From: Jennifer Kirmse, sister of PDS client
It's hard to imagine what Robin's life would be like without PDS. Our family has come to rely so heavily on PDS to support Robin... we are terrified of the idea that it would ever be threatened.
When Robin began at PDS she had a difficult time. She didn't really like the job she had at Noah's Bagels and acted out. Lisa and the rest of the PDS staff were unbelievably patient and supportive despite this. Lisa worked very hard to find Robin a job that she would like. Finally she was placed at Banana Republic and has been there almost TEN YEARS!!! She has been there longer than almost any other employee as far as I know. Robin loves her job. She has made great friends at work; likely with people who had never been in contact with someone who was developmentally disabled. It gives her incredible pride to go to work every week, complete important tasks, and take home her own paycheck.
But PDS provides SO MUCH MORE than an occupational outlet. Robin has taken a number of great classes, learned to cook, gotten her nails done, dined out... and best of all, spent countless hours with her friends, just having a good time. The greatest feature of PDS is that it is community-based so that the clients are engaged with other people in Marin instead of sequestered away on their own. People at various restaurants and shops know PDS clients by name; they have forged real bonds with them and it make such a difference not just for the clients, but for those members of the community who benefit from interacting with them.
The heart of PDS is Lisa Giraldi, who has devoted her life to improving the daily existence of these clients, who really are like family to her. The affection she feels for them, and the respect she has for them is clear to anyone. She is intimately involved in so many aspects of each client's life. Her commitment goes WAY beyond the hours that PDS allocates for each client. Because Lisa is such a fixture in Marin, she knows all the other agencies and can aid in finding the best living situation for her clients too. It is not overstating to say that Lisa is a Saint.
From: David P, sibling of PDS client
My brother is Kevin P, and he has been a part of the PDS family for quite a few years now.
I can confidently state that without PDS in Kevin's life, he wouldn't have experienced many of the challenges and rewards that have contributed greatly to his development. His work experience has challenged him in a way that his family, friends, and support system cannot. And the rewards he has received go far beyond the paycheck he earns.
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he probably would not have learned how to be accountable in the way he has. He's also learned how to work alongside those who may have little regard for his disabilities. Working with the staff at PDS, he has overcome many challenges that have, and will continue to be present with living a life of greater independence.
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he would not have the sense of purpose and accomplishment that his job has afforded him. In fact, PDS has provided Kevin with more than one job opportunity. Through trial and error, job coaching, and personal involvement in his success, the appropriate job for Kevin's abilities and interests was found. He has now been with the same employer for 8 years!
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he would probably not have succeeded at maintaining his tenure with his current employer. PDS goes above and beyond the call of duty, through personal involvement in just about all aspects of Kevin's life. The staff of PDS is what sets them apart, and Kevin's family continues to feel blessed by what they have provided him.
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he would not be the person of greater confidence, greater caring, and greater independence that he is today!
From Elektra, former employee
How PDS changed my life:
Though I often wonder how I survived my first year of college, I realized last summer that in the end it isn’t where you’re going, it’s how you get there. I was lucky enough to have been offered a job at PDS last year just as I was getting ready for a large change in academia and location. I worked as a part-time Employment Facilitator with a group of people who would later become some of my closest friends. As the tasks became second nature and I was accepted as one of the girls, our clients started to share their lives with me. I was moved by their passion for life, their love for their jobs, their courage when dealing with certain struggles, and the vitality they had every moment I spent with them. I grew stronger as they grew stronger. I learned patience and appreciation for the experiences I had and the people around me. Without the simple lessons I learned at PDS, my first year of college would have been far more difficult. I owe it to the staff and the clients for the life lessons I learned and the memorable and rewarding experiences I gained while working with them.
From mother of PDS client, Erica
Erica loves PDS. She is so happy and seems more mature. It seems to be carrying over into other aspects of her life. I think she is finally doing things that she likes. Bob and I thank you for your dedication to your vision and for the happiness it brings.
Quote from Cost Plus Co-Worker:
A coworker at Cost Plus said something nice about her coworkers, Kelly, Berta and Betsy who are PDS clients. She said she loves having the girls around because it brings her back down to earth, and she knows that “the world is ok.” “They are just so happy,” she said.
Quote from Laura, former PDS employee:
I just had to write to you and express my gratitude for having been part of such a forward looking program. At the time it felt ground breaking...looking back it was amazing.
From Denise Belanger Mautz, former employee and PDS board member:
Dear Ms. Giraldi,
I am writing to document the national impact of Pacific Diversified Services on the field of adult services for people with the most significant disabilities. The specific organizational structure and service delivery methods used by PDS is the model being adopted by other organizations across various states as part of San Francisco State University's transition service integration projects. We chose the organization and service delivery model of PDS over others because it works. Your organization has consistently sustained a customized competitive employment rate of over 98% for nearly 15 years. The national employment rate for the specific population you serve has been approximately 8% for decades. It is also standard for this population to be segregated in a variety of facility-based programs (77% nationwide).
PDS stands out in stark contrast. It was one of the first nonprofit disability service agencies in the Bay Area to provide support so that people with the most significant disabilities could spend their days fully integrated in, and contributing to, their local communities. The service delivery models works, and it has been successfully replicated, which means that many more people are benefiting from what you and your pioneering colleagues started. For example, Silicon Valley Diversified Network (under Hope Services in San Jose, CA) was modeled directly after PDS, and now has 4 different freestanding services across California's Bay Area (San Jose, Monterey, Mountain View, and a new service coming to Half Moon Bay). Easter Seals Bay Area also adopted the organizational structure and service delivery methods of PDS, and has recently launched Community Support Network, which serves the Richmond, Albany, Berkeley, and Emeryville, CA region. In the state of Maryland, Melwood is in the process of adopting the model and operates Community Support Links in Waldorf. Tennessee's Customized Employment Project in Knoxville is also coming on board to begin services like those provided by PDS.
These examples go far in documenting the outstanding and cutting edge work of Pacific Diversified Services. Your organization continues to be our service delivery model of choice, and the interest in it across the nation is expanding.
Sincerely, and with many thanks for all that you do,
Denise Belanger Mautz
From Parent of PDS client, Robin:
A focused young woman in a brown Banana Republic stretch T-shirt and dress pants methodically folds boxer shorts and stacks them on a shelf. The Back Street Boys resound from the store's speakers and she mouths along. Her coworkers bustle about, joking with her as they complete their tasks.
A routine work setting? Not exactly. This scene would have been impossible only a few years ago. Robin, Princess of Banana Republic, is developmentally disabled. But, because of the creativity and commitment of one woman, Robin, and many more who previously would never have been considered for competitive employment, are earning respectable wages and experiencing a sense of pride, acceptance and satisfaction as they move toward increasing independence.
I know because I'm Robin's mom. For years, we had been on a waiting list for this small agency, because we were aware of their excellent track record in helping these young people transition successfully from school to a working lifestyle in the Marin community.
But, hers is only one example of the employment miracles created every day by Pacific Diversified Services, an innovative, integrated work and community living skills program.
In these ten years, PDS has assisted many people with severe disabilities to move from being outcasts to accepted “regulars” around town. In addition to Banana Republic, PDS has developed sites throughout Marin County in a variety of high-profile settings, such as Target, Macy's, Fresh Choice, Whole Foods, The Body Shop, the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, and Woodlands Market.
Certainly all of the staff members who support these clients are deserving of recognition but Lisa Markey Giraldi, the creator and executive director is the genius behind this extraordinary nonprofit agency.
From our Board President, Nicholas Certo:
In 1990, under the direction of Lisa Markey Giraldi, Pacific Diversified Services started the first alternative for adults in Marin County with severe developmental disabilities to a life of undiversified segregation in self-contained day care facilities.
Ms. Markey and her staff have provided this alternative in a personalized way by encouraging the active participation of the individuals she serves, and their families, in the decision-making process. Encouraging the active participation of the individuals she serves, regardless of the practical problems their intellectual, physical, sensory, or communicative disabilities present is the basis of the uniqueness of her program. As a result of using this innovative person-centered approach, Ms. Markey and her staff have demonstrated that people, whom many consider incapable of making even the simplest choices in their daily lives, can actively participate and contribute in shaping their own futures; and, that ongoing partnerships between individuals with severe developmental disabilities, their families, employers, staff at community leisure or recreation facilities, and professional support agency staff is the best approach to ensure success at work and in the community at large.
This endeavor has been so successful that employers now call Ms. Markey when they have openings because she has provided this community with reliable and dependable workers who give as much back to their employers and their customers as they gain from being included. If you should run into one the individuals Pacific Diversified Services supports at Fresh Choice cutting vegetables or at Banana Republic restocking hosiery, it is easy to underestimate the significance of their presence. With this service, they are earning money, learning to negotiate the complexity of coworker and customer interactions, attending employee picnics and other social events, and spending their earnings attending classes at Marin Community College or working out at a local gym, for instance, when they are not working. Marin is fortunate to have such a distinguished community-based, nonprofit organization in its community. I urge you to demonstrate your support of the accomplishments of this worthy organization. The cost effectiveness of Pacific Diversified Services for the citizens and taxpayers of California in terms of quality of life and real impact upon our community is obvious.