Welcome to Villa’s 2020-2022 Review. Villa is proud to celebrate 60 years of providing Love, Care and Hope for families and individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Cheers to 60 years of inspiring moments, investing in the future and transforming lives. These past 2 years have been like no other and Villa has been able to stay strong through it all with the help of all our donors and the amazing staff. Thank you for your dedication to all of the individuals we serve.
“As Board Chair, I am proud of the resilience Villa demonstrated in the face of adversity… Clearly Villa has helped thousands manage adversity and challenges and remains a unique institution that listens to those who all too often do not have a voice in our confusing world.”
“Villa’s progress during this difficult time is owed to an extremely dedicated, forward thinking, and passionate team which includes our Board of Directors, Villa staff, volunteers, and donors. Thank you for embracing the vision of a promising future for all Villa’s clients!”
Thank you to everyone who joined the celebration of Villa Esperanza’s 60th Anniversary and the ribbon cutting of our new mural! This new addition to the main Villa campus was designed by Nickelodeon and features characters from The Casagrandes TV show, which includes the character of Carlos Jr., who has Down syndrome. The mural was painted by a collaboration of Villa students, adult participants, and a local non-profit, Muralism.org. We are grateful to both Nickelodeon and Muralism for bringing this bright and joyful mural to life for our 60th Anniversary. A special thank you to Mayor Victor Gordo, Councilmember Felicia Williams, and representatives from the offices of Senator Portantino, Assemblymember Chris Holden, and LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger for helping us mark the occasion.
Villa Esperanza Services offers 9 distinct programs for individuals of ALL ages, with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
years since Villa was founded
different client disabilities addressed
cities where Villa clients reside
clients Villa currently serves
of every $1 directly supports programs
highly trained staff
Villa Esperanza Services celebrates 60 years! We look back on the previous six decades and reflect on how we became an environment of love, care, and hope for so many.
Let us set the scene for Villa’s founding – mother Rachel Keith is forging her own path when it comes to raising her son Ronnie, who was born with Down syndrome. Rachel believes in a radical idea: that her son does not need to be institutionalized or hidden away from society. With this in mind, Rachel and a small coalition of like-minded mothers begin an informal school for children with Down syndrome in the comfort of Rachel’s home.
By 1961, the culture and societal norms finally start to catch up to Rachel’s vision. With the help of the Pasadena Civitan Club, an old storefront property on Villa Street is bought for the mothers to create an official school for students with Down syndrome. Incorporated as a non-profit in 1961, Villa Esperanza is opened for business.
Villa’s small, homegrown school had proven to be not only successful, but sustainable. Its first generation of students were graduating, but there was not yet a place for these new young adults to go. If Villa wanted to successfully transition its students into members of their greater community, it would have to be proactive.
By the mid-1970’s, Villa had purchased three residential homes to provide assisted living services for special needs adults, giving them a combination of independence and support. When the school graduates struggled to find employment, a workshop and thrift store were established to provide job training. Before the decade was out, Villa had expanded beyond just Pasadena and purchased “The Ranch” in Ventura County, which was used as an adult day program, job training site and 2 residences.
After a decade and a half of program expansions, changes from both the community and within Villa caused a funding shortage. Villa needed to adapt and needed to do it fast. Incoming Executive Director Dottie Nelson who took charge of the organization in the mid-1990s quickly restructured Villa’s programs, streamlining services to save money. Additionally, Villa applied for and received a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to renovate and sustain the homes in the Residential Services Program.
Thanks to leadership’s thoughtful actions, in 1993, Villa is the first to open a classroom for children with Autism, a much-needed community service. Villa continued to expand its adult programs, adding the Dimension and Adult Day Programs and partnering with businesses in the community to broaden job opportunities for program participants.
Over its first 50 years, Villa had been providing services out of a hodgepodge of repurposed buildings. In 2014, the Villa Board voted to start a Capital Campaign that would build a campus that matched the level of care that Villa provided to individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The three-part capital campaign began with a ground breaking in 2017 for the construction of a new middle and high school campus. The new facilities, opened for instruction in 2018, were constructed with Villa students in mind and contained state-of-the-art technology, kitchens to teach life skills, and more!
In 2019 Villa launched the next phase of the campaign, Phase 2A which includes the construction of an Occupational Therapy Clinic, the Physical Education and Therapeutic Center, and three additional school classrooms. Villa plans to break ground on this phase in fall of 2022. Phase 2B, the final portion of the plan, will follow and consist of a 2 level structure with the main reception area, Speech & Language Center, community room and parking on lower level. Located above the parking garage will be administration.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a unique set of challenges, but Villa rose to the occasion, quickly pivoting to provide virtual services. Villa is happy to now be back in full swing with all programs in person. We of course are ready to shift if needed to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Villa is always grateful for our dedicated staff, but now more than ever we are humbled by their dedication and love for the individuals we serve. Thank you to our Villa Team Members who are an inspiration to us all! We appreciate your dedication and all you do to support the children, adults and seniors Villa serves. Thank you to the entire Villa community for supporting our participants, staff, and families during these unprecedented times.
During the past 2 years, Villa ILS staff has had to adapt and support the individuals we serve in different and creative ways. Anita, an ILS Coach in Villa’s West Region office is a perfect example of the great “above and beyond” work that our staff are doing. Her client, Ashleigh, had lost her job due to COVID-19 and needed to apply for unemployment benefits and rental assistance. Unfortunately, there were issues with Ashleigh’s unemployment request that Anita worked with her to fix. When the problem was solved, it was discovered that Ashleigh was owed back-pay all the way from March and she would be receiving a check! Thank you, Anita, for going above and beyond to help our clients navigate these trying times!
As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, Villa’s programs underwent swift changes to ensure the safety of our clients, staff, and community. The bustling Villa Esperanza School campus quieted and most of our day and employment programs were temporarily suspended. Our Residential Program however began operating on overdrive, supporting our residents at home 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Following early conversations with the Los Angeles County Health Department, Villa’s unsung heroes stepped up to the plate. “Our team immediately started leading by example doing what needed to be done,” said Damion Lee, Director of Residential Services. Villa immediately purchased personal protective equipment for all our homes, implemented entry procedures that included taking temperatures for staff, and developed thorough cleaning protocols. We staggered meal times to ensure distancing within the homes and communicated regular updates to residents and loved ones.
This past year Assemblymember Chris Holden and Villa Esperanza Services held a virtual event honoring all Direct Support Professionals in California. Chris Holden introduced a resolution in the CA Legislature to honor the skills and dedication of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). It was a pleasure to partner with Chris Holden in celebrating the heroism and commitment of our DSPs during the Covid-19 public health crisis.
Villa Esperanza Services is strong because of the dedicated team of staff like Montrey, Program Supervisor at Villa’s Adult Day Program (ADP). Montrey has worked at Villa for over 21 years and at ADP since it opened its doors in 2004. “When you see [the clients] five days a week, you can’t help but get attached,” Montrey shared when asked about her long career. “I love seeing them so happy after our activities and events… ADP is like a family.” Villa has many kindhearted staff like Montrey, and we are grateful to have them! Thank you, Montrey for all that you and your team do for Villa’s families.
Michelle Lam, the Director of our Adult Day Services, was nominated for the LA Sparks #WeAreWomen Community Award! Michelle has worked with Villa for nearly 10 years and is well known to Villa staff and families for her creativity and compassion. She was recognized for how she kept Day Program participants engaged and their families supported throughout the pandemic. Thank you so much, Michelle, for all that you do!
“On behalf of my brother, Alex (shown), and my family, thank you for the ongoing support that Villa Esperanza continues to provide us. We are truly thankful for your decision to pay Alex as though he was working full time as it will help him pay for his essentials like rent and food. We are blessed to be a part of the Villa community and will always be appreciative of the generosity and thoughtfulness it has shown to Alex over the years.”
“Hello to all my teachers — Jasper here. I wanted to say thank you for all you do. I miss you and think of you. I enjoy our online sessions. Thank you Miss Rowena for sending the stuff for me every day. Shhhh, my mom tries but she isn’t you. Stay safe!”
“It is difficult to express what Villa has meant to our sister Sharon and to our extended family over the past more than five decades!
Most importantly, you have allowed Sharon to thrive to the best of her abilities with your dedication, creative programming, and comprehensive care, and live a life of dignity. And of course very importantly, you have allowed the rest of the Kuppermann extended family to thrive as well, knowing that Sharon has always been in great hands and that in Villa we have a partner for life in the loving care of our beloved sister/daughter/sister-in-law/aunt.
I have attached a photo which hangs in my office of Sharon living at the charming Chester house with other Villa clients, living her life with dignity, with loving care and attention given to her by your wonderful organization.”
Thank you for everything
Antonio is twenty-one and a high school student at Villa School. The staff that work with him describe him as a leader. Having been with Villa now for three years, he knows how the classroom works and is always ready to assist his fellow students. “You know it’s funny,” Antonio’s father, Antonio Sr., noted. “He doesn’t really speak up to many people. But for his peers, he has no problem giving them direction. You can tell that he is within his comfort zone with his classmates.”
It has not always been like this. “When Antonio first came to Villa, he had intense service needs,” Gwendolyn Eberhard, then Villa Speech and Language Center Pathologist, shared. “He needed 1 to 1 assistance from staff to get through his school work.” Antonio struggled at some of his previous schools, particularly when it came to behaviors and making friends. Villa was quick to provide the support Antonio needed to develop his independence and become more social. In the classroom, Antonio worked on the skills he would need to transition to adulthood. With his speech therapists, he worked on his social skills like asking questions, listening for answers, and replying to follow-up questions.
“He has grown so much!” Gwen continued. “He no longer needs 1 to 1 assistance and has made a couple of really close friends.” In just a few short years, Antonio has started to thrive. Like a true Angeleno, Antonio is a hardcore Dodgers fan, and he is rarely seen without the team’s signature colors or logo around campus. Art is another of Antonio’s passions, and it is often combined with his love of sports in creative ways. Gwen shared that art is a big part of his future. “One of his current goals is learning to budget for art supplies,” she shared. “He assembles and names all of his artwork. Eventually, he hopes to have a webshop to create and sell his work.” When asked what has helped Antonio succeed at Villa, Gwen shared, “At Villa, we recognize students’ passions and tailor the educational goals around them. We encourage students to voice what they want for themselves.”
children received virtual and hybrid programming during 2020 and 2021
the month students were welcomed back to Villa campus
hours of distance learning were provided by Villa
school districts are currently contracting with Villa School
hours of specialized therapy provided (speech, behavioral, occupational, and music)
of students have an autism diagnosis
Meet Tye who has spent his whole life breaking barriers and advocating for himself and others with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Learn more about Villa’s personalized programs for adults and seniors integrated throughout the community:
Villa students are not the only people returning to class. A group of adults from our Community Integration Program (CIP) returned to their class at Pasadena Community College. These students are attending a Functional Living Skills class this semester where they will learn subjects like health & wellness, social skills, and tools to improve reading and math in real-world situations. Villa’s CIP participants are all excited to be back in school!
adults from 52 cities successfully engaged, mostly through virtual opportunities
of participants in our Employment Program maintained their job during Covid (most considered essential workers)
total client volunteer hours at 38 sites, four of which were new (pre-covid)
clients moved out of Villa’s Residential Program to live independently
staffing maintained for residential homes during the pandemic
ILS classes offered by Pasadena Community College through Villa to Independent Living Skills (ILS) and Supported Living Skills (SLS) participants
Volunteers are key to Villa’s success and they are a vital part of Villa’s day-to-day operations. We are grateful to all of our volunteers who donate their time to help. Volunteers are comprised of individuals serving in a variety of ways including Board of Directors, event committees, Guild members, working directly with clients and helping in our administrative offices. During Covid these opportunities were limited but our creative volunteers found other ways to help!
Christmas Card Makers
Villa Volunteers were hard at work during the holiday months helping us keep spirits merry and bright! Over 50 people responded to our call for homemade holiday cards, sending us nearly 700 cards that are being passed out to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Cards poured in from across the country to help combat the isolation our program participants have been facing this holiday season, and we could not be more grateful for such a response. Thank you so much to our wonderful volunteer card makers! Your creativity and generosity this season has warmed our hearts.
Gifts for the Holidays
Santa came to spread holiday cheer at Villa! Villa School students received gifts for every student. We are so grateful to Paul Hastings, Loza & Loza, Hugo Nuño, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw, Stone|Dean and all our corporate donors who support the holiday giving program. It was a joyous way to end the year.
Oaktree Capital Management team members made “My Best Work” binders and slime to welcome students back from summer break. We often use items like these to help our students transition back and get them ready to focus on learning. Very generously, Oaktree donated everything needed for this project, enough to reach all 85 of our students. Thank you to the whole team at Oaktree!
Dell Comes Through
Thank you so much to our volunteer team from Dell! Volunteers have been sitting in on calls with our Adult Day Program (ADP) clients, helping with enrichment activities and socializing. The addition of new faces to the calls has been a source of excitement for our participants. “You can see the clients and families perk up a bit,” Michelle Lam, Director of Adult Day Services, said about the calls. “They enjoy having new people to talk to.”
Villa hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including our annual Guild Day at the Races, Blue & White Gala, and Tournament of Hope. Our goal is to raise awareness and monetary support for all of Villa's wonderful programs and services. We could not do this without our great event volunteers, thank you committee members.
In January 2020, the Governor announced some changes to the budget, which included some good news for the I/DD community. There was a slight increase in funding for special education and early intervention services. And the increases we fought for will now expire in December 2023 instead of December 2021. This is all good news, but there is still work to do. Though we wish they were, our advocacy efforts are not over yet. Villa thanks all those who helped advocate for this change and for continuing to champion the needs of individuals with intellectual / developmental disabilities. Thank you for empowering change!
Villa was thrilled to be featured on NBC News NOW! The video features one of Villa’s Employment Services program participants, Harold, and the difficulties he and other individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities faced during the pandemic. We are proud of Harold and all of our Villa participants for making it through a difficult year, and hope this video helps bring new job opportunities for those with disabilities. Special thanks to Simone Boyce and NBC for raising awareness about this issue!
people with intellectual / developmental disabilities were provided services via Los Angeles Coalition of Service Providers, co-chaired by Villa CEO Kelly White
annual increase in California of individuals diagnosed and requiring the kinds of services Villa provides
adults over the age of 60 projected to have intellectual / developmental disabilities by 2030
Villa is honored to have gracious, loyal donors that keep us at the forefront of community needs, especially during these last two years. Villa exists because of your generosity. Our students, adults, families, and our staff all thank you. For a list of donors, click here to download the PDF.
Carol is thriving in her new home at Villa’s Brown House Apartments. She is grateful for the help of Villa staff: Darryl, Mirka, and Priscilla who help her get to doctor’s appointments and always have a positive attitude towards their work. Carol is passionate about giving back to the people that helped her. She recently donated to support the adults in Villa’s Independent Living Services (ILS) and Supported Living Skills (SLS) programs. Carol wanted to help others find the same happiness and hope she found at Villa! Carol states “I like to give because I care about other people. I like to give something back.”
In September 1972, we moved our young family to Arcadia. The Youell family were our next-door neighbors. I was a partner in the management consulting practice of a fast-growing national CPA firm. Bob Youell, whose son was a Villa resident, and I became very close friends.
At the end of 1980, the ability to become involved in our community, spend more time with the family, and trade the corporate world for an entrepreneurial adventure, led to my resignation from Touche Ross & Co. Immediately, I was asked by many of my friends, “What are you going to do?”
I decided I wanted to spend at least 20% of my time in charitable services. Bob Youell, aside from discussing mutual business interests, asked how I intended to achieve that goal. Knowing of Bob’s work with Villa Esperanza, I was not surprised when he offered to introduce me to their program and needs. Upon introduction to the Villa staff, I immediately explored involvement and subsequently joined the Board.
Many encounters with residents and staff were memorable, but two stand out. First, at a fundraising dinner at the Athenaeum, I spoke to a young resident who unforgettably conveyed the brilliance of the Villa program to me. Second, a visit to the Agoura Hills site allowed me to experience the loving nature of Villa work. I had known the Director of the Fuller Foundation for almost 20 years. As the retirement funds from my CPA firm employment were inadequate, we discussed the many benefits afforded by a Charitable Remainder Unitrust. Specifically, it allowed us to provide funds to charities in whose long-term service we had great confidence. Additionally, it would provide income from the trust assets to meet our retirement needs, and funds invested in the trust were partially tax-deductible. We further established a second trust with a 20-year longevity to provide education funds to our children and grandchildren. Such a trust structure has the further benefit of providing funds to our designees, including Villa Esperanza, at a specified date before the trustees’ passing. The financial benefit of the trust met our need, but the joy of supporting organizations like Villa Esperanza is a real blessing.
— written by Frank Tranzow
“This project validates the worth of my child. This project says that my child and thousands like him are worth the investment.”
Now, we are focused on Phase 2A to address our next priorities which include 3 additional classrooms, Occupational Therapy Clinic, and a Sports and Performance Center. Take a peek at what the ‘Changing the Face of Villa’ will look like.
A huge thank you to all our donors for seeing the potential of this amazing project and for helping ‘Change the Face of Villa.’
Villa has many great leaders, leaders that see the potential in others before they see it in themselves. Leaders are our Board of Directors and Executive Team who challenge the organization to see what can be, not just what is right now. Leaders include Villa teachers, therapists, program directors, job coaches, one on one aides, and the list goes on. Leaders are working with clients to help them reach their goals. With leaders at all levels of the organization we can continue to reach our potential.