In 1977, while completing his PhD in psychology at UCLA, Ed Dawson wondered why all the daytime services for people with developmental disabilities took place in facilities. He thought, “why not a service completely on wheels with no center to report to?” He pictured an experience that offered the opportunity to participate in local activities and enjoy total community inclusion.
And so SVS was born, first as an after school program for three teenagers. More than 40 years later SVS offers a comprehensive array of services for individuals with a broad range of needs and interests who happen to have intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Many SVS employees have been in the SVS family for a long time. As of this date, 500 of our over 2000 employees have been with SVS 10 years or more!
Clients too tend to stay with our services. Over the years they have helped shape SVS with their individually expressed interests, feedback, praise and enthusiasm.
Juan & Angie
In 1979 my brother Juan was introduced to a new, innovative Day Program called Social Vocational Services. Prior to starting at SVS Juan struggled in the programs he attended, at that time day program options were very limited for someone with his unique needs which only increased the challenges.
Juan’s difficulty in communicating resulted in severe behavior episodes but he loved being in the community and staying active and SVS was just the right fit. Juan immediately connected with his SVS team and began to improve his communication skills and our family saw a significant decrease in his behaviors. He learned work skills and loved earning a paycheck and would often tell us “Juan works hard and makes mucho money!” He’d spend his money on albums of his favorite music group The Eagles, learned to take the bus with his SVS staff & friends and explored our community. Juan “retired” from SVS and moved to sunny Miami with our parents in 2000 and enjoyed traveling, visiting family and “relaxing”. In 2019, Juan moved back to California and in 2020 was thrilled to go back to SVS and join the Long Beach Inclusion Center where he continues to live his best life!
Juan’s love of SVS helped me find a job…actually my career. Juan and I have always been very close and I was able to see the amazing progress he was making thanks to SVS and wanted to be part of an organization that could make such an important difference in someone’s life. In 1981 I joined the SVS family and have been able to watch firsthand the remarkable work performed by SVS staff each day. In June 2021 I celebrated 40 years of service to an agency that continues to be innovative, trend setting and dedicated to all of the “Juan’s” out there. (Angie)
Not too long ago, our daughter Cecilia was diagnosed with a Mental Health Disorder. Cecilia and our family struggled with the reality that she may never be the same. Cecilia became quiet, unsure of herself, her self-esteem plunged. Medication was prescribed, but it just didn’t work and often made the situation even worse.
Frustrated for our daughter, her sister Patricia discovered a program, through the Central Valley Regional Center, by the name of SVS Tower Arts Center which assists persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The staff at SVS greeted Cecilia with open arms. A short time after Cecilia’s enrollment at SVS, it became quite clear that this was the place for her. It was a perfect fit!
Her anxiety went down, her moods improved, she had clearer thoughts and her self-esteem soared! Rick Sowers and his staff made her feel right at home and their positive interaction with not only my daughter, but across the board with all the other participants showed why their program was and continues to be so successful. My daughter is a completely different person since entering SVS Tower/Studio. She has become a self-sufficient, independent young adult – has her own apartment and actually took care of my mother during the final months of her life. I attribute this all to the guidance and encouragement of SVS.
I have learned that artwork and disabilities are often linked! Artwork is a great form of therapy that helps the participants express themselves. I firmly believe that now more than ever.
I truly feel in my heart that without the SVS Tower Arts Center, Cecilia would not have traveled as far as she has in her life. Her life is now as we had always hoped for. My family and I owe SVS a debt of gratitude.
There really are no words!
Cynthia’s mother, Norma was feeling melancholy and not planning to do any decorating for Thanksgiving during the recent pandemic. It was an emotional and challenging year for the whole family but when Norma looked at all the beautiful creations Cynthia had made from her “alternative” SVS services she knew she had to use them.
In Norma’s words:
I can’t tell you how much joy it brought to me to display the items and how proud Cynthia was of all her work when she saw them all on the table. That was the emotional uplift we all needed! I wanted to share this special picture with you and your staff. As I am sure you know this Thanksgiving was very different from all others due to the pandemic and for us, also because we are still not back at home. Although we feel extremely thankful and blessed that we are alive and well, it’s been an emotional and challenging year for each of us. As Thanksgiving was approaching, I was feeling rather melancholy and had not planned on decorating our table, but as I looked around at all of Cynthia’s beautiful creations, I knew I had to. I can’t begin to tell you how much joy it brought me to display them and how proud Cynthia was when she saw them on our table. Seeing them was the emotional uplift that we all needed. I would like to commend you and your staff for all of your and their hard work, patience, compassion, and care that goes in to planning and carrying out each activity for our special adult children. Your efforts don’t go unnoticed! On behalf of our family, we thank you and appreciate you very much!
Jason and Von’s
It was October 2008 when Jason first expressed an interest in seeking work. He was referred to SVS by Regional Center and a job search began. Although he had several interviews, Jason’s first choice was to work at Von’s as a Courtesy Clerk. To Jason’s delight he was offered the job and started on February 14, 2009.
With the help of his SVS Job Coach Jason developed his customer service skills, remembering product placement, and accurately following his employer’s instructions.
Jason became a favorite courtesy clerk of the frequent patrons and the Vons management team took notice. During an evaluation, his manager mentioned that with continuing improvement he could someday move into a supervisory position. Not fully confident he was ready for advancement though, Jason continued in his current job, building confidence, so on March 5, 2021 when Jason was offered the promotion he accepted it and moved to his current position, Front End Supervisor!
In addition to his previous duties Jason assumed the added responsibility of helping customers when they have a complaint, assisting in resolving any issues, and arranging coverage when team members are absent.
Jason is happy he overcame his reluctance to make the next move in his career and his advice to anyone looking for work or making a change at work is “Make sure you are comfortable in yourself to make that next move”. Jason believes he “shattered the glass for clients like me”. He continues with his job coaches help to look toward his future with Vons and wants us all to: “Always dream big and go big. Don’t let a disability stop you. Learn all you can learn and take advantage and always strive to be your greatest self”.
Before COVID John had a good job and he liked it. He worked at the beautiful Route 280 Rest Stop and was paid well for his work. But then came the pandemic and John was off work for the foreseeable future. He didn’t want to stay at home and do nothing, so when regional center offered him the opportunity to enter an SVS inclusion center Alternative Service while he waited to go back to work he was eager to participate. During this hiatus from his job John realized a few important things:
- He always thought he could not learn new things. He was wrong.
- He enjoys cooking along with SVS staff over Zoom and is good at it.
- He likes to try new recipes
When John returns to work, he might decide to bring his lunch instead of buying it.