ECLC stands for offering “Education, Careers & Lifelong Community” to children and adults with special needs, including autism, Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. ECLC was launched in 1970 as the “Early Childhood Learning Centers of New Jersey” by a group of parents and others to provide early-intervention services to a handful of pre-school children. Today, we serve more adult clients than students and that number increases with each graduating class!
Over the past 50 years, the ECLC logo has been updated to reflect the shift into adult services, but the mission and vision remain the same.
ECLC is an accredited, nonprofit, educating students ages 5–21 with severe learning and/or language disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome or multiple disabilities at two schools.
A separate entity called Community Personnel Services (CPS) provides post-graduate transition services and job placements to any special-needs adult, while another offshoot, the PRIDE program, offers vocational training, independent living skills and more. Our Vision
To empower and enable the individuals we serve to achieve their maximum potential and enhance their quality of life.
- 1970: A group of parents and others forms the Early Childhood Learning Centers of New Jersey to provide early-intervention services to a handful of pre-school children. The program starts in a classroom on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth.
- 1973: The program expands to offer classes for children up to the age of 8 and at additional sites in Madison and Paramus.
- 1976: As children age, the programs adds classes for students up to age 14.
- 1983: A pre-vocational program called SKIL (Seeking Knowledge for Independent Living) is started to teach appropriate work-related behavior and give students a chance to job “sample” in the nearby community.
- 1987: The nonprofit officially adopts ECLC of New Jersey as its name, reflecting an expanded mission of serving students up to age 21. Also, this year, an Extended School Year (ESY) program begins to help students retain progress from one school year into the next.
- 1988: The Morris County school moves into a larger facility, with greater access to the community, in a former public school building at 21 Lum Avenue, Chatham.
- 1989: After-school activities are added, such as bowling, dinner and movies, where students can experience the joys of having fun with friends, instead of watching from the sidelines.
- 1990: The Bergen County school transitions into a former parochial school in the quaint community of Ho-Ho-Kus, which also offers more room to grow and better accessibility to the community.
- 1991: The Board of Trustees announces a capital campaign to raise $4 million for facility improvements and to support the development of new programs.
- 1994: The Board forms the ECLC Foundation to raise money and support all entities.
- 1995: Two exciting milestones are reached during this 25th anniversary year. First, Community Personnel Services (CPS) is founded as an affiliate to help graduates find, land and retain jobs. Also, ECLC is accredited by the Middle States Associations of Colleges and Universities.
- 1997: The $4 million capital campaign is successfully completed!
- 2000: The Weekend Respite Program begins, providing students with increased social and recreational opportunities and a chance for sleepovers.
- 2002: Alumni Activities are offered to graduates to give them a chance to get together with their old friends by participating in dances, bingo or movie night.
- 2004: The P.A.I.R.S. Program (Partners in After-school Inclusive Recreation for Special needs students), in collaboration with Millburn High School students, begins to provide social interaction between ECLC students and their non-disabled peers.
- 2005: Evening Adult Enrichment classes are offered to alumni to further their education in subjects, such as computers, cooking, painting, reading and banking.
- 2008: In a major development, PRIDE Adult Program opens its doors in Florham Park to provide 18 graduates with pre-vocational training, independent living skills and volunteer opportunities in a nurturing setting.
- 2012: A new logo and acronym, “Education, Careers & Lifelong Community,” is unveiled that better reflects the growth of services for adults.
- 2013: The Bergen PRIDE Center opens in Paramus for graduates of the Ho-Ho-Kus school. New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno helps cut the ribbon, and she underscores the need for more services to support adults with disabilities.
Community Personnel Services (CPS) adds Support Coordination to its array of services for individuals living in Essex, Union and Somerset counties. CPS is one of the few agencies in the state that can approve budgetary plans without oversight from the state’s Division of Developmental Disabilities.
- 2014: A capital campaign for the Morris PRIDE Center in Florham Park raises $450,000 to transform the once drab warehouse space into a cheery, bright center with activity rooms, a teaching kitchen, a model apartment and a technology center. A former ECLC staff member, Toby Cooperman, and her husband, Leon, are instrumental in the campaign’s success, donating a $125,000 matching grant, which inspires others to give.
- 2015: The Renee and Bruce Litinger and Family PRIDE Endowment campaign kicks off to provide an important safety net against uncertain government funding.
The Ho-Ho-Kus school opens a new playground, especially designed for students with special needs, and names it in honor of Principal Vicki Lindorff, an inspirational leader at the school for decades.
- 2016: The ECLC Foundation’s inaugural walkathon cruises past all expectations! The event draws 526 walkers and raises more than $32,000.
The Adult Evening Enrichment program at the Chatham school is named in honor of its founder: longtime Principal Diane Gagliardi.
- 2017: The ECLC Foundation’s first gala honoring former staff member Toby Cooperman brings in $750,000, with her generous husband, Leon, at the helm.
- 2019: The Renee and Bruce Litinger and Family PRIDE Endowment reaches its goal of $2 million!
- 2020: ECLC celebrates 50 years of offering “Education, Careers & Lifelong Community” to nearly 900 adults and children with special needs from 11 counties across New Jersey. Former ECLC Trustee Peter Petrou becomes the new executive director, following the retirement of Bruce Litinger. While leaders may change, the organization’s dedication and commitment to serving people with special needs remains steadfast.