Story by Chelsea Martin
Opportunity should not exist merely to engage the capable body but extend to all in a community, including those who require assistance for special needs. And, although helping others isn’t a priority for all, for others it’s a way of life. Combine determination and a passion to achieve that goal, and the result is The Centers for Habilitation, a south Tempe non-profit organization that was created in 1967. The organization functions solely to support individuals of all ages with physical and developmental disabilities, to allow them the chance to live a higher quality of life and help alleviate barriers to independence.
“For the adults with disabilities that we serve it’s all about quality of life,” Dawn Hocking, director of development for TCH, said. “Whatever we can do to offer those opportunities for them to experience things that you and I experience, we do. “You see the smiles, you see the joy, the fact that they’re earning a paycheck and that they have the ability to go out into the community and explore.”
How does TCH provide these opportunities? The list is diverse, each providing beneficial care and independence for the individuals. Not only does TCH operate 15 group homes in the East Valley and three in Tucson; it also provides a day program five days a week for clients 18 years and older. Currently, 75 individual live in TCH’s group homes, transported a TCH site for the program. Within the walls of the six classrooms, the program is focused on teaching basic life skills, opportunities for learning, and an inclusion in the whole community.
“We try to integrate into the community as much as possible,” Hocking said.
Another TCH initiative is its Ability One program, the largest source of employment for people who have significant disabilities. TCH employs more than 150 individuals at four military sites in Arizona and one naval training base in California. The home- and community-based services are provided for those not living in group homes. TCH’s Employment Services program provides men and women with disabilities the chance to earn a paycheck, where the ultimate goal is independent employment. The organization’s Social Enterprise program is also an integral part of TCH’s operations. Currently, TCH owns and operates ASDD Document Destruction, TCH Elder Care Service, and is a partner in the Blue Ribbon Bistro and Java Junction. Throughout all of the programs combined, TCH employs more than 500 employees. Between budget cuts and community involvement, according to Hocking, TCH has had its share of challenges to overcome. Community employment is an important key to independence for individuals with disabilities, and it’s been one of the biggest concerns to date.
“The challenge is finding community partners that are willing to take a chance on these individuals,” Hocking said. “We want to be able to help the community understand the needs of these individuals because they are very different from a lot of the populations that are served in the community.”
Hocking and the rest of the TCH team are bright, buoyant individuals who are determined to continually provide opportunities to individuals with special needs indefinitely.
“I do what I do because I can’t imagine my life without it. I’ve been here 23 years so they have really shaped who I am,” Hocking said. “You learn to see what’s really important in life. It’s not about what kind of house you live in; it’s about ‘Hey, look, I just made this’ or ‘I just tied my shoe for the first time’ or ‘will you put up my hair?’ ” That’s what it’s all about. I know at the end of the day I’m making a difference and helping them to be able to live the quality of life they deserve.”
For more information or to schedule a tour of the TCH facility call Dawn Hocking at 480-730-4221 or visit the website, www.tch-az.com