Ocean Partnership for Children Celebrates Acceptance, Empowerment and Inclusion

Ocean County nonprofit celebrates Pride and Immigrant Heritage Month in June
Members of the OPC Team at Toms River Pride
Members of the OPC Team at Toms River Pride
TOMS RIVER, N.J. - June 20, 2023 - PRLog -- In honor of Pride and Immigrant Heritage Month, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) actively participated in community events celebrating diversity and fostering unity. "OPC is committed to helping foster a society that embraces every individual, regardless of their background, orientation, or origin," stated Mary Jo Buchanan, LCSW, MPA, Executive Director of OPC.

On June 4, OPC proudly marched in the Asbury Park Pride parade alongside mental health agencies, healthcare agencies, supportive businesses, community groups and members and LGBTQ+ entertainers. Additionally, OPC participated in and sponsored Toms River Pride with a resource table on June 10. Both events provided robust resources to attendees and opportunities for organizations and groups to collaborate with one another to best serve and support the community.

"Pride events like Toms River Pride and Asbury Park Pride are so important to the LGBTQ+ community. They are a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and instill hope and acceptance for queer members of the community. Additionally, these events increase awareness for the LGBTQ+ community and the issues they face," stated Kaitlin Lord, OPC Community Resource and Social Media Specialist and YAS Coordinator/Facilitator. "Pride is an amazing opportunity for LGBTQ+ members of the community to learn more about supportive organizations and services that are available. For youth and families, Pride reinforces acceptance and empowerment within the community," continued Liz Menges, MA, LPC, ACS, OPC Assistant Director of Clinical Operations and YAS Coordinator/Facilitator.

Menges and Lord proudly represented OPC at a roundtable community discussion led by Congressman Gottheimer on LBGTQ+ youth and the barriers that impact them. OPC is an active and strong advocate on all levels for youth and families to ensure our community is an accepting and equitable place for all.

OPC also had a presence at the 2023 Immigrant Heritage Celebration, facilitated by Community Ambassadors of Ocean County on June 3 at the Church of Grace and Peace. Families from around the world came together to share in a day of food, fun and information on health and wellness. OPC was represented with a resource table, providing families with a deeper understanding of care management services and information on accessing this help for their youth. "As families visited the OPC table, they exchanged smiles, stories about their journey to the United States and took part in craft activities, painting garden stones with an image or words that bring them happiness," explained Rosbel Aguilar, MA, LPC, NCC, OPC Care Manager Supervisor and Ocean County Latino Engagement Group Member representing OPC. "Often families will share that they walk away from these events with gratitude and a greater sense of connection and inclusion," continued Aguilar. "Attending and participating in these events guides us in our mission of enhancing the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports."

OPC's commitment to acceptance, empowerment and inclusion does not end in June. OPC strives to educate and foster equal opportunities that promote growth for all while ensuring every individual is included and has a voice. OPC is a member of the recently formed Ocean County Latino Engagement Group, which addresses the more recent increase of new immigrants to Ocean County, many being Latino. The group is a coalition of Ocean County agencies including: Ocean County Youth Services Commission, Ocean County Children's Inter-Agency Coordinating Council, Ocean County Human Services, Ocean County Prosecutors Office, Lakewood High School, Community Ambassadors, OPC, Ocean County PIC, RWJ Barnabas Institute for Prevention and Ocean County Family Support Organization, among other agencies. Through support groups, OPC is constant resource and advocate for the youth and families of Ocean County. OPC partners with PFLAG Jersey Shore offering Your Authentic Self (YAS) LGTBQ+ youth support groups in conjunction with PFLAG's adult support groups. These groups are held on the first Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:00pm.

OPC is committed to developing an agency and community where all individuals feel safe being present as their authentic, whole selves and to challenging those systems, institution, and practices that do not support this goal. Diversity, equity and inclusion are the definitive principles that guide how OPC serves youth and families, cultivates community relationships and creates an agency where everyone, regardless of gender, race, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, education, disability, citizenship, veteran status, or other dimension of diversity, feels welcome, valued and respected.

About Ocean Partnership for Children Inc.
Founded in 2005, OPC is Ocean County's Care Management Organization (CMO). Its mission is to enhance the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports. OPC provides care coordination services for Ocean County youth up the age of 21 years who have mental health, substance use, intellectual and developmental challenges. OPC strives to keep children and adolescents at home, in school, and in the community by connecting them to resources that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their goals.

Ocean Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization available at no cost to all youth and families in Ocean County who meet the eligibility criteria of the New Jersey Children's System of care. To learn more, visit https://www.oceanpartnership.org.

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