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Care-Rite clients clean things up downtown

Clients of Care-Rite Vocational Services are helping to clean up downtown Fallbrook. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, from 9 to 10 a.m., crews wearing brightly-colored vests can been seen sweeping sidewalks on Main Avenue from Fig Street to Hawthorne Street.

The cleanup team members share a common bond in that they have some sort of intellectual disability. They also share a common bond in that they are friendly folks who don't let their disability keep them from being productive community members.

Care-Rite clients can be found helping out businesses throughout Fallbrook, whether it be a grocery store like Major Market, a restaurant like Firehouse Que & Brew, or an automotive business like Fallbrook Tire.

Care-Rite clients are at the new Grocery Outlet, assisting store staff in multiple ways.

"One of our groups was hired to work there, and they went through the full orientation with the non-disabled employees that were hired," said Care-Rite director Brad Gilpin.

Gilpin was one of the founders of Care-Rite, which started in Fallbrook in 1996 and expanded to Temecula only eight months later. Care-Rite is state-funded through the Department of Developmental Services and receives all of its clients by referral from the San Diego regional center.

According to its mission statement, Care-Rite's goal is to "accurately assess each individual’s capabilities, potential and needs by pursuing a challenging plan of action that will help each individual increase their level of independence. We believe that all individuals should be treated with respect, positive interaction and individuality."

"What we're trying to do is create more self sufficiency within the client," said Gilpin. "We get them pay jobs and we get them to volunteer sites and try to teach them all the skills that are involved."

Gilpin has also created jobs for his clients by setting up a recycling program that is used by businesses throughout Fallbrook and establishing the Hidden Treasures Thrift Shop (913 S. Main Ave.).

"We have close to 100 locations here in the community that we serve when it comes to recycling," said Gilpin, noting that his clients get to interact with people when they go into offices or shops to pick up the recyclables.

"We have a full recycling center in the back (of the Care-Rite offices)," said Michael Visser, manager of business operations for Care-Rite. "The clients separate the aluminum, plastic and glass and then we recycle them and they get paid."

Clients get a full education in retail at Hidden Treasures, which has been in operation for eight years.

"We started Hidden Treasures, which is a non-profit, to create jobs and teach them the whole retail industry," said Gilpin. "It also helps build up their resumes. When they go out and look for a job they can say, 'well, I worked at Hidden Treasures.'"

Care-Rite's clients are adults and Gilpin encourages them to take the skills they learn from being out in the community or at a job home with them.

"When you get at client at 22, and now 20 years later he's 42, that means mom and dad are pushing into their 60s if not their 70s, so you want the client to be doing more for themselves at that point," said Gilpin. "Instead of mom getting them up and making them lunches and dinner all the time, they're doing a lot of this stuff on their own at that point."

The downtown cleanup work is the merely the latest way Care-Rite gives it clients the opportunity to meet and interact with people.

"Over the past 22 years what we've tried to do is integrate our guys within their community – make them feel part of the community," said Gilpin.

Lila MacDonald, CEO of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, asked for Care-Rite's help in tidying up the streets downtown.

"Lila reached out to us and we said we'd love to help because our guys are willing and very capable," said Visser. "We really enjoy it because not only does it give our guys a presence in the community, it gives us a chance to give back to the community and gives us a chance to introduce ourselves to business owners.

"Hopefully it can open more doors for us and allow us to be even more productive and have a face in the community," continued Visser. "I know the community has faith in us but sometimes seeing is believing, and it's great when we're able to see our guys in action."

The cleanup crews report to the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, which supplies the trash bags.

"I'm really enjoying getting to know each one of them," said MacDonald of the crew members. "I'm thrilled to have them. It's nice to get them integrated into the community. Care-Rite is an amazing asset here in town."

The Care-Rite clients this writer spoke with were very polite and also very appreciative of receiving a simple "thank you" for their work.

"Having that positive reinforcement is a big thing," said Visser. "When they get in engaged, they really do enjoy that recognition aspect of it."

Gilpin encourages everyone who sees Care-Rite clients out and about to give them a hello, a wave or honk of the horn.

"It's human nature," said Gilpin. "Imagine you're out there and everybody ignores you. You're going to start to feel slighted a little bit. And that's what happens a lot of times with people who have disabilities. There's always that stigma put on them, and people don't pay attention to them.

"So, when they get positive reaction from the community it makes them feel better about themselves," continued Gilpin. "They enjoy that engagement because they know that's a normal way of life, and they don't normally get that kind of normalcy. It's huge for them."

One member of the cleanup crew, Brian, has been getting positive reviews lately for his Friday night performances at the new Harry's Sports Bar & Grill. Apparently, he's the king of karaoke, however, he only sings one tune and then splits. Catch Brian between 8:45 and 9 p.m.


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