AECDC Program Director Norka Torres has been a passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence and a long-term member of the New Brunswick Domestic Violence Awareness Coalition (NBDVAC). As a result of this commitment and all of the other work she does to help the New Brunswick community, the NBDVAC has decided that she is ideally suited to be its Chair. The AECDC congratulates Norka on this recognition and knows the NBDVAC will thrive under her leadership.
Like most nonprofits, the AECDC relies on volunteers to assist with the support and functioning of the agency. We would like to express our appreciation to our many and varied volunteers. Deborah Cherniss is our founder, past president and grant writer extraordinaire. Without her efforts, we would not have existed or be able to continue to exist. She spends numerous hours compiling data for our public and private funders.
Members of our board contribute a good deal of their time in the planning and execution of our services. When staff calls them for help, they respond within minutes of the request. The board assists with office work, and picks up donations from individuals, consignment stores and outlets. They also get the word out about our services and ways to help through creating written and electronic documents as well attending social service meetings in the community. They support the CDC through their financial donations. The board organizes and administers our holiday gift program for children with generous donations of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple members and others from the community.
Some of our clients have desired to “give back” by providing office or housekeeping assistance as well as offering donations of goods and transportation for the agency when they are able. Some of the members of the NJ Youth Corps have chosen to volunteer with us after their term of training is completed.
Other institutions have contributed to our success by their efforts. We coordinate with a number of community partners in a Community Advisory Committee meeting. The Central Jersey Maternal and Child Healthcare Consortium has delivered some of our goods to our clients when they are visiting them. The First Reformed Church, Robert Wood Johnson Community Health program, Catholic Charities and the New Brunswick Police Department Domestic Violence Response Team all have supported us through drives for food, formula, clothing and back to school supplies for needy youth.
New Brunswick High School Honor Society Students who aspire to become social workers have visited us and made phone calls to update our collateral service information while learning what we do.
To all of these above, we say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
We have just published the Annual Reports for our 15th year of providing basic needs for people who would otherwise go without food, clothing, health insurance, medical equipment, and diapers and other baby goods. In prior years, we have published a single report describing all of our activities. Because our programs serve distinctly different populations, we are publishing two separate reports this year: one describing our Baby Essentials for Safety and Trust (BEST) program, which serves 70% of our clients, and one describing our other three programs (IOHIO, ASK and HELP), which we collectively call Connections to Care and which serve 30% of our clients.
At this year's first AECDC/State Farm bi-lingual car safety class held on April 30, 31 young families received a free, new car seat after participating in a two hour workshop, given by Cuqui Rivera, certified car seat safety trainer.
With the generous support of the State Farm Foundation and the Rutgers Community Health Foundation, the class was created by the Bebe BEST Program (Baby Essentials for Safety and Trust) of the AECDC. This is the third year of car seat classes, which continue to be supported by State Farm.
In addition to the 31 mothers, including several homeless moms and ones recovering from domestic violence, five fathers also attended. There were volunteers from AECDC's Board, Rutgers University, the NJ Youth Job Corp, police from Perth Amboy's Community Special Unit, and nurse/caseworkers from the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium.
As part of the presentation, parents did a pre- and post-test to show gains in knowledge, had dinner, which included a sheet cake donated by a former client, who now has her own shop, and received “Welcome Baby Bags,” colorful messengers bags with a parent-baby book in Spanish or English, and a hand-knitted baby hat. These were donated by an AECDC Board member. When needed, the bags also included diapers and wipees.
One highlight of the event was the Perth Amboy police officers' (who are also certified car seat safety trainers) discussion on the importance of new car seats, not those available at garage sales or flea markets, because any damage is invisible. Also, they recommended and showed parents how to register their new car seat so that if there are any recalls, they will be notified.
It was a bonus having these uniformed police officers offer positive interactions with mostly minority parents at this time when police and community relations around the country are sensitive.
Clients and volunteers seemed to enjoy and appreciate the event, as shown in an e-mail from one of the Family Consortium's caseworkers:
Good Afternoon Norka;
I hope this message finds you well! I wanted to take out the time to say thank you for inviting Central Jersey Family Health Consortium to the Bebe BEST Car Seat Workshop ... and for extending your helping hand towards the Improving Pregnancy Initiative Program and our clients. (The car seat workshop) was very well organized; everyone was very skilled at handling logistics. … and lined up the resources for a very successful workshop. Norka, You and AECDC are very kind-spirited and I can attest you will continue offering your help to others, which is an incredible gesture of you!