Thanksgiving gives me the perfect opportunity to thank you for supporting People with Disabilities Succeeding (PDS). I wish I could paint a picture for you of just how meaningful your contributions are to the wonderful people of PDS. Take 23-year-old Alex, who is one of the sweetest, gentlest souls I have ever met. A day does not go by that he does not brighten someone’s day around here by saying “I like you” or by looking into our eyes and giving us a hug or spontaneously taking our arm while walking. Alex is considered to be “on the autism spectrum,” and he is highly capable and energetic. He has been patiently waiting for a chance to reach his potential and show his amazing attitude and stamina in a real job. Happily, Alex just got a paid position as a stocker at Walgreens, where he is able to share his sweet personality with his new co-workers and customers. The sense of satisfaction Alex receives from being part of something and being productive and busy is invaluable
Currently PDS serves 33 participants like Alex. Every person relies on PDS to help them enjoy a quality of life that would not be possible without our services. Some people come from loving families or live in very nice homes with excellent residential support, but PDS is the program that ensures they have a real job that they can make money at and proudly talk about to their friends. In addition to employment, PDS provides structure so when our clients are not working, they are actively engaged in fun, age appropriate activities like playing table tennis, working out at the gym or swimming at the College of Marin. PDS helps our clients look nice and presentable for work and instructs and guides them through important decisions in their daily lives regarding their diet, their social skills, and their spending.
But PDS is so much more than just a “program.” There is a familiarity and interdependency among participants and staff that makes us feel like family. Every day our clients tell our staff members that they love them, and we reply “I love you too” because we do love them too. Our staff sacrifice better paying jobs for PDS because our clients’ warmth and humor make this work so rewarding.
Let me give you a taste of what every day is like for me. As I sat here writing this letter, my participant, Kevin, called me as he does every single day at this time for the last twenty years. I took notes while we talked. These were his words: “I just wanted to tell you about my day . . . I really like John (PDS staff member). He has a heart of gold. We went to Berkeley, and I saw a homeless man, and I told him ‘I’m sorry that you don’t have a soft place to rest your head.’ He acknowledged me, and he said ‘Yeah, it gets cold out here at night,’ and I told him ‘I hope you can find somewhere with a hot meal and a warm bed.’ He said ‘thank you’ and smiled. It made me feel good to talk to him, and I think it made his day. Anyway, I just want to say thank you for letting me be in this program. I really enjoy it, and I am really happy.”
Who could ask for a job that is better than this? In what other career would your “customers” thank you for your service every day for 20 years? I am so blessed! And the Marin community is so lucky that people like Alex and Kevin are right out there with their neighbors and co-workers, warming their hearts and serving as an example of how people can be so positive and so giving, even when life has not always been fair to them.
PDS relies on your donations to keep this work going. Our program has received ZERO increases in funding since 2006. So while rent and gas and all other costs rise, our rate of reimbursement has remained constant, and for a few years, it was even cut. The cuts were restored but never with a cost of living increase. The situation is dire. Sadly most of our staff members, who are the most loving and giving people you will ever meet, cannot afford to live in Marin and are eligible for food stamps and low-income housing, even with the money that they earn at PDS.
Adults with developmental disabilities, like children, will remain vulnerable and will depend on support forever. Yet most foundations or corporations prefer one-time or limited donations, and our state has not acknowledged the very real threat of collapse of the fragile system for this population. PDS is reliant on charitable contributions from individuals like you to continue our work. It helps to know that you read my letters, know my participants and that you really care and understand the dilemma we are in. We know that you have lots of non-profits asking for your help this time of year, so we genuinely understand the value of your contributions.
Have a safe and merry holiday season.
PDS Founder and Executive Director