Q&A: New Avenue Foundation’s James Wurster

The nonprofit co-founder shares what he’s passionate about.

After meeting in 2012, James Wurster and Thomas Reinke began working on a vision to create more meaningful lives for people with disabilities and autism, like Wurster’s daughter. They started Springfield’s New Avenue Foundation, which seeks to implement programs, housing plans and businesses for those with disabilities.

1. Margaret Kuo’s. “All of their food is delicious. I like General Tso’s chicken.”

2. Medley Park or the Philadelphia Zoo. “I like to just get out in nature and do some hiking

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3. The Disney Channel. “My daughter and I watch TV all the time.”

4. Haverford Music Festival. “I love music, and I love to get out and see people listen to music.”

5. Marvel films.“I like to dream that I have superpowers.” 

MLT: What was your goal in starting the New Avenue Foundation?

JW: To follow a mission statement, which is to help create more meaningful lives for people with disabilities and autism through social, employment, and housing programs.

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MLT: What has been your experience with autism?

JW: We have a daughter who is 28, almost 29, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other issues. What we would like to do, and what all parents would like, is to be able to see opportunities for our kids happen like most other kids get, to go out and get jobs and be able to live where they want.

MLT: How does New Avenue create living arrangements for people with disabilities?

JW: We want everybody to live in the regular community and not just in group homes or communities specifically for people with disabilities. We, as parents, just want to ensure that our children have their voices heard and are able to choose where they want to live.  We partner with other local organizations to try to move different models of housing forward, but it’s very complex.

MLT: What is the most rewarding part of your work?

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JW: To see the happy and smiling faces of people who I’ve met at our activities and programs. We don’t raise a lot of money—we spend a lot. That’s the price of doing good—we’re typically always in the red, but it’s worth doing when you see people with disabilities being happy and enjoying getting out and having people actively engage with them. 

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