Pictured left to right: Mark Williams, Distinguished Volunteer; Diane Riley, accepting Distinguished Advocate award on behalf of Ed Murphy; and Kevin Cummings, Distinguished Community Partner
On May 2, 2018, Bridgeway honored Ed Murphy with the Distinguished Advocate Award. To our great disappointment, Ed was not able to attend the award presentation, which was actually Bridgeway’s 50th Anniversary Chairman’s Dinner. We were disappointed because Ed Murphy was instrumental in founding Bridgeway back in 1968, and he has been a fierce advocate for mental health and housing for the most vulnerable among us ever since.
Diane Riley, Executive Director of Supportive Housing Association of NJ was kind enough to read Ed’s acceptance speech to the audience assembled in the Atrium at KEAN University’s STEM Building on May 2nd.
In Ed’s words:
“This Distinguished Advocate Award from Bridgeway is a great honor and I regret I am not able to attend and express my appreciation in person. I have many fond memories of my work with Bridgeway in my role as administrator there and later, as a housing advocate, joining together to promote community living for people with disabilities.
Bridgeway was founded in 1968 by the trustees of an advocacy organization, the Mental Health Association of Union County, to help launch community-based treatment, support, and housing for persons with mental illness. Its Executive Director was the administrator of Bridgeway and clinical staff was hired to run the program. However, these trustees also believed that over the long haul an advocacy organization was not the ideal governing body to manage a treatment and support program. Consequently, when they hired me as Executive Director in the early 70’s, they charged me with the task of setting up a process to establish Bridgeway as an independent program when it was administratively and fiscally sound.
Under those terms I came to work at Bridgeway House at 615 North Avenue with 3 staff persons, several consumers, a consulting psychiatrist and a cat named Bridget. The independence process took time, but it worked. Bridgeway was launched.
Mort Gati, a Rehabilitation Counselor, was chosen to lead Bridgeway into the new era. He was an outstanding leader as he launched the ship with Cory Storch and Lois Mattson at his side and me cheering him on from the dockside. We supported Mort in his work and then, sadly, we needed to support him though his illness and early death, which sorrow lives with us even today.
Cory took over from Mort and proved himself a creative leader. One day there came to be an additional site at 70 West Grand Street Elizabeth with more staff, more consumers, a consulting psychiatrist, and a manager named Dave D’ Antonio, and an outreach worker named Nancy Schneeloch.
A few years later Cory, myself and several housing advocates traveled into New York City to explore new ways of expanding supportive housing for consumers to live independently in the community. We visited a building with many supported units in Times Square that focused on the needs of people who were homeless. We were met and instructed by a young man who did not look to be homeless, knew a lot about how the place was managed, had a sparkle in his eye, and his name was Buddy Garfinkle. He must have snuck onto the bus with us going back to Jersey, because the next thing I hear he is working at Bridgeway, still not homeless, knew a lot about the place was managed, and still had a sparkle in his eye.
Cory has always had a wider vision and many diverse involvements. To promote the availability of supportive housing for consumers he was part of a small group that in 1998 founded the Supportive Housing Association of NJ, known as SHA. He became the first Chairperson of its Board of Trustees. He called me and suggested I apply for the job as its Executive Director, I did, the search committee agreed, and I was hired. The advocacy circle was complete with a new mission, and a new team. Cory had worked for me, now I was working for Cory. That is how advocacy works – defining a mission, forging a team, and working together.
Bridgeway is today, at its 50th Anniversary, a thriving successful program. It has a creative, stable management team, a unique business plan, and deep respect for its consumers. I did not make Bridgeway such a success, but if I put some wind in its sails some many years back I am proud to be part of its history.
All of us here tonight celebrating 50 years of Bridgeway, seek to find meaning in our lives through the mission of our work. That journey, seeking our ultimate purpose and meaning, can be a difficult and circuitous path. I started out as a priest, and I loved the work, but 50 years ago in 1968 embraced a new path – to marry, have a family, and seek the evolving Spirit outside organized religion. So, I married a kindred spirit involved in the same search. Low and behold – as the world turns – these two theologians have created a third who, as a child, came frequently with me to Bridgeway House and now, as a Professor, teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut , delving with all of us into the mysteries of our divine nature which can be found everywhere, – but most visibly in the consumers we serve. So, we all go forward together united in the spirit of Bridgeway – Distinguished Advocates one and all.”
admin May 22nd, 2018
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