AbilityFirst, a nonprofit that provides services to help children and adults with special needs reach their full potential has expanded its facilities to help those with disabilities become more independent.
Keri Castañeda, Chief Operations Officer of AbilityFirst said the renovated Lawrence L. Frank Center in Pasadena includes a fully accessible “teaching” kitchen where participants can learn valuable cooking, safety and life skills that will help them in making a meal or assist in making a meal for themselves or for their family.
“Increasing independence of individuals is the cornerstone of AbilityFirst programs. One important way of doing this is by helping participants prepare and cook meals on their own,” said Castañeda.
Before, Castañeda said their kitchen was small and was not fully accessible to participants who use wheelchairs.
Now, AbilityFirst’s clients can enjoy a larger kitchen, with updated appliances including two utility-sized refrigerators, wide counter space and large deep sinks for cleaning food and for washing dishes.
The renovated center also includes an enhanced office space for the AbilityFirst ‘College to Career’ program and its staff, and two updated and expanded outdoor areas for outdoor activities.
The renovation on Lawrence L. Frank Center, which is one of the two buildings of AbilityFirst, is part of the $6 million fundraising campaign “Building Independence, Celebrating Community,” launched by the nonprofit to renovate its two buildings that opened more than 50 years ago.
The Lawrence L. Frank Center is the central hub for AbilityFirst’s ExploreAbility, College to Career and after-school programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
AbilityFirst was originally founded in response to the polio epidemic. But over the years, Castañeda noted changes in the services and programs being offered by the organization to adapt to the community’s needs.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Castañeda said the organization has been offering virtual programs for people with disabilities.
“We offered remote programming via Zoom and also met individuals in their own neighborhoods, to provide COVID-safe activities.”
“AbilityFirst has always had an emphasis on social connections for our participants and that was especially important during the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, the organization announced that it will hold a formal private opening of the renovated Lawrence L. Frank Center this October 21.
The renovation of the other building of AbilityFirst located in Long Beach is still under construction, according to Castañeda.