As I write this, the holidays are here, and I am counting my blessings. I am so thankful to work with giving and kind co-workers, serving a wonderful group of loving, brave people with disabilities. And as I watch how the parents of my participants handle the issues their children have with dignity and grace, I appreciate having such great parenting role models to learn from.
My mom and her friend came to our annual Halloween party, and they were both touched by the kindness and camaraderie shown between all of our clients and staff. They were also struck by how much genuine fun we all had together, dancing and laughing. I know that work parties are usually a chore, but this was truly enjoyable, and no one needed cocktails to feel relaxed! Some of our clients who experienced serious health scares in the past few years were living it up on the dance floor. You would have no idea they had ever been so sick. There were lots of people in their 40s and 50s out there with just as much energy as anyone in their 20s.
The PDS staff always tell me that working for PDS is so rewarding. The benefits outweigh the negatives of not being in a more lucrative field. The fact that my 8 year old son Andre got to come to our Halloween party and that he gets to grow up around such diversity and inspiration makes me feel so happy and makes him feel like a lucky kid. This is the best job I could ever ask for! And it is so much more than a job to me.
After 22 years in my position as Executive Director, PDS participants continue to impress me with their tenacity and positivity. Despite their handicaps, they are growing in every area of life. I am proud of them for staying employed this year and expanding their dog walking and Wuppermobiles businesses (stores.ebay.com/wuppermobiles). Keep Wuppermobiles in mind this year when you do your holiday shopping. Several people are selling music boxes, t-shirts and mobiles on eBay, Amazon and Etsy. You can find Wuppermobiles on Facebook too at www.facebook.com/Wuppermobiles.
Recently we started a collaboration with the Transportation Authority of Marin and were able to help Sallie as well as one of our former clients become employed as crossing guards. Sallie works in downtown Ross helping children cross the street, and she is loving this job! PDS participants have also kept busy taking college classes, planting an organic vegetable garden and developing good fitness and nutrition habits. We took tours of the Good Earth and Whole Foods markets, and the participants were motivated to try new, healthy foods. We also conducted self-advocacy classes with the San Anselmo Police Department and self-defense classes at The Dojo, which everyone attended.
Our impressive employment statistics demonstrate our success. Currently 21 of our clients maintain paid jobs where they are directly hired by their employers and make at least minimum wage, and 6 people are working for themselves as internet entrepreneurs. PDS participants have been employed for an average of 9 years with their current employer, and they earn between $8.00 and $19.80 per hour. Their average hourly wage is $10.20 per hour, while the U.S. federal minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour, and California’s minimum wage is $8.00 per hour.
Look for PDS on the CBS website! I recently received the Jefferson Award for public service (www.jeffersonawards.org). PDS participants Sallie, Kevin and Robin were featured on a CBS newscast with Robin’s mom, Pati Stoliar, and me. It was a great feeling to be recognized for our hard work, and we were all very excited. You can watch our segment posted online at sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/category/jefferson-awards/. Unfortunately the Jefferson Award does not include a monetary prize, but hopefully the publicity we gain will inspire more people to get involved.
Maintaining our clients’ lifestyles takes an intricate web of support, and state funding does not cover the actual costs associated with such a progressive and individualized approach. With your continued support we can further help the participants to vigorously progress. We are relying on our loyal donors to contribute what they can to PDS this year.
PDS Founder and Executive Director