(201) 996-9100 Bergen / (201) 533-4407 Hudson

hip Newsletter Spring 2021



From the Desk of the President: 

As you read this, the nation is marking a full year of coping with the global pandemic known as COVID-19. Last year we considered “quarantine” a word from the past and were convinced that we’d lick this thing in several weeks. We never envisioned travel restrictions, business shutdowns, food and product shortages, the concept of remote learning and the many other adjustments that we made to stay healthy. Sadly, many of our relatives, friends and neighbors fell victim to this strange illness and we quickly came to realize that things will never be the same.  

During the initial months of the closure, hip staff quickly adapted to serving our consumers by phone and remote access. As a grantee of the Federally funded Administration for Community Living we received CARES Act funds to provide services to those in need in Bergen and Hudson Counties. This money enabled us to expand our services to provide food, energy and rental assistance, the purchase of i-Pads and computers and a wide range of medical and environmental aides.  

In July we were able to split our work week by staggering the staff schedules to have a half 

time presence in the office to stay current on paperwork and to respond to our newly established hotline. Our move back to the office involved a deep cleaning, the installation of plexiglass partitions and new protocols for social distancing and the wearing of masks.   

You may have noticed that this is the first full length newsletter that we’ve published in the past year. We have been hard at work enhancing our website www.hipcil.org and we’ve become a part of Constant Contact, which offers instant communication to our members. Please send us your email addresses so we can include you in news and announcements. This doesn’t mean that we’ve abandoned the Postal Service. Over the past six months we have mailed numerous sets of gloves and facemasks along with special candy bars and holiday cookies.  

As we look forward to the Spring of 2021 we are planning to host some Zoom activities and hope to increase our ability to be your resource for information. I want to hear from you to learn what services we can offer you to maximize your ability to successfully live in your community. In the meantime, we’ll get through this together.  



COVID-19 Community Response Program Update 

The COVID-19 Community Response Program began in April 2020 with funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program was designed to address food insecurities, PPE (personal protective equipment), assistive devices (medical and non-medical), transportation, in-home support services, and emergency rental and utility assistance related to COVID-19.  

With this program, hip has been able to supply many consumers with needed financial assistance during the pandemic. Items funded during these very trying times have been microwaves and other household appliances, tablets/iPads, laptops, air conditioners, PPE (masks and gloves), a space heater, a wheelchair ramp, a recliner and over $6,000 worth of ShopRite gift cards. hip was also able to pay several PSEG bills and provide emergency rental assistance from this program.  

The program will run through September (while funds are still available). If you’d like more information on the program or to fill out an application, visit our website or call Maria Valentin at 201-996-9100 ext. 18 (Bergen) or Alejandro Paredes 201-533-4407 (Hudson).  

A Different Type of Annual Meeting 

On the evening of November 18th, 2020 hip hosted its first virtual Annual Meeting. It was quite unlike any Annual Meeting in the past. Instead of gathering in a large room enjoying dinner and dessert together, we gathered around our computer screens with a mug of hot chocolate and popcorn (mailed by the hip staff).  

We listened to Brian Fitzgibbons, CEO and President, discuss the achievements of hip during 2020. It was a year full of challenges and changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we are proud of how we met each issue with motivation and a desire to help our consumers as best we could. Some highlights of the year included: 

  • The Bergen and Hudson CILs provided information and services to 919 consumers, family members, friends and professionals. Although the vast majority resided in Bergen and Hudson Counties, individuals from all areas of New Jersey benefited as well. 
  • The Bergen and Hudson CILs partnered with the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities to provide Support Coordination services. Support Coordinators worked with 133 consumers to assist them in accessing community-based supports and services to enhance their independent living. Efforts were directed in such areas as identifying appropriate programs and providers, facilitating socialization skills and building life experiences with the ultimate goal of securing employment.  
  • Rehabilitation Technology funding enabled 124 individuals to receive disability-related equipment.  Home modifications that increased safety and access in home environments were funded for 23 individuals. 
  • The Adjustment to Vision Loss Project Peer Support Groups gained many new members this year.  In-person groups met monthly in Fort Lee, North Arlington, Washington Township, Jersey City and Secaucus, and then met remotely several times each month after COVID-19 hit. Consumers met to talk with one another to gain emotional support, exchange helpful information, and learn practical solutions to many new challenges, including social distancing. Many consumers have taken the opportunity to learn more about technology in this new virtual era. Consumers also had the opportunity to partake in informative presentations made by professionals in the field offering more knowledge to assist with learning how to live in our “new normal.” Two telephone support groups, with participants from all regions of the state, continued to meet and expand on a biweekly basis. One group is for young adults under 30 and the other is for individuals over the age of 30.  
  • Care Management programs in both CILs provided assessments and linkages to financial benefits and community-based services such as Food Stamps, prescription assistance, Meals on Wheels, Medicaid and many other resources which enabled 153 individuals to continue to live independently in the community.  
  • hip also provided case management services through the statewide Traumatic Brain Injury Fund.  This Fund, which receives its revenue from a $.50 surcharge on motor vehicle registrations, purchases services and supports to enable individuals who have been impacted by a traumatic brain injury to live independently in the community. 
  • hip conducted 357 Access Link eligibility interviews from October 2019 through September 2020. This NJ Transit program was established to provide public transportation to people with disabilities who are unable to use the fixed route bus services.  

We are happy that with current technology, we were still able to “meet” for the Annual Meeting and let the attendees know all that hip achieved during 2020. The new  

Annual Report is available on our website www.hipcil.org. 

hip Thanks… 

hip receives many contributions from the individuals and the community throughout the year. We thank the following for their recent exceptional generosity: 

Elaine Appellof and Jerome Saunders 

Bergenfield Lions Club 

Chris and Ron Black 

Adele Cannie 

Michael and Marie Cook 

Lottie Esteban and Family 

William Fellinger 

First Presbyterian Church of Hackensack 

Andrew and Linda Goff 

John Koch 

Eve and Mort Levinson 

Lions Club of River Edge 

Managed Business Solutions 

Anna Navatta 

John Stanik 

Philip and Linda Webster-Cennerazzo 

Special Thanks to the wonderful parishioners of St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge for their outstanding generosity to many of our consumers through their participation in the virtual Giving Tree this past holiday season.   

Calendar Raffle

The Summer Calendar Raffle will be back later this year! 
Stay tuned for updates!

Welcome to hip! 

hip recently welcomed 2 new staff members! Please read further to get to know them and how they are helping make hip an even greater asset for our consumers. 

Alejandro Paredes joined the Hudson hip staff in July as the COVID-19 Response Program Coordinator. Alejandro earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from New Jersey City University. He is furthering his education into Environmental Science and hopes to one day help modern science fight pollution.  

Alejandro has always enjoyed helping others. In the past he volunteered by handing out turkeys to families in Union City for Thanksgiving and feeding the homeless in New York City. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and reading books.  

Pedro Martin joined the Bergen hip staff in November as the Website Developer. Pedro has a Master of Science in International Maritime Transportation Management from the Ukraine and continued on to study Computer Science in Cuba.  

Pedro was initially a consumer of hip and created the current website as a volunteer. The knowledge he gained about hip’s mission has helped him to design innovative additions to the website and ensure it has complete accessibility for all. 

Pedro and his wife Lucia are looking forward to May when they will welcome their second grandchild into their family! 


Hunkerdown Hoedown! 

 Heightened Independence and Progress Invites You to Our First (and Hopefully Only) Hunkerdown Hoedown! 

A Socially Distant NO ATTEND Fundraiser 

Date: Friday, March 26, 2021 

Place: The Comfort of Your Own Home 

Time: It Doesn’t Matter – You Won’t Be Late! 

Don Your Favorite Comfy Clothes, Do Si Do to Your Kitchen for a Home-Cooked Meal, Promenade in Front of Your Fireplace, and Swing and Sashay to Your Favorite Music! No Cowboy Boots or Hats Needed!  


Everyone will win as you stay safe and well at home and hip raises funds to benefit the programs at our Bergen and Hudson Centers for Independent Living and replenishes funding lost due to COVID-19.  

So far we know that the following people are going to Kick Off their Cowboy Boots and Stay Home: Brian Fitzgibbons (hip President/CEO), Trish Carney (Vice President/CFO), Marily Gonzalez (Hudson hip Executive Director), Anna Navatta (Chair, hip Board of Trustees) and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Can we add your name to our list?  




We Mourn… 

Our hip family lost the following members in recent months: 

John Barbe (father of hip Care Manager Shoshana Stubin) 

Heather Broad 

Peter DelVecchio 

Solomon Epstein 

Ruth Ernst 

Karen Fitzgibbons (wife of President/CEO Brian Fitzgibbons) 

Ronald Phillips 

We also mourn all those lost to COVID-19.  

Check out the updated hip website! 

Thanks to our new website developer, Pedro Martin, the hip website is now available in 20 languages! In addition to that, there are also plenty of great updates! The website is now easier to navigate and includes testimonials from many hip consumers. Check it out at www.hipcil.org and let us know what you think! 


hip Success Story! 

Several months ago, hip’s COVID-19 Community Response Program funded Fusion software for Nelsida Melo, a longtime hip consumer. Nelsida requested the software, which combines magnification and visual enhancements for ease of screen viewing with screen reading functionality, so she could take some online courses and find employment. As she is a hardworking single mother, we were happy to assist her by purchasing this special technology to help further her career in the midst of the pandemic. 

We learned recently that Nelsida has obtained employment with the NJ Contact Tracing Department! She was able to go through the entire application process and training because of the software purchased. We are thrilled the program was able to help her and look forward to helping many more consumers throughout the year. We asked Nelsida a few questions about her experience and are excited to share her responses with our hip community! 

Q: How do you feel now that you have employment and are working from home? 

A: I am so happy! This was my dream and a goal I have had for a few years now that I thought was unachievable. I want to tell everyone that I am now working and that Trisha and hip have been there for my daughter and I through thick and thin! 


Q: Were you nervous during the training period for your new job? 

A: Yes, I was very nervous. But as I was in the training with the other trainees, I was able to learn and solve problems along with everyone else. 


Q: What is your comfort zone after working a few weeks along with the software? 

A: With the new software it has made my tasks for work much easier. Using the magnification has taken such a strain off my eyes and made it more comfortable to complete my work. This is very important since a majority of my work is on the computer. 


Q: How would you sum up your experience in this new chapter in your life? 

A: The technology has been a tremendous help for me in searching for work and in my training. I was anxious during training since I have not worked in 7 years.  After training was completed, I was still a little bit nervous, but once I took a few calls and got the hang of it, I became more comfortable. I am super happy that I am working. It has definitely boosted my confidence with my disability. I am very grateful to hip for helping me so much and getting me to where I’m at today. 

hip hip Hooray! 

Kathy Moore, who worked in the Bergen office under the Easter Seals SCSEP initiative for several years, has been named to Kessler Institute’s Community Advisory Board for the Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury Model System. A longtime advocate for individuals with disabilities, Kathy will make great contributions to the Board. 

Barbara Conklin has been designing the artwork for hipNews and many other hip projects (including Dinner Dance invitations) over the years. Recently she worked on the hip 2021 calendar, which was comprised of photos taken by hip members, staff and family. Thank you, Barbara, for all your incredible work! Your talent makes hip shine! 

Ryan Roy, who spent several years as an intern at hip, is celebrating eight months at his new job as a Recreation Aide at Genesis Healthcare Center in Ridgewood. His duties include setting up the materials for the various activities and pitching in wherever he is needed.   

Congratulations to The Bergen County Job Center on its recent name change. Many of us remember it as the One-Stop Career Center but check out their new look and expanded services at www.bergenjobcenter.com. 


Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions 

Maria Valentin and Jayne Jacobs from the Bergen CIL will be hosting a six-week virtual workshop to help people to better manage chronic symptoms, work with healthcare professionals, set weekly goals, problem solve, eat well and exercise safely and easily. It will take place via Zoom one morning a week from starting in May. 

The workshop is titled “Take Control of Your Health” and was created by the Stanford University Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. RSVP’s are on a first-come first-serve basis and required by April 5th. Spots are limited, so call the Bergen office at 201-996-9100 (Maria ext. 18 or Jayne ext. 26) to book your place today! 

All Things hip 

For information on all things hip, please follow us on Facebook and check our website for updates! 

In our effort to supply critical information to consumers as quickly as possible, hip is developing a database of email addresses. Regular mail is moving more slowly now, so it is important for us to have other means of communicating with you. Please send an email to contactme@hipcil.org with your personal email address or text the word hip to 22828 (message and data rates may apply) and we will add you to the database. Make sure you check your junk mail folder in case our emails end up in there! 

We Welcome the Following New and Renewing Members of hip for 2021! 

Jeanne Aimone 

Roselyn Altman 

Peter Ambrose 

Kevin Angelini 

James Arkills 

Megan Barron 

Deborah Baumann-Dasilva 

Annie Been* 

James Benthall 

Joanna Benthall 

Darrell & Tamiko Bethea* 

Chris & Ron Black 

Paula Bloom 

Jerry Bojko 

Mario Brusco 

George & Mildred Bullerdick 

Anna Bures 

Eileen Burke 

Daniel, Brenda & Jerry Calabrese 

Tonielle Cardinale 

Jeanne Carney 

Mary Carney 

Tom & Susan Carney 

Trish Carney* 

Antoinette P. Celia 

Kay Chase* 

Jaesoon Choi 

The Ciccone Family 

Lillian Ciufo* 

Elizabeth Cohen 

Barbara B. Comerford, Esq.* 

Michael & Marie Cook* 

Sonia Cordova-Chumpitaz 

Joyce L. Coye 

Jim & Jean Csaposs* 

Ivan Cueva 

Mary Culver 

Howard Cutler 

Carol Dass* 

Jarrett Dean 

Michael Delgado 

Martha DeYoung 

Jamie Dimitrion 

Anthony Dinaro 

James Dougherty 

Barbara Dublin* 

  1. Robert Duffy*

Dennis Dusevic 

Patricia & Dave Ebel* 

Austin Epstein 

Lottie Esteban* 

Oria E. Estrada 

Francesca Farrell 

William & Stella Fellinger 

Karen Mae Ferolino 

Betty Fetzer* 

Yolanda Fisher 

Brian Fitzgibbons 

Karen Fitzgibbons** 

Virginia Flynn & Warren Williams 

Michael Fondacaro 

Katherine Fotopoulos 

Katherine Gabry & Family 

Laurie Galvin 

Dorothy Genoni 

Andrew & Linda Goff 

Alan & Lynn Gold 

Mary Jo Hackett 

Jack & Alice Hamburg 

The Harries Family 

Alfred Harvey 

Bojane Heap 

Eusebia Heckel 

Dana Hemmings 

Rick Hodgman* 

Henry Hof III 

Linda Horvath 

Kenel Hyppolite 

Michelle Jones 

Timothy Kerr 

Clark King 

Joan F. Klug* 

John Koch* 

Lorena & Ana Kos 

Zoraida Krell 

Diana LaForge 

Jeanne Laraia 

Virginia L. Laughlin 

Louise Lee 

Susan & Kin Lee 

Diane Lennon 

Marion Levine 

Rhea Levy  

Chili Li* 

Judith Liebman 

Gloria Lieberstein* 

Roy Lippin* 

Margaret Lusch 

Joyce & Leonard Malech* 

Patricia Martin-Barksdale 

Joan Martorella 

Nelsida Melo 

Ann Melone* 

Concepcion R. Mendoza 

Dr. Frances Meyer* 

John (JJ) Mulholland 

Bob & Martha Mulligan 

Madeline Murray 

Brian McGrath 

Anna P. Navatta, Esq.* 

Sonia Noel 

Beatrice Olivetti 

Margaret Papageorgiou 

Chris Paraskevacos 

Danielle Pettineo 

Marianne Pigoncelli * 

Sandra R. Pinkerton 

Anne Marie Prendergast 

Noel Prussack 

Joe Revello 

Carmen Reyes 

Cruz Rodriguez 

Ryan Roy 

Bev & Dick Ryan* 

Mary Sanfilippo 

Marie Sawyer 

Stephanie Seid 

Judith Shaw 

Barbara Simon 

Douglas Simon 

Chandravati Singh 

Charan Singh 

Donn Slonim* 

Lynn Smith 

Maria Smith 

Michael Smith* 

Jeffrey St. Germain & Family* 

John Stanik* 

Samy Suqi 

Debra Tester 

Stephanie Thomas 

Mary S. Thornton 

Janet Tolliver 

Tess Tomasi 

Joseph Tomasko 

Daniela M. Triunfel-Fernandez 

Danny Vaca 

Jane P. Valenti 

Joe Valenti 

Carol Viceconte* 

Ron Vida 

Anne Burton Walsh* 

Paula Webber 

Philip & Linda Webster-Cennerazzo* 

Janice Willett* 

Richard S. Wolfman* 

Sharon Womack 

Anthony & Mary Yorio* 

Nancy, Barry & Cheryl Zweben 


Corporate Members: 

Jerry’s Drug & Surgical 


*Life Member 

** Deceased 


You can still become a member of hip for 2021! For a membership form visit the website at www.hipcil.org or call one of our offices! 


A Big Thank You! 

By Trisha Ebel 

Heightened Independence and Progress (hip) would like to thank the Mayor of Secaucus, Mike Gonnelli, along with his staff for their support and assistance to hip consumers. The attendees of the Secaucus Adjustment to Vision Loss group always enjoyed it when Mike would stop in at the monthly meeting and say hello. Mike has been the Mayor of Secaucus for 12 years now and one of his proudest and biggest accomplishments for the town is that he has been able to sustain the lowest property tax rates in Hudson County. 

Mayor Mike and his team work from the heart; they love what they do and it shows. 

Since the pandemic began, the Mayor has been in touch with hip and has greatly helped out by providing clothing and accessories to many hip consumers through the Secaucus Emergency Fund. The president of this fund is Lisa Snedeker, who is also the Director of Senior and Community Services (2 different entities). Here is a quote from Lisa: 

“I started the Secaucus Emergency Fund as a way to help residents keep their quality of life. We help people by referring to social service agencies that are equipped to handle specific situations. We also have the emergency food pantry and give out food twice a month. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes people have an emergency come up that requires immediate assistance and that’s where the emergency fund comes in. It’s really set up to help residents in need. During this pandemic I can’t tell you the numbers of people we helped. Along with doing good things for front line workers—sending in lunch and whatever we can do.” 

The hip staff and consumers are forever grateful to Mayor Mike, his staff, and the Secaucus Emergency Fund for making such a difference in our consumers’ lives. Their continued support is truly appreciated. For me, Trisha Ebel, being a lifetime resident of Secaucus, it has been incredibly rewarding to be able to intertwine the work I do alongside the various departments within the town of Secaucus.   


Calendar of Events


Virtual Book Club Conference Call
April 30 May 28 June 25


Secaucus – 10am Via Zoom
April 1 May 6 June 3

North Arlington – 2pm Via Zoom
April 13 May 11 June 8

Washington Township/Fort Lee – 10am
Every Wednesday Via Conference Call

Telephone Support Group

Young Adult Peer Group Conference Call
Ages 18 – 30 7:30 pm
April 6 May 4 June 1

Older Adult Peer Group Conference Call
Ages 31 – 50 7:30 pm
April 15 May 20 June 17

Please call the hip Office to confirm that the meetings will take place.

hip Offers Innovative Programs to Meet the Independent Living Needs of People with Disabilities in Bergen and Hudson Counties and Beyond

Founded in 1980, Heightened Independence & Progress (hip) is observing 41 years of service. hip not only continues to provide vital assistance through information, referral, advocacy, and peer support, but also offers a wide variety of programs to people with all types of disabilities in Bergen and Hudson Counties. Some programs have statewide, even national impact. The following is a summary of hip programs.

Adjustment to Vision Loss coordinates peer support groups. Contact: Trisha Ebel (Bergen)

Community Advocacy and Outreach Program seeks to promote full inclusion through advocacy, education and legislation. Contact: Hudson Staff or Bergen Staff

Comprehensive Independent Living Support (CILS) provides care management assistance to residents of Hudson County to remain in the community. Contact: Angela Arboleda (Hudson)

Division of Developmental Disabilities Support Coordination Program assists individuals from Bergen and Hudson Counties to discover their full potential. Contact: Brian Fitzgibbons (Bergen), Natalie Alave (Hudson)

Empowering Women Support Group. Contact: Nicole
Clark (Bergen)

Hispanic Outreach Program directs Independent Living services to individuals of Hispanic origin, in English and Spanish. Contact: Maria Valentin (Bergen) or Angela Arboleda (Hudson)

Youth Transition Case Management assists high school students to plan for their future and for employment. Contact:
Jenny Paniagua (Hudson)

Modification Access Project (MAP) assists with funding for barrier-free home renovation projects from concept to completion. Contact: Maria Valentin (Bergen)

Multimedia Transcription Service (MTS) transcribes textbooks and other materials into Braille. Contact: Jayne Jacobs (Bergen)

Our New Journey provides financial and practical help to families newly impacted by the onset of illness or disability. Contact: Anne Ciavaglia McMahon (201-288-2867)

Polio Network of New Jersey – The Ruprecht Fund. hip administers this fund for PNNJ to help polio survivors in New Jersey finance necessary products and services. Contact: Maria Valentin (Bergen)

Senior and Caregiver Assistance Program provides care management to individuals over the age of 60 and/or adult family caregivers. Contact: Care Management Staff (Bergen)

Special Assistance for Independent Living (SAIL) provides funding to Hudson County residents for assistive devices or barrier-free home renovation projects. Contact: Natalie Alave (Hudson)

Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP) provides
funding and facilitates acquisition of services and adaptive devices such as wheelchairs, bathroom safety equipment, hearing aids and more. Contact: Maria Valentin (Bergen)

Support for Independent Living (SIL) provides ongoing care management services through assessment, linkage, and coordination for people with disabilities (18-59). Contact: Tamara Clark (Bergen)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a state-funded case
management program for New Jersey residents who have survived an acquired brain injury, for services and supports they need to live in the community. Contact: Brian Fitzgibbons (Bergen) or Marily Gonzalez (Hudson)


Anna Navatta

Betty A. Fetzer

Richard M. Hodgman

Joseph Tomasko

Karen Canellos
Lottie Esteban
Roy Lippin
Hyacinthe Nkurunziza
Anne Marie Prendergast
Mary Turner

Brian Fitzgibbons, MPA, CRC


Something New This Year – a hip Calendar! 

Thank you to everyone who contributed their beautiful photos for the hip 2021 calendar! It’s a wonderful collection and we look forward to seeing them all year long. 

Access Link Alert! 

The Access Link toll-free number will be retired on April 5th, 2021. In preparation, please start using 973-491-4224. All of the phone menu options will remain the same. 

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