Campbell's® Chunky® is recognizing and celebrating everyday champions in our lives and communities for their tremendous work through the challenging times of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Today's spotlight is on Jean Toussant, a true Community Champion.
Toussant serves as house manager at a YCS home for four young men with acute developmental disabilities in West Orange, N.J. Although his work with the organization started in 2014, Toussant truly exemplifies the selfless compassion, dedication, & courage of YCS' front-line heroes since the lockdown began last March.
Last April, one of the young men in the home, Yasir, became critically ill with the coronavirus and was hospitalized. Toussant and a co-worker quickly volunteered to quarantine at the home for 14 days with the other residents to make sure all of their needs were met and they remained safe. After Yasir finally returned home, Toussant personally cared for him while advocating for him at doctor's visits.
Toussant and his staff have gone above and beyond since that time to ensure the residents stay in high spirits despite the obstacles the pandemic has created. It is because of these efforts that Campbell's and the New York Giants have chosen to honor Toussant and his tremendous work with YCS.
As a token of gratitude, Giants legend David Tyree surprised Toussant on a video conference call to thank him for all he has done for his community.
"We're here to celebrate this amazing individual and his commitment and his effort to serve as part of such a wonderful organization like YCS…" Tyree said. "I just wanted to acknowledge your commitment, your effort as a part of this amazing organization. On behalf of the Giants, Campbell's and YCS, I'm really thrilled and honored to share a little bit of Zoom time, a little bit of virtual love and continue to celebrate the great work, the energy that's being done here, and to honor you today in regard to your commitment."
Toussant arrived at YCS as a personal assistant in 2014 after joining the US Army and spending eight years as a cook and lab technician at a medical facility. He took the position because he wanted a job where he could help others who were not able to care for themselves. It is clear that Toussant has made an amazing impact on his residents.
"You have gone above and beyond in that your sincere commitment and heartfelt service is incrementally changing the world and impacting lives," Tyree said.
In addition to surprising Toussant with a special virtual visit from the hero of Super Bowl XLII, the Giants and Campbell's provided him with an array of gifts to acknowledge all of his hard work. The Giants also made a donation to YCS in Toussant's name.
"What we're doing here today is making a contribution, a donation in light of your commitment and name Jean, to the continued service of YCS and the mission of serving…" Tyree told Toussant. "You're a man of impact, and there will be great work that will continue to be done because of your commitment. This day is all about you."
Since 1918, YCS has been providing behavioral health services to countless New Jersey families who have children, from birth to adulthood, with special needs. Some of the children at YCS group homes are separated from their loved ones and have been affected by trauma; others are challenged by intellectual and developmental disabilities that adversely affect their behavior. Many families receive intensive in-home and community support that enables their families to stay together. Currently, YCS operates approximately 55 educational, community-based, in home and residential programs across the Garden State.
"First, let me say thank you, everybody. I really appreciate this, even though it wasn't done in that spirit," Toussant said. "When it was being done, it just so happened that your family needed some help, and you had to choose who needed you more. It was something that just happened. We do what we're supposed to be doing, what we can to make sure they get the care that they need. I have to say it wasn't just a one-person thing. It was a team thing. … There were a lot of people behind the scenes that were helping. We had people that cooked for us and dropped off the food. It was a group effort."
Toussant's dedication to his work with YCS has directly impacted the lives of the residents. Through his commitment to helping those around him, Toussant truly exemplifies what it means to be a Community Champion.