Abilities United celebrates 50 years, honors volunteers

Photo By: Courtesy of Wendy Kuehnl
Photo Courtesy Of Wendy Kuehnl

Los Altos resident Jeff Byron (standing), former Abilities United board president, and his wife, Debbie (in blue), attend the nonprofit organization’s 50th anniversary celebration April 25 at the Microsoft Conference Center in Mountain View.

Abilities United recognized the contributions of local volunteers and celebrated its 50th anniversary April 25 at Microsoft Corp. in Mountain View.

Lynda Steele, Abilities United executive director for the past 20 years, discussed the nonprofit organization’s accomplishments over the past half-century before a capacity crowd of 300. The theme, “United for Inclusion of All Abilities,” highlighted the organization’s commitment to help people with developmental and physical challenges by providing training, education and support.

The Palo Alto-based Abilities United (formerly the Community Association for Rehabilitation) was founded in 1963 by 12 families whose children had intellectual disabilities. The organization serves those with developmental (autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and intellectual disability) and physical disabilities and those at risk of developmental delay.

Steele described Abilities United’s vision for the future and how it could be realized, noting that over the past 50 years, the organization has demonstrated the significant contributions people with disabilities can make in the community.

“Based on their needs to be the best they can be, they used the opportunities, resources and supports we created together,” she told supporters. “The dark ages of institutional care and exclusion from society are nearly over. We now want to build on this solid foundation. Help us work side-by-side with other organizations and individuals to ensure a future of full inclusion, where people with and without disabilities live, learn, work and play together.”

State Sen. Jerry Hill and Assemblyman Rich Gordon joined Steele in presenting the awards to individuals and organizations that significantly impacted the people Abilities United serves. Award winners included the Golden Gate Regional Center and the San Andreas Regional Center, the Kiwanis Club of Palo Alto, the Sobrato Family Foundation, the Jarrett family and volunteers Jane Mangold and Linda Vargas. Abilities United recognized Karen Denny, John Fort, Carol Gleason, Peter Leung and Pamela Newman for their 20-plus-year careers at the organization.

Art created by artists from Abilities United decorated the walls at the event. Featured artists included Michael Broadhurst, Judy Wachner and Nick Golick. Storyboards highlighted their histories and those of other longtime supporters, including Abilities United’s first employee, 95-year-old Marie Mong of Los Altos.

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