Team South opens house, empowers members

By Rodney Lane, NJEA Communications Consultant 

A family picnic atmosphere served as an inspirational way to open a new UniServ office in Mount Laurel. The NJEA UniServ Region 3 field office there held an open house for the members on Sept. 30. The event featured both indoor and outdoor activities and helped build camaraderie among the members of the newly formed region.  

Members toured the new indoor facility, which includes multiple conference rooms for use by staff and members. In the largest room, Region 3 hosted various affinity group organizations and NJEA Members Benefits partners. Members staffed tables promoting the NJEA Members of Color Network and the NJEA Early Career Network-Team South. Sponsored vendors from both NEA and NJEA Member Benefits also greeted members, distributing materials about the services they provide at a discount.  

“The open house was an amazing opportunity for members from the newly formed
Region 3 to experience the brand-new space that is used to serve them,” said Lindenwold Education Association Co-President Ryan Strothers, who is also a Region 3 UniServ consultant. “We had an opportunity to bring together new members and our veteran members to share what is happening right here in South Jersey, and it’s incredible.”  

The new location will serve members from Burlington and Camden counties following the merging of UniServ regions 3 and 5 earlier this year. The new building merges the previous regions’ talented staff and into a single state-of-the-art facility.  

“Members get the best of the expertise of various staff full- and part-time staff members,” said Laurie Gibson-Parker, the vice president of the Camden County Council of Education Associations. “We are all really trying to impart members’ value to us as an organization.” Gibson-Parker is a teacher in Cherry Hill and represents New Jersey on the NEA Board of Directors.  

Dunk a director 

The outdoor portion of the event featured great food, powerful conversations and a dunk tank. Two vendors fed members at the event: Bubba-Que and Jeremiah’s Custom Cuisine. This unique contrast in foods offered something for everyone.  

The event was attended by NJEA Vice President Steve Beatty, NJEA Deputy Executive Director Kevin Kelleher,
as well as staff from headquarters in Trenton and regions 1, 2 and 3. The relaxed atmosphere fostered dialog among officers, staff and members.  

As congressional elections approach, NJEA Government Relations staff provided information on the importance of the NJEA Political Action Committee (NJEA PAC). NJEA PAC helps elect pro-public education candidates. 

“It was great to see members come out to the open house and not forget about our political efforts,” said Adam Sheridan, an associate director in the Government Relations Division. “It’s election season, and our PAC dollars are even more crucial than ever right now.” 

One of the highlights of the gathering was the dunk tank. As part of an NJEA PAC fundraiser, members could dunk NJEA UniServ South Director Patrick Manahan. Manahan heckled the throwers as they attempted to hit a target with baseballs and dunk him into the ice-cold tank on one of first frigid days this fall. After multiple hurlers tried to dunk Manahan, the heckling subsided as he was finally dunked again and again. One of the most skilled dunkers was Manahan’s son, Ryan, a teacher at Cherry Hill High School West.  

“Being able to interact and have so many authentic conversations with members was such a highlight and to see all of the happy and excited faces in such a beautiful space was definitely something I’ll never forget,”
Strothers said.