Our organization is guided by dedicated individuals from various professional fields and who bring expertise to New Jersey Connect, Inc. in the areas of accounting, finance, fundraising, housing development and management, government, law, spinal cord injury research, and disability advocacy.
Founder and Executive Director
Elisa Sananman is the founder and Executive Director of New Jersey Connect. Formerly a CPA, Elisa holds an MBA in accounting from Rutgers University and an MA in Anthropology from the University of California. She believes that a few committed people working together can make big changes in the community.
Board of Trustees
Christopher Allora is a Senior Vice President and Private Wealth Advisor with the Merrill Lynch Private Banking Investment Group. Chris graduated from Lafayette College in 1997, earning a BA in Economics and Government/Law. Chris received his MBA in finance at the Stern Business School at NYU in 2005 and has his Certified Investment Manager Analyst (CIMA®) designation from Wharton.
Bruce H. Bergen
Bruce H. Bergen has served on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders since first being elected in November 2012 and was re-elected to a new three-year term in November, 2015. On January 3, 2016, he was elected to his first term as Freeholder Chairman.
Bruce Bergen is a Springfield resident and a partner in the Cranford law firm of Krevsky, Silber & Bergen. He has been a practicing New Jersey attorney since 1980. He previously served as Springfield Township attorney for 17 years.
Born and raised in Cranford, Bruce has been a member of the Rotary Club of Cranford since 1982 and has twice served as president of the service organization. In 1993 he was named a Paul Harris Fellow, that organization’s highest honor. Click here for a more detailed biography.
Edward Heaton has been a member of the Union County Advisory Board on the Disabled since 1993. He also served as the Public Policy Fellow for the National Council on Disability (NCD) in 2001. Prior to serving as the Policy Fellow, Ed was employed by Home Box Office for 20 years and served on their Diversity Committee. Ed has been a member of the New Jersey Connect Board of Trustees since 1994.
Rhoda Miller has extensive experience in the non-profit, government and business sectors, particularly in the area of affordable housing development. She has been an active development participant and financial advisor on various mixed-finance and HOPE VI affordable housing developments in New Jersey. She provides financial consulting, helps negotiate investment offers, and provides project management services, including consolidated planning support. As Vice-President Emeritus of The Metro Company, Ms. Miller remains associated with the firm and is available for consultations.
Prior to joining The Metro Company, Ms. Miller worked in the development department of the Jersey City Housing Authority. She also worked for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs administering Balanced Housing Program funds. Earlier in her career, Ms. Miller was a staff member with a New Jersey based private foundation with a focus on public policy issues.
Rhoda Miller holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kean University, having graduated summa cum laude. She attended Rutgers University Graduate School of Criminal Justice and also holds numerous certificates for professional continuing education. She is also a Certified Compliance Professional in Affordable Housing, and a past Executive Board Member of the Housing and Community Development of New Jersey.
Susan P. Howley
Susan Howley entered the spinal cord field in 1982 as Director of Administration for the Stifel Paralysis Research Foundation (SPRF), a family foundation in Short Hills, New Jersey. Several years later, SPRF merged with the American Paralysis Association (APA) where she was Executive Director from 1985 to 1992 and then became Director of Research. Her responsibilities for APA’s research included the administration and oversight of the Individual Research Grants program and the 1995 launch of its International Research Consortium on Spinal Cord Injury. Today she serves as Executive Vice President, Research for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, a 1999 merger between APA and the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Shortly after the merger, she was charged with implementing a strategic expansion of the Foundation’s research program, which included development of the North American Clinical Trials Network (NACTN), the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), and most recently, guidance and financial support for a human epidural stimulation research program.
From 1995–1997, Ms. Howley organized and administered the Kentucky Spinal Cord and Head Injury Research Trust, a state grant-making program to fund research at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. She has been a member of the New Jersey Commission for Spinal Cord Research since it was created in 2000, serving as its chair June 2001–June 2003 and then again from 2010 to the present. She is the Reeve Foundation’s liaison to federal and voluntary research organizations.
Charles Newman has been the President of New Jersey Connect, Inc. since 1996 and retired in 2015 from the County of Union – Dept. of Human Services, where he served as the Director of the Office for the Disabled for 26 years.
Philip T. Pasmanik
Philip T. Pasmanik is Senior Tax Manager of Planning and Compliance at Hunrath, Napolitano, Quigley & Taylor, LLC. He is a CPA with an MS in Taxation from Seton Hall University and more than 25 years of comprehensive experience providing tax planning and compliance services.
Ruth Lerner Smith
Ruth Lerner Smith was the heart and soul of Westfield Senior Citizen Housing for more than 21 years (serving as Executive Director from 1990 to 2011), focusing on the needs of her residents. Overseeing two buildings housing over 300 units, Ruth maintained a personal relationship with each of the thousands of seniors she served. She encouraged her residents to remain mentally and physically active by providing multiple activities and equipment to make this goal a reality.
Ruth has served the aging population on the local, regional, and national stages. A long-time resident of Cranford, Ms. Smith served as a member of the Cranford Housing Board and was past Chairperson of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Community Relations. She served as Executive Director of the Westfield Neighborhood Improvement Association and as Program Manager in New Jersey’s Division of Housing, Department of Community Affairs.
She represented Westfield on the Union County Community Development Revenue Sharing Committee and served as Chairperson of the Housing Committee. During her tenure on the Committee, she wrote grants to access over four million dollars in funding for public works projects, social services, and housing rehabilitation for the Town of Westfield.
Ruth served as Vice-Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of LeadingAge, New Jersey.
Ruth Lerner Smith was honored nationally by The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. She received the “Distinguished Service Award” in recognition of her six years of service to the organization’s House of Delegates. AAHSA also honored her with the “Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor Award” for empowering and inspiring others to reach for excellence in service to seniors.
The Board of Trustees of Westfield Senior Citizen Housing has hung Ruth’s portrait in their Community Room in honor of her long and distinguished service to their organization. After all, this is the room in which Ruth spent more than 20 Thanksgivings assuring her residents — and the aging community — always came first.