People with Disabilities Succeeding (PDS) has had another wonderful year and very much to be thankful for. When I reflect upon the challenges of running a non-profit in Marin county, one of the highest cost areas in the entire United States, I feel so glad, not only to still be in business after 28 years, but for the organization to be doing better than ever.
Many of our clients have been teased, abused or neglected in the past. They have finally landed somewhere where their differences are not only accepted but celebrated. They are deserving of this wonderful lifestyle that PDS provides them, and they are incredibly appreciative. We get several calls and emails per day, just thanking us. It is our absolute pleasure to be able to do this rewarding work, that in many ways doesn’t even feel like a job.
The other day when I explained what PDS does with our clients, someone remarked, “Wow that sounds like Club Med!” It’s true that our clients are blessed to be doing so many fun activities on a daily basis with our exceptional staff members. We capitalize on the skills, interests and strengths of our fantastic staff, so they can share their expertise with our clients. PDS is “la crème de la crème” of day programs in Marin right now, and I credit our loyal employees for making our services so great. Allow me to share with you some of the reasons why I would call 2018, People with Disabilities Succeeding’s “Year of Enjoyment.”
We will soon be offering martial arts with Ray Crouse, yoga with Jason Kanner and dance with Cici Smith in a beautiful room with hardwood floors in Novato. You would be surprised at the beautiful, healthy meals that Robby Hill, Tenzin Topjor and Ray make with our clients at their apartments. Tenzin teaches people to make excellent sushi, worthy of a restaurant! They all do wonders with the organic vegetables from our Terra Linda community garden. Everyone chips in to water and tend the garden, but much of the responsibility for planting started with Nick Bolla who still helps out and Cici and Ray who took over when he left PDS.
Justin Burke, Darren Turner and John Worth take full advantage of the gorgeous hiking trails and beaches and take our clients to hike and even swim at the Russian River and Stinson Beach. Justin’s’ guys love doing outdoor barbecues and have even grilled fresh oysters, which was a special treat. Glen Poole is a professional tour guide and has arranged some really fun trips to Muir Woods and Lucasfilm. Glen also loves to work out so he has introduced people to bocce ball, “pickle ball” and supports Aliya and Ricky at the JCC where they are both members and where Glen’s wife works. Tammy Robinson is also into exercise and accompanies Amanda and Alex among others to 24-hour fitness gym, where they lift weights and use the exercise bikes and treadmills.
Victoria Diego spearheads our art program, at the San Anselmo Rec Center where the focus is on creating functional art pieces such as mobiles, bird houses, holiday decorations and gifts.
We employ a certified nutritionist, Catherine Martikan, who conducts monthly fitness and nutrition meetings in the community room at Wells Fargo Bank, and we give prizes to clients for maintaining or losing weight. We also employ a professional table tennis coach, Antonio Mancia who was a Salvadoran World Table Tennis Championship contender and is one of the best coaches I’ve ever seen at work.
Of course, employment still takes center stage at PDS, and we have so many fantastic staff people with extensive and even managerial experience in retail such as Cassandra Lopez and Barbara Long. Jacob Aranda is highly versatile and brings professionalism, patience and flexibility to all job sites. Gerry O’Reilly has a fatherly approach that works with David at Diego Trucking and JR and Eric at Costco. Dog lovers, Jason, Ray, John and Jacob and canine expert, Corinne Amare, teach our clients how to be the most gentle and attentive dog walkers in town.
Cousins, Daniel Neal and Cara Neal enthusiastically cooperate to help out in the office and filling in for absent staff members in the field. Daniel does double duty as a professional photographer which helps us out with our website and our online Wuppermobiles business. And Cara’s knowledge of cognitive neuroscience definitely comes in handy in our business!
Our dance performances, competitive table tennis tournament and our Halloween party at Rancho Nicasio are always a great time. Staff members, family members and other attendees always tell me that they truly enjoy these special events as much as the clients do. These remarks mean so much to me, because they mean that we are achieving our goal: to improve quality of life for everyone in our community through the inclusion of people with disabilities. If you have ever come to one of our Halloween parties or dance performances, you’ve seen that it is difficult to tell our clients and staff apart. Interacting as equals, smiles and laughter abound.
Jarrod, Shirley and I reflect back on our more challenging times and just marvel at the strides and accomplishments we have been able to achieve in recent years. We appreciate your moral and financial support. Thank you for being a part of our PDS family, and we hope that 2019 is a “Year of Enjoyment” for you!
PDS Founder and Executive Director