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First TMI Deaf and Hard of Hearing Group is Up and Running at STAT Animal Sanctuary

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

The group with their Job Coach Julius and STAT Site Coordinator Tony
The group with their Job Coach Julius and STAT Site Coordinator Tony

The first Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) group who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) is up and running in Hemet at the STAT (Save the Animals Today) Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization where horses that are too old to ride serve as companions and therapy animals. Andrew, Douglas and Travis are with the TMI Community Integration Training Program which is designed to provide vocational and social skills training for our clients to participate in their community. With the assistance of TMI Job Coach Julius Howey, who can communicate with the group effectively through American Sign Language (ASL), the group is off to a great start!

Working hard on the farm!
Working hard on the farm!

The clients love helping Tony who is one of the STAT Site Coordinators on the farm. They enjoy making his job easier and seeing all the different animals there. With the farm laying on 20 acres of land and plenty to do, it is easy to get distracted and wander off. It was extra challenging for Julius and other staff at the property to get the groups attention, but Julius was able to effectively communicate with the group to ensure that they were clear about their duties.

“Having a Job Coach like Julius is amazing,” said TMI Division Manager Eva Prendes. “He has a personal connection with the DHH community as he was raised by parents that are DHH. Growing up in that community has made Julius sensitive and patient with the clients while also being able to properly communicate and understand their needs.”

STAT Sanctuary
STAT Sanctuary

With many aging and disabled animals at the sanctuary they have a particular appeal to the special needs community and veterans. Seniors find it a treat to feed the animals or just enjoy being outside in the picnic area. The handicap accessible garden is an added treat for all. The farm is also a place to bond with your kids while volunteering there. LEARN MORE about the sanctuary.

“The STAT staff absolutely enjoy this group,” added Eva. “They are learning so much from them and are even picking up on some sign language. The clients love going to the farm every week and look forward to the beautiful scenery that they get to enjoy.”

Andrew, Douglas and Travis, who also volunteer at Ocotillo Restaurant and Simpson Center, as well as community and local park trash pick-ups, have received praise from the City of Hemet and residents for their outstanding volunteer work. Way to go!

Thank you to Julius for being an amazing Job Coach and transforming the lives of our clients.

Thank you also to the sanctuary for partnering with us. There are many reasons why it makes good business sense to have TMI clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities or who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing be contributing members of your organization either as paid employees or volunteers. LEARN MORE about the benefits for businesses and how you can get started.

The TMI Community Integration Training Program provides the support necessary to enable our clients to participate fully in community life. TMI is based on a belief that no person should have to work in a setting which is segregated due to the nature or severity of their disability.

(Thank you to TMI Division Manager Eva Prendes for contributing to this story.)

National Deaf History Month is celebrated from March 13 through April 15 to recognize the contributions of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.

Following are three important dates in deaf history:

April 15, 1817: The first permanent public school for the deaf, the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn., opened.

April 8, 1864: President Abraham Lincoln signed the charter of Gallaudet University in Washington, the first school for the advanced education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the world.

March 13, 1988: The Deaf President Now movement succeeded in having I. King Jordan named the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University. Dr. Jordan became known as a symbol of self-determination and empowerment for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people around the world.

(Source: Salus University)


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.


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