Though some of the challenges of the pandemic appear to be waning, many non-profit organizations are still dealing with economic fallout. For the Ukiah Valley Association for Habilitation (UVAH), Covid’s social restrictions resulted in a two-year cancellation of their annual golf tournament- the agency’s sole annual fundraiser.
Earlier this month, the county’s oldest non-profit organization resurrected the event, and according to the agency’s executive director Dorianne Tanaka, it was one of the most successful fundraisers in UVAH’s history.
“We had 72 golfers at the event- the highest number since 2009,” Tanaka notes. “This year’s tournament was Number Two in smaller, individual donations and also in raffle sales,” Tanaka notes.
The tournament, which was the brainchild of former UVAH director Roy Smith became UVAH’s signature fundraiser, providing additional money for 30 of the agency’s 61 years of operation. Social distancing forced UVAH to cancel the event for two years, and Tanaka and her team were initially concerned that the hiatus would result in a loss of interest by the community.
“To resurrect the tournament, we started back in March with the board and staff getting together and making initial plans and looking for major sponsors who were key to the success of the event, along with individual donors. I knew nothing about golf, and our fundraising committee was completely comprised of non-golfers,” Tanaka smiles. “It was quite a learning process.”
“Over the months, dollars began to trickle in, and we amassed enough money to put on the event. Then we worried whether we’d have enough golfers, because we’d been out of contact since 2019. We were truly concerned. We didn’t know if people would want to continue to contribute or participate.”
The final runup to the event was a true nail-biter for Tanaka and her committee.
“It was getting close to the tournament date, and we had only 16 signups, which would have resulted in cancelling the tournament. We were very stressed out. So we put out an urgent appeal through our staff, through businesses, former employees and former golfers- the list goes on. We ended up with 72 players- the most in over a dozen years. The success of the event was a combination of support from major sponsors and individual donors, our board of directors, staff, golfers and friends of UVAH.”
This year’s sponsors include Brigham Law Office, Savings Bank of Mendocino County, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Edward Jones Financial Advisors, Bob Clark & Tyler Clark, Crane of Ukiah, The Hunger Express, Baroza Transport, Johnson’s Quality Tree Care and Logging, Mendocino County District Attorney, Selzer Realty and Associates, Heffernan Insurance Brokers and a special thanks to Speedy Signs for the event’s banner and signage.
“Because we had enough teams, we organized the tournament with a ‘shotgun start,’ which means every team was assigned a hole and everyone starts at the same time, completing the whole course in rotation, which is more fun than forming a single line at the first hole. Sponsors provided great prizes for the winning men’s, women’s and co-ed teams,” Tanaka continues.
The money raised from the fundraiser supports the private, nonprofit organization, which has been serving people with disabilities for over 6 decades. Perhaps the most front-facing portion of UVAH’s multifaceted program is Mayacama Industries, which, according to Tanaka is designed to assist people whose dream is to work. It’s not unusual to see Mayacama employees sprucing up a business landscape or providing janitorial services at many locations in the Ukiah area.
Mayacama Industries provides a number of work opportunities for people with disabilities, helping them gain experience, skills and self-esteem, including a mail and shredding service, grounds maintenance, assembly work, janitorial and packaging services at motels and hospitals. The program is designed for individuals with a diagnosed disability, physical mobility, an ability to care for personal needs but having insufficient or inadequate work experience.
“For disabled people who want to work, it’s a very big deal to have a job and have the opportunities employment provides. It’s not just the money they earn. It’s part of their identity,” says Tanaka.
UVAH’s Rural Adult Program serves a wide variety of people with disabilities. The goal is to provide training, self-care support, communication skills, recreation, leisure activities and vocational development. Programs are individually tailored, utilizing person-centered planning to create goals based on the client’s unique needs. Physical therapy and other intensive support services are also provided.
“Some of our RAP clients are medically fragile and require special, intensive care to promote independence and develop skills so that they can do what they want to do in the world and in life,” says Tanaka, who stresses that all donations to UVAH help to keep these programs operational and staff paid.
“Our field is incredibly underfunded. We’ve been so for decades and can’t properly pay our staff what they deserve. Salaries in our industry are generally comparable to fast food employment or other minimum wage jobs. Our staff require a tremendous amount of skill and knowledge, and what they do is so important. These are professional jobs that society doesn’t recognize as such and does not fund as such. I hope that in the future, we place more value on people with disabilities and the people who support them. Our staff needs professional recognition and professional wages. Unlike other industries, we can’t simply raise prices or charge customers more to better compensate our employees. Our funds are set. The people who work here do so because they’re dedicated, they appreciate our clients and the meaning their work brings to them.”
Tanaka was extremely inspired by the outpouring of support displayed at the golf tournament.
“We were so excited and grateful to see our community back after two years without the tournament, and to feel their enthusiasm and appreciation. Our agency is currently in a transitional period and will need the ongoing support of this great community- financially, but also in the continued support of the people we serve, providing employment opportunities, social engagement, and a true feeling of belonging.” Tanaka expects that for the first time, UVAH is considering a second fundraiser to help bridge the gaps created by tournament’s two-year hiatus.
“What the tournament really showed me is this agency and the people we serve are a recognized, welcomed part of this community. Our overall goal is to create that belonging for our clients- something that is so challenging for people with disabilities. The community’s participation demonstrates that that belonging is truly here.”
For more information on UVAH’s services or to make a contribution, visit https://uvah.org.