Life is good these days at PDS! I am so excited about our new program design, with the 1:2 staff to participant ratio. At first it was daunting to rewrite our program design, but I got over my writer’s block by thinking about how I define quality in my own life. I described how PDS will address the aspects of life that are important to me, like having a good job, spending money, love, fun, laughter and freedom. I also looked at our services from the perspective of a parent and what I want for my son, such as friends, health, happiness and self-sufficiency. I thought about all the individuals PDS has served for the past 26 years and tried to put into words how PDS has and continues to improve their physical, mental and social well-being. The new program has been designed to address every possible aspect of quality of life, while emphasizing dignity, respect and compassion as critical components of our services. I feel that our mission is being accomplished, and we are living up to our new name: People with Disabilities Succeeding. I also realize that there are always areas for growth. Shirley, Jarrod and I, with the help of our board, are constantly working on ways to ensure that every participant, as well as every staff member feels engaged, purposeful, rewarded and included.
We strive to keep PDS fresh and progressive so we can address the needs of young and new individuals, while also ensuring that our older clients don’t get bored or feel overlooked. In addition to helping individuals stay employed in part-time jobs where they make at least minimum wage, PDS offers fun activities like table tennis (with an annual competitive tournament), Bingo at local community centers, trips to casinos and an elaborate Halloween party. While variety and change are preferable for some, we also respect the wishes of people who choose to continue in familiar routines. Older folks who have been in their jobs and doing many of the same activities for many years might not get as much recognition as they once did for becoming and staying employed. So we consciously act super positive and praise everyone for being responsible and continuing to go to work day after day and year after year. We look for ways to acknowledge people who, because of their cooperative personalities or lack of problematic behavior, could be taken for granted. Smiles, hugs, celebratory lunches, parties, gifts and shopping trips are par for the course at PDS as our participants never grow out of their need for loving praise and special attention.
We have tried to spice up everyone’s life by renting a room at the San Anselmo Recreation Center where participants can creatively express themselves through art. One of our senior staff members, Victoria Diego, has spearheaded this new art program and helped our clients create beautiful bird houses, Halloween decorations and other arts and crafts projects that they can take home to share at family events and give as gifts.
Quality of life is impossible without health, so fitness and nutrition have become major areas of focus at PDS. Thanks to Nick Bolla, our community garden is flourishing, and many PDS participants have enjoyed growing, harvesting and cooking their own tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries. Everyone is much more interested in eating fruits and vegetables when they grow the produce themselves. A licensed nutritionist named Molly Molofsky runs fun fitness and nutrition meetings for PDS participants to weigh-in, learn how to read food labels and make healthy food choices. PDS participants are exercising on a regular basis at local gyms, College of Marin, Marinwood Pool and other community locations, as well as participating in healthy cooking classes at each other’s homes during the day. Amazingly people are getting in shape, losing weight and feeling much better as a result.
Safety and self-advocacy are crucial to quality of life. We teach individuals about their rights and responsibilities as adults and coach them on how to avoid being victims of abuse and crime. We took a group to the self-advocacy conference in San Francisco, and we have several trainings scheduled with Disability Rights California. A group also meets regularly at The Dojo for self-defense classes. I love watching people become empowered and seeing their self-advocacy efforts pay off with better living situations and other improvements in their lifestyles.
Some people, like my son, thrive best in nature. We take full advantage of all the beautiful lakes, beaches and trails in Marin, so our clients can reap the positive mental health benefits of outdoor activity. This summer Jarrod Allen organized a great barbecue on a gorgeous day at Stinson Beach where we played Frisbee, football and board games. A few water lovers even went swimming and wading in the ocean. Justin Burke organized a similar event at McNears Beach to celebrate Eric’s 20 years at Costco. The Russian River and Marin Headlands were also popular destinations last summer. It’s so much fun to spend time outdoors, hiking and swimming together. Animals are also very therapeutic for lots of people. Our clients who dog walk benefit from exercise and income while just enjoying hanging out with the dogs.
Thank you so much for joining People with Disabilities Succeeding in our mission to help our clients achieve their dreams in every way possible. With your support, we will continue to ensure that every participant (and every staff member) feels needed, accomplished, valued and loved.
Please “like” our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PDSMarin/ so you can keep in touch with us throughout the year. We post many fun photos and updates.
Happy holidays to you and your loved ones, and I hope that you are also experiencing the highest quality of life possible!
PDS Founder and Executive Director