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50 People To Know: Montclair Mom On A Mission To Promote Community Inclusion For People With Disabilities

MONTCLAIR, N.J. (WCBS 880) – Montclair mother Wendy Lacey just became a landlord.

She bought a building. But her business model is a little different.

"The mission of this business is to promote more community inclusion for people with disabilities," she tells Sean Adams.

Wendy Lacey
(Credit: Sean Adams/WCBS Newsradio 880)

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She calls this venture Cornerstone Montclair.

"The rent rates in this building are very low, compared to the rest of the market," she says. "That's an incentive. And what I ask in return, contractually, is that people do something to promote more community inclusion."

Specifically, inclusion for people with disabilities.

"I have four young children and my second daughter, Evelyn, happens to have Down syndrome," she says.

Cornerstone Montclair
(Credit: Sean Adams/WCBS Newsradio 880)

Lacey has created a place where her daughter and her daughter's friends can work, volunteer and socialize.

"It's not a 'special ed building,'" she says. "It is a building that has a lot of different activities going on, that happens to go out of its way to include people with disabilities."

So far, there's a fitness and sports center, speech therapist, autism learning clinic, and an art gallery. There are plenty of opportunities for people with special needs to pitch in and contribute.

"The fact is my daughter needs community service hours, as well, and she wants to help other people, too," she says. "So I don't – I want to send the message that people with disabilities don't want to be looked at as victims. They want to be looked at as contributors, and they want to be empowered and respected."

Even though the rents are low, this is a for-profit business. However, Lacey says all of that money will go right back to Cornerstone's programs.

"I want to send the message that you don't have to be a nonprofit to do the right thing for your community," she says.

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