Message from the Founder & President/CEO
Now more than ever, we are reminded of the Golden Rule, recognizing the impact of our every move and decision. To protect ourselves and our families, we must look out for each other—and that’s exactly what you’re doing. 
Through your kindness, generosity and remarkable spirit of community and collaboration, we are now able to offer our “First Place Pantry” to First Place–Phoenix community members unable to secure daily and weekly staples—including toilet paper!   
While it hasn’t been easy reconfiguring our property, along with supporting routines, community life and the Transition Academy—and supporting residents who have temporarily returned to their family homes—special silver-lining moments are fortifying us during these tumultuous times and reminding us of what we can versus what we cannot do!
We are grateful to those on the front lines of healthcare and other essential services—like First Place and SARRC—banking on our can-do, will-do, must-do spirit. We are also heartened by the creativity and resourcefulness keeping First Place strong during these times—and all times. Check out just a few examples:

  • Introducing Alexa Echos in every apartment to use technology to promote greater independence at First Place and other places, too.
  • Engaging residents in fun ways to take care of our First Place community and property, including last weekend’s “van” wash!
  • Offering Learn4Independence® classes remotely to Transition Academy students, wherever they may be, thanks to SARRC’s already wired systems.
  • Offering a webinar in lieu of our spring Global Leadership Institute symposium, making it more accessible to more people and at no cost to participants.

With social distancing the “new normal,” we can still stay connected and informed, elevate someone’s spirits while boosting our own and remember to continue expressing our appreciation for how we’re doing everything we can to take care of each other. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for embracing First Place and those we serve today and always.
Holding hands virtually & squeezing tight,

Denise D. Resnik

Making the Most of Our Days & Weeks

Check out these fun, new tools that residents—and families, too—can use to stay busy and productive during their daily/weekly schedules. View and download them here!

Shifting Community Life at First Place

In the midst of the social distancing COVID-19 requires from us all, First Place–Phoenix staff and residents are collaborating to come up with creative, new ways to enjoy daily life. Here’s how everyone is working together to stay active and have fun—from six feet apart!

  • Activities have been shifted to include more structured on-site and outdoor activities and are limited to a maximum of 10 participants.
  • We’re transforming a portion of our First Place parking lot to create a recreational area called “Parking Lot Space” where residents can enjoy fun activities outside as they practice social distancing.
  • The need for public transportation has been reduced by canceling all off-site events and offering more pedestrian-accessible walking activities.
  • Restaurant-prepared meals are offered to replace culinary teaching kitchen activities—and to add some mealtime variety.

Please Help Us Stock the First Place Food Pantry

We’re reaching out to local individuals and families for donations to help us purchase essential food and household products to stock our new First Place Pantry as a much-valued resource for our residents and staff. We extend a very special thanks to those who have already been helping to stock the First Place Pantry in such generous ways. All contributions are greatly appreciated! 

Donate here and we’ll purchase what we can from our wishlist:

  • Canned: soup, vegetables, beans, fruit, pasta sauce
  • Packaged: mac & cheese, applesauce, pudding, Jell-O, fruit cups mac & cheese, applesauce, pudding, Jell-O, fruit cups
  • Dry: pasta, rice, cold/hot cereal, crackers, chips, fruit bars, boxed beverages
  • Household: toilet paper, paper towels, tissue, cleaning products, Ziploc bags
  • Personal: feminine hygiene products, deodorant, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, first-aid items
  • Frozen: pre-cooked burgers, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pizza, pancakes, waffles

Webinar Replaces Spring Symposium

Due to coronavirus precautions, we have called off our spring Global Leadership Institute Symposium and are offering an abbreviated, more convenient chance to gather via webinar and cover several timely topics, including:

  • The latest on A Place in the World, sister study to 2009’s Opening Doors, that will provide the much-needed foundational nomenclature for residential and service delivery models to address the current housing crisis affecting special populations 
  • Transitions and real-time learning for adults with autism through the First Place Transition Academy, our residential, independent living skills program now in its fifth year of operation
  • Lessons learned on the nonlinear path to real estate and community development, shared to help you save time and money—and stay the course!

We hope you’ll join us from the comfort and security of social distancing for a chance to catch up and keep up. And make sure to mark your calendars for the fall symposium scheduled for October 21–23…more details to follow in the months ahead.

Good Advice for Everyone…

Harvey Mackay is a longtime fixture in journalism as a nationally—and always upbeat—syndicated columnist for United Feature Syndicate. Mackay’s weekly column appears in nearly 100 newspapers across the U.S. His March 30 piece in the Arizona Republic expands on why “worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.”

Our son Matt and I recently enjoyed a typical weekend of running errands. Our first stop was Supercuts, where we were warmly welcomed (Matt’s a regular). No explanation was needed about Matt’s autism, because that’s how his salon specialist is wired. In a chair adjacent to Matt was another young man with special needs who I later learned is a regular, too.

Then it was off to our local Sprouts where a young man with autism meticulously and conveniently organized our items, ensuring they would be easy for us to unload and put away when we got home.

Our last stop was McDonald’s, where a young man with special needs waited patiently for Matt to find his words—and his wallet—as he took the order.

Welcome signs of gradually but undeniably developing neurodiverse communities can’t happen fast enough for families like ours—and so many others.

During the recent Urban Land Institute Housing Opportunity Conference in Miami led by the Terwilliger Center for Housing, industry leaders focused on issues of affordability, market trends and “design for all.” I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Laura Rossbert, COO of Shopworks Architecture, which produced a significant report about designing for dignity, health and joy. The report addresses trauma-informed design responsive to the special populations served through her work.

Whether our design goals and guidelines come from such gatherings, the ULI-influenced Opening Doors study from a decade ago, the Autism Housing Network’s database or other valuable sources, as a likeminded group of changemakers we are increasingly recognizing more universal design principles that provide people with greater choice and the all-important supportive, inclusive communities they need, desire and value.

At First Place, residents teach us what that means every day. They help us share valuable lessons with smart and compassionate industry leaders who are fueling a new wave of housing options, setting trends and begging this question: How could there ever have been a time when a person with autism—a person like Matt—was not considered a valued member of the community at large?

Please join us for the First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium this spring, April 22–24, along with other pioneers so that, together, we can continue moving forward in designing and developing more inclusive communities—for all!