AbilityFirst aims to offer all possible experiences to its participants, sometimes kayaking and sailing, or a baseball game or a trip to SeaWorld. They attended an adapted ski school and even went to casinos and bars.
Although the organization serves people with disabilities, its services extend far beyond the traditional day program.
“We really give that person a chance to participate to see if they like it or not,” allowing attendees to really experience their skills and potential hobbies, said senior director of programs and director of the Long center. Beach, April Stover. .
Day program clients also have the opportunity to develop many practical skills, such as taking public transportation, calling an Uber, going to the movies, or eating out.
“We may have to adapt things for (people with disabilities) to be successful, but they have the same wants and needs as everyone else,” Stover said.
In nearly 100 years, Ability first has adapted to meet the needs of the disabled community.
First established in Pasadena in 1926 as the “Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California” (a name changed in 2000 to reflect both today’s most appropriate terminology and the population it serves) Today’s AbilityFirst is all about the person’s language first, emphasizing the client as an individual, rather than being seen as their disability.
While the company has made “giant strides” for people with disabilities, “we (are not necessarily) close to where we need to be,” Stover said.
But what AbilityFirst does across its various locations (its Long Beach center opened in 1966) is advocacy for people with disabilities, while helping its clients become independent, active members of their communities.
As the non-profit organization initially focused on providing day programs and therapy, as more schools began to provide these same services, AbilityFirst recognized needs that were not being met. , which largely includes social recreation and independent living skills.
Not only does AbilityFirst offer the first fully accessible camp in the state of California, but clients can participate in a wide range of programs, which have only grown since the organization has shifted more to community support and job workshops over the years. last five years or so, Stover said.
“Kids are growing up to be adults, so we really wanted to make sure they had programs that would allow them to keep growing,” Stover said.
Adult day programs specifically appeal to the interests and desired skills of its participants, ensuring that they have the best possible quality of life and are able to participate in the choice of the type of program they receive, Stover said. .
“If we don’t give our people with disabilities the opportunity to experience all of these different things the world has to offer, they won’t be able to make a real, informed choice,” Stover said.
And when the pandemic changed all of what was available to customers, AbilityFirst maintained the same mission of meeting the needs of their customers during this turbulent time.
“Zoom hasn’t worked for everyone, but it has worked for a lot of individuals,” Stover said. “It worked for people who just wanted to make connections. There would be times when some of our Zooms were literally just social hours because they needed to have that connection. “
And for customers whose needs could not be met online, AbilityFirst made it a priority to meet them where they were.
While Stover has likened the experience of adapting to the pandemic to “building the plane while we fly it,” the organization was one of the first to switch to alternative location programming, which means meeting customers in their front yard or in a park once it has been deemed safe.
Because of this, the nonprofit was able to continue to focus on the needs of individuals, such as social and independent living skills, while providing families with a much needed break, she said.
In February, Stover looks forward to a full renovation of the Long Beach Center, which will provide more space and opportunities for its customers and their families, especially for College to Career and supporting employment programs.
“We’ve always been trailblazers, and so I think we’ll continue to really see what our attendees want, what’s out there and go after and try it,” Stover said. “Sky is the limit.”
Contribute to AbilityFirst here.
Precious Lamb will receive a grant of $ 350,000
Precious Lamb Preschool, which provides free education and care to young children of the homeless, is this year’s S. Truett Cathy winner at Chick-fil-A’s 2022 True Inspiration Awards.
The local nonprofit, one of 34 award recipients across the country, will receive a grant of $ 350,000 to advance its programs.
“Their work is truly inspiring,” said John Howard, operator of Chick-fil-A Long Beach, in a statement.