Stephen Brinkman has made significant strides. Not letting his diagnosis of autism hold him back, he is living independently in an apartment, and is a member of the gardening crew working at UC Santa Barbara. He has mastered getting around on public transportation and has expanded his healthy eating cooking skills (especially turkey burgers).

Stephen’s employment, independent living and community access goals have been achieved with the support of PathPoint, a California nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities or disadvantages to reach their fullest potential. PathPoint is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

PathPoint (originally known as Work Training Programs) has come a long way since its founding in 1964. PathPoint now celebrates a full range of services, not only for people with disabilities, but also individuals struggling with mental illnesses, at-risk youth, the homeless and low-income seniors.

Over the years, PathPoint has been invited to expand its services from the city of Santa Barbara into four more counties, including San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Los Angeles and, most recently, Kern. It has grown to a dedicated staff of more than 400 employees, and enjoys productive relationships with more than 400 community partners.

PathPoint president and CEO Cindy Burton is leading PathPoint in its 50th anniversary this year with plans to further the organization’s mission of helping people with disabilities and disadvantages become self-reliant and successful.

“I am passionate about finding creative ways to meet the needs of more and more people,” Burton said. “Whether that translates to opening new programs, tackling a new population segment or finding new, cost-effective ways to afford to do those things we know are important to people in need.”

Participants like Stephen are a perfect example of how an individual, PathPoint and family can work collaboratively together in creating a rich, responsible, full life for their loved one. Stephen, along with PathPoint staff and his family, initiated, planned and hosted a Super Bowl party at his apartment last year. With PathPoint, he has gone on excursions to amusement parks for the first time, and also enjoys attending group activities such as Special Olympics, Travel Club and PathPoint’s Healthy Living Team.

PathPoint’s nationally recognized and award-winning programs predominantly assist participants in establishing themselves within the realms of employment, housing, behavioral health and developmental training. Through these fundamental services, PathPoint enables people with disabilities to become integrated, productive members within our communities.

Community-based services are the most moral, ethical and, in this economic climate, cost-effective alternative for our sons, daughters and neighbors with severe disabilities. In contrast to the 1,800 people served in California’s five developmental centers, community-based services, such as PathPoint, serve more than 240,000 people with severe disabilities. These people, many of them former residents of the developmental centers, are served in their home communities receiving residential services, supported-living services, day-program services, employment training, and related services at less than a third the cost of the developmental centers. In fact, the 240,000 people served in the community receive these services at an average cost of less than $20,000 per person per year.

October also marks the kick off of PathPoint’s fall 50th anniversary celebrations. PathPoint participants, donors, sponsors, family members, community members and employees will gather to commemorate the special milestone of 50 years of service to adults with special needs Oct. 25 at La Cumbre County Club. Call 805.961.9200 x1100 to purchase tickets.

Click here for more information about PathPoint, or call 805.966.3310.

— Corinne Hayhurst is communications manager at PathPoint.