It’s a June gloom kind of Tuesday morning, and I am working at my desk. In walks my friend Tom, a participant at the Alpha Resource Center.
Tom stands less than 5 feet tall and is loaded with charm. I call him “my angel” because he seems to know when I need a visit from him.
He asks for "he Beatles," which means he wants to see a YouTube video of a Beatles song. I pull up the site, and when the screen comes up he chooses the song by pointing at an icon on the screen. “Golden Slumbers” was today’s choice.
As the tune begins, Tom puts his arm around my shoulder, rocks to the music and sings with his whole heart. He plays air instruments at appropriate times (not just guitar, but keyboards, strings and drums, and does sign language as well).
A few minutes later, the song is over, so he smiles at me, kisses my hand and walks out the door. I go back to work, but my day is transformed by the simple pleasure of this exchange.
In 1953, scenes like this were rare because people with developmental disabilities were not generally part of the natural fabric of their communities. Instead, it was common and recommended that children born with “mental retardation” be placed in institutions, isolated from family and segregated from the community.
The founding families who created the Alpha Resource Center decided that they wanted more for their children. They wanted their children brought up at home with family, to have an education and to be welcomed and embraced by the community for their unique gifts and talents.
So with $12 in the bank and their commitment, they created Alpha School. The first class had 12 students and 60 years later, Alpha serves more than 2,200 infants, children and adults — and their families — countywide.
Children with disabilities now attend neighborhood schools, adults work in the community, and all have opportunities that allow them to live rich, meaningful lives. Parents have access to expert professionals and a network of parents to support them in raising their children. These were promises made by Alpha’s founding families, and we are proud to see them coming to fruition.
We are also proud of our accomplishments. Alpha participants are an active part of the community spending more than 100 hours per month in community volunteer service through our Adult Day program. Talented artists contribute to the contemporary art world through Alpha’s SlingShot Art Forum. Teens have fun with their peers in a safe, inclusive environment through our Katie’s FUNd program.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, Alpha is hosting a 60th anniversary “Diamonds & Denim” celebration at the Santa Barbara Carriage Museum. We invite you to join us in remembering our past and in creating a dynamic future for our community and for people with developmental disabilities. For more information or ticket purchase, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Marisa Pasquini is an associate development director for the Alpha Resource Center.