People with Disabilities

PRIDE Industries featured in Forbes

On July 27, 2021, PRIDE Industries was featured in an article titled “Employment for Adults with Severe Disabilities,” written by Michael Bernick, who co-authored the book The Autism Full Employment Act with Dr. Louis Vismara, MD.


In 1999, Dr. Vismara co-founded the University of California, Davis MIND Institute and has served as a senior policy consultant on neurodiversity for three California Senate Presidents.

Dr. Vismara’s autistic son, Mark, is featured in the book and in the article. With the assistance of his father, Mark has worked on several projects at PRIDE Industries’ facility in South Sacramento.


Read the full article


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Contact our I AM ABLE Helpline to discuss your options.
Media Contact
Kat Maudru

PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise delivering business excellence to public and private organizations nationwide.

Since combining operations with Crossroads Diversified Services, PRIDE Industries’ capacity to serve people with mental health disabilities has markedly increased. What’s more, we now have in-house talent specializing in employees who want to work while on SSI or SSDI.


*SSI: Supplemental Security Income


*SSDI: Social Security Disability Insurance

Dee Gavaldon Answers the Question, “Can I Work While on SSI or SSDI?”

Meet Dee Gavaldon, PRIDE Industries Employment Services Manager. Gavaldon joined us in 2020, after 26 years at Crossroads. She brings a wealth of experience in the area of employee benefits planning. Before working at Crossroads, she was the benefits planner for six years at Resources for Independent Living in Sacramento, where she was the first work incentives specialist in the agency’s history. Later, at Crossroads, she became an expert in Social Security work incentives for employed beneficiaries. With this expertise, she has secured and managed the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Cooperative Agreement grant since 2007. This grant is awarded on five-year cycles by The Social Security Administration’s Office of Employment Supports.


But, what exactly, is The Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program (WIPA)?


The WIPA program is a service designed to help Social Security beneficiaries make informed choices about their employment goals. Often, these are people who want to work but fear that, in so doing, they will sacrifice all benefit income.


“That’s not the case,” said Gavaldon. “There are ways to work and continue to receive benefits.”


And those benefits aren’t just monetary.


“It’s also about self-esteem,” Gavaldon says. “People tend to feel better about themselves when they’re employed and contributing to society.”


Gavaldon and her team serve people of all abilities. Every year, they help about 300 individuals experience the sense of purpose that comes with meaningful employment, either by finding new work or continuing in their current jobs. Gavaldon has discovered that people who work while on SSI and SSDI report a boost in confidence, and some clients have thanked her team for helping to make this possible.

WIPA and Beyond: The Intricacies of Working While on SSI and SSDI

In addition to WIPA, Gavaldon is also experienced in managing contracts from various funding sources, including the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Ticket to Work (TTW), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). She has also worked closely with diverse groups, including adults with disabilities, dislocated workers, and youth. Though she does not carry a caseload in her current role, years of working one-on-one with clients continue to inform the services she provides today. Not only does she understand the intricacies of each program; she also understands how it will or won’t fit the needs of each population and, ultimately, each individual.


“It’s a complicated system but, somehow, it makes sense to me,” says Gavaldon. “And I also have an amazing team.”

PRIDE Industries Wins a WIPA Cooperative Agreement Grant

Gavaldon is part of a team led by Workforce Development Director Andrea Rogozinski and Employment Services Director Kim Speers. The three recently worked together with our proposal team and the Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation to develop the application for a WIPA Cooperative Agreement grant.


WIPA grants are administered by the Social Security Administration’s Office of Employment Supports. It was this agency that recently awarded PRIDE Industries $289,800 every year for the next five years. Because of this grant, Gavaldon and her team will be able to continue their important work: maintaining employment for people with disabilities—including those receiving SSI and SSDI.

Making an Impact Locally and Nationally

Although Gavaldon has been in her current role for only one year, PRIDE Industries and those we serve are already benefitting from her expertise. In addition to showing her clients how to work without losing benefits, she and her team have saved some clients potentially thousands of dollars in erroneous Social-Security-related overpayments. And, besides the impact she’s made locally, her expertise was recently recognized at the national level. In May, she was appointed to the Board of the National Association of Benefits and Work Incentives Specialists—yet another experience that will inform what she brings to PRIDE Industries and those we serve.


As she enters the 27th year of her career, Dee Gavaldon continues to help people of all abilities fulfill their employment potential and build the life they want. The people that Gavaldon has helped are grateful to her, and she is heartened to be here at PRIDE Industries.


“It’s been an amazing journey,” Gavaldon concludes. “And it’s good to know that the team—Christa Reed, Kaitlin Schefer, and the newest members, Corina Powell and Sean Sullivan, and I—are continuing to make a difference.”

Need employment placement support?

Contact our I AM ABLE Helpline to discuss your options.
Dee Gavaldon, PRIDE Industries Employment Services Manager.

“People tend to feel better about themselves when they’re employed and contributing to society.”

Teaming Up to Create Careers for People with Autism

Careers for people with autism have been traditionally hard to come by. Lou Vismara, a noted cardiologist, and PRIDE Industries are working to change that.

PRIDE Industries’ Mission to Create Employment for People with Disabilities, Including Autism, Gains Dr. Lou’s Interest

Dr. Lou Vismara’s interest in the disability community began via fatherhood. In 1995, his young son Mark was diagnosed with autism, and Dr. Lou (as he’s known to his colleagues) dedicated the next year to learning everything he could about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). But the doctor was surprised to discover very little information was available and, being a man of science, he decided to do something about this.


By 1997, Dr. Lou’s research had prompted him to help found what would become The MIND Institute at UC Davis. In time, this collaborative research center would conduct research into ASD, Fragile X Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome.


The MIND Institute would go on to garner international recognition for its work, and Dr. Lou would become a well-known figure within the autism community.


Then, a chance meeting in 1999 introduced the doctor to PRIDE Industries.


“I was attending an event,” he said, “and while there I was introduced to Mike Ziegler, PRIDE Industries’ [late] CEO. He invited me to tour the facilities at PRIDE Industries, and I was so impressed by what I saw. Having a child with a disability, I was struck by the importance of jobs for people with autism, like my son. It brought tears to my eyes to see so many people with disabilities employed and contributing to society.”

A Holistic Approach Includes Careers for People with Autism

This exposure to PRIDE Industries and its mission had a big impact on Dr. Lou and his son Mark, who began working with PRIDE Industries just a few months later. Seeing his son grow as he learned new skills, the doctor came to understand that a holistic approach—one that factors in social dynamics as well as scientific ones—was necessary to ensure Mark’s quality of life. This revelation led Dr. Lou to think about other ways to help transitional-aged youth on the autism spectrum. Then, a chance conversation sparked an idea.


In 2018, Dr. Lou was catching up with a colleague, who happened to mention that her aging parents were struggling with daily chores. Walking the dog, doing laundry, and grocery shopping—all of these activities had become too difficult for the elderly couple.


This got the doctor thinking.


“Something struck me,” said Dr. Lou. “The challenges her parents were experiencing were things my son, and others like him, could help with.” Suddenly, Dr. Lou had a new idea for a project that he knew could benefit many people, and the very next day, he set to work.


First, Dr. Lou made some calls. One of the first people he contacted was EDD Director Mike Bernick, who worked through the California Workforce Development Board to obtain a small grant for the project. More calls went out to Sheri Peifer, Eskaton’s CEO, and Darlene Cullivan, Senior Manager of Outreach and Impact at Eskaton. To complete the circle, Dr. Lou reached out to Vic Wursten, Chief Rehabilitation Officer at PRIDE Industries.

The Autism Employment Pilot Program

Eight months later, Dr. Lou and this team of like-minded colleagues launched The Autism Employment Pilot Program.


The pilot program was based in California’s Sacramento region and drew on the expertise of PRIDE Industries. Through our Employment Services, individuals with autism were trained to work with older people, then placed in elder services jobs at Eskaton—a nonprofit, community-based senior care organization. PRIDE Industries also provided job coaches and transportation for these employees who, ultimately, served as companions and aides to residents of long-term care.


Once the Autism Employment program became fully operational, it employed 17 adults on the autism spectrum at five different Eskaton facilities. One of these employees was Dr. Lou’s son, Mark, who found purpose in the work routine and in being of service. For Dr. Lou, the experience was eye-opening. He’d already seen how having a job had given his son a sense of community, independence, and purpose. Now he saw how employment not only helped others on the spectrum but also how seniors directly benefitted.


“Most interesting,” said Dr. Lou, “is the synergy and relationships that form between residents and participants.”


As loneliness can accompany both autism and aging, such friendships are a welcome part of the program—a benefit that Dr. Lou hopes to see continue. Though pandemic restrictions have put the endeavor on hold, he is confident that it will resume as soon as safely possible.

Post-COVID Employment for People with Autism

“The success of the program far exceeded my expectations!” said Dr. Lou. “We certainly want to revisit it when the pandemic ends.”


Whether in his role as a father, a physician, or a visionary, Dr. Lou Vismara understands that the goal of providing employment for people with autism is critically important. And in each of his roles, he has found no organization better equipped to facilitate this mission than PRIDE Industries. This is why Dr. Lou has served on the Advisory Board of PRIDE Industries since 2016, and why he has long been a generous supporter of The Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation, which supports many of the programs that have benefitted Mark and so many others.


“I’m a big believer in PRIDE Industries; its mission is essential to the well-being of so many people,” said Dr. Lou. “I want every person with ASD to have the opportunities my son has had.”

Move forward in your career

PRIDE Industries provides internships, job coaching and training programs, work transportation, assistive technology, and so much more for people with disabilities. Find out how we can help you pursue your career goals.

“The challenges her parents were experiencing were things my son, and others like him, could help with.”

Mark Haney is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and media personality who has founded or funded a portfolio of 30+ Sacramento-based companies across various industries. When Mark is not at the company building, he can be found in his studio igniting the Entrepreneurial Revolution as host of The Mark Haney Show podcast and radio program. Jeff Dern, PRIDE Industries’ President and CEO, and Matt Anderson, Vice President of PRIDE Industries’ Inclusive Talent Solutions , sat down with Mark to talk about how PRIDE Industries continues to innovate and evolve to serve their mission while also providing a ton of value for their customers and community.

Matt Anderson and Jeff Dern on the Mark Haney Podcast (5/3/21)

Getting the word out about PRIDE Industries in our own back yard!

Leah Burdick, PRIDE Industries’ Chief Growth Officer, and Vic Wursten, PRIDE Industries’ Chief Rehabilitation Officer, talked to over a dozen Sacramento area radio stations (Entercom(Audacy), iHeart, and Bonneville) about PRIDE Industries mission, vision, and the I Am ABLE Helpline. 


Iheart radio interview 4/4/21

Getting the word out in California’s Central Valley

Leah Burdick, PRIDE Industries’ Chief Growth Officer, shared PRIDE Industries’ story with Cumulus Radio’s D Ferreira:


Interview with Leah Burdick and DE Ferreira

Media Contact
Kat Maudru

PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise delivering business excellence to public and private organizations nationwide.

Terry Knapp first walked through the doors of Winding Commons Senior Living (WCSL) last year as part of PRIDE’s Employment Services internship program for people with disabilities. Over the ensuing weeks, Terry did such a great job that, upon his internship’s completion, he was hired immediately—his first job working independently in the community. Now, not only does he continue to enjoy the teamwork and welcoming support of his workplace, but he also enjoys regular interactions with WCSL’s residents.


Located in Carmichael, CA, Winding Commons has a sterling reputation for its caring staff, its clean and well-maintained facilities, its food, and its grounds. The senior-living facility frequently receives glowing reviews from both its residents and their families. With employees like Terry and his coworkers, it’s easy to see why.

Paired with PRIDE Job Developer

Referred to PRIDE Industries from the California Department of Rehabilitation, Terry was then matched with PRIDE Job Developer Caryl Balko—and the two immediately got to work. Terry started drafting his resume and filling out job applications. Caryl provided Terry with valuable feedback on both these projects and, further, went into the community to scout potential job positions and to meet with employers.


Soon, their efforts paid off when Terry earned an internship at Winding Commons, starting as a dishwasher and expanding his duties to include general cleanup, food preparation, and serving.


“We had to hand wash the dishes, and that was hard to keep up with at first,” Terry said. “But I got used to it and was able to pick up the pace.”


But speed isn’t the only job requirement. Because of COVID restrictions and protocols, positions like Terry’s have become more important than ever, with cleanliness held paramount.

Essential Worker

“All employees are expected to clean thoroughly . . . nothing goes out of the kitchen without being sanitized,” said Caryl. “When Terry or the other workers serve food, they wear gloves and masks and do not touch the items in the residents’ rooms.”


The addition of protective measures didn’t fluster Terry. In the midst of a pandemic and in the span of three months, he met each of his internship goals. During this time, he also met with PRIDE job coach, Diana Crawford, to ensure that he had all the support that he needed.


Terry was met with support at Winding Commons, too. Chef Dan Catanio provided thorough tutelage in meal preparation and was quick to offer praise: “Terry does an awesome job for us. He is an important part of our team.”

As for Terry, he’s just as happy to be at Winding Commons as his employers are to have him there.


“I’m glad I got the chance to do my internship with Winding Commons,” Terry said. “Employment has changed my life for the better, and I’m proud to contribute to the well-being of our community!”

How you can help

Generous donations to The Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation are critical to helping individuals with disabilities gain an opportunity to start a career that is suited to their capabilities and interests.

“I love working with Winding Commons. We have such an awesome team. Whenever I need help, my co-workers step up, & when they need help, I’m able to jump right in!”

Good Day Sacramento – A local non-profit is re-purposing their fleet of buses to help the community during the pandemic. Good Day’s Ashley Williams is with Vic Wursten from PRIDE Industries to tell us how as they take us on one of their deliveries!

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Media Contact
Kat Maudru

PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise delivering business excellence to public and private organizations nationwide.