From STAFF REPORTS
11:59 am | February 29, 2016
Over 150 supporters of the Villa Esperanza Guild joined Villa Esperanza Services staff at Saturday’s Day at the Races Fundraising Event held at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia for the benefit of Villa’s programs that assist individuals with developmental disabilities.
Villa Esperanza was started over 54 years ago by a group of mothers whose children were diagnosed with Down syndrome and other forms of what was referred to as “mental retardation.”
“Today, we serve over 600 children adults and seniors with developmental disabilities, including a school for children with autism, and eight adult programs – residential work programs, day programs and senior programs,” says Gioia Pastre, Villa’s Vice President of Development and Public Relations. “Our goal is to provide the opportunity for each person with a developmental disability to live life fully and inclusively in the community.”
Villa Esperanza says it is the only agency in the San Gabriel Valley that offers a full range of programs for all ages of individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, mental retardation, epilepsy, schizophrenia, brain disorders, speech disorders, cognitive disorders and other disabilities. It serves clients and their families from all over Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Last Thursday, February 25, the organization opened a new building for its Dimensions Adult Day Program. Michelle Cox, Director of Development at Villa Esperanza Services, says the newly renovated building is a significant phase of the group’s capital campaign.
“It’s huge. It’s really huge,” Cox said. “It’s going to really put us on the map even more so in terms of state of the art equipment and having the technology piece to match the actual quality programs.”
Cox said that Villa Esperanza has now reached 82 percent of its goal to raise $9 million in the campaign and will soon start pre-construction of new classrooms for its children’s school.
Pastre says seven new classrooms, a cafeteria and a kitchen will be added to the school. Two playgrounds will also be constructed.
“Our donors understand our mission,” says Pastre. “Our donors give because they totally believe in the mission of Villa Esperanza. They feel that without Villa, adults would not have a place to live, children with autism would not have a school to learn and to be able to learn to communicate. I think they feel that it’s so very important that an organization like Villa Esperanza is here to service these individuals, and that’s why they wholeheartedly give to the organization.”
Aside from 266 highly trained and dedicated staff, Villa’s programs are supported by 270 volunteers who help on committees and assist in the day-to-day activities. The group operates on a $12 million annual budget and gets funding support from school districts, regional centers, and from the state’s Department of Health and Department of Rehabilitation.
At Saturday’s event at the racetrack, Cox said continued support from the people will enable Villa Esperanza to pursue its goal of expanding services, especially for the children with special needs.
“This is the population that really can’t speak for themselves, typically,” Cox said. “These are young people, aged five to 22, that we serve in our school who grow up to become adults. They’re living longer, they’re living on their own and they’re becoming active and really substantial members of our community. People should care about what Villa does because everyone deserves the right to independence and becoming active in being a part of our community.”
For more information about Villa Esperanza, click here.