A Passion for Caring That Has Never Wavered

VNA Health Group, the region's premier provider of community health services, began with a meeting of volunteers on June 24, 1912 at Brookdale Farm, the Lincroft, NJ estate of Geraldine L. Thompson.

The young organization set out to improve prison conditions and achieve a more humane approach to public assistance. In the early years it successfully campaigned for a tuberculosis hospital (Allenwood Sanitarium), and was appointed agent for the NJ Tuberculosis League.

From the beginning, the healthcare needs of women and children were a paramount concern. In its first decade, the agency completed a study of mentally handicapped children in the public schools; it launched child welfare programs and established mobile dental clinics and mobile mental health clinics. Public health nurses were added to the social work staff, and the agency established a county district health office.

In 1918 the agency adopted the name Monmouth County Organization for Social Service (MCOSS).

However, the agency has always been a voluntary, non-profit organization and is not a branch of county government.

VNA Nurses in the 1930s.

Accomplishments of the second decade included the addition of three satellite health centers and a continuing focus on services for children: well-child conferences, nutrition and parenting programs, and establishment of a children's shelter.

The '30s brought a training program for student nurses, nursery and play schools at the Hartshorne Health Center in Belford to assist working mothers, and an expansion of services for handicapped children. The agency also assisted Fitkin Hospital (now Jersey Shore Medical Center) in establishing a social service department.

During the war years, MCOSS spearheaded a pioneering medical-dental plan for veterans. In the late '40s the agency participated in organizing the Cancer Society, Heart Association and Cerebral Palsy Treatment Center in the county. The agency's program to provide healthcare for migrant workers received national recognition.

In the following decade, the agency participated in the Salk Vaccine Testing Program and gave field training to graduate nursing students from Rutgers and Columbia Universities.

In the '60s, the agency and the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders worked out a plan for countywide bedside nursing care. An active Southern Monmouth Auxiliary opened the doors of the Thrift Shop in Manasquan in 1960.

The high quality of nursing, the aging of the population, the growing costs of hospital care and advances in-home care technology led to explosive growth in-home care in NJ services in the '70s and '80s. In 1988, the agency expanded to serve the people of Middlesex County through acquisition of the Visiting Nurse Association in Middlesex. In an effort to make the organization's identity clear in both Middlesex County and Monmouth County, the agency's trustees voted in December, 1993 to adopt the name

In 1949, Eleanor Roosevelt accompanied her friend Geraldine Thompson to the site of the agency's new Red Bank Health Center, which was dedicated in 1950. Among those reviewing the plans were agency Executive Director Winona Darrah, far left; Mrs. Roosevelt, center; Mrs. Thompson (in the white hat); and Monmouth County Freeholder Director James S. Parkes, far right.

Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey (VNACJ). A visiting nurse association is a freestanding, community-based, non-profit organization governed by a volunteer board of trustees, providing intermittent care in the home and helping to support itself through fundraising.                       

Over the years, the agency has had only six presidents. Geraldine Thompson was succeeded by Louise Bodman (1952-54), who was followed by Laura Harding (1954-70), Catherine Carton (1970-74), Ellen N. Adams (1974-77), Judith Stanley Coleman (chairman, 1977-2010) and in 2011, the first male chairman was elected, Thomas M. Thees (chairman, 2011 - present). 

Significant developments of the '80s and '90s included the founding of the VNA hospice program; growth of the rehabilitation therapy services department; and establishment of primary care centers staffed by nurse practitioners. In 1988, our hospice care in NJ program was certified by Medicare, and now serves more than 1,500 terminally ill patients and their families annually.

From the beginning, VNACJ was concerned with the welfare of children. In this photograph from the late 1920s, Grace Mott, RN instructed a new mother in baby care.

VNA of Central Jersey moved into the 21st century at the leading edge of home care technology. Nurses and therapists now chart their patients' progress on laptop computers, enhancing communications among professionals and giving nurses more time to interact with their patients. In 2003, to promote increased interaction with the Middlesex County communities, the agency established a Middlesex County Board of Trustees. In 2008, VNA of Central Jersey joined with Visiting Nurse and Hospice Services and partnered with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital to enhance and expand home and community care options for the residents of Mercer, Somerset, Union, Burlington, Gloucester and Camden counties. In 2009, Essex Valley Visiting Nurse Association, serving residents in Essex and Hudson counties, joined the VNACJ family. In 2010, VNA of Central Jersey formed a joint venture with Cape Regional Medical Center to provide home care services to the residents of Cape May County under the name Cape Visiting Nurse Association.

In 2011, to better reflect the organization's expanded growth and its full impact on the communities of New Jersey, VNA of Central Jersey, its affiliates and partners joined together as Visiting Nurse Association Health Group and added, its most recent member VNA of Englewood, a joint venture with VNA Health Group and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center serving the residents of greater Berger County.

Today, VNA Health Group is the state's largest non-profit community health provider of home health, hospice and community services and affords care to New Jersey's residents throughout the state.

To learn more about the VNA Health Group programs and services  click here or call us at 800-400-0981. For more in-depth information about our history in the community, read our Centennial Sentiments.

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