Ocean Partnership for Children’s youth groups are busy spending the holiday season giving back

Sean Giarratana, Care Manager Supervisor at OPC; Maggie Alvarez, OCYC Coordinator, and Nick Meier
Sean Giarratana, Care Manager Supervisor at OPC; Maggie Alvarez, OCYC Coordinator, and Nick Meier of the R.A.I.S.E. Program.

Youth giving back to their fellow youth in Ocean County.

This holiday season, the youth groups of Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) are working together to make a difference in the lives of their fellow youth in and around Ocean County. From OPC’s YAS (Your Authentic Self) teen group creating a panel for the National AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of AIDS Awareness Month to OPC’s Game Changers collecting toys for Ocean County families in need, OPC is making a huge impact in the community.

“As a nonprofit that provides care management services to Ocean County youth up to 21 years old with mental health, substance use, intellectual, and developmental needs and their families, it is so incredible to watch our own youth go out and make such a huge impact in the community around us,” said Mary Jo Buchanan, Executive Director of OPC. “

AIDS Awareness Month

AIDS Awareness Month is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and mourning those who have died from the disease. The AIDS pandemic has historically impacted the LGBTQ community at a much higher rate, according to Kaitlin Lord, Community Resource/Social Media Specialist at OPC.

“In collaboration with the OPC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and Nicole Young, one of OPC’s Administrative Assistants, we decided to have our YAS teen members create a panel for the National AIDS Memorial Quilt,” Lord said. “The Quilt is an ever-growing memorial for those that are living with and have died due to AIDS related complications. The Quilt travels for many national displays and is housed in San Francisco, California. To date, the Quilt has over 50,000 panels and is dedicated to more than 110,000 individuals.”

“The YAS facilitators (Liz Menges, Assistant Director of Clinical Operations; Tara Boyle, Case Manager Supervisor; Justin Montefusco, Care Manager and myself) are truly so proud of the dedication and hard work that all of the youth showed in creating this quilt and honoring our community and all victims of the AIDS pandemic,” said Lord. “It is so important for us to continue to discuss the importance of LGBTQ+ history with our YAS members.”

OPC runs its YAS Too (8-12 years old) and YAS Teen (13+) meetings (open social support groups for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies) on the first Wednesday of every month. Please oceanpartnership.org to learn more.

2022 new panel for the National AIDS Memorial Quilt
OPC’s YAS (Your Authentic Self) teen group created this panel for the National AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of AIDS Awareness Month.

OPC’s Game Changers collects toys

In collaboration with the Ocean County Youth Center, who partnered with PBA 258 (Corrections) and Juvenile Services, OPC’s Game Changers collected new and unwrapped toys for the Ocean County Board of Commissioners to distribute to Ocean County families in need.

Randy Orlowsky and Sean Giarratana, OPC Care Manager Supervisors and facilitators for the Game Changers are leading the charge. “It has been a great experience allowing us to strengthen our bonds with other community supports and partners, as well as give back to the community directly,” said Orlowsky. “We also came up with creative prizes for staff engagement.”

Game Changers is a boys’ social emotional learning group for ages 11-14 years old. The group is free and confidential. To register, click here.

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 oceanpartnership.org.