Judy Wussler, a long-time resident of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, is no stranger to the building that sits at 330 South Avenue. When she was a child, she attended elementary school in that building before it was converted into Children’s Specialized Hospital years later. Now, the establishment is home to the First Children School.
In 1977, Wussler began volunteering at the Children’s Specialized Hospital Mountainside Facility in Mountainside, NJ. She explained, “The Medical Director and Recreation Coordinator for Children’s formed a playgroup where kids would come and socialize before being pulled out for therapies. Children ages 5-6 were brought in by their parents twice a week for therapeutic services and I was luckily placed as a volunteer in the preschool to help with things like socialization and other nursery school activities.”
The same year, the state of New Jersey required all school districts to provide educational and therapeutic services for children ages 3 and up, with special needs. By September 1978, Children’s Specialized Hospital received certification from the State Department of Education to begin operating as an accredited school for children with disabilities. The hospital hired a Special Education teacher. Judy became the full-time teaching assistant for them.
After 10 years, Children’s Specialized Hospital decided to open an Outpatient Center. The company purchased 330 South Avenue in Fanwood, New Jersey. Judy realized she would be working at a building she once attended school in.
Joseph J. Hess acquired Children’s Specialized Hospital in July 2009. Judy began working as School Coordinator for First Children School. Her responsibilities as School Coordinator included, but were not limited to, tracking and calculating sick and vacation time for school staff, handling transportation and busing for students, coordinating news and events and relaying information to staff and families, writing monthly newsletters, and answering phone calls. Her colleagues described her as detail-oriented, quick-witted, and resourceful. Everyone agreed that her attention to detail was like no other!
“Judy was the voice of First Children. She was the first voice you’d hear when you call the school,” says Ellen D’Amato, School Psychologist & Clinical Administrator, “for our families, she was always there to answer any questions, deliver messages and respond to requests.”
Judy retired in 2019 but still frequently visits the school. The friendships she has made over the last 20 years are special to both her and former staff. One of her former employees shared, “Judy is a role model to all of us! It was a pleasure working with her for 22 years and continuing our friendship after her retirement.”
Judy has left a remarkable legacy in the halls of the building that sits at 330 South Avenue and we’re excited for her to visit the new First Children School currently under construction in Plainfield and set to open in 2024!