blossoms at JESPY is not to be overlooked! In fact, there are 10 married couples, several couples that are engaged, and about two dozen who are dating.   

Through JESPY, these adults have constant access to the essential tools, resources, and support that enable them to take control over their own lives. Instead of watching TV all day or staring out a window, JESPY clients lead the productive lives that we are all entitled to pursue. They are empowered by the chances that JESPY makes possible all while building confidence, making friends, and learning how to interact with the community.

The Future

Along with decreasing government support, diminishing benefits and legislation that is increasingly more stringent, the JESPY community faces the same demographic challenge as the greater population – that is, people are living longer. In the United States, the average life expectancy for men is around 77 and for women it is close to 81.

This trend presents an even more critical challenge for adults with disabilities who are also living much longer today than in previous generations. Not only are they living longer, but they often exhibit the symptoms that come with growing old at an earlier age than those without disabilities.  This means that adults who are 50-60 years old will need to manage the challenges that are more typical of someone 70-80. New programs and resources are necessary to address those who require special care as they enter their golden years, or even before that.   

In response, JESPY House is already preparing for what changes tomorrow will bring based on a collegial atmosphere. This fall, they will open the doors for The Michael Och House: A Center for Aging at JESPY, a shared living facility that will house nine clients who can maintain their independence, socialize, enjoy private bathrooms and bedrooms while also being confident knowing there is medication monitoring, 24 hour staff, physical and occupational therapy, nursing oversight and specialized clinical services and other similar amenities to support their changing needs.

With an eye on the current needs of clients as well as strategically preparing for what’s ahead, JESPY House continues to work with clients, engaging and empowering the I/DD population they serve with a distinctive combination of practical training and a passion for the mission that ensures their success.

To learn more, please visit their website at jespyhouse.org