2010-11-05 / Neighbors

PathPoint celebrates 25 years of helping people with disabilities find work

Nonprofit to host resource fair in Simi next week
By Angela Randazzo Special to the Acorn

HELPING HANDS—From left, job coach Kevin Heckart stands with PathPoint participant staff David Pavely, Mike Acala, Mary Sheffield and Robin Harrison who work at the Oasis restaurant at the Amgen resource center in Newbury Park. HELPING HANDS—From left, job coach Kevin Heckart stands with PathPoint participant staff David Pavely, Mike Acala, Mary Sheffield and Robin Harrison who work at the Oasis restaurant at the Amgen resource center in Newbury Park. PathPoint, a local organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities and economic disadvantages find work, will celebrate 25 years in Ventura County with a family resource fair on Nov. 9.

“We support people who are primarily low-income but also have a second barrier to employment,” said Marielle DeFazio, vice president and director of the nonprofit. “Such barriers might be a pregnant teen, a youth with a disability, foster youth or youth offender.”

Pathpoint takes client referrals from other agencies, such as the Tri-Counties Regional Center and the Ventura County Behavioral Health Agency. The majority of its programs are geared toward adults with disabilities or mental illness. In addition, programs for at-risk youths, ages 16 to 21, are funded by the Workforce Investment Act.

Since 2009, PathPoint has served more than 800 people in Ventura County. Funding comes from state and county grants and private donations.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of people served, especially with our youth program in job development,” DeFazio said. “Many, many people are looking for work.”

Nicole Inglehart, 35, works at a local restaurant hopping tables and rolling silverware.

“I like working,” she said. “The program helps me and I do it.”

Inglehart is in PathPoint’s integrated work program. As part of the program, she lives in a group home.

“Our clients gain work skills such as comparison shopping and how to take transportation in the community,” said Eugenia Bernacchi, support coordinator for the program. “When they gain enough skills they can move forward into our group-supported employment and work more independently.”

The resource fair, sponsored by the Ventura County Credit Union, is from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 9 at PathPoint’s Simi Valley office at 1463 E. Los Angeles Ave.

DeFazio said 16 community and county agencies will host tables for the event and she expects more than 100 people to attend.

Ventura County agencies on aging and human services will be at the fair, as will Clinicas del Camino Real, The Rainbow Connection Family Resource Center, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“The fair is our opportunity to bring agencies together to provide information to our clients and the community,” DeFazio said. “We’re bringing together program services and recreational activities that are available as well.”

PathPoint was founded in 1964 in Santa Barbara and opened offices in Ventura County in 1985. County locations include Simi Valley, Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Ventura.

“People can give us a call to find out what program is best suited for their needs,” said DeFazio.

The organization welcomes tours any time, she added.

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