Covid-19 has unquestionably hit businesses and communities hard, but an often forgotten group experiencing hardships are our fellow neighbors with intellectual disabilities. The lack of access to the community and agency shutdowns have left many at home, isolated, and alone.
Beacons, Inc., however, has operated without interruption by transitioning to virtual instructional support within the next business day of the Governor’s stay-at-home order. Encinitas resident Laura Makings and other board members, all of whom have loved ones with disabilities, refused to stop working knowing that people depended on their services even more with the added stress and uncertainty caused by Covid-19.
While some local school districts have been slow to devise a policy that requires certain levels of virtual instruction to its students, Beacons, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Carlsbad, transitioned virtually to its full instructional schedule immediately.
The mission of Beacons is to help individuals with disabilities learn vocational skills to bridge gaps to employment. Those with intellectual disabilities in San Diego County historically have an 86% unemployment rate, a rate which has persisted even as the unemployment rates for non-disabled individuals reached record lows of approximately 4% before Covid-19. Individuals with intellectual disabilities are also seven times as likely to be abused, five to six times more likely to end up in jail and/or prison, and have a much higher incidence of poverty compared to non-disabled community members.
Primarily run by volunteers from both Encinitas and Carlsbad, Beacons not only offers vocational training and exploration, but also offers online social activities and leadership training to help people learn about the importance of community volunteerism, leadership, and advocacy. Laura Makings, Chair of the Beacons “Club Beacons” social division, has tirelessly devised activities and events for “Club Beacons” to make sure there are social opportunities for those too often isolated at home. Within a few months of the launch of Club Beacons, events began filling up.
The high learning rates and employment outcomes of the Beacons program helped it earn state funding through the San Diego Regional Center so that many individuals can attend its programming for no charge with accompanying state funding.
The Qualcomm Foundation and the National Foundation for Autism Research are but some of the San Diego businesses supporting this innovative program with grant funding. After just over a year of its opening in November 2018, Beacons had to expand its space nearly doubling in size to serve residents in north county with intellectual disabilities aged 16+.
This summer, Beacons offers a 5-week summer program with virtual workshops ranging from photography to painting, which helps provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities sheltered at home. Each workshop is 8 hours, has small ratios, and is paced to optimize learning. Beacons just completed its first week of workshops, which included American Sign Language and painting. The painting workshop has a virtual gallery on the Beacons website for those interested in seeing what some of the artists have done.
Interested in helping?
One of the things Beacons can use help with is employment opportunities for their trainees, regardless of whether its part-time, full-time or even an hour a week. The state provides “paid internships” through a third party so the trainees can do on-the-job training at no cost to the hosting employer. For more information, call our office or visit our website below.
- Website: www.BeaconsNorthCounty.com
- Phone: 760-448-6230
- Address: 6150 Yarrow Drive, Suite E, Carlsbad, CA 92011
- Beacons, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) CA public benefit nonprofit.