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Community Spotlight: Villa Esperanza Services

Andres Thrives with Support from Villa Esperanza Services

When Andres Pelaez first came to Villa Esperanza Services, he was in a time of transition. He didn’t have the skills yet to be hired for a job, but was fully capable and willing to learn. Villa’s Community Integration Program (CIP) was a perfect fit for Andres and provided him with volunteer opportunities in the community where he could gain experience and confidence. With his newly developed skills, Andres set his sights on getting a job. Villa CIP Director, Darryl Goodus, along with Villa’s Employment Services Program Director, Michael Green, worked together to help Andres realize his goal of gainful employment.

Andres Pelaez at work at LL Catering

For many individuals like Andres, taking on a job and setting goals can be daunting. That’s where Villa’s Employment Services Program comes in. Job coaches help guide clients through the entire process of getting and keeping a job – from the job application and interview process through on-the-job training and finally to job performance and goal setting. It’s all about seeing the potential in each individual and finding the right job that allows someone like Andres the opportunity to grow and develop new skills while also benefitting the company they work for.

For Andres, that company was Lauren’s Lunches Catering (LL Catering). When an opening became available at LL Catering, Andres jumped at the chance to work in the kitchen. Owner Lauren Clark took a chance on Andres and it has been beneficial for both of them. “When I was initially approached by Villa about hiring Andres, I was hesitant for several reasons, especially as I had no prior personal experience with anyone with this type of disability,” Lauren explained. “When I said yes, I was surprised and relieved Villa provided a daily job coach who guided Andres through every aspect of learning his job. That coach worked with Andres every day until he was able to do the job without help.”

That was in 2017 and Andres has been with LL Catering ever since. Andres has been such a model employee that today Lauren employs several of Villa’s clients. “LL Catering has been a great partner and has hired six individuals from Villa’s Employment Program. Not only are they willing to provide opportunities for many individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities to be a part of their operations, they create an environment where each employee is a respected member of the team,” Michael shared. “More employers are beginning to realize that the individuals we serve make great employees and provide valuable contributions day in and day out to that business.”

Andres now works most days completely independently, only receiving occasional visits from his job coach. He works diligently to keep equipment organized, cleaned and sanitized for use in the kitchen. “Now Andres knows his job and daily routine backwards and forwards,” Lauren said. “He is a great worker, always wanting to be helpful, and always looking for new tasks.” In his own words, Andres shared, “I like working hard and getting a paycheck.” He continues to work hard, taking initiative and working to set new goals for himself. When asked about his future plans, Andres smiled and exclaimed, “I want to learn to drive!”

Villa will continue to help Andres achieve all of his aspirations. “Andres progressed from a day program into competitive integrated employment where he is thriving,” Michael commented. “He is a great example of Villa’s efforts and philosophy to encourage personal growth and independence.”

Villa Esperanza Services, established in 1961, has grown into a thriving multi-service agency serving 750 children, adults, seniors and their families in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Villa is a leader in providing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a continuum of care from childhood through adulthood. Villa’s Conejo Valley office, located in the Community Conscience Building in Thousand Oaks, provides three critical services for adults – Community Integration, Independent Living Skills Services and Employment Services. Each of these programs assists individuals find a position requiring a skill level comfortable for them yet still challenging. Our main goal when working with anyone is to create an environment where individuals can access their greatest abilities and independence. For more information visit the Villa Esperanza Services website.

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Each month Community Conscience spotlights one of the 13 human services agencies who operate rent-free in our 22,000 square-foot building. Those agencies serve 50,000 people annually, and we want to share their stories. Subscribe to our newsletter to have their stories delivered to your inbox.