Another Generous Triple-Match from Make Waves Family Foundation!

In recognition of Autism Acceptance Month, Make Waves Family Foundation—a longtime First Place AZ champion and nonprofit equally committed to the cause—is TRIPLE MATCHING donations and directing the funds to the First Place Global Leadership Institute through Sunday, April 30. Make Waves “strives to fund the most innovative, scalable and replicable programs to address the needs of young adults on the Autism spectrum.” 

2022 Annual Report pages

First Place’s 2022 Annual Report Published

First Place AZ is proud to announce the publication of its 2022 annual report, chock full of information on the status and steady progress of various major initiatives—along with a special glimpse into the everyday lives of the First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students we serve. And learn more about those who continue to make our commitment of “one first leads to the next” possible.

A Busy, Productive Autism Acceptance Month

It’s been a busy April, thanks to the power of Autism Acceptance Month to enlighten and educate.

  • AZ Gives Day proceeds on April 4 went to the First Place Transition Academy, a groundbreaking program helping adults with autism and other neurodiversities learn crucial life skills to live more independently on their own after graduation. Hear from residents who shared about their passions and progress on this big day of annual giving that gets bigger every year!
  • First Place friend Tom D’Eri, founder of Rising Tide Car Wash, joined us for April’s inspiring LNCS session, “Innovative Insights: Designing a Workplace for and with Team Members with Autism.” Tom shared how a nontraditional workforce like that at Rising Tide—over 80% of its employees have autism—can grow a better business.
  • Bashas’ Supermarkets teamed up with Autism Society of Southern Arizona, Arizona Autism United (AZA United), First Place AZ and Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) to promote understanding and acceptance of autism—together! Bashas’ customers made donations to these leading autism organizations in the Valley at checkout during the month of April. Thank you to Bashas’ and their customers for this much-appreciated support!

Waymo Leads the Way!

First Place AZ has teamed up with Waymo—the world’s first fully autonomous ride-hailing service—in a pilot involving their Phoenix fleet. A key part of our partnership is how Waymo’s services help First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students navigate the community in getting to and from their volunteering and jobs—an essential independent living skill. Learn more about how this amazing partnership is benefitting Waymo, First Place–Phoenix and the overall disability community by watching this cool video!

Huge thanks to our friends at Waymo and Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving for sharing this groundbreaking story!

Transition Academy Discovery Day

Join us for one of several May Discover Days—virtually and in person—to learn more about the First Place Transition Academy, including the enrollment process for the class of 2023–25.

The First Place Transition Academy, a two-year, residential life skills program with clinical services provided by Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), is designed for adults ages 18 and older with autism to help them build crucial independent living and career-readiness skills. Located at First Place–Phoenix, the Transition Academy offers the Learn4Independence® curriculum and individualized supportive services to guide participants in maximize their ability to live more independently.

During Discover Days, learn more about the comprehensive curriculum; in-person attendees can tour the state-of-the-art property, and have a chance to speak with instructors and current students. Register to attend in person or online.

Goodmans Chair Hockey Event to Benefit First Place

Goodmans Chair Hockey is back on Thursday, May 11 with proceeds to benefit First Place AZ! “Heated competition and raucous silliness are the order of the night” for one of the company’s most popular fundraising events, according to Goodmans. Sixteen teams of commercial real estate industry professionals battle for the title of Champion. The biscuits (pucks) will be flying, the stripes (refs) will be monitoring—and hopefully no lost chiclets (teeth)!

Established in 1954, Phoenix-based Goodmans—a longtime First Place champion—is the largest office furniture dealer in the Southwest through the strength of its employees and its offering of leading office furniture, seating, case goods and architectural wall solutions.

First Place Community Life—Alive & Kicking!

  • First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students had a great time celebrating Autism Acceptance Month with the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend. ⚾️Despite their 5-7 loss to the San Diego Padres, it was a memorable outing full of fun with friends—and a win for the ever-growing, supportive autism community in the Valley! 
  • Residents recently strutted their stuff down the runway for a second year participating in K2 Adventures Foundation’s annual fundraiser “Summer in the City.” Models donned clothes and jewelry from iBoutique and Galicia Fine Jewelers to show off some beautiful, super fun and comfortable summer fashions. Thank you to our fun friends at K2 who support several amazing organizations, including First Place–Phoenix residents who benefit from K2 Fit & Well and K2 Kitchens.
  • Another successful SARRC Community Breakfast for the history books! We’re especially proud of First Place–Phoenix resident and rock star Lincoln, who gave a riveting, delightful speech about his autism journey with a proud family and captivated audience present to cheer him on.

First Place in the News

  • Denise D. Resnik, First Place AZ founder & president/CEO, recently sat down as a guest on the local Building Buzz podcast in recognition of Autism Acceptance Month. The biweekly series, produced by Small Giants—a full-service Phoenix marketing agency—and the Phoenix Business Journal, covers “trends and trendsetters in one of the most dynamic real estate markets in the nation.”
  • She also recently shared her insights on managed care with Arizona for Better Medicaid. Watch here.
  • Historical League’s Arizona Historymakers welcomed Denise into the ranks of this illustrious group of state leaders as one of 10 awardees for 2023—its 43rd year. Historymakers are individuals who have distinguished themselves with noted achievements in such areas as the arts, athletics, communications, community service, education and entertainment—while maintaining their ties to Arizona. Visit the History League’s website for a fascinating, varied list of current and past honorees.
2022 Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis

Latest Blog Dives into GPHMA

In her latest blog, Denise D. Resnik, First Place AZ founder & president/CEO, offers an apt childhood diving-board metaphor for addressing housing and community solutions for neurodiverse populations as she shares more about the first-ever Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis. Dive in here!

Upcoming Events

May 4 & 18: Virtual Transition Academy Discover Days
May 10 & 25:  In Person Transition Academy Discover Days
Oct 18-20: 2023 Global Leadership Institute Symposium

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO

I remember my early days of learning how to dive from the big board. I practiced my form from the safety of the side of the pool. When I finally braved those reluctant steps to the diving board’s edge, I looked over to the lifeguard—who gave me the nod I needed—and then I dove in!

Before leaping into the water from such heights—or tackling anything new and challenging—it’s essential to surround ourselves with those who teach, train and spot us. We benefit from seeking out those with experience—including both success and failure—whom we trust to hold our hand when leaping into the “deep end.” This is especially important for those of us who have taken, or are considering taking, a dive into housing and community development for adults with autism and/or intellectual/developmental disabilities (A/I/DD).

We thank the dozens of Arizona leaders and stakeholders for joining and “spotting” us in producing the first-ever study to comprehensively address housing needs and preferences of adults living with A/I/DD and informing our collective next steps.

The 2022 Greater Phoenix Housing Market Analysis, conducted by the First Place Global Leadership Institute Make Waves Center for Community Development, was carefully planned and executed. We started by educating self-advocates and their families on their potential options as described in the guiding narrative set forth in First Place’s 2020 A Place in the World study. Then we collected market data through surveys offered in English, Spanish and plain language to identify barriers and explored how the public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors can collaborate to respond to market demand. 

“Meeting the housing needs of people with A/I/DD will result in a healthier and more stable population, which can significantly reduce Medicaid costs, increase quality of life, and prevent involuntary displacement and homelessness,” says Maureen Casey, director of the Colonel Harland Sanders Center for Applied Research and The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Center for Public Policy at the Institute.

Without options, members of the neurodiverse population lives with family members until a crisis forces rushed decisions, often with traumatic consequences for the individual and their family—and costly consequences for our state. Lack of housing options too often prevents them from moving beyond their family home as integrated, contributing members of society with the support of those who know them best. As with the neurotypical population, they seek homes that are safe, affordable, comfortable and conveniently located with proximity to necessities and interests. They, too, want “community.”

Developing homes and community for adults with A/I/DD must take into consideration varying levels of support, navigation and benefits. Market demand data, housing models that enable us to learn from lived experiences, and outcome and impact analyses provide insights into what members of this population need and want—and enable the design of a blueprint offering more realistic options.

This is our moment to stand for and with the underrepresented, underserved and underestimated through data, proof points and solutions—and together build more housing and community options for the special populations we serve.

Home isn’t simply comprised four walls. It dwells among people, places and moments, offering comfort and security, building strength and celebrating life’s successes. Home and community “spot” us through life as they prepare us for what’s next.

After you dive into this compelling report, we invite you to complete this brief questionnaire to let us know how you would like to get involved in spreading the word.

By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO

Remember your firsts? Sure you do. That first love—and broken heart. Your first job and home—and all that followed to help you learn and grow.

During Autism Acceptance Month, I’m reminded of those who have made so many firsts possible over the years for our family at home, as well as First Place–Phoenix and the Global Leadership Institute.

As First Place AZ leaps into its second decade, the charitable nonprofit does so with greater confidence, capacity and collaboration. Together with trusted tri-sector leaders, including SARRC, we are setting the bar higher for how individuals learn, live and thrive as we fuel a new era of housing and community development for people with autism and other neurodiversities—in Arizona, throughout North America and around the world.

Through training and curricula, model properties and programs, data collection and impact analysis, we’re identifying what’s working—and what needs to work better. And through trusted champions across the U.S., we’re pursuing scalable, replicable and financially sustainable models, recognizing authentic community building happens locally and organically. 

Our supportive community has opened doors and connected us with both like-minded and divergent organizations. It has enabled us to dream, innovate and ensure this all-too-often invisible population of adults with autism and other neurodiversities is accounted for and recognized based on needs and preferences—and not a diagnosis alone. Collaborations like those with Home Matters® to Arizona and the “Home is where it all starts” campaign encourage us to work together to address the broader housing crisis of affordability, accessibility and availability that impacts everyone.

We hope you enjoy this 2022 annual report offering insights into how individual and shared experiences express what’s possible for our loved ones. Whether a first swim, culinary delight or stage performance, we don’t experience it alone but with those who appreciate the power and potential of that first step.

Many have believed early and often in our first and next steps—and joined us in celebrating when we get it right. We’re grateful and inspired to do more!