A transition center of opportunity
January 12, 2009
By Rebecca Steele
Tavon Center offers a cozy learning space for young adults with disabilities
Three days a week, Leah Parker cooks, gardens and cares for animals at the Tavon Center in Issaquah. She also gets to hang out with her friends. Parker, 25, joined the center earlier this fall to take part in its new program. Located in Issaquah, the center is for young adults with mental and/or physical disabilities.
So far, Leah, who has a physical disability, has found the program both enjoyable and beneficial. It’s a place where she feels comfortable and can further her general life skills.
The Tavon Center, 24017 S.E. Black Nugget Road, opened in September and has spent the last few months getting its feet on the ground. But, it is now ready and looking for more young adults between the ages of 18 to 45 to join them.
The program is designed to help people with disabilities make the transition from school to work. The Tavon Center offers training in transferable skills with the ultimate goal of readying those who are able for jobs in the community.
Sue Parker, mother of Leah, feels that the program has been a great success.“The Center is wonderful for Leah in many ways, but it has definitely been great for her socially because it allows her to socialize with other people who are of a similar age to her,” said Parker.
Parker also feels there are many great opportunities for Leah to feel a sense of accomplishment while attending the center due to many hands-on opportunities.
“She loves to cook at the center. She picks ingredients from the garden for her cooking and then makes something to eat and shares with the others,” said Parker.
Parker feels that anyone who has an adult child with special needs should look into the Tavon Center and arrange a time to visit.
“We went there with Leah and then let her decide – she just loved the Center and everyone there,” said Parker.
Parker first became interested in the Tavon Center years before it opened while talking to the director and founder, Therese Vafaeezahdeh. At this stage the program was only an idea.
Vafaeezahdeh and her husband first thought about such a program while considering the future of their own daughter, Sabah, who has a disability.
“My husband and I were thinking about what Sabah could do when she graduated from high school – and so our daughter was my inspiration for this organization,” said Vafaeezahdeh.
After speaking with other parents of children with disabilities, Vafaeezahdeh started fund raising for the Tavon Center in 2003. The word Tavon was chosen for the organization because it means ability in Farsi, the language spoken in Iran. Vafaeezahdeh’s husband and Sabah’s father is from Iran and so they chose the word Tavon because they wanted to emphasize that everyone can do things, therefore it doesn’t matter if everyone isn’t able to do the same things.
“Since 2003, we raised between $250,000 to $300,000 from auctions alone,” said Vafaeezahdeh.
People have also donated directly and through United Way, and grants have been given by both the Seattle Foundation and the Glaser Foundation.
“All of this money helped build the facility and goes toward our overall expenses,” said Vafaeezahdeh.
“It’s a place where people with disabilities can interact with others outside their family — they can form a group of friends who they just hang out with and have fun,” she added.
Megan Wegner is the activities and programs director of the center. She is enjoying being part of the program and said it was easy to get started.
“We didn’t need a set regiment schedule to start, all we needed was to get to know the people and that is how we decided what our days and their days would be like,” said Wegner.
Wegner describes the Tavon Center as a home, and she feels that the people who work there and the clients who come every day are just like a family.
“We cook our meals together, care for our animals together and we look after our garden together – we also just got a van, so we have been going on more outings,” said Wegner.
Wegner designs activities that help the clients gain greater independence, a sense of direction and the ability to work with others. But one of the main aims Wegner focuses on is making the activities purposeful.
At the moment the clients are currently working on two cover crops in the garden. In spring they turn the crops over and plant many vegetables and herbs. “Come next spring – we hope to be able to sell our own produce at the farmers markets,” said Wegner.
She also hopes clients from the Tavon Center will be able to take part in the community through volunteering for different organizations.
“We really want to help out in the community wherever possible, and we would like the community to feel free to come and visit us at any time,” said Wegner.
Rebecca Steele is a student in the University Of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.