Our mission is to empower young adults with spinal cord injuries to
reclaim their maximum level of independence.
When Cheshire Home opened in October of 1981 in Florham Park, NJ, it provided an alternative to life in geriatric nursing homes for young adults with quadriplegia, paraplegia, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and associative conditions.
Having a unique group style home as an option for housing, permanently changed the landscape of the lives of young people with life-long disabilities.
The following is a timeline of Cheshire Home through the last four decades.
The idea to bring the Cheshire Home concept to the United States took hold in the early 1970s. The concept is based on the belief that physically handicapped young adults can live together in a home-like atmosphere and have a semi-independent lifestyle. The Cheshire Homes movement began in England after World War II to shelter homeless and disabled veterans. It spread to a network of 60 in England with an equal number in 20 other countries. Friends of Cheshire Home was formed in February of 1971 to help raise money to build a Cheshire Home in New Jersey. The board included three physicians, two professors, an attorney, an architect, a nurse, a social worker to physically disabled people and several other community leaders.
Dr. Margaret Symonds, Medical Director of Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, originally from England, introduced Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, V.C. and the Cheshire Home movement to other passionate individuals in New Jersey. Katherine Akers, Lucille Fennelly, Berta Numata and Professor David Graybeal of Drew University were other key players in bringing the dream of building a Cheshire Home in the United States to fruition.
Katherine Akers, the first Chairman of Cheshire Home’s Board of Trustees and the Friends of Cheshire Home began their mission to bring a Cheshire “Home” to Morris County. “The unique feature of the whole idea is that the residents will be involved in management and operation of the Homes so they have some control of their own destinies,” Mrs. Akers said.
Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, V.C., the decorated English war hero who had funded worldwide homes, and a group of Morris area residents held a reception at Grace Episcopal Church in Madison to discuss the possibility of getting such a home in this area. Cheshire Homes are well known in England for their care of the disabled.
Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, V.C., founder of the Cheshire Homes movement, works with the Friends of Cheshire Home to plan for the construction of the handicapped facility. Cheshire, an English World War II hero who flew with the Royal Air Force, started the movement shortly after the war ended. He said he tried to set up a home to integrate veterans back into society, but the plan failed, and he was left with the house and a mortgage.
Then a local hospital called and asked him to take care of a veteran who was dying of cancer and Cheshire brought him to the house. Cheshire took more handicapped persons into his home and from that first home came the Cheshire Home movement which now has 70 homes in England.
Cheshire said that homes for the handicapped should provide the opportunity for everyone “to flower and grow in their own way. And the home must be part and parcel of the local community.”
December 1979 – January 1980
Fundraising efforts yielded a $100,000 grant from the Mary Anderson Trust of Philadelphia, $20,000 grant from Merck and Co., $15,000 grant from the John J. and Eliza Watson Foundation of Elizabeth, and a $5,000 grant from the Suburban Propane Gas Co.
Exxon Research & Engineering Co. of Florham Park donates three acres of land off Ridgedale Avenue in Florham Park. Architect Steven DeRocchi of the J. Robert Hillier Group of Princeton designed the 35-bed facility. The $1.8 million facility is expected to be completed in one year.
Ground is broken for the first Cheshire Home in the United States. “The idea is not to create an atmosphere of independence, but freedom of choice,” British Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, V.C., founder of Cheshire Homes said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The “inconspicuous” building being constructed near Madison High School will be 100% barrier free. The 20,000 square foot building contains 17 single bedrooms and nine double bedrooms arranged around a center section. Work areas for hobbies and crafts, a library, kitchenette, dens, bathing areas, a common dining room and a recreation space are also part of the plan.
“From sharing the struggles of a person less fortunate we can build unity in the divided human family,” Cheshire said.
Just prior to opening its doors, Cheshire Home becomes one of the last stops on the Continental Quest, a cross-country trek being made by Phil Carpenter and George Murray. Both confined to wheelchairs, the men were completing the 3,400 mile crossing in honor of 1981 being the International Year of Disabled Persons. Mr. Carpenter became paralyzed in 1972 during a water-skiing accident and Mr. Murray was paralyzed in a hunting accident at the age of 14.
When the two heard about the “innovative residence for young disabled adults”, they changed their route to meet with Professor David Graybeal of Drew University and others
who had been working for over 10 years to bring the Cheshire Home dream to reality. The men were guests at Cheshire Home’s Opening Reception held days before opening its doors to residents.
Both men, fierce competitors in wheelchair sports, pushed themselves 26.2 miles a day to complete the journey. A few days after celebrating the opening of Cheshire Home, Murray and Carpenter finished the Continental Quest with an official visit to the United Nations in New York City, the original proclaimer of the International Year of Disabled Persons.
Captain Leonard Cheshire, V.C. was on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Grand Opening of Cheshire Home. Capt. Cheshire is recognized as the founder of the worldwide effort to serve handicapped young adults through non-profit, self-governing residential communities that offer health care while fostering the desire for self-reliance and involvement in society.
Cheshire Home’s first 35 residents were selected from among
hundreds of applicants.
The barrier-free home is the first to be designed and built as the first Cheshire Home in this country. In four other locations in the United States, older structures have been converted for use as Cheshire facilities.
Cheshire Home, located at 9 Ridgedale Avenue, Florham Park, New Jersey was built at a final cost of $2.25 million.
Officials of Cheshire Home confirm they are planning to build a new six resident home in Parsippany, New Jersey called Cheshire II. The facility, designed by architect Robert Heintz of Short Hills, is a barrier free ranch style building with ramps instead of stairs. Once renovated, each resident will have their own room and there will be additional space for live-in staff. The atmosphere at Cheshire II will be more independent and still reflects Cheshire’s commitment to providing a quality living environment for adults with disabilities.
Cheshire Cats, a program devoted to informing the public about the problems of the disabled is formed. Through simulated activities, the Cats demonstrate difficulties persons in wheelchairs face every day. The one-and-a-half-hour program is presented to more than 4,000 people in Morris and Essex Counties ‑ Cub Scouts, Brownies, school classes, church groups, and civic organizations. A video entitled “Just Ask” featured residents of Cheshire Home.
Throughout Cheshire Home’s rich history, a solid core of volunteers has added immeasurably to the success of our mission. Always bringing a warm smile, a giving spirit, and a desire to help, our volunteers have touched many lives individually, and they have collectively, through group projects, helped us in a variety of ways to upgrade the quality of our living environment. In 1988, the volunteer support team was so impactful it was called a “force.”
Our onsite Community Resource Training Center (CRT Center) was established to serve residents. The Center offered a valuable opportunity for residents to explore new passions and revisit those from the past. Whether a resident wanted help with learning a skill, finding a job or just keeping up-to-date with modern technology, the CRT Center was the spot to be.
Continuing a long relationship, Exxon Research & Engineering Co. helps Cheshire Home celebrate its 10th Anniversary. Fostering relationships is the cornerstone of Cheshire Home’s foundation. Relationships formed through the spirit of giving and generosity are always very special, especially to a non-profit.
Cheshire Home is recognized by the community as a facility that allows handicapped young adults to achieve their maximum potential. Advocates for the disabled say that nursing homes are not ideal for young adults stating it “is a reduced quality-of-life issue.” Cheshire Home covers all aspects of a resident’s care providing on-site nursing care, mental health and emotional support, physical and occupational therapies, vocational and educational programs, transportation, recreation and more.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen from Harding, Florham Park Mayor Barbara Doyle, Cheshire Home Executive Director George Zeitler and Ed Moore, Cheshire Home’s Chairman of the Board are on hand for the symbolic groundbreaking of Cheshire III in Florham Park. The ceremony was held days after Cheshire Home celebrated its 15th Anniversary. A long-standing commitment to empowering young adults with spinal cord injuries, Cheshire III will provide a friendly environment for individuals transitioning into independent living.
Expansion and enhancement of transportation systems. Medical transport is Cheshire Home’s highest priority, our transportation service also represents independence to our residents. When expanding our fleet, minibuses were chosen to accommodate large wheelchairs. Purchasing new vehicles guaranteed their formats were fully accessible, a necessity to accommodate our active residents. Cheshire Home started to apply for grants from NJ Transit and the Federal Transportation Authority to off-set the cost of the minibuses.
Grant for capital campaign for Cheshire III.
Purchase of multipurpose ramp scale enabling residents to stay in their wheelchair when getting weighed. The scale deducts the weight of the chair for an accurate weight. Commercial grade washing and dryer was added to our housekeeping departments work room. The large scale of the machines allowed for increased efficiency.
New bedroom furniture for resident rooms. Our residents’ rooms are their safe havens where they spend a great deal of time. The purchase of new dressers and armoires added to the aesthetics of their rooms and gave residents ample storage for their belongings.
The purchase of the minivan allowed for the transport of one resident without having to employ the use of the six-seater van.
Renovation of two fully accessible resident shower rooms and common area restrooms. The renovation of the shower room included modifying the doors by enlarging them; adding motion sensor lighting; adding individual shower stall heating equipment and tiling the walls.
Purchase of minibus. Cheshire Home transportation services give residents the opportunity to travel by choice and maintain active lifestyles as they rehabilitate and work towards independence.
Cheshire Home purchases first bus allowing residents to travel together to events and social outings. Having accessible transportation gives residents the freedom to seek opportunities and activities outside of Cheshire Home.
Cheshire Home celebrates 30 years of being New Jersey’s premier provider of specialized care, offering a home for young adults with spinal cord injuries, providing them with medical, social, and rehabilitative services to empower them to reclaim their maximum level of independence.
Cheshire Home purchases a Roho Pressure Mapping System for the Physical & Occupational Therapy Center. Our licensed therapists and aides supervise each resident during their therapy sessions. They are dedicated to assisting each resident perform specific exercises to help improve their strength and mobility, which sets them on the path to their goals of independence.
The resident’s dining room in renovated. Socialization during meals is a major part of life and a necessary part of our resident’s recovery. The dining table are adjustable to accommodate different wheelchair heights making it easy for residents to pull right up to the table for a meal.
New heat exchange system is installed. Residents with spinal cord injuries have an inability to regulate their body temperatures. Always maintaining a comfortable temperature within our facility is crucial to the health of our residents.
A Bariatric stand in table is added to Physical & Occupational Therapy Center. Our team of licensed therapists are tuned into the needs of our residents. When residents can benefit from a machine, our therapists along with our Development Team, set out to turn a wish list into reality.
Cheshire Home’s lobby and reception area are renovated. The first impression of your home is something to take pride in. Cheshire’s entrance is the front door to 35 resident’s home. Renovation of the front area after 32 years breathed new life into the tired entryway.
Renovation of the nursing station and installation of environmentally sound air curtain at the entrance of the Cheshire Home. The environmentally sound air curtain maintains a barrier for outside air to enter the building when the front doors are open keeping the lobby and reception area free from drastic temperature swings.
New fire alarm system is installed. Cheshire Home is equipped with the most up-to-date system ensuring that staff is alerted as quickly as possible in the event of an emergency.
Accordion walls for Cheshire Home’s dining room are installed for partitioning the room into smaller sections for privacy and sound control. Having the capability to partition the dining room into three sections allows for the entire space to be utilized at the same time.
Performance Health Mat platform with removable mat added to the Physical & Occupational Therapy Center. Our therapists are in-tune with the latest technology and once a need is determined, our teams work together to make sure our Physical & Occupational Therapy Center has the equipment they need to assist the resident’s in reaching their goals.
Two vital sign monitors were purchased for the Nursing Department to expedite vital sign monitoring. Vital signs are taken numerous times during the day and not having to wait for a machine is crucial to staff efficiency. This addition to the nurses station was particularly important due to the additional care needed due to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
UpperTone machine is the latest addition to Cheshire Home’s Physical & Occupational Therapy Center. The UpperTone machine allows for unassisted muscle strengthening for quadriplegics and is a vital machine in their rehabilitation.
Cheshire Home introduces the Circle of Friends program to provide exclusive information, events, and discussions to its generous and dedicated supporters who contribute $1,000 or more each year to help create an even better tomorrow for Cheshire residents. The roundtable discussion events include speakers related to the topics at hand, such as spinal cord injuries and rehabilitation success and myths and facts about managing COVID-19.
Circle of Friends members receive exclusive invitations to round-table discussions featuring medical staff and residents, special events, meet & greets with board members, the first to know “what’s happening” at our Home and so much more! To learn more about the Circle of Friends program, or request information about becoming a member, please contact our Associate Director of Development, Kim Boyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheshire celebrates 40 years! Cheshire Home was formed to establish and operate not for profit residential specialized care facilities, services, and homes for young adults with physical disabilities, providing them with such medical, social, and rehabilitative services to empower young adults with spinal cord injuries to reclaim their maximum level of independence. Since 1981, Cheshire has served over 240 residents on their journey.
New call bell system and TVs arrive to upgrade technology. Each room will be equipped with a new HDTV and call system allowing for clear communication with the Nurses Station. The call bell system will automatically lower the volume on the resident’s TV when the Nurse’s Station calls the room making for better communication.
New rooftop air conditioning unit and COVID-19 ventilation system installed. Cheshire’s residents suffer from a physical complication unique to people suffering from spinal cord injuries, which is a lack of body temperature control. Our ability to maintain a safe and comfortable temperature throughout the facility is essential. Cheshire Home’s eight rooftop air conditioning units are over 25 years old and run 24 hours a day.
Separate from the air conditioning units, an air purification system that connects directly into the HVAC unit was purchased and installed. The purification system with UV light rays removes 99% of odors, air pollutants, mold, bacteria, and viruses.
Eight state-of-the-art hospital beds were purchased. All beds are equipped with a bell system integration for easier communication. The new beds support the many needs of our residents during their rehabilitation journey.
Cheshire Home’s 40th Anniversary Gala will be held at the Park Avenue Club on Thursday, November 10, 2022. For more information on the event, or to purchase tickets, please contact our Associate Director of Development, Kim Boyer at email@example.com.