April is National Autism Awareness Month and Peppermint Ridge, a home for nearly 100 people with developmental disabilities, is continuing to raise awareness with its impact on the local community.
Peppermint Ridge, known to its employees simply as the Ridge, serves people with special needs and was founded by a couple, Mary and Roger Jeffery, who started a care program in their home after their son Robert was born with autism in 1945. Their program cared for six boys with similar needs to their son.
Word spread quickly of the Jefferys’s program and an outpouring of support morphed the couple’s care into a non-profit organization founded in 1959 that rapidly grew and housed more residents over time.
Today, the organization serves 11 homes staffed with nurses, caregivers and other healthcare workers who uphold the standard level of care that the Jefferys’s had envisioned and provided for their son.
For more than 55 years, the Ridge’s main campus has been located in Corona, where the organization continues to make a difference in the lives of its residents and has inspired the local community to embrace their cause.
“Last year we accounted for over 4,500 volunteer hours, which totaled to about $30-40,000 worth of labor on a minimum wage scale,” said Veronica Guerrero, activities and volunteer coordinator at Peppermint Ridge.
Guerrero began work at the Ridge in 2006 as a caregiver, and after finishing her education, came back to work for the Ridge in 2013.
Guerrero said raising awareness and bringing people from the community is the most rewarding part of her job because the Ridge residents get a chance to build connections and relationships with the volunteers who sometimes transition into employment or become future donors.
She said the Ridge regularly gets volunteers from local high schools and church groups, and for some time, even hosted nursing clinicals for a nearby college.
Olivia Clark, senior kinesiology major at California Baptist University and direct care staff member at Peppermint Ridge, explained the importance of patience and understanding when working with the residents.
“Helping them learn and achieve their goals is the most rewarding aspect of working with people with developmental disabilities,” Clark said.