2016 Grants Challenge
🎉 Winner

Pathways to Employment through Professional Volunteerism

Tierra del Sol Foundation will empower adults with developmental disabilities to achieve a life of meaning, acceptance, value, and inclusion, via professional volunteerism as a pathway to employment.


Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

Angel Interfaith, Assistance League, Burbank Temporary Aid Center, Glendale Salvation Army, Jewish Family Service of L.A., Nat’l Council of Jewish Women, Operation Gratitude, Red Cross, East Valley Animal Shelter, Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Fdn, Adult Skill Center, Claremont Forum, United Cerebral Palsy, Tierra also has Memoranda of Understanding with 106 organizations focusing on children, hunger, churches, animals, seniors, health, legal aid, law enforcement, jobs, recreation, literacy, and the arts.

Please describe your project proposal.

Over 500 adults with developmental disabilities will develop the skills to access and engage in volunteerism at 120 non-profit organizations. Through the training and community development efforts of a Volunteer and Employment Developer, partner organizations will gain critical, committed volunteers, while recognizing the strengths that people with disabilities are waiting to give back to their community.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your proposal impact?​

Access to free wifi

Social & emotional support

Cultural events

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs

Travel time to work

Public transit riders

Rates of volunteerism

Total number of local social media friends and connections Angelenos have

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley


Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to CONNECT?

Tierra will empower adults with developmental disabilities to break out of social isolation via valued, community-based volunteerism, thereby:

(1) Enhancing organizational capacity

The State of California contracts with Tierra to provide basic support to adults with disabilities; However, the level of government funding does not allow for the innovation and customization necessary for people with disabilities to fully connect with their community. Tierra creates change-based community involvement to support adults with disabilities to be valued for their contribution.

(2) Engaging residents and stakeholders

During the discovery phase of Tierra’s program, participants experience and evaluate career opportunities. These experiences culminate in a planning session, in which they meet with family and a representative of the California Department of Developmental Services, to create a three-year plan for achieving their goals.

(3) Expanding a program

Volunteer and Employment Developers create partnerships to expand opportunities for career-driven volunteerism.

(4) Mobilizing for systems change

Employees and volunteers, at partner organizations, learn the possibilities for their family member(s) with disabilities, and spread these values throughout the organization. These organizations reported that their partnership with Tierra improved their workplace’s morale and atmosphere.

Six partners found such value in the skills of Tierra clients, that they hired them as permanent employees. As a result, volunteers shifted from a temporary volunteer position, to connecting with their co-workers via a paid job. Companies increased their inclusiveness of people with all ability levels, allowing employees to connect with often-isolated individuals.

The impact extends beyond volunteerism into all areas of community life.

(1) The number of potential VOTERS with disabilities exceed that of either Latinos or African-Americans (Rutgers 2016). However, their voter turnout is 5.7% lower than those without disabilities (U.S. Election Assistance Committee 2013). Volunteerism strengthens the communication and self-advocacy skills necessary to engage in the electoral process.

(2) Volunteering is linked to improved social/communication skills and inclusion (Disability & Rehabilitation Journal 2016), which are critical to SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL SUPPORT. Participants learn how to continue the relationships established via volunteerism by making SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTIONS.

(3) Tierra’s staff have wifi-enabled devices which allow clients to ACCESS FREE WIFI.

(4) Participants’ consistent efforts allow partner art galleries (i.e. da Center for the Arts) and museums (i.e. Discovery Cube) to more effectively and efficiently execute CULTURAL EVENTS.

(5) Travel training empowers participants to MINIMIZE TRAVEL TIME to volunteer positions by using PUBLIC TRANSIT systems, such as Metro, in lieu of costly and time-intensive options such as Access.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​


(1) Almost 600 individuals with developmental disabilities will gain or maintain integrated, community-based volunteerism.

(2) 50 adults with developmental disabilities will obtain volunteer positions in integrated settings in the community.

To ensure long-lasting change, this project instills the following skills into participants’ daily lives:

(1) Social skills and relationship building in person and via social media, thereby empowering clients to access social and emotional support at the volunteer position;

(2) Self-advocacy skills for personal relationships as well as for advocating for government responsiveness;

(3) Accessing generally-accessible resources such as cultural events, public/open street gatherings, and voting;

(4) Safe travel using public transportation; and

(5) Identification of resources and volunteer jobs that are close to home and thereby reducing their travel time to work.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?



Advisors/board members



Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles etc.)


Technical infrastructure (computers etc.)

Community outreach

Network/relationship support

Quality improvement research