Major donors Leon and Toby Cooperman visited the future home of Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled (JSDD) in Livingston, NJ, and talked about their philanthropic commitment to adults with developmental disabilities and the local community.
Leon and Toby Cooperman believe in giving back to the community. Their generosity and commitment were visible one August Sunday morning when they stopped by a construction site just off the Route 10 traffic circle in Livingston, NJ.
No ordinary construction project, this site is the future home of The Cooperman Family Campus, the new home of the not-for-profit Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled (JSDD) and its WAE Center. The 17,300 sq. ft. state-of-the-art building project at 310 Eisenhower Pkwy is being made possible, in a large part, due to a generous $2.5 million gift from The Cooperman Family Foundation.
The Coopermans, who recently celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary, chatted with JSDD board member Larry Rein during their visit about why they chose to contribute to JSDD’s capital campaign for this much-needed facility.
“I got involved in special needs as my career,” said Toby. “I started out as a special ed teacher. Then I became a learning specialist and over 25 years I really began to understand the challenges of the special needs community. I got involved with the JCC when they started their special needs department. Linda Press was the head and I became president of her fan club. So whatever Linda Press got involved in, I knew would be high quality. I truly understood the challenges – especially for the families. [Individuals with developmental disabilities] have to have a life, continuing education, continuing socialization, the ability to be independent. There was a tremendous need to help them when they turned 21.” JSDD, with Linda as executive director, was created to provide educational and residential services for adults with developmental disabilities.
Leon, who is the retired chairman and CEO of NY-based investment firm Omega Advisors, shared with Larry why giving back to the local community is so important to Toby and him. “We were not always in this position. I grew up very poor in the Bronx. Toby grew up in the Bronx too. I went to public grade schools in the Bronx, public high school in the Bronx, public college in the Bronx. I had a short stint at Columbia University business school that opened a deal on Wall Street for me, and I’ve done very well through hard work and lots of intuition and we want to give it back.”
Leon noted he and Toby signed The Giving Pledge in 2010 to give away at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. In addition to JSDD, he and Toby have made many major contributions, including a $25 million pledge to St. Barnabas Medical Center (Livingston, NJ) for a new 200,000 sq. ft. Cooperman Family Pavilion.
Making a Difference for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
The Coopermans concluded their visit by touring the site with Larry, JSDD executive director Linda Press, Michael Katz, director of development for JSDD’s capital campaign, and former Livingston mayor and member of Livingston Town Council Alfred Anthony. “We pass this site a lot so we look forward each time to watching [construction] progress,” commented Leon.
The new Cooperman Family Campus facility will enable JSDD to expand the residential, advocacy, and community services it provides for individuals with developmental disabilities. Construction is expected to be completed by September 2021.
“The need continues to grow for our residential and educational services and we have outgrown our leased space in West Orange,” said Linda. “The new facility will enable us to employ additional administrators to expand both our residential program and WAE (Wellness, Arts, and Enrichment) Center to serve 50 additional clients. We’ll also have the capacity to offer evening classes and expand physical, occupational, and speech therapy services.”
As Linda further noted, the generosity of spirit and the gift of time the Coopermans have both given to the JSDD community have been at least as important as their philanthropy. “Their support of JSDD’s project will make a difference in the lives of so many for years to come,” she said.
About JSDD and the WAE Center
Incorporated in 1996, JSDD of MetroWest, Inc., is the lead multi-purpose agency dedicated to providing an integrated program of community education, advocacy, and services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. JSDD strives to maximize the potential of individuals with developmental disabilities and promotes opportunities for their integration into the Jewish and general communities. JSDD provides support, services, resources, information, and referral to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in the MetroWest NJ community and beyond.
JSDD’s WAE (Wellness, Arts, Enrichment) Center was founded on the belief and knowledge that each individual possesses the potential for creating a meaningful life, a process the Center calls “Finding the Spark Within.” Inclusion is implemented every single day by facilitators trained to bring people of diverse abilities together as equals. Center members explore avenues for maximizing independence and achieving personal fulfillment through writing, painting, film, music, yoga, and more.