The Beat Goes On

When she was five years old, Michelle Fontes started dancing with her father at the Portuguese Club in Perth Amboy, NJ. And she continued dancing there until she was 19. “Portuguese people love two things,” she says, “Food and drinks and dancing. If you go to a party, and we know you are not Portuguese, we will still try to get you to join us.”

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Michelle Fontes gives a dance lesson to adult patient T.J. Christian.

That’s exactly what Fontes, an adult services life skills coach, did during a Portuguese Day celebration at Matheny, coaxing Matheny staff members and adult patients to get out on the dance floor. She demonstrated three Portuguese dances: the Vira, the Bato Pe, and the Marcha. The Vira means ‘turns’, and “that’s what we do the most of,” she says. “There are many forms of turning, and how fast or slow you go is based on the beat of the drum.” The Bato Pe is a line dance, and the Marcha is a two-person dance – “You just march in place with the music.”

The adult services program is designed to instill a sense of self-respect and self-expression among adult residents at Matheny and its group homes.


Self-Portraits and Ceramics

Students in The Matheny School and adults in Matheny’s Adult Services program displayed their artistic ability in a four-day exhibit at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ, as part of its AccessABILITY series, which showcases fine art created by artists with disabilities.

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Teachers Darlene Tammara, left, and Felicia Querrey with student Tammy Boszczuk. Tammy’s self-portrait is behind them.

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Foot built stoneware and earthenware by adult resident Bozena Geraghty.

Several of The Matheny School students were present at an opening reception on Thursday, February 18, that featured examples of a self-portrait photography project. The students used a front-facing camera and a photo booth application on classroom iPods in order to take the self-portrait photos. The portraits were shown in paper pressed frames made by the school’s transition class. Examples of the adults’ ceramic works were also on display. The pottery and sculptural works were created through hand building techniques of pinching, coiling, and slab building.

The AccessABILITY series is made possible in part by support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.

An Enduring Tradition

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Mira Patla, left, and Matheny resident Amanda Kochell

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From left: Emily Caspersen, Martin Villagra, Megan Mellett, Nayelis Milian, Matheny resident Jessica Evans, Mira Patla, and Madeleine Acevedo.

No one remembers when the Bedminster School eighth grade class began volunteering at Matheny. But, the tradition started at least 15 years ago and continues to thrive. “I really enjoy the experience of making friends,” said Mira Patla, one of six volunteers at Matheny on Wednesday, February 17. “It’s also a learning experience,” she added. “You get to join in the lives of people and get to know them.”

During the recent visit, the volunteers made “happy cards” for the Matheny residents and also spent some quality time with some of the adults with whom they have become most friendly.

The Bedminster volunteers come to Matheny every Wednesday afternoon, just one of many school groups that visit Matheny residents on a regular basis. For more information, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 282, or email


Eighteen artists from The Matheny School and Adult Services program will be represented in the Morris Museum’s Access-ABILITY series that showcases fine art created by artists with disabilities. From February 18-21, artwork created by students in The Matheny High School art and transition classes and the Adult Services ceramics class will be on display at the museum. The exhibition will be launched with a reception at the museum from 6-8 p.m. on February 18. Tickets are free at the door, and light refreshments will be served.

The high school artwork will be from a self-portrait photography project. Students, according to art teacher Felicia Querrey, used a front-facing camera and a photo booth application on the classroom iPads to take self-portrait photos.

The transition class created paper pressed frames. The paper making process, explained transition teacher Darlene Tammara, was a progressive one in which the students shredded, blended, and scooped and sponged raw material in order to create paper of varied colors and textures.

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Adult resident Andy Lash is one of the artists represented in the ceramics exhibition.

In the Adult Services ceramics classes, according to instructor Jodi Miguel, students created functional pottery and sculptural works through hand building techniques of pinching, coiling, and slab building. Students also created works thrown on a wheel with the use of adaptive equipment.

Long-Term Partnership

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Employees of Home Depot, Oldstone Building Materials, and Matheny gather at one of the Home Depot Bridgewater stores to celebrate their partnership.

What started out as a routine volunteer activity has developed into a solid, long-term partnership between The Home Depot and Matheny. Volunteers from Home Depot stores have planted gardens, spruced up our nature trail and ballfields, and, with the help of Oldstone Building Materials, installed new pavers in the patio area in front of the main entrance. But that’s just the beginning. Home Depot volunteers will be back in the spring to tackle a bunch of new projects.

Matheny employees visited one of Home Depot’s Bridgewater, NJ, stores recently to hand out certificates of appreciation and cement what has become a very strong relationship. We expressed thanks for Home Depot’s “dedication and commitment to our children and adults with special needs. The volunteer services you have performed have greatly enhanced their quality of life.”

How Sweet It Is!

After a 23-year run, John Tompkins of Basking Ridge, NJ, retired from his career on Wall Street. In April 2011, he started a new career inspired by his love for the caramels a childhood friend’s mother had made. His company, based in Randolph, NJ, is called JT’s Confections, and he modestly claims that, “My caramels are the best caramels you will ever eat.” He expanded from caramels into pecan clusters consisting of caramel poured over roasted pecans and hand dipped in rich chocolate.

The confections business, he says, “is so very different from Wall Street. Your competitors want to see you succeed!” Tompkins has succeeded, and he has also used his new vocation as a way of giving back to the community, providing candy to help nonprofits raise funds. Tompkins’s daughter, Georgia, a student at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, is an active member of the Junior Friends of Matheny, a group consisting mainly of Ridge and Bernards High School students who volunteer and raise money for Matheny.


From left, Junior Friend Sarah Desatnick, John Tompkins, and Georgia Tompkins. Desatnick, also a Ridge student from Basking Ridge, is the sister of Matheny resident, Bryan Desatnick.

For Valentine’s Day, Tompkins is donating 100 boxes of clusters to the Junior Friends, who will sell them at $33 a box. “And if they sell more,” he says, “I’ll try to fill the order.” The Junior Friends of Matheny is open to all high school age volunteers. Its mission is to support Matheny through both fundraisers and volunteering and to bring awareness and acceptance of children and adults with disabilities.

Five Days of Fun

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Some of the Mardi Gras masks from last year’s celebration.

Once again the Verve Bistro in Somerville, NJ, will donate partial proceeds from its annual Mardi Gras celebration to Matheny. The five-day Mardi Gras celebration begins on Thursday, February 4. On that day — plus Friday, February 5, and Saturday, February 6 — the restaurant will feature food specials of New Orleans, Venice and Brazil. Diners will also have the opportunity to bid on Mardi Gras masks.

On Sunday, February 7, a Gumbo Cook Off will take place from 1-5 p.m., ending just in time for football fans to get home for the Super Bowl. Contestants are invited to bring two gallons of their best gumbo to Verve by 1 p.m. in order to enter. The Gumbo Buffet that follows will cost $10. Fat Tuesday, February 9, will offer “prizes, gaudy decorations, and cheap plastic trinkets.” And, everyone who bid on masks will find out who the winners were

Last year, Verve raised $2,000 for Matheny. To make reservations during the Mardi Gras celebration, call (908) 707-8655 and be sure to mention Matheny.

Holding Court

There were three-point attempts from several rows back in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center auditorium, layups and jump shots on the stage, and a helping hand for Matheny students and patients, who were playing adapted basketball games. It was all part of the annual visit to Matheny by members of the Delbarton School varsity basketball team.

Participation in sports is very important to Matheny’s students and patients who compete in Special Olympics, play a variety of adapted sports, and often attend high school, college, and professional games as part of Matheny’s recreation therapy program. The Delbarton visit is greatly anticipated every year, stoking competitive fires and resulting in a lot of fun and camaraderie.

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Davis Bell, left, gives Matheny student Shane Szott some tips, while his Delbarton teammate Kevin Schroeder looks on.

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Dan Cimaglia helps Matheny student Ryan O’Connor shoot a basket.

Delbarton is an independent college preparatory school in Morristown, NJ, for boys, grades 7-12.


A CARS Christmas

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Matheny group home resident Jenny Cox receives presents from Jason Boege of Farmingdale, NJ; Santa Claus (Tom Brophy of Randolph), and Shari Comerford of Jackson.

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CARS volunteers gathered with Matheny residents and staff for a group photo at the end of a fun-filled day.

In 1974, auto racing photographer Ace Lane, Jr. and three other auto racing enthusiasts founded the Committee of Auto Racing Supporters (CARS). For the past 41 years, the CARS organization has not only been dedicated to car racing; its members have gone out of their way to cheer up the children and adults at Matheny during the holiday season.

Every year, CARS volunteers throw a Christmas party for residents of Matheny and its group homes, bringing presents for those who do not have strong family connections during the holidays. The most recent CARS Christmas Party was held on Saturday, December 19, and the dining room at Matheny was filled with the Christmas spirit as the CARS members, from all over New Jersey and neighboring states, brought gifts and holiday cheer to Matheny’s students and patients.

Make Your Year-End Donation

Your generosity will help kids, teens, and adults with disabilities like four-year-old Rishu, one of the many children whose lives have been vastly improved because of the programs and services provided by Matheny.

Make your tax-deductible gift before midnight December 31.



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Thanks Again, Home Depot!


Home Depot paving crew.


Bridgewater Promenade store manager John Pingitore with Matheny student Jenna Poleyeff.

Oldcastle Building Materials provided the pavers, and a large group of Home Depot volunteers provided the muscle and additional materials and equipment as they installed the pavers in the front of Matheny’s main building to give a new look to the patio area.

This is not the first time Home Depot has supported Matheny by helping to improve the grounds and facilities. Back in April, a group of employees from both Bridgewater, NJ, stores planted gardens for a Matheny School project and performed major makeovers on the nature trail and ball field. This time, they were assisted by volunteers from additional Home Depot stores in Dover, Roxbury, and Watchung, NJ.

Once again, Home Depot lived up to its motto that, “Giving back is a fundamental value of The Home Depot and a passion for its associates.”


Friendly Holiday Spirit

Each year during the holiday season The Friends of Matheny makes sure that every residential room at Matheny has a holiday wreath on the door. Several members of The Friends gathered on December 2 to fluff out the wreaths and them ready for distribution.

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Friends, from left: Karen Thompson, Nancy Hojnacki, Kathy Sisto, Helen Fallone, and Linda Horton

The Friends of Matheny is dedicated to providing support to Matheny. Since its inception in 1983, the volunteer organization has raised more than $3 million to support Matheny’s programs and services.

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