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Sunday, Oct 2, 2022
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Valley Site Doesn’t Work for Job Training Program

AbilityFirst, an organization that works with special needs and developmentally disabled individuals on workforce training, is closing its Woodland Hills center this month. The facility is one of the company’s three work centers, with the other two in Pasadena and Los Angeles. Lori Gangemi, AbilityFirst chief executive, said the closure was an executive decision by the board. “Our board made a strategic decision to limit our geographical reach to the greater San Gabriel Valley, South Bay and downtown Los Angeles,” she said. The nonprofit, which is headquartered in Pasadena, uses the centers to provide workforce training on subjects such as working as a team, keeping a schedule, building a resume and interviewing for a job. The Valley center at 6530 Winnetka Ave. will close permanently effective Nov. 20, according to a Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification filed with the Calfornia Employment Development Department last month. More than 100 associates will lose their jobs as a result of the closure and program members from the community will be transferred to similar organizations. “Most of our participants in Woodland Hills will be transferring to other nearby programs such as those offered at New Horizons,” Gangemi said. AbilityFirst was founded in 1926 and provides employment, recreational and socialization programs for thousands of participants annually. In addition to its three work centers, the organization has12 residential housing complexes, seven neighborhood community centers and an employment services office. Though the program receives government assistance, those grants only cover 50 percent of the nonprofit’s costs, according to Gangemi. Because of this, AbilityFirst relies heavily on donations and fundraisers. The organization’s annual Gourmet Festival of Fall, held last month, raised roughly $160,000 to support programs in Pasadena and Glendale. “We believe this change will help increase operational efficiencies and ultimately lead to better outcomes for the people we serve,” Gangemi said. Athletic Gift Cal State Northridge scored a large donation from Union Bank last month for its athletic department. The three-year commitment of $150,000 will go toward a series of financial and nutrition programs for student athletes, starting with the creation of a Union Bank Fueling Station. The station will act as a supplementary store for athletes to receive nutrition education as well as to pick up free snacks and food during the week to supplement their regular meals. The station will be located adjacent to athletic locker rooms and will launch as a pilot program this winter with plans to expand if successful. “It’s nice to have a company like Union Bank involved that cares about the big picture, proper nutrition and preparing athletes for life in general,” said Amy Millstone, the university’s associate athletic director. The Student-Athlete Financial Literacy Initiative is another program to be created from Union Bank’s donation. The program will provide athletes with resources to expand their knowledge of finance and business. The initiative does not have a launch date yet, but the athletics department and the bank are working together to execute the concept, Millstone said. In response to the gift, the school has created the Union Bank Hospitality Suite. It consists of a special VIP area in the Matadome, the 2,400-seat indoor gymnasium where basketball games and volleyball games are held. The suite, for Union Bank employees and guests, will debut at the men’s basketball team’s first home game Nov. 18. “Union Bank has a long history of supporting our local communities, and we recognize the importance of fiscal and physical fitness,” George Leis, private banking national executive for Union Bank, said in a statement. “This collaboration with CSUN Athletics is a natural fit for us.” Beagle Benefit Dog lovers have been gathering at Tony’s Darts Away this month to support the Beagle Freedom Project, an organization that rescues beagles from research labs in hopes of adopting them to safe homes. The Burbank craft beer bar and restaurant will host the fundraiser through Nov. 24. Each week Tony’s menu will feature a different vegan dish created by a partner in the community. Partners, or “tastemakers” as Tony’s has dubbed them, include Nic Adler, owner of the Roxy nightclub in West Hollywood, and Troy Farmer, an executive with Silver Lake e-commerce company MooShoes. The Valley Village nonprofit, founded in 2004, will receive proceeds from each dish. “When my eldest daughter, Marley, and I saw the video that Beagle Freedom Project made that told the story of Peter, we were both reduced to tears,” said Tony Yanow, founder of Tony’s, in a statement. “We wrapped our arms around our big lug of a dog Frankie and loved him up as we dried our tears. The work that Beagle Freedom Project is doing is important – much more important than testing cosmetic products on our best friends.” Staff reporter Champaign Williams can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or cwilliams@sfvbj.com.

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