By Ruth Sowby
Eating for charity is a popular sport among Glendalians. Last Wednesday, some 70 hungry supporters gathered at Dish in La Cañada to do just that. Benefiting from a percentage of the evening’s proceeds was GAR Services, a work-activity program for adults with developmental disabilities.
Those familiar with GAR attend its annual Derby Day, presenting the Kentucky Derby live on giant screens at Pickwick Gardens in Burbank. Closer to home, the restaurants in and around Glendale have generous owners who help out financially via their customers who attend GAR’s Charity Nights.
Family-friendly Dish was packed. GAR fans chowed down on popular entrees such as roasted ham with macaroni and greens or braised brisket of beef with bourbon barbecue sauce, enough to make any barbecue fan just a little tipsy. The full bar and wine list only added to supporters’ good spirits. Deep-dish apple pie was the favorite choice for dessert lovers.
A quintet of missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was treated to dinner by church members. Burgers and gumbo were the preferred dishes for elders Morgun King, Tanner Debry, Connor Llewelyn, John Winfield and Jacob Beard.
A visit to GAR’s Services headquarters on San Fernando Road in Glendale makes it clear where some of the charity dollars go. For GAR’s developmentally disabled clients, there is vocational training, job placement, socialization and education.
But the headquarters’ primary function is to provide space for GAR’s “Work-Activity” program. On Oct. 21, about 50 developmentally disabled clients were found busy on assembly lines working for pay.
They package, label, assemble, collate and ship products for local businesses that contract with GAR for various services. Glendale-based Western Drug Medical Supply Co. regularly uses GAR clients’ services.
Clients are paid according to their productivity. Their sub-minimum wages are provided by the state Department of Developmental Services. State funds also cover GAR programs and services, as well as three licensed homes in Glendale for clients.
All clients are trained and supervised by GAR staff members. Clients are placed on assembly lines based on their abilities and talents. There are 10 clients on each line.
During the recent visit, Astrid Sandoval, assistant production manager, was overseeing her crew of clients, who all had their own tasks. Joseph M. boxed nails. Maria M. weighed metal wings and labeled boxes. Mariana K. weighed screws. Svetlana N. was in charge of nuts of bolts on their way to Home Depot.
In fact, the work of GAR clients helped the recent Kiwanis-sponsored Duck Splash run smoothly. According to Foundation Director Rita Hopkins, clients de-tagged 20,000 rubber duckies so new identifying tags could replace the old ones.
GAR clients also put together guest goodie bags each January for the Screen Actors Guild awards. They have also done the same for Academy Awards.
The recreation room for clients 50 years old and older was a hive of activity. “Halloween Bingo” was the order of the day. Bingo champ Lynette S. celebrated her 53rd birthday. First to wish her “Happy Birthday” was client John F., a frequent visitor to GAR Charity Nights.
The “oldsters” spend 50% of their time working on assembly lines and 50% being involved in the community, referred to as “Pastimes.” Several clients, for instance, will show up for a half-day at the Adult Recreation Center in Glendale. The goal is client integration with non-disabled seniors.
GAR Executive Director Sandy Doughty said one of her favorite programs is the multicultural program for GAR’s non-English speaking clients, who make up 43% of the client population. They learn basic skills such as reading and writing, hygiene, street safety and money management.
Founded by Phyllis and Jerry Campbell in 1954, GAR Services has been dedicated to serving people with developmental disabilities primarily related to mental retardation.
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