Helping People Get Back On Track
BY TRONE DOWD
Diane Gonzalez, the CEO of the Queens Village Committee for Mental Health for J-CAP Inc. (J-CAP) has dedicated her life to serving, returning the goodwill that was once afforded to her decades ago back to the nation’s most vulnerable.
Both JCAP and Gonzalez will be honored by the PRESS of Southeast Queens during the paper’s upcoming Black History Month awards and breakfast.
Founded by former Southeast Queens Councilman Thomas White Jr., J-CAP has worked to help those dealing with drug and alcohol addiction acclimate to sobriety. Through various programs, vocational training, paid professionals, productive volunteer work and a live-in residence, J-CAP has helped numerous people get their lives back on track.
Over its 35 year tenure, the program has helped more than 1,000 people per year in New York City and beyond.
“We have people from Long Island, Florida, Puerto Rico and New York City,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez knows first-hand about the kind of opportunities at a second chance that J-CAP can provide. She told the PRESS of Southeast Queens that she was once a client in her early teens at the age of 14.
“I was part of a prevention program,” she said. “After my parents found out that I was smoking weed and doing some other drugs, they put me in that program.”
It was through J-CAP that Gonzalez met White, who recommended that she carry out her time in the program in Millbrook at Daytop Village. Over time, the two became good friends, kicking off Gonzalez’s tenure at the organization.
“It was 27 years ago that he asked me to come and work for him,” she recalled. “I started out as a counselor at a luncheon program. I was doing prevention for youths, helping with the big city initiative—keeping kids from getting arrested, helping them with truancy and helping them develop relationships with their families.
She quickly rose through the ranks at the organization, working as director until White died in 2010. She became White’s successor, carrying on the legacy that the former councilman spent most of his life building.
Under her leadership, J-CAP has grown in several ways. It is the only organization of its kind with its own Lions Club International chapter. The chapter teaches clients about the importance of civic duties and volunteerism.
Over the past eight years, J-CAP has also forged a partnership with the 113th Precinct and former PRESS of Southeast Queens Black History Month honoree Community Affairs Sgt. Tanya Duhaney. Rookie officers now work alongside clients in their volunteer work, developing relationships and helping the community. J-CAP also helps with the city Police Department’s National Night Out and other police events in Southeast Queens.
J-CAP even had its own hour-long television program airing on Telemundo known as Salvando Vidas Con J-CAP (Saving Lives With J-CAP). The show focused on educating viewers about substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery.
Reach reporter Trone Dowd via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.