[Tierra Del Sol] – If, in its infancy in the 1970s, the Tierra del Sol Foundation had hosted a luncheon to honor employers that partnered with the nonprofit organization, it might have drawn two tables’ worth of people, said Rebecca Linehard, Tierra’s director of integration services.
What a difference time makes.
On Oct. 5, a crowd of nearly 300 people from various companies and organizations packed the ballroom at the Woodland Hills Hilton, as the Sunland-based organization, which seeks to empower the developmentally disabled, saluted its partner companies, including Santa Clarita-based Precision Dynamics.
“At each table are miracle workers,” said Steve Miller, executive director of Tierra del Sol. “It’s by the sweat of your brow that the world has changed. … Don’t applaud me; look at the people sitting next to you and across from you.”
Tierra partners with nearly 130 employers in the Los Angeles area. On Friday, the organization honored Santa Clarita-based Precision Dynamics, as well as Hamer Toyota, Alternative Home Care, Sun Thrift and North Valley Family YMCA.
“It’s a tremendous, tremendous honor,” said Cecil Kost, CEO of Precision Dynamics. The company provides identification solutions for healthcare, law enforcement and leisure and entertainment markets, and has employed a number of Tierra del Sol clients over the past 20 years.
“I urge all to find new and novel ways to partner with Tierra,” Kost said. “Care more than others think is reasonable; do more than what others think possible.”
The luncheon audience also had a chance to hear from 40th district state Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield.
“Considering that Tierra just celebrated 40 years of service, they must be doing something right – and we’re lucky to have such a committed and involved community,” he said. “It takes one spark to ignite important change and a whole lot of help from caring and committed people, like those of you here today.”
Blumenfield noted that his father, a psychiatrist, is a board member of Tierra del Sol and his mother is a social worker, and both were camp counselors for special needs children. That family background that has influenced his desire to help individuals with disabilities, he said.
“By ensuring that its clients have opportunities to shine,” he said, “Tierra del Sol challenges us to ensure that everyone has the chance to contribute to the place we call home.”
The Tierra del Sol Foundation, founded 40 years ago, helps nearly 600 people across Los Angeles County and provides education, community service and employment services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Tierra del Sol’s programs focus on empowering young adults with disabilities to transition from high school to college and then employment. For those who require additional education and training, Tierra has created volunteerism and job-training opportunities.
Miller said Tierra del Sol’s employment partners have demonstrated a societal shift, from assuming the developmentally disabled were unemployable to showing they can be assets.
“This is something that works,” he said. “This is not a risk, this is an opportunity.”
Talking about the role of personal connections and networking in career advancement, Miller noted that is something the developmentally disabled usually don’t have. That, he said, is where Tierra’s employment partners come in, creating bridges to advancement for Tierra’s clients.
“If it had not been for a few initial partners, none of this would have ever happened,” he said.