Nido Quebein once said, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” While proven again and again to be true, this statement can be challenging–especially for individuals with disabilities. However, as more voices come together to break down stigmas around disabilities and increase representation, we can all pitch in to help move this “starting line” forward.
In this month’s SDP Client Spotlight, we sat down with Ivan Campos and Gregory Cash of Valley Light Center for Social Advancement, one such organization seeking to overcome these obstacles by integrating individuals with disabilities into the workforce and their communities. Read on to learn more about how they’re making a difference to show that disability doesn’t mean broken.
Imagining A Better Future
Valley Light Center for Social Advancement was founded in 1970 as “Valley Light Industries” by a small group of parents in Covina, CA. At the time, the only widely accepted treatment for children with disabilities was to institutionalize them. However, these parents wanted something better for their sons and daughters.
As their children grew up, they began having a very hard time finding work. To address this, Valley Light created Work Activity Centers. The group approached businesses in the community to see if they had any work that could be outsourced. Then, their warehouses would employ individuals with disabilities to perform the work piece-rate.
Most commonly, this work was assembling a final product from Part A and Part B. It was simple, but for many participants, it was the first job they had ever held. And while the work was far from lucrative, it gave these individuals a sense of pride and accomplishment because it was something they did themselves.
Since 1970, Valley Light has evolved significantly, expanding their services to meet participants’ growing needs.
From very early on, the social benefits of Valley Light’s services were apparent. Participants looked forward to spending time with their new friends on their lunch breaks, and it was refreshing just to get out of the house.
Soon, Valley Light realized that their participants didn’t just want to work. They also wanted to spend more time in their communities. Community integration became a new focus for the organization as they shifted away from their secluded Work Activity Centers to partner with local businesses to employ these individuals directly.
They added volunteer activities, supported employment, interview prep courses, and Tailor Day Services, where a Valley Light team member would meet up with a participant one-on-one to help them work towards their own unique goals. Ivan shares,
We’re always trying to find services to offer to help our participants thrive. We want to set them up for success.
Adapting To COVID-19
Well, we all know what happened next. After 50 years in business, Valley Light was suddenly faced with an all-new challenge they could have never prepared for, COVID-19.
Suddenly we couldn’t go visit our participants. There were so many COVID protocols, all we could do was focus on our strengths and ask ourselves, ‘how will we deal with today?’
Valley Light transitioned almost all of its staff to remote work, shifting their work to Zoom meetings, phone calls, and hand-delivered activity packets.
Throughout the pandemic, they offered educational activities like worksheets to practice writing one’s name or address and preparedness classes.
Additionally, they put together activities to “break the boredom” such as group discussions about music and other topics of interest among their participants.
Building A Dream Team
Through it all, the Valley Light team responded incredibly. Despite the uncertainty and frequent changes to their daily operations, the team remained dedicated and flexible. Gregory shares,
Our staff is our main success. Administration can only do so much, but without our staff’s support, we wouldn’t be where we are at.
So how do you build such a strong team? Ivan and Gregory agree it’s all part of the organization’s company culture, and leadership is largely responsible for embedding this in their organization’s DNA.
1. Lead By Example
At Valley Light, there is a commitment to serving from the top down. From the organization’s CEO to its managers down to the rest of the team, their leadership team knows that the most effective way to teach employees how to work and act is through their own actions.
2. Work-Life Balance
Next, the organization firmly believes that family comes first. They know that in order for their team to fully show up at work, employees must be able to adequately manage their home lives as well.
So whether that looks like employees bringing their kids to the office to do their homework, or letting someone leave early to take care of a family situation, Valley Light is committed to working with their employees to offer support in any way they can.
3. Spread The Love
In that vein, the organization also advocates for promoting an attitude of love and kindness towards all of its employees and partners. Gregory shares,
This is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever worked.
They want this to be a place their employees enjoy coming to work. And treating colleagues with kindness and respect is the first step to creating a positive work environment.
4. Focus On The Positive Impact
Finally, they emphasize the why behind the work they do. Ivan explains,
Riches come in different forms. This industry is not meant for you to make a ton of money, but it can make you very rich in other ways.
Ultimately, the team at Valley Light knows that their work is all about making a positive impact in the lives of their participants and in their community. Gregory shares,
For the people that we work with–our participants, employees, and anyone affiliated with us–my wish for them is to always live your best life, whatever that looks like for you.
A client of SDP’s for the past year, Valley Light previously processed payroll with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) for several years. However, when questions of the PEO’s credibility arose, the Valley Light team decided it was time to make a change.
At the time, the organization was heavily reliant on paper and struggling with instances of time theft. Our team was able to help them make their timekeeping paperless, with an online portal for employees to clock in/out with and for managers to approve timecards.
The best part is, when it’s time to process payroll, it just takes a few clicks! Previously, payroll took 1-2 days. Now, it’s less than 2 hours to review everything and process–and we can rest assured everyone’s being paid correctly.
But the benefits didn’t stop there. One of Valley Light’s favorite things about working with Southland Data Processing is the genuine partner they found in SDP.
If you’re familiar with PEOs at all, then you know they don’t just handle payroll. Leaving a PEO means finding all-new business vendors. With SDP, Valley Light found a great payroll and HR partner. But our team was also able to help connect them to new partners for workers’ comp, 401(k), and even IT! According to Gregory,
Simply put, SDP has exceeded my wildest expectations. Our Sales rep has been our best friend. He’s been there for us every step of the way and we can call him for anything. I truly don’t know what I would do without you guys.
Join The Movement
Valley Light Center for Social Advancement is hiring! The organization is looking to grow their team and is currently hiring Instructors and Job Coaches. If you or someone you know is interested, you can get in touch with them online here or by calling (626) 337-6200 x118. Best of luck!
SDP Client Spotlights: Celebrating Our Clients
Every month, we highlight one of our amazing clients with the SDP Client Spotlight. Here at Southland Data Processing, we’re in the people business and strive to always put our clients first. So if you or your organization is interested in becoming our next Client Spotlight, please contact us at [email protected] and we’d love to hear your story!
Photo by Valley Light Center For Social Advancement