Following is the speech made by Chloe at JESPY’s July 2016 fundraiser honoring Board Vice President Denise Dimson Rekem:
I would like to thank Audrey for giving me the opportunity to talk tonight. My name is Chloe Cogen and I came to JESPY 18 years ago.
I grew up in Teaneck NJ. After high school, I graduated from the Vocational Independence Program(VIP) at NYIT on Long Island. I will say, Long Island is not a good place for people who don’t drive.
Back then, I liked JESPY for three reasons:
- South Orange was a town where I could walk to everything I needed.
- I already knew some people at JESPY from school and camp.
- And I thought I could lead an independent life here. I think it has turned out pretty good. I have been living in South Orange ever since.
So…..here is what my life is about in South Orange with JESPY:
- I live independently in my apartment with my husband David. We are happily married for three and a half years.
- David and I take care of the apartment.
- We do the shopping and all the chores
- We have to plan our social life.
- We pay the bills… most of them online.
- We do the cooking and we try to eat healthy.
Sounds like pretty much what everyone does, right???
JESPY has also given me the opportunity to be involved with the advocacy, fundraising and trip committees [of the Client Council].
- I am delighted to be on these committees to be part of all the JESPY changes.
- An example of a fundraising event includes doing a community barbecue for new uniforms.
- David and I look over the monthly calendar, and sign up for weekend excursions that we are interested in. Some of my favorites were New York City, theater, museums and The Night to Shine.
- I am also a new member of JESPY’s Book Club. I’m excited for the upcoming books we will read.
And one more thing…I have a job and a career!! This is what I would really like to talk about in my speech.
- JESPY helped me get the job at the VA 17 years ago.
- At that time, the VA had a special program where I had a 6-month probationary period. I proved to them I could do the job. And I got a permanent job as a Federal Employee with full benefits.
- I have learned to work with bosses that were nice and others not so.
I recently was assigned a new responsibility at work. I make confirmation calls to the patients reminding them of their appointment. I learned this new skill rather quickly and I enjoy it. And it is important work.
- I had to advocate for myself for 8 months to get this promotion.
- The most important thing that the JESPY Board can do is to get employers to give JESPY clients the opportunity to prove themselves.
- Special programs that give JESPY clients a chance and a little extra training is what we need. That is really important!!
So JESPY got me a chance at the VA 17 years ago and it has given me a career.
I will just end by saying, I wouldn’t be here living in South Orange if it weren’t for JESPY. I wouldn’t have my loving husband AND I wouldn’t have my independent life. Even though we are a community of people who have disabilities we all still live ordinary lives.
The “no show” rate for the VA Hospital appointments has gone down due to Chloe’s efforts. She said “Doing services for the veterans is satisfying. It feels good to help!”