The Inland Empire Caucus’s 10th Annual Legislative Breakfast was recently held at the Doubletree by Hilton Ontario Airport. The theme of this year’s breakfast was Let’s Work Together! The event celebrated the local agencies that have served individuals with developmental disabilities providing personal growth skills, vocational training, job placement services, residential services, and independent living skills.
If you would like to contact this organization, Click Here.
Wendy Rogina is the CEO of VIP, Inc., an employment training and placement program for people with disabilities. She explained why this year’s event is different from previous years. “We get together each year and typically honor a legislator that has helped support our endeavors … but this year, because it’s 10 years, we’re doing more of a celebration in bringing those involved together and just saying thank you for all those years of support.”
Giant Lego pieces served as centerpieces for the tables and were later used to build a bridge demonstrating the importance of working together to create a better future.
Musician Mark Goffeney, who was born without arms, awed the crowd with his guitar playing skills. He taught himself to play guitar with his toes when he was 12 and has been entertaining and inspiring crowds for 30 years. He said, “We have to pursue what we love no matter what the obstacles are.”
Beth Hammond, VIP’s Director of Training said events like this are important to raise the awareness of the financial struggles agencies like VIP endure. She added that people with disabilities are a “phenomenal workforce” and are a valuable asset for employers.
Rick Rogina, COO of VIP, Inc., explained how VIP trains people with disabilities to enter the workforce and creates longevity with employment while being cost effective. One of the programs they offer is contract packaging and assembly for corporations that have high volume repetitious jobs.
State Logistics is one of the corporations that work with VIP in employing workers with disabilities. Operations Manager John Carty says State Logistics has been doing business with VIP for four years and uses VIP’s workers for packaging, labeling, and sanitation jobs to name a few. Having two children with disabilities, Carty says, “It is an area that is very near and dear to my heart.”
County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, 4th District San Bernardino County, also attended the event, stressing the importance of helping individuals reach their genius no matter who they are. Assemblyman Curt Hagman, 55th District, was also on hand in support of the Caucus.
Lobbyist Carl London of the California Disability Services Association provided an update on legislation and talked about the importance of being an advocate. He said, “We spend over $400,000 per year annually, per person to keep people in outdated institutions … that money, if you could transfer that to the community and give people more opportunities, the money could go a lot further and would help raise the rates to support these programs because they are all based on state rates.”
— Aimee Rios