Abilities United begins 50th anniversary celebration this week with art exhibition

Abilities United begins the celebration of its 50th anniversary this week, concurrent with last Monday’s International Day of People with Disabilities, a United Nations-sanctioned event that promotes support for people with disabilities.

The agency has served the disabled since its opening in 1963 in Palo Alto. Abilities United members will tell the organization’s story and share their testimonials in a number of events, shows and webinars with community partners through 2013.

The campaign’s inaugural event is an art exhibition scheduled at the Microsoft retail store 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily through Friday at Stanford Shopping Center. Original works of art from local artists who are clients of the agency will be on display and available for purchase, with proceeds benefiting the artists.

Abilities United (formerly titled the Community Association for Rehabilitation, or C.A.R.) began as a small nursery school founded by 12 families for their children with developmental disabilities. Since then, the agency has expanded to become a valuable lifeline for thousands of families throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Lynda Steele, Abilities United’s executive director, emphasized the agency’s importance.

“At one point, institutionalization was the only option for children with disabilities,” she said. “But over the past 50 years, we have developed a wide range of comprehensive lifelong services through education, training and support that enable those with disabilities to be a part of the community. In creative and positive ways, we have worked hard to eliminate the barriers that prevent individuals from attaining the best life possible.”

Michael Solari, Microsoft community development specialist, explained his company’s involvement.

“At Microsoft, we strive to help people around the world realize their full potential,” he said. “By hosting an art exhibition with Abilities United, we are able to jointly celebrate the artistic accomplishments of their participants.”

Beginning this week, Abilities United members are launching their “50 Successes/50 Stories” campaign, publishing personal testimonials to illustrate the accomplishments of people of all abilities over the past 50 years. Each week, the organization plans to post a new story on its website and distribute it via social media.

Bob Thomas of Mountain View, who first volunteered for the agency in 1978 when he was 18 years old, collected the 50 individual stories in support of the 50th anniversary campaign.

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