To live independently, to contribute to the community and to develop loving relationships are worthwhile goals for anyone, but for those with developmental and physical disabilities, they become challenging, lifelong missions. Abilities United, founded in 1963, aims to give those with disabilities educational, social and work opportunities to achieve such goals.
At Abilities United’s facilities on Charleston Road in Palo Alto, staff and volunteers provide education, therapy, support, social interaction and training for individuals with disabilities.
Los Altos resident Linda Roark volunteers once a week in the flower and vegetable garden at Abilities United, leading a group of participants in garden activities that foster self-confidence and improve motor skills.
Q: What activities do you carry out with the participants?
A: When the group first arrives, we gather to sing a gardening song, then I assign each participant a task. Some participants water plants, others meet in small groups with a volunteer to plant seedlings, cut flowers or harvest vegetables. A popular activity is cutting lavender and removing the fragrant blossoms. When they are dried, we make fragrant sachets that the clients will give as gifts. This week, we are shelling beans and planting donated seedlings.
Q: What skills and training are needed?
A: If you love to garden and enjoy being with people, that is all you need.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your volunteer job?
A: I enjoy this volunteer job because it involves gardening, a skill that I truly enjoy and love to share with the others. I hope that the participants can learn gardening skills to use for their own gratification, and that it will lead them to some independence. At a time when the economy is so slow, and many funds have been cut, it is good to volunteer and be part of your community.
Volunteering at Abilities United
Volunteers are needed in other areas at Abilities United: assisting with after-school activities for children, such as park visits, art projects and community outings; accompanying adults on field trips and during social events; and aiding water instructors during swimming lessons at the Betty Wright Swim Center.
One-time group project
Abilities United has an immediate need for a group of volunteers to remove the soil from a raised garden bed and deliver it to the landfill.
The bed, contaminated with wild alliums that grow rampant and leach nutrients from the soil, must be cleared so that it can be replanted with vegetables that the participants want to grow to give to food banks. This is an ideal project for a Scout group, family or church group.