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Congratulations to TMI's 2016/2017 Fiscal Year Honorees

Updated: May 15, 2019

Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) was honored to recognize the following outstanding individuals at our Transforming Lives Gala on August 19, 2017 at the beautiful and historic Lafayette Hotel. Thank you to all who attended to support TMI and the work we are doing to transform the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities. It was truly a memorable evening for a great cause!

Outstanding Alternative Family: Jose Bautista and Vanessa Rojas

Jessie Campbell, Vanessa Rojas, Joe Bautista and Rachel Harris at TMI Transforming Lives Gala

(TMI Associate Executive Director Jessie Campbell, Vanessa Rojas, Jose Bautista and TMI Executive Director Rachel Harris)

Jose Bautista and Vanessa Rojas have been certified foster parents through TMI’s Alternative Family Program since June 2006. Since then, they have opened up their home, family and hearts to youth with developmental disabilities in need of foster care. Jose and Vanessa have supported several youth through TMI’s program, all with unique and varied needs, challenges, and levels of abilities. One of those youth is Manny, pictured in front at his adoption.

Manny with his Family at His Adoption TMI Transforming Lives Gala

Manny first came to TMI when he was just three years old. He was born with cerebral palsy and doctors said that he would never walk. With love and care from Vanessa and Jose, Manny moved from using a wheelchair to using a walker and to eventually walking on his own. Jose and Vanessa adopted Manny when he was eight. He is now 14 and loves his life with his forever family.

In addition to adopting Manny, Jose and Vanessa also adopted a young boy with a disability and, in order to allow for him to live with his sister, Jose and Vanessa adopted his sister as well. With two biological children and three adopted children, they certainly have a full house!

It has been amazing to see how Jose and Vanessa are able to integrate their foster youth into their family, resulting in them pursuing adoption. TMI can’t thank them enough for all they have done to make a lasting difference in the lives of so many children. TMI is honored to recognize Jose and Vanessa as TMI's Outstanding Alternative Family. Congratulations!

Outstanding Supported Living Team: Esther Santos and Evaline Achieng

Evaline and Esther TMI Transforming Lives Gala

(Evaline and Esther)

Esther and Evaline have lived together for almost 17 years. They started out as roommates through TMI’s Supported Living program with services for Esther. Although services continue to this day, their partnership has grown so much more. They have a unique and special bond that has kept them together through the good and bad times over the years. Esther often refers to Evaline as her family and calls her “my home girl.” It’s a nickname that Esther gave her many years ago and it has stuck. Evaline feels the same about Esther.

Esther knows she can depend on Evaline for anything she needs and that Evaline will always be there to listen after a hard day. Evaline knows Esther better than anyone else and how to get through to her, even on the toughest of days. Esther and Evaline are not only roommates, but teammates and family who stick by each other through thick and thin and that is why they are TMI's Outstanding Supported Living Team. Congratulations!

Outstanding Employment Solutions Client: Gina Malmstead

Gina Receiving Her Award at TMI Transforming Lives Gala

(TMI Board Chair Bryan Shull Congratulating Gina, with TMI Executive Director Rachel Harris)

Gina recently celebrated 20 years with Job Options at the San Ysidro Border Point of Entry! She is helping to dispel the myth that suggests people with disabilities can’t make good employees, in fact, the opposite is true. Gina is considered a valued employee who demonstrates a strong work ethic and a reliable ability to get things done. During her tenure she has received multiple pay increases and is currently making more than double her starting salary. She has also won awards for her work performance.

Gina lives by the motto, “work hard every day.” Working at the border is not an easy job; one might even consider it a high-risk location. Potential dangers include nearby construction/renovation hazards, drug smugglers, frequent arrests and a large volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Employees at this site need to have a high degree of safety awareness and common sense.

MC Giving Gina a High Five at TMI Transforming Lives Gala

Gina, like so many of our other individuals with disabilities, has proven herself to be a hard worker, a dependable long-term employee, and certainly an asset to Job Options and the Border. TMI is proud to provide Job Coaching services to individuals like Gina to help them enter the workforce, become successful employees and contributing members of the community. We congratulate Gina on being TMI's Outstanding Employment Solutions Client!

A special thank you to Senator Joel Anderson's office for preparing and helping to present certificates to our well deserving honorees!


An estimated 1 in 6 people are born with a developmental disability. Just like you they are born with hopes, dreams and the drive to contribute to society. Since 1981 Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has transformed thousands of lives by providing assistance to children and adults with developmental disabilities, giving them the ability to realize their hopes and dreams.

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