Palo Alto's Abilities United teaches independent living skills

Palo Alto's Abilities United is celebrating 50 years of helping people with disabilities thrive and regain their independence.
October 31, 2013 5:13:34 PM PDT
An organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities thrive is celebrating 50 years.

What began as a sheltered environment for the children of 12 families in Palo Alto has grown into a place that fosters community inclusion. We have a look at Abilities United through the eyes of one of its clients.

For 33-year-old Michael Broadhurst, painting has always brought him a sense of peace. His passion for art is reflected on the walls of Abilities United, a non-profit in Palo Alto serving people of all ages with a range of disabilities.

It's a place that's fostered his talent. His works have been exhibited and sold throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

"For Michael, it's a huge self-esteem build for him, and now he knows that he's an artist in his own right," explains Abilities United Executive Director Lynda Steele. "He's sold work internationally, it's huge."

Michael has also thrived learning independent living skills with a coach.

"The skills you and I take for granted, going shopping, travelling on the bus, cleaning our place or doing a budget, those are the skills we try to teach so the people we're serving can be as successful as possible out there in the community," says Steele.

How has the program helped Michael? "To become independent," he says, "and to help with my social skills, and they're very impressed with my skills."

His skills are impressive. He now has a job at Menlo College working in the cafeteria where his boss is quite pleased with his performance. It's a job that came about through the employment program of Abilities United.

"As soon as we've got someone to the point where they're able to interview for a job and hold down a job successfully, that turns their life around," says Steele.

Michael's uncle, Chester McCall, marvels at the changes he's seen in his nephew.

"I don't think Michael would have the appreciation for himself if he hadn't been involved with Abilities United," says McCall. "He has a lot of pride now, and a lot of self-esteem he didn't have before."

That new-found confidence has helped him grow from accomplished artist to proud employee and home chef. His favorite meal to prepare?

"Baked chicken," Michael says. "My uncles loved it."

Uncle Chester says he can envision him not living with him at some point, but he'd miss that chicken.

"Oh yeah, he'd have to come home and cook once in a while just so we wouldn't miss him," he said.

In the meantime, Michael savors each day, relishing his gainful employment and his artistic expression.

To see more of Michael's original works of art, or to find out how you can help support Abilities United, click here.

To purchase a piece of artwork, please call (650) 618-3319.

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