Kristy Tanguay, the agency’s Development and Technology Manager, is coordinating the event. “This year, we’re expanding by moving to Eagle Hall in Fort Bragg. The acoustics are wonderful and the Hall offers built-in staging and a wonderful dance floor,” Tanguay explains.
Parents and Friends provides opportunities for people with developmental challenges and similar needs to fully participate in the community. The organization was founded in 1955, when children with developmental disabilities were not regularly enrolled in school. “We started the Paul Bunyan School because Paul could do anything, and continued that theme when we opened our Paul Bunyan Thrift Store,” Tanguay said. Today, Parents and Friends serves approximately 100 individuals and is one of the county’s larger employers, with 125 staff. “We began serving some of our clients as children, and we are still serving them today, 60 years later.”
Multiple programs address unique challenges for disabled clients, and are tailored to their particular aspirations and needs, with the goal of helping people live the life they choose to live. Some folks work for individual employers or in group work settings, with the support of many local businesses including Safeway, Harvest Market and Rite-Aid. Staff work with employers and clients to help enhance client skills—everything from résumé writing to social development.
The majority of individuals served work toward community integration, acquisition of living skills and meeting specific personal goals. The agency’s supported living program enables clients to live in their own homes, shop and attend to social and medical needs. Some clients need minimal support and others require 24-hour care.
The organization’s Learning Garden gives clients opportunities to grow and sell produce at the Fort Bragg Farmer’s Market, underscoring healthy nutrition and employment training. The Paul Bunyan Thrift Store and Furniture Annex provide the public with gently used goods and furniture while providing another client employment site.
“Today, because we know more, medically and as a society, we can do more: helping individuals participate in Special Olympics or other activities, assessing if adaptive technology could improve communication skills, or transitioning someone from a cane to a walker. We now know dementia goes hand-and-hand with Down Syndrome—that our aging clients change as a result of this inevitability, so we’re poised to recognize and respond to their needs. Just like all of us, our clients don’t fit into a single box, so we will never be a ‘cookie cutter’ agency,” Tanguay said.
Program managers have autonomy to run their programs as if they were their own business. Tanguay credits Executive Director Rick Moon for the agency’s success. “Along with Rick’s heart and leadership, we have such a generous, open-minded, inclusive community of donors, employers and volunteer supporters.”
Beer, Bison and Bluegrass features local and regional microbrews from Lagunitas Brewing, Mad River Brewing Company, Mendocino Brewing Company, Lost Coast Brewery and the North Coast Brewing Company.