|Gift of Time and Talent - Vanessa Manjarrez
There’s no better way to understand what Villa is all about than volunteering directly with our children and adults. Vanessa Manjarrez first came to Villa as a volunteer with the San Marino Chapter of the National Charity League. After having a fun experience helping to plan and host a Halloween Dance for the students at the Villa Esperanza School, Vanessa chose to come back to Villa when she needed to develop a project for her Girl Scout Gold Award. She created a service and social club (SAS) for Villa’s adult clients. Read more about Vanessa in the 2011 Annual Report
Consider for a moment the anticipation of attending your first school dance. You are all dressed up. You walk to the hall and can hear the strains of music mingled with the excited but contained chatter of those walking with you through the cool evening air. Your peers and a few chaperones beckon, as do the decorations that adorn the hall. Instead of opening the doors, you stop. What happens next?
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How many guys still get to hang out with their childhood buddies? For Tommy,
James, Greg and Carson, it seems like only yesterday that they were all back at
Our roots in the West Region started taking hold when a property in Agoura
Canyon came up for sale in 1978. The opportunity for expanded programs in a
rural environment was viewed as a well-suited addition to Villa’s urban base. The
vocational and residential training programs proved to be a welcome addition for
students who thrived in the open space and spent their days caring for small farm
animals and gardening. For Tommy, James, Greg and Carson, “Rancho de los
Robles” as it was called, was also a place to build friendships and happy memories.
The boys are now grown and still thriving under Villa’s wing. Tommy (now Tom)
lives in one of Villa’s apartments and is also part of our Independent Living Skills
program. Thanks to Villa’s Employment Services program, he has a job at Target.
James lives at the Allen House and is part of the Food Services crew. Carson is
also at the Allen House and recently created two paintings that were displayed at
Pasadena City Hall as part of an exhibit done in partnership with the Accessibility
and Disability Commission. Greg, who got an early start with Villa in the Infant
and Toddler Program, now works on an Employment Services cleaning crew.
The continuum of care that Villa Esperanza Services offers not only provides
the basic needs of education, employment, adult day programs, and residential
housing, it also provides a community for its children and adults. It’s a place where
friendships can blossom and last a lifetime.
-2010 Annual Report
|Breaking through Barriers
From the very beginning, families have been the heart of Villa Esperanza
Services. They are the parents of children with developmental disabilities who
knew that their children deserved a future just like any others. They stepped up and
made it happen. One such parent was Katie Nack.
When her youngest daughter, Susie was born with Down syndrome, it was
a turning point that took her down a path of politics and public service as she
fought to ensure that Susie and thousands like her would receive the education
and services they needed. Instrumental in the creation of the California Regional
Center system, she spearheaded an advocacy movement that succeeded in
obtaining rights for all who are disabled. She dedicated her life’s work to speaking
for those who cannot speak for themselves and was one of Villa Esperanza
Services’ strongest advocates and supporters.
Today, her daughter Susie is a living example of the success of her mother’s
mission. Susie started at Villa in the Infant Toddler Program and continued
through high school. As an adult, she now lives at the Wynn House, one of Villa’s
nine residential group homes. She and her five housemates go to dance and exercise
classes, help with chores at their home, and enjoy shopping and other outings.
Through our Employment Services program, Susie is a member of a Villa work
crew. She and her peers earn their paycheck by providing cleaning services at our
offices and school.
Following in her mother’s footsteps of community involvement, Susie is active
in Aktion Club, which is a Kiwanis sponsored service club and attended their
regional convention this year. As a fierce advocate for the developmentally disabled
community, Katie was a voice for those who could not speak for themselves.
Thanks to all her mother’s efforts, Susie now has a voice of her own.
-2010 Annual Report
C is for Caring
If you saw the Emmys this past September you may have seen Dr. Temple Grandin! The Emmy Award Winning HBO Movie, “Temple Grandin”, portrays the life of Temple during her school years and growing up with autism.
Harold Gordon and Jeff Salzman
Senator Carol Liu
As Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, she plays a key role in meeting these challenges. Her commitment is to work closely with Senate leaders and the Budget Committee to ensure any budget changes are “fair, equitable, and do the least harm.” As a former teacher, Senator Liu believes that everyone should be able to live their lives to the fullest and that this is a bigger challenge for the disabled community. “Everyone has a gift to offer even with their disabilities. They inspire us to do better and we ought to cherish those types of opportunities to make good on our investments in people. Organizations like Villa Esperanza that provide support services are key to making this happen for lots of folks.”
R-lene and Gordon de Lang
As a child, R-lene’s mother and grandmother fostered an ongoing compassion for those with special needs. Through a close friend, R-lene became directly involved with Villa 23 years ago. While supporting a number of other worthy community organizations including the boards of the Huntington Hospital and Pasadena Community Foundation, R-lene remains dedicated to Villa as her first passion.
Husband Gordon enthusiastically followed that passion for Villa after seeing “what a special place it was nearly 20 years ago.” Like his wife, Gordon serves on a number of boards with Villa remaining central to his commitments. Gordon says, “As a society, we are measured by the care and support that we provide to those in need, at risk, and who are challenged by developmental disabilities. Villa gives us the perfect opportunity to give back.”
Both R-lene and Gordon reflect on what a wonderful experience their relationship with Villa has been. While citing the outstanding reputation and trust that Villa has established in the community – and the leadership of the staff and administration – the heart of their passion comes down to the smiles and hugs from Villa’s clients.
“I know, see, and feel the love, nurturing, and passion that exists within everyone who works there,” says R-lene. “They truly love what they are doing and it is reflected in the client’s faces.”
For Debbie Meymarian, Villa Esperanza Services is all about family. Her involvement began when her cousin Laura, who had Down syndrome, moved into a Villa Esperanza residence when she became an adult. The home that Villa provided meant that Laura would still be close by her family. “We always knew that she was happy and well taken care of.” Laura has since passed away, but Debbie describes the time that she spent at Villa’s residence as being full of joy and happiness.
More recently, Debbie’s young cousin Jonathon has become a student at Villa’s School. Jonathon was born with Angelman Syndrome, a rare neuro-genetic disorder characterized by intellectual and developmental delay, jerky movements and frequent laughing and smiling. Jonathon’s mother appreciates that the staff and teachers at Villa have the highest of expectations for Jonathon and she is amazed by the progress and new things he learns since he started attending Villa’s School. Jonathon recently broke his arm and had to undergo surgery. After his surgery, Casey Gregg, Villa’s Principal, arrived in Jonathon’s hospital room. She sat by his side and comforted Jonathon for several hours. Debbie calls Casey’s dedication “the ultimate example of the care and understanding of faculty and staff at Villa.” For Debbie, supporting Villa ensures that the organization has the means to grow and continue to provide services for Jonathon and his friends.
Community volunteers — those two words mean quite a lot to the children, adults, families and staff at Villa Esperanza Services. We are always looking for ways to integrate our children and adults with the community. Volunteerism is growing in popularity nationwide; more and more individuals are looking for rewarding opportunities. Hundreds of volunteers come to Villa each year and leave a lasting mark...
As Casey Gregg, Vice President of Children and Youth Programs points out “student volunteers at Villa result in a positive impact on the volunteers as well as our students. These young volunteers grow up with a better understanding of people with disabilities and Villa’s students benefit from interactions with peers serving as models for good behavior.” A fourth grade Mayfield student was so touched by what he learned when he volunteered with our students it stuck with him and he came back to complete his Eagle Scout project here. Needless to say, he is sure to be an adult who has more compassion for individuals with disabilities....
|The Dimensions of Giving
When asked if he volunteers, Carl Norgaard's face lit up as he proudly said that he "helps the Food Bank." Carl started attending Villa's Dimensions Adult Day Program and, like many retired adults, found volunteering gives him the chance to give back and feel the rewards of helping other people while supporting his peers.
Dimensions serves adults with developmental disabilities. Dimensions staff are always striving to offer fresh new opportunities to help our participants grow. The staff teach living skills including how to bank, grocery shop, and utilize public transportation. The participants also enjoy art programs at the Armory Center for the Arts and exercise using yoga, dance or weights.
What many people don't realize is that our Dimensions participants are giving back to the community even more than they receive. They volunteer at the Pasadena Senior Center, Foothill Unity Food Bank, Union Station Homeless Services, and Pasadena Park Recreation as well as helping out with Villa's mailings, school lunches and Campus Store. Thirty participants give over 15,000 hours each year.
Meet Maria Carla Sangalang or Lala as we know her. She is Villa’s lead teacher in Room 2, one of our middle school classrooms with six students ages 11-14. Lala came to the United States in 2001, her journey is one of great accomplishment and pride.
Lala attended college in the Philippines and received a degree in what she hoped would land her a job in broadcast journalism. While in college, she volunteered at an alternative school. This was where she first experienced working with children with special needs, specifically autism.
|Loosening the Ties
When I first began treating Lisa, she needed restraints on both hands to keep her from hitting herself or pulling out her hair, a cushioned head band to keep her from banging her head, and a full-time aide to prevent self injurious behaviors from escalating. Lisa has been actively participating in school based occupational therapy twice a week for an hour for 4 months, and she seems like a different child to me now. Lisa can demonstrate diaphragmatic breathing as a self regulation tool. She can move her body using typical movement patterns that previously initiated panic and fear. She can now eat at the dinner table with her family and go for almost a full school day without requesting her “ties” as an external support to keep her body in control. More importantly, she smiles more.
...My family started on a new journey with my oldest sister Sandy approximately 4 years ago. Sandy lives at home with me and my mother. She has a developmental disability and is not always able to express what is going on with her. When my sister started experiencing problems with her breathing, her doctor changed her medication. Adjusting to the medication was difficult for Sandy and our family. Sandy became quiet, withdrawn and lost a lot of weight. Over the next couple of years we tried different medications and tried to keep her going to a workshop in the area. Sandy was pretty much a trooper through it all. When Sandy could no longer attend the workshop, we needed to find another place for her to go during the day. We found the Adult Day Program (ADP) at Villa Esperanza Services.
My sister Kathy is three years younger than myself. Due to a complication at birth, she is developmentally disabled. Kathy attends the Dimensions Adult Day program at Villa Esperanza. I attend to Kathy. It wasn’t always this way.
In late March 2002, our son Aaron was diagnosed with autism. At the time, he was a little over 2-years-old with no speech. Our family was confused and in disbelief. Aaron’s daily struggles and difficulties literally turned our lives upside down. My husband and I scrambled to figure out what he wanted and why he was so upset. Like cameras we zoomed in and zoomed out of situations to make sense of the numerous meltdowns he had throughout the day. Sometimes we were successful, but many times we were at a loss.
And for the very first time in his life, Aaron said “Mom”. He was holding my picture in his hand, and he looked right at me. I cannot put into words what I felt that day.
|Ryan Rose: A Life Not Defined by Autism
I rushed to catch up to Ryan as he slipped into the store like he’s done for over three years, past the cashiers and down an aisle to a door marked “Employees Only.” I hesitated. “Ryan, am I allowed…” He grinned and motioned for me to follow him into the staff room, where Ryan was met by a chorus of greetings. Ryan stuck his hand out to a new employee and smiled warmly, “Hi, I’m Ryan, a manager.”
Watching Ryan interact with surprising ease and confidence with his colleagues
made me ponder, how did a young man with autism get this far? What struck me is that Ryan is not defined by his disability.