Department for Persons with Disabilities
A Catholic Charities Agency in the Diocese of Paterson
Providing Help...Creating Hope
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March 5, 1965: Department establishedWehrlen and Navagh 1965

The Department is established by Bishop James J. Navagh – Father John Wehrlen named Executive Director.

"I know that your zeal for these members of the Church, for whom Our Lord showed a special love, will be extremely beneficial to them and to God’s kingdom," wrote Bishop Navagh instating Father Wehrlen as DPD’s first Executive Director.

May 3, 1965: Main Office opens

DPD Main Office opens at 597 Valley Road, Clifton (corner of Valley Road and Van Houten Avenue – Old St. Philip the Apostle Church) – Coordination of Catechetics (religious education)

January 16, 1967: Gruenert Nursery opens

Named in memory of Paul Gruenert – deceased husband of Special Education professor Dr. Marietta Gruenert at Paterson State College (presently called William Paterson University) – Nursery for young children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

June 29, 1969: Camp Alexander opensGruenert Nursery

Named in memory of Rosalyn Alexander – a girl with developmental disabilities from Paterson who attended Gruenert Nursery.  Location: West Milford. The camp living quarters and recreational centers were built with mostly volunteer help, primarily with volunteers from the Newman Club of Paterson.

September 19, 1971: Murray House opens

Murray House (389-391 Main Street, Paterson) – named in memory of James J. Murray, Jr. a boy with disabilities from Paterson who died in 1969. Murray House was renovated with volunteer help of Hoffman La Roche personnel. Murray House is currently the longest running group home in New Jersey serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program was staffed and maintained by volunteers for the first 10 years.

"It seems like it was only yesterday when Murray House opened. We were searching for an identity.  Young Jimmie Murray had just died. We thought it fitting that the facility be named for one of God’s Special People.  All people are important in the eyes of God.  We were proud to be right in the heart of Paterson, sharing our important ministry," said Monsignor John Wehrlen at Murray House’s 40thAnniversary Celebration in 2011.

September 1, 1972: Navagh Adult Opportunity Center opens

Navagh Adult Opportunity Center (named in memory of Bishop James J. Navagh, the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Paterson) was a day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  It was located on 14 Jackson Street, Paterson, it had previously been located in the basement of Murray House.

June 23, 1973: Dedication of Wiegand FarmCamp 1

Dedication of Wiegand Farm, Weldon Road, Jefferson Township (Oak Ridge Section) – named in memory of Peter Wiegand, a boy with disabilities from Montclair. Camp Alexander in West Milford closed and moved to a more suitable location in Oak Ridge.

June 16, 1974: Dedication of New Camp Alexander and Gruenert Adult Opportunity Center

Dedication of New Camp Alexander and Gruenert Adult Opportunity Center (opened in the fall of 1974). Located at Wiegand Farm.  Built and run mostly by volunteers.

1976: Finnegan House opensOld Murray 3

Finnegan House opens. It is named in memory of John Finnegan, a supporter of the Department who was a member of the Optimist Club of Jefferson Township. Built to be a group home for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities – located at Wiegand Farm (Originally licensed for 10 people).

July 1977: Wayne Marathon House opens

Wayne Marathon House opens at 648 Black Oak Ridge Road, Wayne. It was given this name because of a weekend long basketball marathon run by the Wayne Hills High School and Wayne Valley High School One-to-One Group. The group raised $40,000 which was used to purchase the home. One-to-One was a national group which helped community homes for people with disabilities to get started. Wayne Marathon House was licensed for 9 people.

1980: Alexander House, Columbus House, and Gruenert Center (new location) openNavagh Center

All open at site of closed Camp Alexander. Columbus House was dedicated to the Knights of Columbus for their support to the Department. Both Alexander House and Columbus House were licensed for 8 residents.

1981: NJ Division of Mental Retardation ruling

NJ Division of Mental Retardation (presently called Division of Developmental Disabilities) mandates that there must be paid staff on at all times, thereby "moving" the department from a mostly volunteer agency to a primarily paid staff agency.

January 1983: Tom Barrett named Executive Director

Thomas Barrett (Director of Murray House for three years) named by Bishop Frank J. Rodimer as Executive Director.

December 13, 1986: Basile Apartments opens

Opens after six months of renovation at 387 Grand Street, Paterson. Named in memory of Michael Basile, Sr. Michael was an employee of the Department of Special Education for 13 years until his death in 1983. Two supervised apartments - 3 adults with developmental disabilities.

December 1986: Department accredited for four years by the Council on Accreditation (COA)Finnegan House Opening

COA is the largest independent accrediting body of social and mental health service agencies in the country.

June 23, 1988: Name of agency changed

The name of the agency was changed from Department of Special Education to Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD). This was done to more accurately reflect our mission to serve adults with disabilities rather than providing special education

1989: Kelleher Supervised Apartments are openedMurray House Move

The program was established in rented garden apartment units in Wayne. It was named in memory of Joseph Kelleher who was an individual with intellectual disabilities who lived at Wayne Marathon House.

1989: Wehrlen House is opened

Opened in West Milford, named in honor of our founder, Msgr. John B. Wehrlen.

1991: "People Need Friends" Volunteer Program founded

Founded by Sr. Joan Kathleen Gercke, SSJ.  The program now has over 100 volunteers. 

1992: Murray House relocates to Clifton

Moves to Allwood Place. Accommodates 6 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

1999: Fitzpatrick House opens

Opened in 1999, in Pompton Lakes. Five men from the community moved into this ranch style home. Fitzpatrick House was named in honor of Msgr. John E. Fitzpatrick, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Oak Ridge and strong supporter of the work of DPD.

2000: Wallace House opens in Sparta

Wallace House becomes our first program in Sussex County. Named after Joe Wallace, a Knight of Columbus and longtime supporter of DPD.

2001: Calabrese House opensFitzpatrick House Dedication

Calabrese House opens in Parsippany. Five men and women from the community moved into this group home named in memory of Dominick A. Calabrese. Dominick was a Past State Deputy of the NJ Knights of Columbus. Dominick was a longtime supporter of DPD, an advocate for people with developmental disabilities and helped DPD raise over $100,000 through his "Dream" fundraiser.

2006: Wayne Marathon House moves to Pompton Lakes and is renamed Barnet House

Wayne Marathon House was sold and the residents moved from Wayne to 52 Lenox Ave in Pompton Lakes. This house was once the friary of the Franciscan priests at St. Mary’s Church. Wayne Marathon house was renamed "Barnet House" and was dedicated on January 30, 2006. Barnet House was named after longtime DPD physician Dr. Lawrence Barnet.

2006: COA accreditation preliminary self-study

DPD is one of the first agencies in the country to complete its COA accreditation preliminary self-study online.  The DPD system, a client tracking database, is licensed by eleven other state agencies.

December 2008: Tom Barrett promoted – Julie Tatti named Executive Director

In December, Tom Barrett, longtime Executive Director of DPD, is offered the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Diocese of Paterson by Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson. Julie Tatti is appointed Executive Director of DPD by Bishop Serratelli.

February 2011: Julie Tatti retires - Scott Milliken named Executive DirectorBarnet House

Julie A. Tatti retires as Executive Director of DPD after 40 years of service.  Scott Milliken is appointed as the new Executive Director by Bishop Serratelli  

June, 2011: Activity Center rededicated - Memorial Garden constructed

DPD re-dedicated the pool and All Purpose Room in honor of Julie A. Tatti and Thomas A. Barrett, former Executive Directors. The pool building was renamed "Julie A. Tatti and Thomas A. Barrett Activity Center."  A new memorial garden was constructed outside of the Activity Center including engraved pavers in memory of deceased residents and in honor of benefactors.

September, 2012:  The Saturdays at the Center program begins

The program provides educational and recreational opportunities for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in the community. 

2014: Support Coordination Program initiated 

DPD officially begins Support Coordination for families and individuals looking for services in Sussex County.

June, 2015: Gruenert Center Special Needs Program Opens 

This program operates out of Gruenert Center in Lake Hopatcong and serves individuals with autism and people who are in need of more individualized support. 

December, 2016: Giuliano House opensGiuliano House 7

Giuliano House is DPD’s 12th residential program.  The house, is named in honor of Dr.  Joseph Giuliano, longtime DPD dentist, benefactor and board member.  The program provides care for four individuals with intellectual disabilities and advanced physical needs who had been living in state-run institutions.

March 5, 2016: DPD Celebrates 50 Years of “Providing Help and Creating Hope”

DPD celebrates it’s 50th Anniversary making it one of the longest-running organizations serving people with intellectual disabilities in the United States.  DPD is the only Catholic organization in the state of New Jersey providing care for people with special needs.

COA 1986

"No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down and lifting someone else up.  DPD understands this very well, and seeing the need of persons with disabilities they have embraced the opportunity to help those in their community and state who need a helping hand.  Congratulations on fifty years of superb service. Keep up the great work," wrote President George H.W. Bush on the occasion of DPD's 50th Anniversary.