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AbilityFirst Reopens Its Doors

Longtime community organization facility gets a $6 million facelift

Published on Friday, October 22, 2021 | 6:01 am

Community leaders, family members, and AbilityFirst staff reopened the newly renovated Lawrence L. Frank Center in a ceremony at the community’s facility in Pasadena Thursday.

“This building is special to me and my family,” said Board Member Richard R. Frank, whose father, Lawrence, built the facility in honor of his own father.

“They were both longtime supporters of AbilityFirst,” said Frank, who explained, “Somewhere along the line, I joined the board and became passionate about the mission of AbilityFirst, and how the staff goes about their job, and how they support the community and our clients.”

Frank chaired 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.

“It was something I’ve never done before,” he said, “but because of what this organization does for the community, and how they do it, and because of my family’s connection to this building, it’s really gratifying me to see it renovated and ready for the next 50 years.”

“Every time I come to an AbilityFirst event, I get a little choked up,” said L.A. County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “As someone who grew up in this area, and who volunteered here, I used to always go in their swimming pool, because it looked so cool!

“But now, as an adult,” she continued, “I’ve seen firsthand the impact that this program has had on friends of mine, whose family members had come here to get the support they needed, to show them that there is hope and there is the ability to have independence, and to not give up.”

Councilmember Gene Masuda also praised the work of the staff for “helping our kids and adults be all they can be, and teaching them life skills, which I’ve always been appreciative of.”

Masuda also pointed out and praised the staff for their help when he was involved with a local neighborhood association.

Representatives from the offices of State Senator Anthony Portantino and State Assemblymember Chris Holden presented resolutions to AbilityFirst at the event.

AbilityFirst was established in 1926 and known as the Crippled Children’s Society of Southern California (CCS) for many decades. Rotarians Lawrence Frank and Paul Dietrich, were two of the original founders of the organization.

AbilityFirst has 14 programs and centers which support individuals with disabilities through after-school enrichment programs, job training, community employment, accessible camping, and affordable and accessible housing.

Because of the renovation, AbilityFirst clients can now 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.

Keri Castañeda, Chief Operations Officer of AbilityFirst said in an earlier interview that the renovated “teaching” kitchen helps clients 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.

The renovated center 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 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.

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One thought on “AbilityFirst Reopens Its Doors

  • Congratulations to Ability First and to my brother & sister in law, Steve & Mary Brockmeyer, having the College to Career Center named after them.