JESPY receives grant funding to continue its Model Inclusive Health Community

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The collaboration of the New Jersey Association of Community Providers, JESPY House and SRS Strategic Associates was recently awarded additional funding of $150,000 from the NJ Department of Health’s Division of Disability Services to continue the NJACP-JESPY Model Inclusive Healthy Community grant project that began in January 2021. 

The NJACP-JESPY Model partners NJACP, SRS, JESPY House, JESPY’s clients and the South Orange community to create a more inclusive, healthy community for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The outcomes of the grant will benefit not only people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but also persons with physical disabilities and the community at large. Key project components include the town’s enhancing accessibility and walkability; placing persons with disabilities on committees that will have an impact on policy, practice and decision-making in South Orange; and adapting the model so it’s applicable across New Jersey.

During the first round of grant funding, the NJACP-JESPY Model team evaluated South Orange’s accessibility for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by surveying more than 200 persons who fall within that category and conducting physical assessments, which resulted in the publication of a report and plan for change that was sent to the South Orange Board of Trustees. Plans to distribute the plan to a wider audience are part of the next phase of the grant project’s awareness and outreach campaign.

Since the onset of the grant, strides have been made in inclusivity with JESPY clients participating more in the South Orange community, including: speaking at a South Orange Downtown meeting; working with the Academy Heights Neighborhood Association to plant pollinator gardens; working with the South Orange Shade Tree Committee to help plant 175 new shade trees; crocheting Ukrainian flag pins, which were sold by JESPY House and area businesses to raise $1,500 to benefit the people of Ukraine; and partnering with Millburn’s Paper Mill Playhouse to perform a showcase of popular songs.

“It was important to include people in the I/DD community from the beginning of the project. They needed to voice what mattered to them,” JESPY Executive Director Audrey Winkler said. “After the assessments, we concluded that persons with I/DD are often invisible in the community and underrepresented in the decision-making process. Moving forward, including people with I/DD in the community and on policy committees would have a meaningful impact for South Orange.”

Members of the NJACP-JESPY Model team look forward to continuing the project with this grant funding. 

“We will focus on policy, systems and environmental changes, including developing and conducting ‘How to Build an Inclusive Healthy Community’ training, participating in committee activities and becoming involved in a capital improvement project,” SRS Strategic Associates principal Shelley Samuels said.

“Over the next year, we will continue to seek out opportunities for inclusion for persons with I/DD in South Orange, while developing a framework and tools that can be adapted in other communities across New Jersey, so more areas can become inclusive for all residents,” said Colleen Klepser, NJACP director of administration and events. “We are grateful for the N.J. Department of Health, Division of Disability Services’ continued support in this project.”

For the latest information on the NJACP-JESPY Model, visit To learn more, or how to be involved, contact Klepser at or Winkler at

Photos Courtesy of Sonya Kimble-Ellis