In July 2015 Pacific Diversified Services will celebrate our 25-year anniversary!
I was 24 years old when I was hired by Casa Allegra to get their new day program, Pacific Diversified Services, off the ground. I remember driving across the Golden Gate Bridge from my home in San Francisco for my interview and getting lost on the one-way streets in San Rafael. I did not have a computer to use MapQuest, let alone a GPS or cell phone! Once I was hired to run PDS, I held interviews for my staff at Casa Allegra group homes and Northgate Mall because I did not have an office. I had no idea how to manage staff or run a business, but my ideas for creating meaningful lives for adults with developmental disabilities were solid. Because of my great aunt Lena who had Down syndrome, I had dreamed of this opportunity for years and knew exactly how I wanted to design a program for adults like my aunt.
For example, I knew I wanted set schedules with lots of variety so that no staff or participants were with each other for too many hours or days in a row. From working in the field as a teacher’s aid and a job coach, I believed it was important for staff to be as fresh as possible with their people so that no one got burnt out or too dependent on one another.
Fast-forward to 25 years later, and rotating staff is still a key component of PDS. We broke off from Casa Allegra and incorporated on our own in 1994, and we have seen lots of changes throughout the years, but our goals and values have not changed. Our mission is still employment and community inclusion for adults with developmental disabilities. We still focus on helping people lead meaningful lives filled with purpose, laughter, friendship, dignity and love.
As I reflect back on my 25 years at this job that I adore, I count my blessings: fantastic participants, coworkers and the people who cheer us on and support us, such as our board members, donors, employers and families of participants.
PDS has been my family for more than half of my life now. I have been married and divorced and had a child since 1990. I have experienced the grief of losing a parent, a sibling and my grandparents, along with my participants who have also experienced deaths of their own family members. I have aged along with my participants, many of whom have already experienced illnesses like cancer. We have seen many wonderful staff members come and go, and we have grieved together for dear friends like Don Smith. Even in the worst of times, PDS has been a happy place for me. I look forward to going to work everyday. PDS has enhanced my quality of life and afforded me everything I try to help my participants experience: purpose, laughter, friendship, dignity and love.
In honor of our anniversary and our accomplishments, we will be changing our name from Pacific Diversified Services to People with Disabilities Succeeding. It is important for us to keep our acronym, which is so familiar to our community, but to more accurately describe what we do. We know Pacific Diversified Services sounds more like a financial company than a human service agency, and we want it to be more indicative of the important work we do. People with Disabilities Succeeding is still a mouthful, but we think it perfectly reflects our achievements of the past 25 and hopefully the next 25 years!
Please continue to support PDS in our mission. We hope to have a celebration in mid-June and would appreciate any donations, volunteerism or resources you have to offer.
PDS would not be the same without your involvement. Thanks to you, people with disabilities really are succeeding and will continue to! I hope you enjoy this montage of photos from our last 25 years.
With immense gratitude,
PDS Founder and Executive Director