Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) recognized several outstanding honorees at our 4th annual Transforming Lives "Great Gatsby" Gala at the beautiful San Diego Hilton Harbor Island. All proceeds from the evening went directly to TMI's Julie Casey Honorary Fund to benefit our clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in need. It was an amazing night for a wonderful cause!
California Coast Credit Union - Outstanding "Engaged" Community Partner
A TMI Community Partner since 2016, California Coast Credit Union has shown up for us not only financially but as an engaged presence at our annual Putting for Independence miniature golf tournament and our annual Transforming Lives Event. Their support over the years has meant a great deal to us! Cal Coast truly cares about giving back to their community by investing time and dollars in causes that matter to their employees and in organizations that are making a lasting impact in the community. We were honored to recognize Cal Coast Credit Union as our “Engaged” Community Partner of the year. We are grateful for their presence at our events and look forward to our continued partnership for many more years to come. Thank you so much, Cal Coast! We couldn’t do it without you!
Joel and Elizabeth Castro - Outstanding Family Support Services Resource Family
We were truly honored to recognize Joel and Elizabeth Castro as our Outstanding Resource Family. The Castros have provided support to our foster youth since 2007. They have transformed the lives of countless youth that have been welcomed into their family. Joel and Elizabeth take immeasurable pride in the care and support that they provide. Not being easily intimidated by challenges and roadblocks and having the ability to recognize their strengths as a family has allowed them to successfully support our foster youth. They are creative problem-solvers, think outside the box, and do not allow many things to slow them down. The Castros are a tremendously fun and active family, fostering inclusion in all areas of the foster youth’s lives. Joel and Elizabeth are strong and effective advocates who are always demonstrating their commitment to TMI’s values and mission. The Castros make their foster youth’s well-being a top priority across the board, maintaining an active involvement in their lives during and after placement when possible. Their work has been so impactful that they have inspired many other families to become Resource Parents with TMI. Their dedication and commitment to transforming the lives of foster youth with TMI strengthens with each passing year. We look forward to continuing to have you as part of our TMI family for many more years to come. Congratulations and thank you for all that you do!
Carla Chavez - Outstanding Community Living Services Client
Carla is truly an inspiration and motivator to anyone who wants to one day live on their own. She is a hard worker and loves her independence. Carla grew up in the city of Laredo, Texas and moved to San Diego with her parents as a teenager. Growing up, her parents taught her to be independent so that one day she could live on her own. After the passing of her parents, her guardian continued to encourage her independence and was able to find her a full-time job at Fredericka Manor Retirement Community as a dining room server. Carla is happy to say that she has been working at Fredericka Manor for the past 42 years! Carla eventually moved out of her guardian’s home and lived with different roommates; however, most placements did not work out. Eventually Carla was able to rent her own place and live independently. Carla did need assistance with learning money management skills, meal planning and self-advocacy. This is when Carla was referred to TMI’s Independent Living program in the year 1984. Through the years she has had her share of TMI Community Support Facilitators and has learned so much from each one of them. Currently, Patty Figueroa works with Carla as her facilitator and states, “Carla is such a hard worker, her day starts at 5am and sometimes does not end until 7 or 8pm! It’s a pleasure working with such a dedicated client.” We are honored to recognize Carla as our outstanding Community Living Services client!
Crosspoint Church in Temecula - Outstanding Community Support Partner
We were thrilled to be able to recognize Crosspoint Church in Temecula as our Outstanding Community Support Partner! We have multiple groups that volunteer there every week. Alex Leitzke is their coordinator, and he works directly with our clients and coaches. He is always in search of more tasks for our clients to do that will teach skills, while benefiting the church. Alex understands what we do as an organization, is a great advocate for our clients and offers the church resources for our client's enjoyment, such as making their church and personnel available for our holiday parties. This means the world to our clients and staff. While some of our sites take on one group, Alex has reached out to us to be sure he can facilitate our needs in taking on as many groups as possible. For years, Crosspoint Church has been a reliable site where our clients can learn and practice their skills in a safe and caring environment. We greatly appreciate Crosspoint Church and Alex's partnership with us. Thank you and congratulations!
Angela Newmeyer - Outstanding Director and Staff Advocate
Angela has given so much to our clients, staff, and agency for the past 15 years. There are many wonderful and joyous success stories steaming from her passion, advocacy, and most of all genuine care for those we serve. She has never failed to step up in every area of need within the agency whether it be administrative help, training assistance, political advocacy, a leadership role or working directly with clients. She supervises her staff with respect, fairness, and compassion. Because of this, she is truly adored by them all! Over the years her commitment to this agency has been impactful and more meaningful than she could ever know. No matter what she goes through in her personal life, and she has been through a lot this year, she never fails to give her all. Our Executive Director Rachel Harris has personally called upon her many times to solicit her help for resources and she has always responded immediately with assistance and concern! She is a woman of great integrity and kindness and for that we celebrate her. Congratulations and thank you for making such an amazing difference in the lives of those we serve!
Noel Placencia - Outstanding Employment Solutions Client
Noel is a Deaf and Hard of Hearing client who has been with TMI since 2007, the same year he was placed at VONS. He has been employed there ever since! Noel is loved and respected by his supervisors and co-workers. He receives Independent Living services from our Community Living Services department under the care of Jenna Plante. Jenna has worked tirelessly to support and help Noel navigate his personal life decisions successfully. TMI providing both Employment Solutions and Independent Living services has helped over the years to guide Noel to an independent life. Noel’s current Job Coach and Independent Living Facilitator Brisa Anguino has been a rock for Noel in guiding him at work and helping him figure out his personal responsibilities. Noel lives with a caring family, but now feels ready to try living with a roommate and be more independent. Noel is also wanting to work full time hours to cancel his SSI. Noel has faced many challenges being Deaf, including communication with hearing co-workers, managers, even challenges with family, but with the guidance and prompting of TMI being in his life he has faced them successfully. We have seen him grow from being a young man who loves to joke and play all the time, to a man wanting a good, stable life for himself. Noel's lighthearted personality is what has kept him rising to meet the challenges he faces. He now is being trained at VONS to take on more responsibilities such as stocking and general merchandising work. We are honored to recognize Noel for having the courage to absorb the mission and values that TMI offers and used these to create his own maximum independence! Congratulations, Noel!
Tara Ramirez - Outstanding TMI Manager and Staff Advocate
Tara has done an amazing job since coming to TMI as a Division Manager. She has added stability and consistency to our El Centro office. Tara is engaged in the community as a great representative of TMI and advocate for the individuals we support. Stakeholders are pleased with her efforts when it comes to advocating for our clients and services. Tara can deal with difficult challenges in a winning way. She has brought a strong sense of teamwork and camaraderie to the El Centro office. Tara’s team has increased the number of clients served in Imperial Valley by more than 30%. She advocated to start Supported Living Services in Imperial Valley to meet the needs of the community. Tara has also come up with creative ways to support her team. She is a great asset to TMI and the Imperial Valley community. We are happy to honor Tara as our Outstanding TMI Manager. Congratulations, Tara!
Erica Sauve - Outstanding Direct Staff Employee & Advocate
In 2017, Erica started as a TMI Community Facilitator for Tailored Day Services. She came to us as an experienced caregiver and ABA trainer. Erica juggled the full schedule we gave her and became a sought after Job Coach with a waiting list of clients whose parents heard of her reputation as a successful coach and Wonder Woman. You see, Erica juggled a full 8-hour day with us, while also facilitating respite care for another agency as well as privately caring for an individual for 17 years. At home, she also cares for her stepdaughter, who is medically fragile and in need of 24-hour in-home care. She has shown success with many clients but considers the client’s entire family part of the equation. Parents seek her advice and trust her experience. Erica is compassionate, determined, patient, organized, forward thinking, and a problem solver. She has been an advocate for her clients in any way possible (and even those who were not directly assigned to her). Recently, she began working with our Supported Employment clients as well. While we honored Erica as a direct staff, we are happy to say that she was recently promoted to Associate Division Manager for Supported Employment. She has left a great hole to fill in Tailored Day Services, but she will be a rock star in Supported Employment moving forward. Congratulations, Erica!
Sycuan Casino & Resort - Outstanding Community Partner
In 2017, TMI introduced Sycuan Casino and Resort to our agency and the amazing clients that we work with. From the very start, Sycuan was open and supportive of our client’s employment goals. The first group started in October 2017 working in utilities and dishwashing. TMI and Sycuan worked closely together to provide the support our clients needed to be successful. After a few months, a second group was started. Sycuan also hired our first individual placement in the same department. The partnership between Sycuan, TMI and our clients has strengthened over the years. The onset of the pandemic resulted in layoffs at Sycuan due to safety concerns. Once operations resumed, there was a need to hire Environment Services Technicians. Sycuan graciously provided the opportunity to our clients to be rehired in this new position. They have been doing an excellent job ever since with the support of TMI and the Sycuan management team! Currently, eight TMI clients are working at Sycuan, six clients are working in two groups and three individual placements. They say it’s a great place to work! Two of our clients recently celebrated their 5-year anniversary with Sycuan. Sycuan has proven their commitment to an inclusive workforce by continuing to provide employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities and working closely with us to build a workforce that is reflective of the community that they serve. Congratulations and thank you for your partnership!
Thank you to our community partners who made our gala possible and are helping us to transform lives: Hill CCM, California Coast Credit Union, Sycuan Casino & Resort, UGK, First Citizens Bank, Better Days Community Services, as well as our individuals sponsors TMI Board Secretary Alice Campbell, TMI Board Member Cathy Bishop, Kathleen Hill, Mary Lee Moser, Leslie Runyon, and John Vattuone. Thank you also to our in-kind donors, attendees and volunteers. A special thank you to TMI Director of Organizational Engagement and Effectiveness Frances Johnson, We Like to Party Events, and Bling Divas Entertainment for an unforgettable night. We hope to see you next year!
Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1981 and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2000. In 2020, we launched Disabled Veteran Employment Services. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living and Family Support Services throughout San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.