What People Say
At PDS we measure our success by how satisfied our clients and their families are. In addition to improving the quality of life of our clients, we aim to improve the lives of our employees, the employers we partner with, and the people we interact with in the community. The following are some excerpts from letters and notes sent to us or written about PDS.
From Elizabeth Grigsby, Rights advocatefor the Golden Gate Regional Center:
"Lisa, I really believe in your mission statement. You never held back from the truth, you never waived, you always speak up for the rights of the people that we serve because you see people with disabilities as people first and foremost, and their disabilities are just a part of them."
From Noreen Lum, Quality Assurance Specialist for the Golden Gate Regional Center:
"Lisa, thanks so much for sharing about PDS last week during our unit meeting and for all of the fantastic work you do! I really loved seeing the community, at its best. (It's like you couldn't really tell there was a pandemic going on, everyone's having so much fun.) Adventure is always right around the corner. What you do is so important to us at GGRC."
From Kathy Doering, PDS Board President:
"I teach at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in the moderate/severe teacher training credential program. I have worked at SFSU for 32 years. I am an instructor and fieldwork supervisor.
One of the courses I teach at SFSU every semester is Transition Planning for Students With Disabilities. Every semester PDS and participant representatives have come and presented to teacher candidates enrolled in my class. The individuals present their stories and I have to say that the teacher candidates unanimously see PDS as the highlight of the semester, the most powerful guest presenter(s), and the stories the participants share generates a meaningful discussion of self-determination, enhancing friendships true community inclusion, and employment for a traditionally disadvantaged group of individuals with developmental disabilities. The students in my class always approach me after class and express how powerful the presentation was. I also receive multiple emails every semester from students that demonstrate the profound impact that the individuals’ stories have on them."
From SFSU Students studying special education after watching a PDS presentation:
"I have to say that this presentation was by far the best in its kind!"
"I appreciated that they included participants to show what PDS does. I think that there is a huge difference between coming and talking about a program and what they do and coming and bringing participants to talk about what the program has done for them. One can see the total transformation of the individual with special needs. The two presenters seem comfortable and proud to talk about their jobs, their houses, and their new way of life. As a future teacher this presentation will guide my practice in knowing that there can be different results according to how I approach each student's life"
“The impact the presenters made in my life is huge!”
“The presentation by PDS staff and participants on their experiences with adult programs was powerful and inspiring.”
From Pati, a parent of a PDS participant:
"Lisa vowed to make this her life mission: to create lives filled with purpose and joy for adults with developmental disabilities. Instead of giving up on those who had been labeled unemployable, she was determined to find companies willing to take a chance with her individuals–who were ready and eager to step out into the community and contribute. Now PDS has 24 years of success in creating lives bursting with pride and beaming smiles. Lisa has said that this work is so intertwined with who she is that she can't imagine not doing it. As the mother of one of her participants I thank God for that."
From Jennifer, sister of PDS participant:
"It's hard to imagine what Robin's life would be like without PDS. Our family has come to rely so heavily on PDS to support Robin... we are terrified of the idea that it would ever be threatened.
When Robin began at PDS she had a difficult time. She didn't really like the job she had at Noah's Bagels and acted out. Lisa and the rest of the PDS staff were unbelievably patient and supportive despite this. Lisa worked very hard to find Robin a job that she would like. Finally she was placed at Banana Republic and has been there almost TEN YEARS!!! She has been there longer than almost any other employee as far as I know. Robin loves her job. She has made great friends at work; likely with people who had never been in contact with someone who was developmentally disabled. It gives her incredible pride to go to work every week, complete important tasks, and take home her own paycheck.
But PDS provides SO MUCH MORE than an occupational outlet. Robin has taken a number of great classes, learned to cook, gotten her nails done, dined out... and best of all, spent countless hours with her friends, just having a good time. The greatest feature of PDS is that it is community-based so that the participants are engaged with other people in Marin instead of sequestered away on their own. People at various restaurants and shops know PDS individuals by name; they have forged real bonds with them and it makes such a difference not just for the participants, but for those members of the community who benefit from interacting with them.
The heart of PDS is Lisa Markey, who has devoted her life to improving the daily existence of these individuals, who really are like family to her. The affection she feels for them, and the respect she has for them is clear to anyone. She is intimately involved in so many aspects of each person's life. Her commitment goes WAY beyond the hours that PDS allocates for each participant. Because Lisa is such a fixture in Marin, she knows all the other agencies and can aid in finding the best living situation for her people too. It is not overstating to say that Lisa is a Saint."
From David, sibling of PDS participant:
"My brother is Kevin, and he has been a part of the PDS family for quite a few years now.
I can confidently state that without PDS in Kevin's life, he wouldn't have experienced many of the challenges and rewards that have contributed greatly to his development. His work experience has challenged him in a way that his family, friends, and support system cannot. And the rewards he has received go far beyond the paycheck he earns.
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he probably would not have learned how to be accountable in the way he has. He's also learned how to work alongside those who may have little regard for his disabilities. Working with the staff at PDS, he has overcome many challenges that have, and will continue to be present with living a life of greater independence.
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he would not have the sense of purpose and accomplishment that his job has afforded him. In fact, PDS has provided Kevin with more than one job opportunity. Through trial and error, job coaching, and personal involvement in his success, the appropriate job for Kevin's abilities and interests was found. He has now been with the same employer for 8 years!
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he would probably not have succeeded at maintaining his tenure with his current employer. PDS goes above and beyond the call of duty, through personal involvement in just about all aspects of Kevin's life. The staff of PDS is what sets them apart, and Kevin's family continues to feel blessed by what they have provided him.
Without PDS in Kevin's life, he would not be the person of greater confidence, greater caring, and greater independence that he is today!"
From Elektra, former employee:
"How PDS changed my life:
Though I often wonder how I survived my first year of college, I realized last summer that in the end it isn’t where you’re going, it’s how you get there. I was lucky enough to have been offered a job at PDS last year just as I was getting ready for a large change in academia and location. I worked as a part-time Employment Facilitator with a group of people who would later become some of my closest friends. As the tasks became second nature and I was accepted as one of the girls, our clients started to share their lives with me. I was moved by their passion for life, their love for their jobs, their courage when dealing with certain struggles, and the vitality they had every moment I spent with them. I grew stronger as they grew stronger. I learned patience and appreciation for the experiences I had and the people around me. Without the simple lessons I learned at PDS, my first year of college would have been far more difficult. I owe it to the staff and the participants for the life lessons I learned and the memorable and rewarding experiences I gained while working with them."
From Laura, former PDS employee:
"I just had to write to you and express my gratitude for having been part of such a forward looking program. At the time it felt ground breaking...looking back it was amazing."
From Denise Belanger, former employee and PDS board member:
"I am writing to document the national impact of PDS on the field of adult services for people with the most significant disabilities. The specific organizational structure and service delivery methods used by PDS is the model being adopted by other organizations across various states as part of San Francisco State University's transition service integration projects. We chose the organization and service delivery model of PDS over others because it works. Your organization has consistently sustained a customized competitive employment rate of over 98% for nearly 15 years. The national employment rate for the specific population you serve has been approximately 8% for decades. It is also standard for this population to be segregated in a variety of facility-based programs (77% nationwide).
PDS stands out in stark contrast. It was one of the first nonprofit disability service agencies in the Bay Area to provide support so that people with the most significant disabilities could spend their days fully integrated in, and contributing to, their local communities. The service delivery models works, and it has been successfully replicated, which means that many more people are benefiting from what you and your pioneering colleagues started. For example, Silicon Valley Diversified Network (under Hope Services in San Jose, CA) was modeled directly after PDS, and now has 4 different freestanding services across California's Bay Area (San Jose, Monterey, Mountain View, and a new service coming to Half Moon Bay). Easter Seals Bay Area also adopted the organizational structure and service delivery methods of PDS, and has recently launched Community Support Network, which serves the Richmond, Albany, Berkeley, and Emeryville, CA region. In the state of Maryland, Melwood is in the process of adopting the model and operates Community Support Links in Waldorf. Tennessee's Customized Employment Project in Knoxville is also coming on board to begin services like those provided by PDS.
These examples go far in documenting the outstanding and cutting edge work of PDS. Your organization continues to be our service delivery model of choice, and the interest in it across the nation is expanding."
From parent, Pati Stoliar:
"A focused young woman in a brown Banana Republic stretch T-shirt and dress pants methodically folds boxer shorts and stacks them on a shelf. The Back Street Boys resound from the store's speakers and she mouths along. Her coworkers bustle about, joking with her as they complete their tasks.
A routine work setting? Not exactly. This scene would have been impossible only a few years ago. Robin, Princess of Banana Republic, is developmentally disabled. But, because of the creativity and commitment of one woman, Robin, and many more who previously would never have been considered for competitive employment, are earning respectable wages and experiencing a sense of pride, acceptance and satisfaction as they move toward increasing independence.
I know because I'm Robin's mom. For years, we had been on a waiting list for this small agency, because we were aware of their excellent track record in helping these young people transition successfully from school to a working lifestyle in the Marin community.
But, hers is only one example of the employment miracles created every day by PDS, an innovative, integrated work and community living skills program.
In these ten years, PDS has assisted many people with severe disabilities to move from being outcasts to accepted “regulars” around town. In addition to Banana Republic, PDS has developed sites throughout Marin County in a variety of high-profile settings, such as Target, Macy's, Fresh Choice, Whole Foods, and Woodlands Market.
Certainly all of the staff members who support these individuals are deserving of recognition but Lisa Markey, the creator and executive director is the genius behind this extraordinary nonprofit agency."
From former Board President, Nicholas Certo:
"In 1990, under the direction of Lisa Markey, PDS started the first alternative for adults in Marin County with severe developmental disabilities to a life of undiversified segregation in self-contained day care facilities.
Ms. Markey and her staff have provided this alternative in a personalized way by encouraging the active participation of the individuals she serves, and their families, in the decision-making process. Encouraging the active participation of the individuals she serves, regardless of the practical problems their intellectual, physical, sensory, or communicative disabilities present is the basis of the uniqueness of her program. As a result of using this innovative person-centered approach, Ms. Markey and her staff have demonstrated that people, whom many consider incapable of making even the simplest choices in their daily lives, can actively participate and contribute in shaping their own futures; and, that ongoing partnerships between individuals with severe developmental disabilities, their families, employers, staff at community leisure or recreation facilities, and professional support agency staff is the best approach to ensure success at work and in the community at large.
This endeavor has been so successful that employers now call Ms. Markey when they have openings because she has provided this community with reliable and dependable workers who give as much back to their employers and their customers as they gain from being included. If you should run into one the individuals PDS supports at Fresh Choice cutting vegetables or at Banana Republic restocking hosiery, it is easy to underestimate the significance of their presence. With this service, they are earning money, learning to negotiate the complexity of coworker and customer interactions, attending employee picnics and other social events, and spending their earnings attending classes at Marin Community College or working out at a local gym, for instance, when they are not working. Marin is fortunate to have such a distinguished community-based, nonprofit organization in its community. I urge you to demonstrate your support of the accomplishments of this worthy organization. The cost effectiveness of PDS for the citizens and taxpayers of California in terms of quality of life and real impact upon our community is obvious."