To Kevin, With Love

Tina and Walter Underwood’s hopes and dreams for their son, Kevin, were always the same as those for his brother, Michael: that he would have hobbies and interests he enjoys, like horseback-riding. He would also have friends and a community that supports him. Most of all, others would care for him and love him as much as they do.

“Teeny Little Super Guy” Perseveres

Weighing only 5.3 pounds at birth, Kevin faced a number of challenges due to a rare developmental disability and an autoimmune disease. Over the years, however, he developed his own unique and calm approach to life:

“Kevin has always been our Teeny Little Super Guy,” says Tina. “He doesn’t do something until he is absolutely ready. With perseverance and the best giggle ever, Kevin keeps trying until he  accomplishes what he wants.”

Throughout Kevin’s life, Tina and Walter worked with many professionals to help him become as independent as possible. They also practiced numerous daily living activities in hopes that Kevin would someday be able to live on his own.

Facing A Dilemma

But along with the Underwoods’ hard work and hopefulness, there was always an ever-present worry about Kevin’s future: Where could he possibly live, if not with his family?  Where would it be and what would it look like? How could they possibly afford it? Would he have friends? Most importantly, how do we find the right place for him?

While Kevin was finishing high school, the Underwoods investigated living options. They visited different homes and communities, looking for the right place for Kevin.  All the places were safe. Some were good, but none were a fit for Kevin. Tina shared, “The need for housing in the Bay Area is ever increasing and there aren’t many choices, much less great ones.”

The Right Place for Kevin

The Underwoods first heard about Life Services Alternatives at talks sponsored by the school district. Executive Director, Dana Hooper, spoke about LSA’s commitment to open five new residential care homes in five years for adults with developmental disabilities. As Dana described the supportive environment and individualized approach, it was clear that an LSA home would be a terrific place for Kevin.

So they scheduled a visit to LSA’s Cypress Residence and were amazed to find that it was a warm and happy home! The staff were not only caring and supportive, but engaging and fun. And, they help the residents only when necessary so they gain independence. Tina and Walter knew this was the right place for Kevin. “LSA isn’t just a safe, good, and wonderful home. It’s the BEST possible place for our son, Kevin.”

One of the Cypress Guys

Kevin has lived at Cypress for nearly a year and the transition has been seamless. His housemates took him under their wings and helped him adjust to his new home. Kevin loves animals, especially dogs and horses, and his favorite thing in the world is to go horseback-riding. On his first weekend living at Cypress, all the guys went to see Cavalia – a horse lover’s dream!

The Cypress Guys (an affectionate LSA term) all joke with each other, sing Karaoke, work out at the gym, watch sports together and go on camping trips. Kevin is now just “one of the Cypress Guys.”

The Best Possible Future

Today the Underwoods are feeling relieved and hopeful. They no longer worry. Kevin surprises his family constantly with his new skills; like doing his own laundry and using Facetime to connect with his brother. And thanks to the exercise program recommended by the LSA physical therapist, Kevin now has biceps. Looking back at her family’s journey, Tina is optimistic about the future:

“There are some kind and wonderful people in this world – doctors, teachers, job coaches, friends. People who did the right thing at the right time for us. LSA is one of those wonderful places.”

Forty percent of the clients we serve use wheelchairs – many requiring additional care when traveling due to ventilators, tracheostomies, g-tubes, and other medical equipment. Dependable transportation that allows us to accommodate each individual’s specific needs is paramount for daily living.

With twelve homes, our fleet of vehicles are always in use and receive a lot of wear and tear. LSA residents are constantly on the go – traveling to visit family, day programs, doctors, shops, parties at other sites, and day trips.

This year, we need to purchase two new wheelchair accessible vans. As you can imagine, these vehicles are highly-customized to provide the safest and most comfortable travel experience for each resident. Every detail in design choice can mean a world of difference to someone in a wheelchair. Due to the unique features required, the cost to purchase each van is almost $40,000!

Accessible transportation is a basic need for all of us. With your support, residents will be able to participate in daily life without limitations.

WWW.LSAHOMES.ORG/DONATE

My name is Angelina Mai, and I’ve been working at LSA for the last six weeks as a summer intern. This experience has opened my eyes to a whole new fascinating world.

I’ve truly enjoyed all the moments that I was lucky enough to participate in during my time at LSA from board meetings and attending parties with the residents, to volunteering and making new friends at COSTANOA COMMONS with CITP participants and staff.

LSA’s employees welcomed me with open arms. They’ve shown me the ropes of working in a professional setting, which will benefit me tremendously in the future. This opportunity allowed me to acquire an abundance of knowledge about the essentials of working in an office for a nonprofit organization. I was also able to take tours of the LSA homes, meet the wonderful residents, and job shadow a few of LSA’s nurses and rec therapists – which was very interesting to me because I aspire to become a nurse after college.

“I learned things from this internship that couldn’t be taught from a textbook or in a classroom, which is the importance of work ethic, communication, and working well with others.”

Everyone treated me with a tremendous amount of kindness. I’m thankful for this wonderful experience of being able to work with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. I learned things from this internship that couldn’t be taught from a textbook or in a classroom, which is the importance of work ethic, communication, and working well with others. This opportunity has been life-changing because it gave me a head start on real-world work experience, and I’m super excited to use these new skills that I’ve acquired during my summer at LSA.

Summer is the season for sun-filled days, warm nights, and time spent with family and friends. We enjoyed parties and BBQ’s, mini-vacations, and volunteering throughout our community. Here are a few highlights about what our LSA family experienced this year…a little slice of LSA summer.

CITP- Making an Impact in Our Community

LSA’s CITP participants had the honor of visiting and working at COSTANOA COMMONS in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains.

The urban farm was established by a group of families and friends to create a community where people of all abilities could share in everyday life, foster friendships, and create opportunities for people with disabilities.

Volunteers were able to help harvest fresh vegetables and flowers, and assist with various tasks around the farm including compositing and laying ground covers. It was an incredible experience for everyone! For more photos of the day and information on the farm, check out our BLOG POST.

CITP began a partnership with the TRITON MUSEUM OF ART & Jamison Brown House where they will be volunteering weekly to assist with maintaining the grounds, museum and historical buildings.

Parties, Birthdays and Summer Trips!

The last two months have been packed with festivities and our residents have been busy soaking in all that summer has to offer. From multiple birthday celebrations and parties – including CITP’s annual BBQ, 4th of July, and Hot August Nights – to day trips to Coyote Point Beach, San Francisco, the Fair Grounds, Emma Prusch Farms, and more!

Councilmember Visits McKendrie

Councilmember SERGIO JIMENEZ visited our McKendrie home with Executive Director Dana Hooper to meet a few of our amazing residents, and learn more about LSA. Jimenez, a vocal supporter of organizations serving people with DD/ID throughout our community, was able to speak with staff and learn a little more about residential housing models, and the operational side of running an LSA home.

Friendships Bloomed

LSA welcomed five young men into our RAMITA home over the summer. Starting their journey with a meet-and-greet with their families to the final move, bonds with fellow roommates and current LSA residents presented opportunities for new friendships and kindred support.

We want to publically thank the thirty-five employees who have been instrumental in LSA’s success during the last decade. Their dedication has helped create a caring community where clients can grow.

Thank you for the love and support you offer daily to create home for those we serve.

10 Years:

Colleen Bryant

Hector Erwin Busante

Beverly G Fabros

Maria Felix

Hawo Ahmed

Ermylaine Oribello

Precious Molina

Ruby May-Cole

Africa Garlejo

Jan Gehring

Ross Francisco

Jemma Duguma

Nancy Ho

Elvira Balbin

Leticia Pablico

Racquel Viernes

Lanilla Fabricante

Estrellita Bautisa

Junar Dacallos

Paula Kane

Relleta Bince

Virginia Rupisan

Marilou Cayabyab

Emilia Tiongson

Dovie La Roque

Edna Adona

5 Years:

Jaunito Flores

Tsehay Alemayehu

Anthony Tu

Saba Gebru

Marvin Calida

Abigail Diaz

Ed Fabricante

Levy Ferrer

Emanuel Aguilar

Cythia-Hill

We are thrilled to welcome Cynthia Hill, M.S.W., as LSA’s third program director who will oversee three of our homes and the CITP day program. Cynthia has worked with individuals with intellectual disabilities and behavioral challenges for more than forty years in various capacities. In her most recent role, she worked with clients transitioning out of developmental centers into community residential homes.

She joined LSA just in time for the Halloween festivities!

Looking for a unique birthday or early Christmas gift? During the​ ART 4 LSA fundraiser, local artist Lynn Rogers will be donating 100% of proceeds back to LSA.

Shop for wall art, stationery, prints, home decor and more!

Lynn’s award-winning artwork has shown in numerous local galleries throughout the Bay Area including Stone Griffin, CITADEL & WORKS, Studio Bongiorno, and LOS GATOS ART MUSEUM. In 2011 she was the recipient of the Pen Women of America’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts award and her work has been featured in The San Jose Mercury News, Los Gatos Weekly, and Milpitas Post.

To order go to HTTP://BIT.LY/ART4LSA

Every year we gather with our LSA family and friends to give thanks. While we certainly enjoyed all of the delicious Thanksgiving dinner fixings, we also upheld our unique LSA traditions.

We placed gratitude leaves on our fall tree and watching our annual video of the special memories we created this year.

From our LSA family to yours, we wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy

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As we prepare to embark on our next home project, we are also reflecting on the extraordinary journeys of those we have had the pleasure of supporting over the years.

Their successes have become what we as an organization live for – seeing them change, grow, and smile. They have touched our lives as much as we have theirs – we are family.

At the core of LSA, we believe that everyone should be treated with respect. Individuals with developmental disabilities should have an opportunity reside in their communities with the care and support they need to live life to its fullest.

As parents, of course, we want the best possible place for our children. For many families, LSA has become a home they can trust, where their son or daughter is safe, and most importantly, where they thrive. This move to independent living often presents unexpected gifts for families to grow, siblings to develop deeper connections and parents to have peace of mind that their children are experiencing some of the same opportunities in adulthood we all have.

We recently had the opportunity to interview a few residents and their families for a video we were working on to ask them about the impact LSA has had on their lives

Family Growth

Affectionately named ‘the safe house’ by Jordan-Bennett resident Vanessa, she and her four roommates have bonded through the years, developing deep friendships that have aided in their personal growth. Her mom Lynn feels her daughter’s journey while at LSA has been a miracle. “It’s different because the emphasis is on a wonderful life.”

“They’ve thought through this well – how to provide housing for disabled adults…and they continue to refine, in the difficult environment of funding and finding staff.”

Housemate Sitara echoed Vanessa’s sentiments – “I really love LSA. I love it!” Sitara’s parents believe the care she has received has far surpassed their expectations. Supportive of our endeavors, they are also keenly aware of the challenges in the Bay Area our community has to navigate. “They’ve thought through this well – how to provide housing for disabled adults…and they continue to refine, in the difficult environment of funding and finding staff.”

Amber, who also lives at Jordan-Bennett, was just three years old when she contracted meningitis. For her grandparents, it was difficult for them to picture her living independently growing up and “part of that is she is just so vulnerable.” Her father agrees as he didn’t think this level of support was possible outside of their home or financially feasible. “The level of care, the quality of the home that she’s living in, the beauty of the neighborhood, and having the around the clock care that she does – would be impossible for us to try to finance ourselves.”

“It gave me an opportunity to just be her sister…we get more quality time this way.”

Since moving into the home, Amber and her sister (who are only eighteen months apart) have also grown closer. “It gave me an opportunity to just be her sister…we get more quality time this way.”

Although all the clients we serve have developmental disabilities, just like us, they also have different support needs. Thane, who resides at our McKendrie home, experienced a life-changing accident as a teen when his parents were suddenly faced with the daunting task of finding a loving home where all of his medical needs could be met. Although the circumstances that led him to us were unique, his mom Sunny emphasized that “Thane’s not the only one out there living on the edge.” She believes that because our model was designed to be a home where he and his housemates can live happily receiving the love and care they need is what sets LSA apart.

Our Next Journey

Looking toward 2019, we honor and thank all of the individuals and families we have been able to support through the years. We also realize we are facing unique challenges in the Bay Area as capacity remains low and needs continue to rise in our community. Coupled with the fact that small licensed care homes are in decline in Santa Clara County, parents have limited options. This is our driving force – creating those opportunities one home at a time.

As we enter the holiday season and end-of-year giving is beginning, we are hopeful that with your support we can continue our mission of Creating home, Changing Lives.

To donate to our next home, go to WWW.LSAHOMES.ORG/DONATE/