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Special needs agency to honor Toby Cooperman
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Special needs agency to honor Toby Cooperman

JESPY House honoree Toby Cooperman
JESPY House honoree Toby Cooperman

JESPY House, the UJC MetroWest NJ agency for adults with special needs, will honor benefactor Toby Cooperman Tuesday, Sept. 14, with “A Toast to Toby” at the Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell.

“We are honoring Toby for the work she has done and her advocacy on behalf of people with special needs,” said JESPY director of operations Lois Rose. “She and her husband, Leon, have been a major philanthropic force in the community, and Toby has sat on practically every board and every committee for people with special needs.”

For more than 20 years, Cooperman has been a learning disabilities specialist at the Early Childhood Learning Center for special education students in Chatham. She is also a member of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest’s ABLE Committee, a network of community leaders and professionals who work together to advocate for and support individuals with special needs and their families.

Special education “has a special place in my life,” Cooperman told NJ Jewish News on Aug. 30. “It is where I feel a connection.”

Together with her husband, she helped establish a special needs department at the West Orange center that bears their names — the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, Ross Family Campus — and she has served on the boards of JESPY House and Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled of MetroWest.

“Toby Cooperman has been the best thing that ever happened to JESPY,” said Judy Peskin of Summit, a longtime volunteer who is chairing the dinner.

At Cooperman’s wish, the evening will be dedicated to helping those in attendance learn more about JESPY’s work. The South Orange-based organization was founded in 1976 and originally served four clients.

Today it has more than 150, who are trained in the skills of daily living before moving to private apartments — sometimes with roommates, sometime without. They are also afforded vocational, social, health, and recreational services.

The agency uses “a wide range of services to help adults with severe learning disabilities to develop to their potential and become productive members of the community,” said Rose.

“Everyone is entitled to continuing opportunities to grow, to socialize, and to feel part of a community,” said Cooperman. “JESPY meets that need beautifully, and I am glad that by lending my name, we are able to help clients continue to benefit from its services.”

Peskin said Cooperman herself deserves recognition. “It’s always Leon and Toby being honored together,” she said. “This may be the first time she is being honored by herself, and her husband has been unbelievable. He has been totally behind organizing and raising money for the dinner. We have been overwhelmed by his generosity.”

Cooperman did not disagree. “I have been honored a lot, but the special needs community is especially my area. My husband got behind it wholeheartedly, and he has done a fabulous job soliciting funds.”

The Coopermans live in Short Hills and have two sons — Wayne and Michael — and three grandchildren, Courtney, Kyra, and Asher.

For information about “A Toast to Toby,” contact Rose at 973-762-6909, ext. 333, or loisrose@jespy.org.

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