OAK RIDGE Bishop Serratelli helped break ground April 23 for the Giuliano House, a more than 5,000-square-foot group home by the diocesan Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD) that will provide help and create hope for four individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is anticipated that the new group home — the agency’s first newly-constructed facility in 40 years — should be completed and open in its location on Weldon Road here by the end of the year.
Bishop Serratelli presided at the groundbreaking ceremony at the site, where the ranch house will be built near DPD headquarters at Wiegand Farms at 1 Catholic Charities Way here. The DPD decided to build a new structure because it recognizes the difficulty of retrofitting an existing structure with specifications that meet the needs of people with disabilities, including larger rooms, hallways and doorways and a lift, said Scott Milliken, DPD’s executive director, after the groundbreaking ceremony.
“Whenever we look to the interests of our neighbor, the community and the DPD and how we may best serve them, we are, in a sense, God’s own co-workers. Let us pray for his help through this celebration that God will bring this construction to successful completion and that his protection will keep those who work on it safe from injury,” Bishop Serratelli prayed before blessing the site of Giuliano House.
Turning over soil at the site with a ceremonial golden shovel was Dr. Joseph Giuliano, the facility’s namesake and a pediatric dentist, who began treating DPD clients shortly after he opened his Pompton Lakes practice in 1980. Later, he was asked to join DPD’s Board of Directors, he said.
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of the DPD family. I look forward to the future. I thank everyone who helped in the past,” said Giuliano, the longest-serving DPD board member, during the groundbreaking. “DPD has been doing great things for people, who don’t have a voice and need all the help that they can get. It gives care that is high quality,” he said.
The new group home — DPD’s 12th such living facility for disabled adults — will house quarters for live-in staff, so residents have around-the-clock care, including on overnights and weekends — like in DPD’s other facilities. The Giuliano House project has become part of the agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Milliken said.
“We [at DPD] look forward to getting the residents into Giuliano House. It will be a load off the minds of their families, who know that their loved ones will be cared for,” said Milliken, who emphasized that DPD strives to treat clients with “dignity and respect.”
The four residents of Giuliano Home — three men and a woman — originated from state institutions that were closed by mandate of federal “Olmsted Legislation.” The law requires that people with disabilities be placed in smaller, private facilities, providing them with a “less restrictive place,” said Joanna Miller, DPD’s associate executive director, who has been working the families of the four residents.
“The group home will be great for the residents because they will be in a smaller setting with fewer other individuals,” said Miller, who noted that all the residents — two, who are ambulatory and two, who are not — “will need constant support in daily living.”
The two-year process to bring Giuliano House to reality included the project’s approval by the Board of Directors, the Paterson Diocese, and officials from the State, Jefferson Township and the Highlands Commission, Milliken said.
Milliken thanked Bishop Serratelli and other diocesan officials for their support, as well as Mayor Russell Felter, the township council and Jefferson officials, many of whom attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
Betty Benitez said that her family knew “right away,” while visiting DPD that it had found the right facility for her disabled sister, a former resident of North Jersey Developmental Center, Totowa, which closed.
“We are a devout Catholic family from Annunciation Parish in Wayne and we like that DPD was a part of Catholic Charities. We like that there will be only four clients in the new home and that it’s a family setting for my sister,” Benitez said. “We are waiting and anticipating [the opening of Giuliano House].”
Already, the Knights of Columbus have launched an effort to support Giuliano House. Those wishing to make financial contributions or donations to the furniture registry, can do so by going to www.dpd.org or calling (973) 406-1100.