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Unions pool resources to support those in need

The Wayne Education Association (WEA) is partnering with the Wayne Custodial Maintenance Association (WCMA) and the Wayne Special Education Aides Association (WSAA) to assist those combating the COVID-19 virus within the Wayne community.

The WEA is no stranger to community-oriented events, and often uses grants from the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Pride in Public Education funds to host a variety of fun, informational activities designed to bring educators and parents together.  However, in the wake of the need to cancel its spring events, the WEA connected with its sister associations to discuss ways in which they can pool their resources to make an even greater impact. Together, they received approval for a $30,000 NJEA PRIDE grant to work with the school district, the mayor, county government and other community stakeholders.  Through this grant, the WEA, WCMA and ESEA were able to provide Wayne’s students and families with the necessary items and tools to stay healthy and safe, especially those affected by the virus and cannot leave their homes.

The WEA and their partners also found ways to say thank you to the first responders and medical professionals in our community by providing meals to 135 front line staff members at St. Joseph’s Wayne Medical Centers in Wayne.

“We have been humbled to have been able to provide some help to our community in its time of need”, said WEA President Eda Ferrante. “While this crisis has been devastating to our region, we see heroes—our nurses, doctors and first responders—risking their lives for others on an everyday basis. We are just happy to have been able to provide those folks with the additional tools that they need to stay safe and to best care for their patients.”

Through this grant, the associations support several local hospitals by providing them with the tools they need for their patients during this health crisis. The WEA and its union partners have also fulfilled several desperate requests from the hospitals for iPads so that terminally ill patients can say good-bye to their loved ones, as well as fulfilled requests for baby monitors so that nurses and other medical professionals can monitor patients while limiting their exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

“As Passaic County Freeholder Director and a former teacher in the Woodland Park School District, I couldn’t be prouder of my colleagues in Wayne,” said Passaic County Freeholder Sandi Lazarra. “They have always had a deep commitment and love for their students, which extends to community involvement. I would personally like to thank each and every member for turning words into action. The members of WEA, WCMA and WSEA can rest easy in the knowledge that they have enhanced the lives of so many Passaic County residents.”

Lazzara is not the only one who believes their efforts are making an impact. Mark Cantine from St. Joseph’s Health foundation wrote: “I cannot emphasize enough how perfect the timing is; these items will be put to immediate use!”

Additionally, Vanessa Warner from St. Mary’s General Hospital stated, “We cannot express how grateful we are for this donation.  The iPads will enable doctors and nurses to communicate with the families of patients struck by COVID-19 to discuss their health status and treatment plan.  But perhaps even more importantly, it will give these fragile patients an opportunity to see and speak with their loved ones, perhaps for the last time.”

Along the way, the WEA also discovered that there was an opportunity to help a former Wayne student who was making protective gear with his 3D printers. Through a portion of the funds provided by grant, he could make an additional 500 masks.

The WEA also made generous donations to Wayne Interfaith Network, Oasis in Paterson and Wayne Helping Hands so that they may provide food for those with food insecurity. The associations are also working through Wayne school nurses and local businesses in reaching out and providing food to Wayne’s students’ families in need.

“We are hopeful that other local associations consider diverting their PRIDE funds to helping in their communities,” Ferrante continued. “We are hearing that hospitals in other counties are looking for the same resources, and we are sure that there are many families that are in desperate need of assistance all over New Jersey.

The Wayne Education Association proudly represents nearly 900 teachers, certificated staff members and secretaries in the Wayne School District. 

The Wayne Special Education Aides Association proudly represents over 160 paraprofessionals and transportation staff in the Wayne School District.

The Wayne Custodial-Maintenance Association proudly represents over 90 custodians and other educational support professionals in the Wayne School District.