A Worthy Mission: Providing the Education and Independence That Enhances Lives
For 33 years, The Adult Skills Center (TASC) has provided education, job-training and independent living services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Los Angeles, California. TASC empowers individuals with diverse intellectual, developmental and mental health needs via a wide range of custom-tailored programs including therapeutic, integrated employment and independent living services.
The goal of the organization is to help each of its clients achieve their highest level of independence and realize their greatest potential. A San Fernando Valley-based organization, TASC currently serves more than two hundred adults.
Like many community-based organizations around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has made drastic changes to TASC’s programs and services. Some of TASC’s clients are among the most medically fragile in the community, so the organization has had to go to great lengths to ensure client and TASC employee safety is met while continuing to provide the services critical to each client’s general health, wellness and growth.
To learn about the organization’s latest projects throughout the community, we caught up with Christie Hight, Development & Communications Director at TASC and discussed recent successes as well as some of the challenges faced by TASC clients and employees over the last year.
How are your programs making an impact in the community?
I like to think of TASC as a changemaker in the community. We are known for being a small, but mighty team that’s adaptable to change, based on the evolving needs of our clients with developmental disabilities. TASC was the first agency in the San Fernando Valley to be 100% community-based, meaning fully integrated within the local community accessing public education, volunteering, cultural outings and more. We’re proud to have award-winning mental health programs for individuals often left out of the more traditional community services.
When COVID-19 first happened, our team had to quickly think of inventive ways to provide client services. TASC now offers virtual classes and social hours via Zoom for clients. Our classes cover topics such as employment skills, music appreciation and sign language as well as health & wellness options such as mindfulness/meditation.
Another service we’ve become known for during the pandemic is our home kits delivered to clients. Our team takes great pride in ensuring the kits are customized to our client’s interests and life goals. For instance, clients interested in learning how to cook receives recipes and ingredients to make meals in their homes.
Even before COVID, we established “microenterprises” for clients, which are self-sustained businesses managed by the clients with the support of TASC’s staff. The businesses provide opportunities for clients to be part of the community while building new job skills.
Our newest business is Better World Clothing. This enterprise was created to provide client employment opportunities during COVID. Better World Clothing is a merchandise business that creates, packages and ships items via an online and retail storefront. This venture came about as many businesses employing our clients began paring down their staffing due to COVID. All of the merchandise designs have been created by clients or staff members, who also help model the shirts on the website! Our clients love working at this business.
Can you share lessons learned as you’ve developed your programs and projects?
Speaking to TASC’s overall growth, there have been many lessons since we moved our programs to a more integrated and inclusive environment in the community. For example, we had to change the ratio of staff members to clients in order to ensure everyone’s health and safety. We also needed to create a transportation program to pick-up clients from their homes and take them to scheduled events and commitments in the community.
The main lesson here is the value in sharing what TASC has learned through these changes to help other agencies in similar lines of work create programs of their own. We believe we are stronger together through collaboration and teamwork within TASC’s internal environment as well as the community we serve.
How has Boston Private’s involvement impacted the programs?
With the support of Hayana Guerrero and Boston Private’s Encino team, TASC has stayed abreast of funding opportunities through Boston Private; whether it is assisting with PPP loans or helping with a grant directly from Boston Private to further support TASC’s programs and operations. This has been very helpful during COVID as donations have been hard to come by as many of our donors struggled themselves.
Additionally, Hayana has provided virtual trainings through Boston Private for our employees, teaching them how to prepare for potential financial issues. Employees in this industry are predominantly lower income due to the funding issues for our services. This training was a wonderful way to help our employees become more financially savvy.
Can you share some next steps for your organization?
One of the silver linings to COVID is that it has pushed not only TASC, but our whole industry into more person-centered programming for clients. It has always been our goal to provide personalized services, but we have taken it to the next level.
For services moving into a post-COVID world, we hope that our funding partners can recognize that not all services are a one-size-fits-all, especially for our aging clients in day programs that might not want to be out in the community all day. We also hope to see increased employment opportunities for our clients who are willing and able to work in the community.
How can our clients and readers support your organization?
As we pursue our vision of a future where individuals with disabilities are fully integrated into their communities, there is still much to do. There are a range of options for folks who are interested in supporting TASC services and programs. Direct donations are always welcome. To make a donation to TASC, visit our donations webpage.
If you would like to show your support by purchasing an item from our Better World Clothing business, visit our online store to see our unique clothing options. And lastly, individuals with disabilities make great employees. TASC encourages all employers to get to know the many benefits of hiring a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
To learn more about The Adult Skills Center and the ways we’re serving the San Fernando Valley community, please visit tascservices.org.