Ten years ago, there was no iPhone. It was released in 2007. There was no Twitter until ’06, and YouTube had just come on the internet scene.
Meanwhile, Values Into Action was very much alive and growing day by day.
Values Into Action was officially created in 2005 by Paul Saulino and Marian Frattarola-Saulino. Since then, the 501c3 non-profit organization has helped people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey find meaningful employment, safe and accessible housing, opportunities to establish and cultivate friendships, and ways to contribute to their communities.
In the past ten years, Values Into Action has also provided employment for 150 highly-skilled, devoted employees, who all bring customized services for each person they serve. Many came on board in the beginning days of the organization, have grown with the Saulinos, and continue to dedicate their careers to helping others.
Ellen Lopez has been a Personal Assistant with Values Into Action for eight years. She currently works with a young man named Matt. She became acquainted with Matt while working at his former school, and spent a few afternoons a week with him. Over time, Lopez became a true influence in his life through Values Into Action.
“Matt and I do various activities in the community and a few at his home,” says Lopez. “We have fun adventures at the zoo, on Amish buggy rides, and at the shore. We also do everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping, household chores, doctors’ visits, movies, and bowling. It’s different every day.”
Matt loves the bowling alley and goes there almost daily.
“He’s developed a lot of relationships there and does some work there, wiping tables and balls,” says Lopez. “The bonus is he can bowl for free!”
Lopez says seeing Matt grow in his communication with others both verbally and using his iPad has been very rewarding.
“I hope to continue working with Matt, and perhaps others as well, to help them live life to the fullest,” she says.
Edward Kelly is also a Personal Assistant with Values Into Action. He’s been with the organization for seven years. He actually supported the first individual that Values Into Action represented when the Lehigh Valley location opened. Today, Kelly supports two individuals, Paul Ahnr-Hein and Ben Armory.
“I enjoy helping individuals who may not have many friends to help them develop friendships, then I sit back and watch them have fun,” says Kelly. “I once worked with a young, immature high school kid and helped him develop, graduate, and become a fine human being. Now he’s mature, happy, and a productive member in the working world.”
Rachel Milano-Davis is a Resource Director at Values Into Action – she’s one of the team leaders who helps match Personal Assistants like Edward Kelly and Ellen Lopez with people who accept services. Milano-Davis has been with Values Into Action for six years and says she’s been fortunate to develop her skills and knowledge there, and move into several different roles.
“It gives me great pleasure to see the relationships I have helped to facilitate blossom,” says Milano-Davis.
She adds Paul and Marian Saulino have been an amazing role model and inspiration.
“Marian and Paul consistently set the tone for the organization in terms of the values. They created Values Into Action with a strong commitment to providing one-on-one, truly individualized services and never once have they waivered from this,” Milano-Davis says. “Even in the most challenging of times, they always go back to what is best for the individuals.”
The continued dedication and loyalty shown by Values Into Action employees’ does not go unnoticed to Marian and Paul.
“I am honored every day to work with brilliant, strong people like Ellen and Ed, who are dedicated to, and engaged in the struggle to secure people's civil rights, namely their right to live and work and to be supported in realizing their aspirations,” says Marian. “The fact these people stay despite the challenges of pay inequity as it relates to other service professions, of supporting people who are vulnerable, and of countering misconceptions about people with disabilities is a testament to the power of vision and optimism: We can, in fact, change the world, one person at a time. We do it every day.”