Community service has new alternative |

Community service has new alternative

A new community service program created by Choices Transitional Services proves that a little sense of self-purpose can go a long way.

A nonprofit organization, Choices Transitional Services teaches developmentally disabled adults life skills.

“Our goal is to enable them to live in a manner which they choose and integrate them into the community,” Executive Director Ora Mills said. “We’re all about them being able to choose their own lifestyle.”

Funded through ALTA California Regional Center, Choices offers many programs. Independent Living Services, Supported Living Services and Independent Living Training programs have existed at the facility since it was founded.

Vocation and Educational Training Services is the most recent addition to Choices list of programs and projects. VETS is aimed at raising the esteem of Choices clients through volunteer work for South Shore businesses and community organizations.

“The focus is going to be on teaching these individuals employment skills through volunteering at different sites around the community, doing odd jobs,” VETS Program Director Geaniene Newport said. “We want employers and businesses to know that this group is available to put together packets, seal envelopes, these sorts of things.”

In preparation for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, eight developmentally disabled adults made purple ribbons Friday for the Women’s Center.

“The people here (at Choices) have relationships too,” said Lois Denowitz, shelter director at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center. “Sometimes we don’t think of disabled people as having relationships and families, but they do and it’s important for them to learn about domestic violence. They’re making these ribbons and they’re understanding and talking about domestic violence. Maybe that’s a subject they’ve never talked about before and I think we need to educate everyone on this.”

Mills said there is some crossover between the Women’s Center and Choices, as some of her clients are also survivors of domestic abuse.

“Probably 90 percent of the (disabled) community has suffered some kind of abuse and they’re usually too afraid to come forward and say anything,” she said.

Newport explained some of the benefits her clients gain from volunteering their time to help others.

“It gives them a real sense of purpose,” Newport said. “This population has a tendency to be isolated and programs like this quite literally get them out of their house. They can be perceived, in turn, by the community as viable individuals. It also enhances their social skills and community skills. For some, if they didn’t have this program, they’d be home, with no life.”

Carol Goodenough and Lori Larkin are instructors for the VETS program, which takes place Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Choices Transitional Services.

“This program is beneficial to (the clients) through the obvious education, but it’s also social,” Larkin said. “One of our main goals is to teach them their rights and the responsibilities those rights carry.”

Choices’ client Crystal Walker said she had fun making the ribbons and learned that domestic violence is “not nice.”

Michael Cotter, also a client at Choices, said making the ribbons made him feel good.

“We’re making some ribbons for people with family problems who have domestic violence,” he said. “Domestic violence, that’s bad. It’s very bad but I am helping.”

Choices Transitional Services is located at 1950 Lake Tahoe Blvd. in the Alpine Center behind Raley’s at the “Y.”

Community organizations and businesses interested in providing an opportunity to Choices clients are encouraged to contact VETS Program Director Geaniene Newport at (530) 541-0167.

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