TOMS RIVER, N.J. – June 20, 2023 – PRLog — In honor of Pride and Immigrant Heritage Month, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) actively participated in community events celebrating diversity and fostering unity. “OPC is committed to helping foster a society that embraces every individual, regardless of their background, orientation, or origin,” stated Mary Jo Buchanan, LCSW, MPA, Executive Director of OPC.
On June 4, OPC proudly marched in the Asbury Park Pride parade alongside mental health agencies, healthcare agencies, supportive businesses, community groups and members and LGBTQ+ entertainers. Additionally, OPC participated in and sponsored Toms River Pride with a resource table on June 10. Both events provided robust resources to attendees and opportunities for organizations and groups to collaborate with one another to best serve and support the community.
“Pride events like Toms River Pride and Asbury Park Pride are so important to the LGBTQ+ community. They are a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and instill hope and acceptance for queer members of the community. Additionally, these events increase awareness for the LGBTQ+ community and the issues they face,” stated Kaitlin Lord, OPC Community Resource and Social Media Specialist and YAS Coordinator/Facilitator. “Pride is an amazing opportunity for LGBTQ+ members of the community to learn more about supportive organizations and services that are available. For youth and families, Pride reinforces acceptance and empowerment within the community,” continued Liz Menges, MA, LPC, ACS, OPC Assistant Director of Clinical Operations and YAS Coordinator/Facilitator.
Menges and Lord proudly represented OPC at a roundtable community discussion led by Congressman Gottheimer on LBGTQ+ youth and the barriers that impact them. OPC is an active and strong advocate on all levels for youth and families to ensure our community is an accepting and equitable place for all.
OPC also had a presence at the 2023 Immigrant Heritage Celebration, facilitated by Community Ambassadors of Ocean County on June 3 at the Church of Grace and Peace. Families from around the world came together to share in a day of food, fun and information on health and wellness. OPC was represented with a resource table, providing families with a deeper understanding of care management services and information on accessing this help for their youth. “As families visited the OPC table, they exchanged smiles, stories about their journey to the United States and took part in craft activities, painting garden stones with an image or words that bring them happiness,” explained Rosbel Aguilar, MA, LPC, NCC, OPC Care Manager Supervisor and Ocean County Latino Engagement Group Member representing OPC. “Often families will share that they walk away from these events with gratitude and a greater sense of connection and inclusion,” continued Aguilar. “Attending and participating in these events guides us in our mission of enhancing the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports.”
OPC’s commitment to acceptance, empowerment and inclusion does not end in June. OPC strives to educate and foster equal opportunities that promote growth for all while ensuring every individual is included and has a voice. OPC is a member of the recently formed Ocean County Latino Engagement Group, which addresses the more recent increase of new immigrants to Ocean County, many being Latino. The group is a coalition of Ocean County agencies including: Ocean County Youth Services Commission, Ocean County Children’s Inter-Agency Coordinating Council, Ocean County Human Services, Ocean County Prosecutors Office, Lakewood High School, Community Ambassadors, OPC, Ocean County PIC, RWJ Barnabas Institute for Prevention and Ocean County Family Support Organization, among other agencies. Through support groups, OPC is constant resource and advocate for the youth and families of Ocean County. OPC partners with PFLAG Jersey Shore offering Your Authentic Self (YAS) LGTBQ+ youth support groups in conjunction with PFLAG’s adult support groups. These groups are held on the first Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:00pm.
OPC is committed to developing an agency and community where all individuals feel safe being present as their authentic, whole selves and to challenging those systems, institution, and practices that do not support this goal. Diversity, equity and inclusion are the definitive principles that guide how OPC serves youth and families, cultivates community relationships and creates an agency where everyone, regardless of gender, race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, education, disability, citizenship, veteran status, or other dimension of diversity, feels welcome, valued and respected.
About Ocean Partnership for Children Inc. Founded in 2005, OPC is Ocean County’s Care Management Organization (CMO). Its mission is to enhance the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports. OPC provides care coordination services for Ocean County youth up the age of 21 years who have mental health, substance use, intellectual and developmental challenges. OPC strives to keep children and adolescents at home, in school, and in the community by connecting them to resources that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their goals.
Ocean Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization available at no cost to all youth and families in Ocean County who meet the eligibility criteria of the New Jersey Children’s System of care. To learn more, visit https://www.oceanpartnership.org.
4ocean, a purpose-driven B Corp with a mission to end the ocean plastic crisis, in partnership with U.S. Polo Assn., the official brand of the United States Polo Association (USPA), are pleased to announce the extension of their partnership. The two entities have committed to removing 150,000 pounds of trash from the world’s oceans through the 4ocean Pound+ Services, now through 2024. 4ocean and U.S. Polo Assn.’s partnership began in early 2021 and successfully led to the removal of 60,000 pounds of plastic from the ocean, rivers, and coastlines. The two organizations worked together during that time towards ocean-positive sustainability with the help of 88 crew members and seven ocean vessels, with most of the waste being pulled in Indonesia across six specific beaches. This year’s goal more than doubles the previous year’s accomplishment.
“I’m stoked about the extension of our partnership with U.S. Polo Assn. and their commitment to increasing the amount of trash and plastic they pull,” said Alex Schulze, co-founder of 4ocean. “It’s inspiring to see a company take such a proactive approach to sustainability that will have a measurable impact on the ocean. U.S. Polo Assn. committing to 2.5 times the amount of trash and plastic they pulled last year is a bold move, and I’m excited to see the results of this initiative.”
Schulze added, “We are proud to be part of this effort and look forward to continuing our collaboration with U.S. Polo Assn. and other partners to make a positive impact on our ocean.”
This meaningful partnership is a component of U.S. Polo Assn.’s overarching sustainability initiative USPA Life, which works towards improving the impact of our business on the environment. The USPA Life initiative also offers a global and growing selection of apparel, footwear, and accessories with sustainable attributes.
“U.S. Polo Assn. has been taking a global and holistic approach to our long-term sustainability journey with initiatives like our 4ocean partnership and USPA Life,” said J. Michael Prince, President and CEO of USPA Global Licensing Inc., which manages the multi-billion-dollar U.S. Polo Assn. brand. “We have been working diligently to improve our global footprint through products that are better for the environment and through partnerships with organizations like 4ocean that share our mission and vision for a sustainable future.”
4ocean was the Official Sustainability Partner of the U.S. Open Polo Championship Final, collecting plastic and trash from the prestigious and sold-out event in April at the USPA National Polo Center. 4ocean also had a series of commercial spots run during the U.S. Open Polo Championship Final on multiple ESPN platforms, bringing awareness to millions of consumers and sports fans. Click here for more information.
To learn more about the partnership, please visit uspoloassnglobal.com/4ocean.
4ocean is an ocean cleanup company based in Boca Raton, Florida, that’s dedicated to ending the ocean plastic crisis. As a Public Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corp, 4ocean harnesses the power of business to fund a global cleanup operation that recovers millions of pounds of plastic and other debris from the world’s oceans, rivers, and coastlines each year.
About U.S. Polo Assn.
U.S. Polo Assn. is the official brand of the United States Polo Association (USPA), the nonprofit governing body for the sport of polo in the United States and one of the oldest sports governing bodies, having been founded in 1890. With a multi-billion-dollar global footprint and worldwide distribution through some 1,100 U.S. Polo Assn. retail stores and thousands of department stores as well as sporting goods channels, independent retailers, and e-commerce, U.S. Polo Assn. offers apparel for men, women, and children, as well as accessories and footwear in more than 190 countries worldwide. U.S. Polo Assn. was named one of the top five sports licensors in 2022, according to License Global. Visit uspoloassnglobal.com and follow @uspoloassn.
Contact Information: Stacey Kovalsky Senior Director, Global Communications email@example.com +001.561.790.8036
Jonathan Marshall 4ocean PR Specialist firstname.lastname@example.org
TOMS RIVER, N.J. – April 11, 2023 – PRLog — Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) is celebrating Autism Awareness throughout the month of April with a variety of internal and community events.
Internally, the OPC team is increasing awareness while raising funds for POAC Autism Services, providing a variety of services to youth, parents and families. Melinda Santiago-Owens, MA, IDD Certified, one of OPC’s Care Manager Supervisors worked closely with her team to design and develop several t-shirts and hoodies celebrating Autism Awareness. OPC staff purchase the shirts, with the proceeds going to POAC Autism Services. “I am so passionate about Autism Awareness and Acceptance, that I can’t wait until every April when we at OPC call attention to issues facing youth with autism, their parents and caregivers, and their families. I’m excited that we also get to raise funds for other community partners doing this work,” stated Santiago. OPC staff wear their t-shirts and hoodies every Tuesday in April for POSITIVI-TEE Tuesdays.
OPC will be participating in the Ocean County Library Autism Resources Fair taking place on April 15 from 10:00am – 3:00pm at the Toms River Branch (101 Washington St, Toms River). This event is open to the public. Members of the OPC team will be providing resources and information while making connections with other partners in the field. “We are so grateful to the Toms River Library for holding this event to celebrate April as Autism month and to not only increase awareness, but to provide needed resources and help”, stated Mary Jo Buchanan, LCSW, MPA, Executive Director of OPC.
“Events held during Autism Awareness month are critical to getting the word out to parents, caregivers and families with autistic youth or young adults,” stated Buchanan. “Often parents feel overwhelmed and do not know where to turn when they receive the diagnosis for their child. These types of events provide information, resources and connection not only with professionals, but with other parents and families experiencing similar challenges,” Buchanan continued.
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national rate for children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder is 1 in 36 children. This statistic is based on their evaluation of health and educational records of 8-year-old children in 2020 in 11 states, including New Jersey. New Jersey now has the third highest rate of autism in the nation: 1 in 34 children, or 2.9% of 8-year-old children.
Over 25% of the youth that OPC provides care coordination for are on the autism spectrum. “Because of the prevalence of youth that OPC services on the autism spectrum, the agency is committed to not only providing care coordination, but also serving as a resource for parents, caregivers and families,” Buchanan noted. The agency has several care manager teams specializing in working with these youth and families, a regular roundtable is provided for consultation and training for the OPC care managers, and OPC staff participate in state roundtables to discuss specific youth needs and potential resources.
In addition to organizations like POAC and the Toms River Library, OPC actively participates with a variety of community agencies serving youth with autism. OPC staff participate in the I/DD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) Subcommittee of the Ocean County Inter-Agency Coordinating Council (CIACC), which brings together all agencies serving youth with these challenges on a regular basis to discuss trends, needs and share resources. Additional resources provided by OPC include a full-time I/DD Specialist who assist families with applying for services through the Children’s System of Care and the Division of Developmental Disabilities and the Connections program, a program for youth and young adults to help them make friends and focus on wellness.
“Each individual, family member, caregiver and friend experience autism differently. Today and every day, the OPC team works to celebrate the achievements of neurodiverse people and provide connections, education and resources to the community,” stated Buchanan.
For additional information about autism, please consider the following resources:
POAC Autism Services poac.net/about-foundation
AUTISM NEW JERSEY Information, education, and policy initiatives related to ASD 800-4-AUTISM www.autismnj.org
NJ EARLY INTERVENTION SYSTEM Services for children under the age of 3 years with developmental delays or disabilities www.nj.gov/health/fhs/eis/
AUTISM FAMILY SERVICES OF NEW JERSEY Support services for families living with ASD 877-237-4477 www.autismfamilyservicesnj.org
NJ DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS Special education services for school-aged children with disabilities www.nj.gov/education/specialed/
MOM2MOM 24/7 peer-support for parents of children with special needs 877-914-6662 www.mom2mom.us.com
STATEWIDE PARENT ADVOCACY NETWORK Support for parents, including parents of children with special needs 800-654-7726 www.spannj.org
About Ocean Partnership for Children Inc.
Founded in 2005, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) is Ocean County’s Care Management Organization (CMO). Its mission is to enhance the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports. OPC provides care coordination services for Ocean County youth up the age of 21 years who have mental health, substance use, intellectual and developmental challenges. OPC strives to keep children and adolescents at home, in school, and in the community by connecting them to resources that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their goals.
Ocean Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization available at no cost to all youth and families in Ocean County who meet the eligibility criteria of the New Jersey Children’s System of care. To learn more, visit https://www.oceanpartnership.org or oceanresourcenet.org.
TOMS RIVER, N.J. – Feb. 28, 2023 – PRLog — In addition to providing care management services, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) has expanded to provide needed resources for youth and families in Ocean County. The agency recently received three important grants, two from the Ocean County Department of Human Services, Office for Individuals with Disabilities, and one from McKinney Vento funding through the Monmouth Ocean Educational Services Commission.
With an estimated combined total of $180,000 in grant funding, Mary Jo Buchanan, LCSW, MPA, Executive Director of OPC, said the organization is elated to have the opportunity to provide additional and continued support. “We are looking forward to working with individuals, families, the schools, and all of our provider agencies as we serve the youth of Ocean County in the best way possible and link them to the services needed,” Buchanan said.
This first program successfully funded through Ocean County helps families apply for Developmental Disabilities (DD) services through the Children’s System of Care and for Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) services in the adult system of care. Without the assistance of OPC’s Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Specialist, Corie Hometchko, MA, many families would struggle to complete the complicated applications, causing delays or resulting in not receiving critical services.
“It is our goal to make sure that the families feel supported and get what they need,” stated Ms. Hometchko. “I take the time to guide them through this very complicated application process and am committed to see them through until their applications are approved.”
The second grant, funded by Ocean County, supports OPC’s Connections Program, an on-going, one-of-a-kind program that helps youth with intellectual or developmental disabilities such as autism, selective mutism, or physical challenges. The Connections Program works to reduce social isolation and stigmatization for those diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities through activities, mindfulness, focus on health, and of course, connecting them to each other.
From one of the Connections youth throwing out the first pitch at a Blue Claws game to participants creating art and holding an exhibition with the help of the Toms River Artist Community, Connections members blossom from start to finish. Liz Menges, LPC, Assistant Director of Clinical Operations, shared several success stories. “We had one youth, who when he initially started was all over the room and needed 1:1 attention. After 8 sessions, he was able to sit and engage with peers and facilitators with his full participation and focus, no longer requiring a 1:1,” Menges said. “One of our youth graduated from the program and is now one of our volunteer facilitators!”
The third grant OPC received directly supports the School Homeless Services Navigator Program. This new program is funded by McKinney Vento Funds through the American Rescue Plan. The School Homeless Services Navigator Program helps any youth facing housing issues or homelessness in Ocean County. Within each school in the County, there is a School Homeless Liaison that works with the Service Navigator to identify and refer students in need. With close to 20 referrals in 2023 so far, Alyssa Brantley, OPC’s Navigator, has already started to work with the schools. “The need for this program is evidenced by the numbers of youth and families coming to me with housing struggles,” Brantley said.
With the funding received, OPC continues to develop innovative services and programs needed in Ocean County. “We are grateful to all of the funders for their incredible support,” Buchanan said.
About Ocean Partnership for Children Inc. Founded in 2005, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) is Ocean County’s Care Management Organization (CMO). Its mission is to enhance the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports. OPC provides care coordination services for Ocean County youth up the age of 21 years who have mental health, substance use, intellectual and developmental challenges. OPC strives to keep children and adolescents at home, in school, and in the community by connecting them to resources that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their goals. Ocean Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization available at no cost to all youth and families in Ocean County who meet the eligibility criteria of the New Jersey Children’s System of care. To learn more, visit https://www.oceanpartnership.org or https://www.oceanresourcenet.org.
The event was held at OPC headquarters in Toms River on November 14.
OPC hosts Multicultural Potluck Feast.
TOMS RIVER, N.J. – Nov. 23, 2022 – PRLog — Ocean Partnership for Children’s (OPC) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee held a Multicultural Potluck Feast on November 14 to celebrate the nonprofit’s rich diversity during the holiday season.
“We are so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the variety of cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities of our staff, as well as the foods that correlate with those respective backgrounds,” said Mary Jo Buchanan, Executive Director of OPC. “Thank you to the DEI committee and everyone who participated in this exciting event.”
OPC staff presented various dishes at the event and shared the meaning behind the dish with the team. “Our team members shared about their family, culture and beliefs – whatever was meaningful to them,” Buchanan added.
One staffer’s Ukrainian heritage helped to shape who he was today. “It was especially meaningful because some of his family was impacted by the current war in Ukraine,” said Buchanan.
Another staffer shared a photo of her family going to a local farm to cut down a fresh Christmas tree and afterwards spending the day decorating it together.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is also a mainstay for many OPC team members.
Instead of turkey on Thanksgiving, one staffer eats pernil, which is pork shoulder. “The pork is marinated for days, and it takes all day to bake,” Buchanan said.
Jolloff rice is a West African tradition. “One of our staff members is Ghanaian and that’s what he brought,” Buchanan added.
Then there were the desserts – most of them heavenly.
Arroz con dulce, which translates to rice with candy, was definitely a crowd pleaser. So was the coquito, which is Puerto Rican Egg Nog.
Buchanan shared of her own heritage and Pennsylvania Dutch roots. “I brought shoofly pie and whoopie pies made by a bakery I love in Lancaster,” she added.
Kate Martinez, an OPC Care Manager Supervisor, helped organize the event. “Thank you to everyone who participated in our potluck,” she said. “It is a treasure to get to know you all and celebrate our cultures together over a feast.”
The event came after OPC’s released its official statement regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.
“They are more than just words for us,” according to OPC. “They are the definitive principles that guide how we serve youth and families and cultivate community relationships…”
Buchanan says that OPC is committed to developing an agency and community where all individuals feel safe being present as their authentic, whole selves and to challenging those systems, institutions, and practices that do not support this goal.
“We strive to educate and foster equal opportunities that promote growth for all while ensuring every individual is included and has a voice,” said Buchanan. “At OPC, we find that we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more understanding, and more capable of change.”
Thanks to corporate team building events like OPC’s recent multicultural potluck feast, those voices are heard and celebrated.
About Ocean Partnership for Children Inc.
Founded in 2005, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) is Ocean County’s Care Management Organization (CMO). Its mission is to enhance the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports. OPC provides care management services for Ocean County youth up to the age of 21 years who have mental health, substance use, intellectual and developmental challenges. OPC strives to keep children and adolescents at home, in school, and in the community by connecting them to resources that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their goals.
Ocean Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization available at no cost to all youth and families in Ocean County who meet the eligibility criteria of the New Jersey Children’s System of Care. To learn more, visit www.oceanpartnership.org or https://www.oceanresourcenet.org.