Putting together lifes pieces
Norma Bravo, 24, said she is proud of her job at Truckees Diary Queen. She is also proud that she can do her own laundry and help her mother shop for groceries.It all sounds simple enough, but for Bravo and the other adults with disabilities assisted by Choices Transitional Services, a small nonprofit program in Truckee, mastering those daily tasks is an accomplishment worth more than a pat on the back.They are really interested in wanting to make improvements in their lives, said instructor Connie Malfa of the dozen adults she teaches in the Choices daytime program.
Choices has been a part of the Truckee-North Shore community since 1999, and its consumers have disabilities that range from Down syndrome, to epilepsy, to cerebral palsy and autism. They all have different degrees of ability, but through the efforts of the Choices staff, consumers are able to improve their skills and better interact with one another. We have (nearly) 15 different people here with 15 different levels of ability, and theyre all interested in different things, so I get to teach to the individual Malfa said.Clients can attend the program five days a week to learn life skills, such as cooking and cleaning; to create art projects; and to practice reading and writing. But the program also gets participants out of the classroom and into the world.We go out into the community and go shopping, go to museums, said daytime program director Marilyn Moon. But we also go just to let the community see us, and for us to see them. One of the most amazing things about it is that everyone knows the consumers and says Hi. It makes them feel like part of the community.Further community interaction occurs when the group visits the Truckee Senior Center for lunch and when they rock babies to sleep at the Sierra Teen Education & Parenting Program child care center.Sonia (Art) enjoys going to the senior center for lunch because she gets kisses from everyone, Moon said of her eldest client, who is 70. Everyone loves Sonia because she has such a wonderful heart.
Funding for Choices Transitional Services comes from the state through the Alta California Regional Center, a partnership that supports people with developmental disabilities and children at risk.But that money is only enough to pay the bills, Moon said, so to provide for outings and activities, Choices clients learn to plan and host fundraisers in which they can sell their arts and crafts.Away from the Choices center in Truckee, Reyna Lopez, program manager for Choices Individual Living Services (ILS) and Supportive Living Services (SLS) also makes house calls to assist clients who live alone.Individual Living Services provides assistance to clients who live on their own and need help learning to cook, managing money, paying bills and caring for their medical needs, Lopez said. I support them, but they have their own choices, Lopez said. They have lots of limitations, but it doesnt matter if youre disabled, you are still your own person with your own rules.Supportive Living Services takes care-giving a few steps further by providing continual assistance to those clients who require help dressing, bathing, eating and just getting through the day.Lopezs services and those provided by the daytime program are crucial, Moon said, because no other services exist in the Tahoe Basin for those with disability. Before us, they were at home being taken care of by a parent, or they were alone, Moon said. We strive for independence … but they can come to the program until the day they die.