Founded 133 years ago by a Philadelphia teacher, the mission of the Cherry Hill-based nonprofit Bancroft is to support, serve and treat New Jerseyans with intellectual or developmental disabilities as well as conditions like autism and severe brain injuries.

The organization's 2,400 staffers work to answer the question: How can people live life to their fullest potential?

Rendering of Bancroft Mount Laurel Campus (Courtesy of Bancroft)

Bancroft operates 200 group homes in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, and Salem counties and in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The nonprofit offers residential, educational, vocational, and outpatient services to 2,000 individuals, many of them children who go through Bancroft's school system until graduation at age 21, at which point they move into an adult-oriented program.

"Half of the children that go to the school live in Bancroft group homes, and half of them live at home with mom and dad," said Toni Pergolin, Bancroft president and CEO, who added that the organization is continuing the vision of founder Margaret Bancroft, whose first school was located in Pennsville, by expanding to a new facility in Mount Laurel.

The groundbreaking for the new campus happened just recently, and Pergolin expects construction to be nearly finished by this time next year with a grand opening in January 2018. The state of New Jersey is providing the primary funding, but other fundraising efforts continue. For children in Bancroft's program, their home school districts have arrangements to pay for enrollment.

After graduation into the adult program, the individuals Bancroft works with may take advantage of daytime programs to learn work and daily life skills. In many cases, Bancroft helps these people find jobs. And later in life, the organization offers over-55 living options.

Pergolin said the new school will build a stronger foundation for those adults by being able to better serve them as children.

"We really needed a campus designed for the population we serve today," she said. "The school on Haddonfield campus was built 60 years ago — completely different population, completely different technology."

With the Mount Laurel school, Bancroft will move from a 20-acre facility to an 80-acre one. It will be designed to look exactly like a residential neighborhood and have features that will be new experiences for students, like a pool and increased natural light.

The Mount Laurel campus also provides an opportunity for Bancroft to open itself up to children who don't already go to their school.

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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