Adults with developmental disabilities helped to reach new horizons

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angela-fentiman90BY ANGELA FENTIMAN

Eight hundred developmentally disabled adults in the San Fernando Valley are productive and enthusiastic members of the community because of the work of New Horizons. Founded in 1954 by a small group of parents with mentally-challenged children, the organization has grown to provide numerous services to the Valley’s adults with developmental disabilities .

“The greatest compliment to us is to have our clients integrated into the community,” said New Horizons CEO Cynthia Kawa.

New Horizons client Doug shows off an ad for the L.A. County Fair, which he is looking forward to attending. Photo by Angela Fentiman

New Horizons client Doug shows off an ad for the L.A. County Fair, which he is looking forward to attending. Photo: Angela Fentiman

New Horizons accomplishes its mission through a variety of services that meet the needs of clients with varying levels of developmental challenges. All the programs are designed to teach clients how to be productive members of the community.

New Horizons is the largest supported employment provider in Los Angeles County, according to Kawa. The nonprofit maintains relationships with 160 businesses throughout the community to find job placements for clients.

Clients who are not ready for employment in the community have opportunities to learn job skills on the New Horizons campus. The site houses a full workshop that packages various products from earplugs to educational toys, said Director of Development and Community Relations Holly Rasey. The workshop does about $2 million in customer products each year, according to Kawa.

“I like doing my job,” said Luis Parra who works in the New Horizons workshop. “It’s fun and my friends are here.”

Other options for employment at the New Horizons facility are found in Sam’s Cafe. The cafe is actually a fully-functioning professional kitchen and banquet hall that is rented out for community events, holiday parties and wedding receptions. Clients working in the cafe learn all aspects of food service skills, according to Rasey.

The clients who have jobs in the New Horizons workshop and Sam’s Cafe receive payment for their work.

“I like getting the pay checks,” said Abend Leroy, who has been a New Horizon’s client for about three years and works in Sam’s Cafe busing tables.

Luis Parra packages earplugs in the New Horizons workshop. Photo Captions/Photo: Angela Fentiman

Luis Parra packages earplugs in the New Horizons workshop. Photo: Angela Fentiman

Rasey explained that each program is designed to teach clients real-world skills that they can use to get placements in community businesses. Clients who are not ready for the workshop or Sam’s Cafe spend their time in the day training center where they learn life and employment skills.

In addition to the training programs, New Horizons provides independent living programs. For clients who are capable of living on their own, the organization will help locate appropriate housing and provide ongoing services. New Horizons also owns and operates 12 group homes where clients reside in a family-like setting with a live-in care provider.

New Horizon clients want to be included in the community and seek opportunities to help others. The New Horizon staff makes sure that there are plenty of chances for clients to volunteer. Kawa said clients have done work to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, helped retrain rescue animals for New Leash on Life and volunteered at MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity).

“Our clients love helping the community,” Rasey said. “You think of them requiring services, but they love giving back to the community.”

New Horizon clients prepare medical wristbands for Precision Dynamics Corp. in the organization's workshop. Photo Captions/Photo: Angela Fentiman

New Horizon clients prepare medical wristbands for Precision Dynamics Corp. in the organization's workshop. Photo: Angela Fentiman

New Horizons clients are also eager to share their facility and work they do there with members of the community.

“Our clients love to have guests come,” Kawa said. “Whether you’re President Obama or Cynthia Kawa they want to show you what they’re doing.”

New Horizons offers tours of its North Hills facility for community members on the first and third Fridays of the month. The tours begin at 11 a.m., with lunch served in Sam’s Cafe at noon. To schedule a tour, call 818.894.9301. For more information about New Horizons, visit www.newhorizons-sfv.org.

Angela Fentiman is a freelance writer and public relations professional who has represented clients across all sectors—nonprofit, government and business. She has a master’s degree in public administration (MPA) and a B.A. in communication. Angela can be contacted at angela.fentiman@gmail.com.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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