Looking forward to 2016

When walking the halls of Gompers one cannot help but to notice a smile has formed so big on your face that it starts to hurt. No matter what is happening in your own life, spending, even just a short time with members means your spirit becomes a little lighter and your day a little brighter. As you walk the halls, members freely share with you their hopes and dreams as they offer you a handshake or a hug. Today they shared their excitement for what’s to come in 2016.


Norma smilingTo get the New Year started off right, Norma from our Day Training for Adults Program shared that she enjoyed eating tamales and spending quality time with her family on New Year’s day. She told us how much she loves her friends at Gompers and how she is simply excited to be able to spend more time with them this year. Developing social skills by showing up each day and forming meaningful relationships with staff and peers are clearly a highlight for Norma. While she shares her wishes to spend more time with family and friends in 2016, she confidently names each one of her peers.


Jama smiling. Jama, one of our members who always has a warm smile on her face eagerly shared her excitement to be transitioning from Gompers pre-employment program to part-time employment training over the next few months. She has worked hard over the past several months to develop the necessary skills to succeed in our part-time employment training program and will soon be earning an income. “I’ll be working soon!” she excitedly exclaimed. Jama shared with us that she is also looking forward to being able to help out more around the house. She lives with her family, and she enjoys being able to help out around the house with her younger cousins. Experiencing the success of reaching goals and milestones in our programs carries over into the daily lives of our members as they increase their self esteem and become confident contributors in all areas of their life.
Arc showing his new shoes.Arc, a tall and quiet member of our Day Training for Adults Program recently received a new pair of shoes for Christmas. A smile crossed his face as he explained how he is simply looking forward to taking those shiny new sneakers for long walks, one of his favorite activities. Arc will soon be walking his way over to our part-time employment program as he has been working hard and successfully reaching and exceeding his goals.

Need assistive technology just DIY!


When you care about someone with a disability, you soon learn the things we often take for granted are not as simple as they seem. We really get that at Gompers because the people we serve through our programs and services are very important to us.

IMG_3858Every day our staff works with our students and members to find simple, inexpensive solutions to overcome barriers and solve physical challenges. Increasing independence for the individuals we serve is deeply rewarding to everyone at Gompers. In fact, it has become a passion.
On Friday, October, 23rd, the “Macgyvette” of Assistive Technology (AT), Therese Wilkomm, showed us a how to create a myriad of items using common materials in five minutes or less. She demonstrated this as she was eating lunch with one of our members, Mattie Matlock who relies on someone to hold his soda can for him to have a drink.  Therese immediately provided a solution to give this young man the ability to drink his soda independently! She clamped down a quick release grip on the table, and faceted a holder out of Velcro, rug gripper tape and lock line and behold, a drink holder for Mattie!

With a huge smile on his face, Mattie added, “The whole workshop was very interesting.”

Therese has a unique view on how she approaches assistive technology. During her workshop, she expressed how solutions should cost less than $5 and take five minutes or less to create. We live in a fast-paced world and individuals who need and should have access to everyday items like Mattie’s soda, need quick remedies instead of lengthy discussions and weeks of trial and error using a fancy product that may not work in the long run.

IMG_3906In attendance at the DIY AT Solutions in Minutes Workshop were teachers from our school, staff from our Day Training for Adults (DTA) and Employment Services programs, professionals from outside agencies and of course our Gompers DTA members. Everyone was able to take away a new perspective with ideas to apply to their lives and work. One Gompers member in attendance, Drew Bolender, is using one of the tasks we created to make an adaptable silverware holder for his girlfriend who has Cerebral Palsy.

“The workshop was great! The tasks were cool!” exclaims Drew.

Making assistive technology solutions in minutes really embraces the quote by Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

“It was such an honor to finally come to Gompers and to involve everyone in creating assistive technology solutions through hands-on learning and making assistive technology solutions,” Therese Willkomm concluded at the end of the day.

Our team is geared up now and rethinking everyday items one would have never considered helpful before, because we now know that we can use them in unique ways to improve the independence of people important to us – our students and members.


The 2015 Charles Schwab Cup Championship, the final event on the Champions Tour offers a wonderful opportunity for Gompers supporters to watch some great golf while making a difference in the lives of the students and members we serve.

Tournament Details:

November 04 – November 08, 2015
The Cochise Course at Desert Mountain Golf Club
Scottsdale, Arizona

To support Gompers, learn more and purchase tickets online here. Select Gompers as your “Designated Charity” from the charity drop-down menu and TICKETS Fore CHARITY™ will donate 100% of the ticket net proceeds to Gompers’ work developing innovative opportunities for people with disabilities.

The winner of the 2015 Charles Schwab Cup Championship will receive $440,000. Even better, $2.1M in prize money will go to the five top point earners which ensures that the best players on the Champions Tour will be on hand when the tour reaches Arizona. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, The Cochise Course at Desert Mountain Club was built in 1987. The 7,019-yard course has proven to challenge even the best Champions Tour professionals.

Fast facts to a great event

  • Any Day Grounds Tickets are just $27.
  • Grounds tickets are good any day of the tournament.
  • Children 18 and under are free.
  • Active duty and reserve military personnel, military retirees, non-retired veterans and their dependents are free.


June 2015 Newsletter

Student at Smart board

Spring 2015 Newsletter

Gompers’ future is bright

By Mark Jacoby

Gompers is excited to embark on our STRATEGIC VISION 2020. Over the span of several months, Gompers’ team came together to chart a course that will take us to 2020 and our 73rd year. We took a critical look at every facet of our organization to determine where our strengths and opportunities for growth lie and, most importantly, in what ways can we serve the community, our families and our members and students even better. We focused our Vision on three distinct areas: Programmatic, Technology and Culture.

Programmatic: This is more than simply about growth — though growth is going to occur. Already, we have begun an intensive evaluation of how we are going to expand our DTA services kandi cropped for facebookinto other parts of the community. The emphasis of Employment Services will shift from Center Based Employment to integrated community settings while continuing to ensure individual choice and a spectrum of opportunities. Our school will enhance educational opportunities through the expanded use of technology for individuals of all ability levels. Finally, we will grow and develop senior services for those with disabilities, something that will more than likely bring about our first foray into Home and Community Services.

Technology: Gompers’ Board, Administration and staff have made an indelible commitment to making Gompers a leader in assistive technology services for those with developmental mickey slim shotdisabilities. By collaborating with a wide variety of community partners, we are looking to become a resource not only for those we serve but also the community at large — all built around measurable outcomes.

Culture: All of this sounds great, but, in the words of Jim Collins, if we don’t get the right people on the right seat of the bus, we simply won’t be successful. In order to accomplish our lofty goals, we are embarking on a plan that will enable us to better develop our staff by providing more opportunities for internal advancement and creating a culture of success. Gompers’ staff simply must be the best in order for Gompers to be the best, so without question our focus will be on attracting and retaining the highest quality staff available.

As you can see, we have laid out an aggressive plan, and it is one we are confident we can accomplish. We won’t do it alone, though. We are going to turn to our community partners for the necessary resources — financial, intellectual and material. Already we are developing exciting opportunities that hint at unlimited possibilities. I am excited about our strategic goals for the next six years and would invite you to reach out to me if you’re interested in learning more.

Mark Jacoby is the executive director of Gompers.

Trip to light-rail station is learning excursion

By Mark DeAngelis

Regularly at Gompers Employment Services, we go on learning excursions in the community. We have visited everything from sporting-goods stores like Cabela’s and major retailers like Walmart to Channel 3TV to see how things work behind the scenes.

These are more than field trips; they allow our members to see firsthand how other people work and the qualifications needed for their jobs. They also learn work ethics and how to work as a team, the importance of staying focused on a project or company goal — and often they learn about jobs and skills that they’ve never imagined.

The final objective is for members to set new personal goals and learn more about money management, communication and other skills that will make them successful as we help them find independent employment.

rail -- eric buys ticket - smallEarlier this week, we visited the Phoenix Light Rail Station (on Montebello Street, adjacent to the Chris Town Mall). One of the most important components of having a job is making sure you are there on time to perform expected tasks, and I wanted our members to understand how to make that happen.

Once there, Gompers members Eric, James and Michelle crossed the street with me to approach the Light Rail Station. This is the place where the railcars start their journeys, which take riders through areas of downtown Phoenix into Tempe and Mesa. At this and other light-rail stops, there are ticketing machines to purchase tickets. Three dollars buys an all-day pass — and, as I pointed out to our group, that’s a pretty good value for someone in Phoenix who needs to get to a job in Mesa.

rail -- explaining ticket machine - smallWe were fortunate that Transit Field Supervisor Dale Edelman saw us examining the ticket machines and came over to answer any questions our members might have. Dale talked about the various benefits of the light-rail system and showed our members the basics of using the ticket machines. He explained there are a number of questions riders must answer by pressing buttons before the machine will accept payment. Those questions determine the appropriate fares, so it is important to be able to answer them or to bring someone who can assist you. He also explained how light rail can be a real asset to people with disabilities here in the Valley. If they’re carrying proper identification, they can get a reduced rate ($1 or $2) for light-rail travel.

rail -- accessible seating - smallDale showed us how the train doors are like elevator doors, in that you can press the button at the side of the door and it will open to let you in, even if the train car is not yet ready to go. Also, on each train, there are a few rows of retractable seating (much like theater or stadium seating) which allow for wheelchair passengers to use light-rail travel. The trains travel at speeds up to 35 mph and there are no tie-downs, so it is recommended that individuals in wheelchairs apply the wheel locks on their chairs while the train is moving.

When a train pulls up to the station and opens its doors to let passengers come and go, Dale said, those doors will only be open for 15 seconds before they automatically close so that the train can safely continue its journey. If someone in a wheelchair is looking to board or disembark, it is good to notify the driver, as he or she can activate the door to stay open for a longer period of time.

rail -- getting ready to go - smallThe train cars begin running at 4:40 a.m. at end-of-line stations — like Montebello, where our members would board. Trains arrive every 12 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; all other hours, it’s every 20 minutes. The last full trip of the day is at 11 p.m., arriving at the opposite end of the line at midnight. Weekend and holiday hours vary.

Dale took us onto one of the trains sitting in the station and showed us the maps of the entire line, so that riders are able to follow the journey and know when their stops are coming up. Additionally, the driver announces each stop over an intercom so passengers know whether they need to get off or keep riding.

rail -- waving at platform - smallOur members were fascinated with their light-rail experience, and each had different take-aways. Michelle learned that she probably would need someone to help her with purchasing tickets. James seemed taken with the display of routes inside the railcar and noted the fact that the doors were like elevator doors in their operation.

“I learned you only have 15 seconds to get on before the door closes,” said Eric, marking an important detail that everyone will need to remember.

More information on light-rail transit is available by calling 602-253-5000.

Mark DeAngelis is an Employment Services Supervisor who presently oversees safety and behavioral issues for approximately 40 members at Gompers Employment Services. DeAngelis has a master’s degree in special education with an emphasis in visual impairment (certification) in the State of Arizona.

For Robert Flynn, 25-year career was anything but a wash

Robert Flynn has turned a life that might not have been lived into a rich experience that has benefited others.

Earlier this month, the 63-year-old Phoenix man retired after a 25-year career with St. Vincent de Paul. Unwilling to be sedentary, Flynn now is entering the Day Training for Adults program at Gompers to keep his skills sharp and to enrich his social experience.

In the Gompers lobby, Flynn proudly displays his work badge and 25-year certificate from St. Vincent de Paul. He is looking forward to joining a transitional DTA program room at Gompers.

In the Gompers lobby, Flynn proudly displays his work badge and 25-year certificate from St. Vincent de Paul. He is looking forward to joining a transitional DTA program room at Gompers.

“He actually knows quite a few people over at Gompers who transition between the DTA program and Employment Services, so he’ll be comfortable starting there,” Flynn’s sister Jackie Doerr noted.

When Flynn was born with Down syndrome in 1952, Doerr said the doctors advised her mother “just to tell my dad that Robert didn’t make it and that they would ‘take care of it'” — meaning that he would be institutionalized.

“It’s kind of the way they did things back then,” Doerr said, shaking her head. “We’ve come a long way. People with Down syndrome were so rare then, and not valued.”

When he was growing up, public schools did not welcome the boy with an IQ of 52. “He had to go to all kinds of different places,” his sister remembered. His parents persevered and, through their efforts, Flynn attended a number of educational and training programs around the Valley over the years.

“Think about how difficult it is to get a job when nobody can come back to high-school teachers and counselors for references,” Doerr pointed out. “That’s how it was for so many people like Robert back then.”

At age 22, Flynn got a job at Goodwill. His dad showed him how to get on the city bus, get to work and return home. Doing only the most menial tasks at Goodwill, he eventually decided he wanted to try something new. “So, when Gompers came in with their work program and worked with Robert to get the job at St. Vincent, he started doing some different things,” Doerr said.

At St. Vincent de Paul, he started out with sorting hangers and clothing donations, and then he “kind of eased into doing the laundry, which he really likes,” his sister said.

“The people I work with are my favorite thing about working,” Flynn added. “I really like Lee.”

Processing Center Supervisor Lee Harvey, who oversaw Flynn’s activities, said the feeling is mutual. “Robert did a lot of work for us,” he said. “He was in charge of making sure the tablecloths were washed and on the tables every day so that our clients in the dining room were comfortable when they ate. He also worked with the people in the warehouse to wash sneakers and tennis shoes, which we split up between selling at our thrift store and donating to another organization. He did a lot of different jobs around here.

At Flynn's recent retirement party, St. Vincent de Paul Processing Supervisor Lee Harvey and Flynn share a moment.

At Flynn’s recent retirement party, St. Vincent de Paul Processing Supervisor Lee Harvey and Flynn share a moment.

“I always enjoyed working with Robert,” Harvey continued. “He had his little moments like anyone else, but he was really happy-go-lucky and everyone misses him already. In fact, I’ve been looking over at our laundry area every morning when I come in, half-hoping maybe he’d forgotten about retiring and would just show up again.”

“He really likes to help, to be needed, to feel like he’s doing his part,” Doerr noted. “He’s got a big heart.”

Doerr said she has learned a lot from her younger brother, who for the past 12 years has lived independently with longtime friend Troy Tihey.

“He has two other siblings — another older sister and a younger brother — and we all kind of react to Robert in different ways, but I think we all admire what he’s done with his life,” she said. “I really credit growing up with Robert in helping me with my teaching career; he showed me that he could do as much as everyone else if he had the appropriate amount of time and things broken down into small steps.

“In my 41 years as an educator, 13 of which were teaching, I believe I was the teacher that I was because I knew I could reach any of my kids if I could just make the steps smaller.”

Upon joining one of the transitional rooms in Gompers’ DTA program, Director of Programs and Services Scott Muller noted Flynn will have the best of both worlds: two days in his program room with friends, volunteering and staying sharp with his vocational and social skills; and three days at Gompers’ nearby Employment Services center in Glendale, where he will have the opportunity to learn some new job skills, continue working in a part-time capacity and keep earning a paycheck.

“This is a man who has been an active and productive part of society for a long time, and those habits don’t just go away,” Muller said. “We believe Robert will benefit from DTA and will continue to learn and grow at Employment Services, just as he has done throughout his life.”

Flynn said he is looking forward to splitting his days between Gompers’ DTA program and its Employment Services center.

“It will give me something to do during the day,” he said, smiling. “I like being around people and doing things.”

Annual fishing trip has been ‘amazing’ event for 31 years

Today in Gompers’ hallways, the story is about the one that didn’t get away as members talked about their trout-fishing experience in Sedona this weekend.

“I liked catching a big fish, and it was a good time,” Gompers member Oriana Sanchez said, spreading her hands 10 inches apart to indicate the size of her catch. “It was fun.”

“I could feel the fish wiggle on the line,” added Adam Gabriel, another of 27 individuals with developmental disabilities who went on the trip. “I enjoyed the day a lot.”

approaching sedona

Sponsored by the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Lions Club, the annual trip to Sedona’s Rainbow Trout Farm has occurred every October for the past 31 years. Every year, it is the goal to take a group of members from Gompers — including participants from its Day Training Program, Employment Services and Private School — who have not previously enjoyed the experience.

trout ready to grill cropped

“It’s a great event and both our members and staff look forward to it every year,” noted Gompers Director of Programs and Services Scott Muller, who oversaw this year’s trip. “The Lions volunteers were gracious as they always are in welcoming our people, and they grilled the freshly caught trout for everyone to enjoy at lunch.”

“I liked catching my fish, but I ate a hot dog instead,” Gabriel added.

Lunch was followed by team games like the three-legged race, sack race and a egg-and-spoon race before Gompers’ member said their goodbyes and returned home.

“This is one of the highlights of our year,” noted Jim Graif, a Lions Club member who organizes the annual event. “We owe a big ‘thank you’ to Sedona’s Rainbow Trout farm, which donates use of its facility each year for this outing.”

chris masters egg race cropped

Gompers member Christopher masters the egg-and-spoon race.

“We cannot thank the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Lions Club enough for the amazing job they do in organizing this event every year, and for the care and dedication they show to our members,” Gompers Executive Director Mark Jacoby said. “This event means so much to everyone at Gompers but, to be honest, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s enjoying themselves more: Gompers’ staff and members, or the Lions Club.

“It is hard to believe that the fishing trip has been going for more than 30 years and yet the Lions Club always finds a way to make each year’s event more special than the year before.”

Free Estate Planning Workshops

Is writing your will or planning for your estate something on your “To Do” list that never gets checked off?

If so, a series of free workshops next week are just right for you.

Thirteen local nonprofits, including Gompers, have come together to provide this free community education to help you:

  1. understand if you need only a Will or if a Trust is right for you;
  2. plan for the long-term security of your family and loved ones and, if you are philanthropically minded;
  3. show you ways to support your favorite nonprofits through your estate.

The workshops are led by respected attorneys from Morris, Hall & Kinghorn, PLLC, Gammage & Burnham, PLC and McNemar Law  Offices, PC. Find a workshop convenient for you by clicking on our Leave a Legacy Free Workshops Overview.

Topics to be discussed at every workshop include:

  • Covering Your Assets; a Practical Guide to Asset Protection
  • What You’ve Always Wanted to Ask an Attorney, But Didn’t Want to Pay For
  • Split Your Interest with Your Favorite Charity and Your Family, Not Uncle Sam

Ready to sign up now!

RSVP today at Planned Giving Roundtable of Arizona by clicking here.