2021 Fall Symposium—Our 10th!

Join us for the 10th semi-annual First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, Oct. 13–15, delivered via webinar and in person. All participants will benefit from decades of research and community-building know-how, along with experiences and strategies for navigating opportunities and challenges inherent in real estate and community development. 

Take advantage of a powerful and in-depth three-day program and build momentum for your supportive community, vision, funding needs and healthy outcomes. Learn how to inspire and engage others to be part of changing the world for those we serve. Space is limited for in-person attendance, so register today!

Documentary on Autism a Hit at Phoenix Film Festival

In A Different Key: The Movie” debuted this month at the Phoenix Film Festival—and won a Donor’s Choice Award for Showcase Feature Film. The documentary was very well received by multiple sold-out audiences. Each showing had special guests in attendance, including First Place–Phoenix residents, Transition Academy students, family members, friends and staff. Due to overwhelmingly positive feedback, a fourth showing was added to the festival lineup. The film about the first person diagnosed with autism followed on the heels of success at the Sedona International Film Festival last month, where it received the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary.

While “In A Different Key: The Movie” features the town of Forest, Mississippi and the first person diagnosed with autism, it also highlights how SARRC and First Place, together with valued collaborators, have shaped our community to be more inclusive for those with autism. This riveting film shows how supportive communities like Phoenix—newly and notably named the fifth-largest city in the U.S.—and unique developments like First Place–Phoenix can help individuals with autism and other neurodiversities thrive. “In A Different Key” is slated for a 10-city tour starting this fall.

World Photo Day

#WorldPhotoDay earlier this month offered a great chance for us to share our top 10 photos since we opened in July 2018. It wasn’t easy to choose only 10 from so many amazing photos taken at First Place–Phoenix and out in our supportive community since then, but we thought these go above and beyond in representing the many ways residents and Transition Academy students are thriving!

Take a Tour and Take a Look at First Place–Phoenix

We’ve lined up plenty of virtual tours to fit any schedule through the end of summer. Join us online to learn why “We’re the place for that®” at First Place–Phoenix. Get a firsthand look at our innovative property and the many supports and amenities offered to encourage and guide adults with autism and other neurodiversities on their journeys to more independent living.

Faces of Arizona Features First Place Founder

First Place AZ Founder & President/CEO Denise D. Resnik was recently featured in azcentral’s “Faces of Arizona” series. Denise was named one of the autism community’s “most influential allies.” Reporter BrieAnna Frank, who has so effectively captured the spirit and mission of First Place AZ in previous articles, highlights Denise’s continuous journey from adult son Matt’s diagnosis to the development of supportive communities where individuals with autism and other neurodiversities can enjoy friends, a job and a home of their choice as they learn, thrive and grow. “Being the mother of a son with autism and a community developer means my work is never done,” says Denise. “I am acutely aware of so many pressing needs and know there’s so much more to do: more home options to build, professionals to train, technology to apply, jobs to create, problems to solve and impact to demonstrate.”

Residents Take a Trip Without Traveling—Through Reading!

August is the ideal month for Book Lovers Day and the chance to avoid the heat in the pages of a good read—and First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students sure do love books! Our beautiful, comfy reading lounges (nonfiction on the second floor and fiction on the third) opened earlier this year with full shelves, thanks to generous donors. Between biweekly book club and bookworms seeking their next adventure among the pages, First Place’s reading lounges are a solid hit!

First Place Volunteers Find a Little Time Goes a Long Way

First Place–Phoenix residents, Transition Academy students and staff are excited about some new volunteer opportunities! This month’s project was with local nonprofit Feed My Starving Children, where First Place volunteers helped pack food for children in third-world countries. Our volunteers enjoyed giving back to our local community—and places in around the globe

Cause Lives on Following Loss of Special Needs Champion Ed Asner

We were deeply saddened by the passing this month of renowned actor, activist and philanthropist Ed Asner. A friend of the special needs community, he was a champion for acceptance, wellness, support and enrichment for individuals and their families. He founded the Ed Asner Family Center, a place where individuals with disabilities could thrive through creativity and self-confidence as they learned valuable lessons about themselves and the world.

His legacy will live on through his family, friends and fellow dreamers. Special needs communities across the country are fortunate to have son Matt Asner and his wife Navah Paskowitz-Asner, co-founders of the Ed Asner Family Center, to ensure Ed’s mission lives on.

This month marks our third year since opening doors to First Place–Phoenix in July 2018. Here’s to the amazing residents, their families and First Place staff for bringing us to this milestone on our journey to creating a wonderfully unique and diverse community of pride, purpose and endless possibilities!

“In A Different Key: The Movie” – A Mother’s Search for Hope

The remarkable mother of an autistic adult son found the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with autism during her research and discovered how one community got it right. Watch the highly anticipated documentary about the history of autism, In A Different Key: The Movie, and join co-producer Caren Zucker and other panelists at the Phoenix Film Festival on August 14, 15 and 17.

In A Different Key received the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the recent Sedona International Film Festival. First Place and SARRC, featured in the film, are beyond proud to have played a role in this amazing body of work by Zucker and co-producer and fellow journalist John Donvan—and thrilled with audience responses. In a Different Key is a must-see for family members, neighbors, teachers, co-workers, first responders and the entire community. Continue building our supportive community by bringing a friend!

Phoenix
Harkins Theatres Scottsdale 101

(7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85054)

2021 Fall Symposium—Our 10th!

Join us October 13–15 for the 10th First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium, our first “hybrid” event. A portion of each day will be available via live webinar. Those joining us in person will benefit from networking and firsthand experiences at First Place–Phoenix and other properties; both in-person and webinar attendees will profit from a deeper dive into navigating issues, challenges and opportunities inherent in real estate and community development.

Combine powerful components that build momentum for your vision, story, know-how, funding needs and healthy outcomes. Inspire and engage others to be part of this era’s history in the making for those we serve. Stay tuned for more information, including registration, for this milestone First Place event. In-person attendance is limited to 50 people.

YES Day for Autism Campaign Kick-Off

First Place is excited to announce its support of and participation in the inaugural YES Day for Autism created and spearheaded by our sister nonprofit, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). Learn more about YES Day for Autism’s 71-day fundraising and awareness campaign—and join us in saying YES to creating more supportive, inclusive and adaptive communities for individuals with autism.

Must-Read Column Reveals a Father’s Hopes and Fears

In a recent guest essay in the New York Times, David Axelrod, senior CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, reveals his lifelong concerns for his 40-year-old daughter Lauren, who lives with an intellectual disability. He writes of the post-high school “cliff” all too familiar to parents of children with special needs—the same cliff Denise D. Resnik, First Place founder and president/CEO, has spoken of for years—and of the persistent lack of housing, jobs and services for adults with disabilities. Read about Axelrod’s compelling take on how policymakers’ one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer to funding high-quality, affordable independent living options offering “people like Lauren the dignity of choice and the happiness they deserve.”

Readers reacted to Axelrod’s essay with support and also shared their own stories while bringing to light other concerns. But all agreed that when it comes to supportive housing, one size definitely does not fit all.

The Eyes Have It at First Place–Phoenix

July has been Healthy Vision Month here at First Place–Phoenix! Residents and Transition Academy students have been working hard all month to keep their vision sharp during “vision gym” sessions. Participants recently challenged themselves with perception puzzles—and gave their eye muscles a workout with some eye exercises!

Strikes and Spares Galore

First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students are thrilled to return to one of their favorite activities—bowling! It’s a great way to get back out into the community and stay cool during the summer months. Everyone is looking forward to more fun outings to come—especially indoor activities to beat the heat.

Landmark Law Opens Doors and Breaks Down Barriers

National Disability Independence Day on July 26 is a federal holiday in recognition of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. This landmark legislation was enacted to prohibit discrimination against and promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities. Something well worth celebrating every July—and always!

Congrats to the First Place Transition Academy Class of 2021!

Congratulations to members of our fifth graduating class, who enthusiastically participated in this month’s in-person and Zoom convocation ceremony, followed by time to celebrate with family, friends and staff at ever-supportive GateWay Community College in Phoenix. Graduates share their insights on the experience in this video

Special gratitude goes to our partners at SARRC who have shown remarkable leadership from the classroom to clinical sessions—and everything in between—guiding students to program completion and new, exciting paths to more independent living.

Named First Place Transition Academy managing director earlier this year, brad herron-valenzuela has been busy with enrollment and orientation for the Class of 2023, as well as community reintegration plans with new and longstanding community partners. Thank you, brad, for all your years of service through SARRC—and where your dynamic leadership is also taking us as director of the First Place Global Leadership Institute Center for Education, Training & Employment.

Don’t Miss “In A Different Key” at August Phoenix Film Festival

The Arizona premiere of “In A Different Key” at the Sedona International Film Festival this month was a great success, where it was honored with best documentary in the 2021 Audience Choice Awards category. The highly anticipated documentary is about the history of autism and the tracking of the very first case recorded in the U.S. Check out this recent review by Herb Paine, senior contributing editor and lead reviewer for BroadwayWorld Phoenix’s Metro Region. Paine shares how the film “strikes chords that resonate with compassion and humanity and elevate our understanding of and connection with the autistic community.” The schedule is now available for the Phoenix Film Festival that runs from August 12 through August 22. Don’t miss this extraordinary film offering a first-of-its-kind look at autism in the U.S.

Phoenix
Harkins Theatres Scottsdale 101

(7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85054)

  • Saturday, Aug. 14 at 2:15 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 5:05 p.m.

First Place Launches Creighton Medical School Elective

In association with First Place’s on-site Virginia G. Piper Health Spot clinic and Dignity Health’s clinical team, the new summer elective for Creighton University’s School of Medicine medical students is ready to launch. Based at First Place–Phoenix and including weekly experiences at a collection of community-based organizations, the elective is designed to empower the next generation of medical professionals with a whole-person perspective of and approach to treating adults with autism and other neurodiversities.

In June, First Place launched the 360 Health & Wellness® curriculum for First Place residents and their family members with a summer workshop series designed to help them to take the lead in managing their health and wellness throughout their lifetimes. Creighton students will complete a companion series during their elective. They will learn how to complete biopsychosocial interviews with adults with autism, participate in community life activities alongside First Place residents, experience autism-focused programs in Phoenix, shadow clinic visits and partner with First Place residents on health and wellness goals—all with a focus on the impact of key social determinants of health.

First Place is also proud to collaborate with SARRC, the Arizona Autism Charter School, New Way Academy and Gateway Academy to provide Creighton medical students with rich opportunities to go beyond the clinic to observe firsthand the successes and challenges that shape healthcare interactions. As we’ve learned through opening the Health Spot clinic and providing access to COVID-19 vaccinations, preparation, planning and partnership with adults with autism can yield lasting benefits. 

First Place Community Life Adapts to Valley Summer

Summer in Phoenix requires lots of creativity to keep cool. First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students have enjoyed weekly “dine and dip” time by the pool with delicious food from the grill and a chance to socialize. Zumba is also back in the mix. Residents and staff alike are collaborating to keep community life active and fun throughout the summer months in the Valley of the Sun!

Medicaid Seminar Offers Insights from Local Healthcare Leaders

First Place is always eager to learn more about Medicaid’s impact on healthcare access and outcomes—especially how they affect our residents and special populations in general. At the recent Arizona for Better Medicaid webinar “How Medicaid Managed Care Works in Arizona,” we joined other community partners to hear more from healthcare leaders from Phoenix Pediatrics, UCP of Central Arizona, Arizona Association of Health Plans and the Autism Society Medicaid Advocate. The panel discussed Arizona’s holistic, integrated approach to ensure access to high-quality healthcare for individuals and families enrolled in AHCCCS health plans.  They also discussed opportunities to further integrate services and supports for individuals eligible for DDD-ALTCS.

Take a Virtual Tour of First Place–Phoenix This Summer

We’ve lined up plenty of virtual tours to fit any schedule this summer. Join us online to learn why “We’re the place for that” at First Place–Phoenix. Get a firsthand look at our innovative property and the many supports and amenities offered to encourage and guide adults with autism and other neurodiversities on their journeys to more independent living.

Farm Express is back!

Thanks to this amazing health initiative from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, First Place–Phoenix residents, Transition Academy students and staff can once again shop for farm-fresh, local produce from the comfort of home. With Farm Express’s minibus chock full of freshness coming to First Place twice a month, everyone can stock up on some cool, nutritious fruits and veggies for these hot summer days. We’re grateful to have such great, health-conscious community partners!

Pandemic Restrictions—and Our Hearts—Are Lifted!

The long-awaited announcement of the reopening of First Place community spaces has arrived! Considering a large percentage of our community has been vaccinated, effective immediately, all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted—and residents and staff alike are quickly returning to the same bustling hub of daily living, learning and leading. We’re eager and excited to pick up where we left off so many months ago and redirect our collective energy to the many activities and projects that make First Place a diverse community of pride, purpose and endless possibilities!

Autism Documentary a Local Must-See

The extraordinary new documentary “In A Different Key”—scored by legendary New Orleans jazz great Wynton Marsalis—depicts what’s possible for people with autism living in Forest, Mississippi, Phoenix, Arizona and communities across the country.

Award-winning journalists Caren Zucker and John Donvan, authors of the Pulitzer Prize finalist book titled In a Different Key: The Story of Autism on which the award-winning film is based, reprise their 2016 two-part series for PBS Newshour titled “A Place in the World,” the namesake of First Place’s 2020 follow-up to 2009’s Opening Doors report.

The film about 87-year-old Donald Triplett, the first man officially diagnosed with autism and known as “Case No. 1,” is years in the making and features First Place–Phoenix. We hope you’ll also help us spread the word for upcoming Arizona film festivals in Sedona and Phoenix where In A Different Key will be shown.

Sedona
Harkins Theatres Sedona
6
(2081 AZ-89A, Sedona, AZ 86336)

  • Tuesday, June 15 at 10 a.m.
  • Friday, June 18 at 4:10 p.m.

Phoenix
Harkins Theatres Scottsdale 101

(7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85054)

  • Saturday, Aug. 14 at 2:15 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 5:05 p.m.

Expansion Bodes Well for Local Jobs

Our partner in ongoing efforts at expanding employment opportunities for those we serve—The Precisionists, Inc. (TPI), a Wilmington, Delaware-based company that creates jobs for individuals across a broad range of disabilities—has opened its newest and much-anticipated Innovation & Technology Center at 44th Street and Washington streets in Phoenix. TPI clients—and employers of First Place residents—include Salt River Project, Cox Communications and the state of Arizona.

The goal of TPI’s employment and training center (the newest of three across the country) is to provide hundreds of job opportunities for adults with autism and other neurodiversities over the next three to five years. First Place led the recruitment of The Precisionists to the Valley and continues to support their expansion plans to create more jobs for more people. Read more about the momentum building for this exciting employment initiative with huge potential for shaping the lives of First Place residents and so many others in Arizona and beyond. 

Recent Column Tackles Looming Question

A recent “Your Turn” column in the Arizona Republic and its online news site azcentral.com featured an op-ed from First Place AZ Founder and President/CEO Denise D. Resnik about realizing new hopes and dreams for adults with autism and other neurodiversities thanks to this supportive community, which has made Phoenix “the most autism-friendly city in the world.”

Vaccine Drive = Mission Accomplished!

First Place–Phoenix is excited to share that through a collaboration with Scottsdale Physicians Group LLC, the majority of our staff, residents and Transition Academy students are now fully vaccinated! Check out this video to learn more about how everyone collaborated to support each other and help strengthen our supportive community.

Reading Lounges Write New Chapter at First Place

Thanks to the generosity of Dave and Lucy Smith, the First Place Reading Lounges are officially open! Residents and Transition Academy students are checking out books using our in-house cataloging system. Several have volunteered to help organize the books and fill the shelves—nonfiction on the second floor and fiction on the third floor. The fourth floor will soon serve as home for the collections lounge. Residents and students have also organized a book club that meets bimonthly in the cozy lounges. We’re thrilled to help kickstart some great reading!

The multipurpose lounges serve not only as comfortable, calm spots to explore various titles, but also as spaces for social gatherings—Monday Book Club included—and one-on-one consults between residents and support providers and/or counselors.

These amazing, unique and beautiful reading lounges will impact and enrich the lives of First Place–Phoenix residents for years to come.

Back in the Gym with Results Only Fitness

With the Valley steadily opening up, First Place residents and Transition Academy students are excited to get back to their in-person workouts at Results Only Fitness! Bobby Kelly and Kelly Michael have been most generous with their time during the pandemic, working on-site in small groups to help everyone stay healthy and active while following First Place COVID-19 protocols. Nothing beats going back to the gym!

Take a Tour of First Place This Summer

We’ve lined up virtual tours of the First Place–Phoenix Apartments to fit any schedule throughout the summer. Join us for a firsthand look at this unique, modern property and the many supports and amenities offered to residents with autism and other neurodiversities seeking opportunities for more independent living in a connected, supportive community. Leasing is ongoing.

Applications are also available for the 2021-22 First Place Transition Academy, a structured two-year residential program focused on building independent living and career-readiness skills. Reserve your spot for a tour and Q&A session today. We’re also offering a transition program workshop next month.

Spring Symposium Attendees Visit the Past—and Focus on the Future

We’re thrilled with the success of the ninth Global Leadership Institute Symposium earlier this month. Participation and presentations via webinar by so many pioneering leaders from across North America and around the world—representing 30 states and six countries—is a testament to the continued commitment to fuel a new generation of housing and community options for people with autism and other neurodiversities everywhere.

Huge thanks to our presenting sponsors Make Waves and Interest Ministries for their steadfast support of this seminal semiannual event that brings so many committed people together primed to move the needle on adult options and life course outcomes. 

To further fortify those on their paths to what’s next, First Place is offering a series of three workshops focused on relevant, timely topics. Attendance is limited, so please register soon. The conversation continues at the fall symposium October 13-15, so save the dates!

Triple-Match Challenges Helps First Place Make Waves

Thanks to Make Waves Family Foundation, First Place AZ raised nearly $100,000 the week of April 19 in a very enthusiastic response to a triple-match challenge in recognition of Autism Acceptance Month.

Make Waves is committed to providing innovative, scalable and replicable programs addressing the lifelong needs of young adults on the autism spectrum. This includes housing, independent-living skills, education and employment. Collaborating with passionate, likeminded nonprofits like Make Waves helps keep First Place focused on our vision of ensuring that housing and community options are as bountiful for individuals with autism and other neurodiversities as they are for everyone else.

It is with boundless gratitude that we acknowledge the Roth family and everyone who enabled us to benefit from the generous match. Thank you for all the ways you support us daily and help us continue moving forward in our mission to create a supportive, sustainable community where adults with autism and other neurodiversities live and thrive with pride, purpose and endless possibilities!

Vaccine #2 Brings Welcome Relief to Residents

First Place–Phoenix residents stepped up on behalf of their own health and that of those around them when they returned this month for COVID-19 vaccine #2. Everyone knew what to expect this time and collectively sighed with relief when it was over. They also benefitted from a webinar in advance of both Moderna doses to address general questions and possible side effects. Thanks again to Scottsdale Physician’s Group for their support of First Place helping residents learn to manage their healthcare on the path to healthier, more successful independent living. 

Phoenix Is “Having a Moment”

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, azcentral.com reporter BrieAnna J. Frank spoke with several First Place residents to learn about how we can better understand adults with autism and what more can be done within the community to address their needs. Frank’s article highlights the progress we’re making at First Place in collaboration with our sister nonprofit the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and other partners, including Dignity Health and Creighton University School of Medicine’s new Health Sciences Campus. It also explores how the expansion of programs and initiatives can help the Valley become more understanding, accepting and supportive.

Denise Resnik’s Latest Blog

Read Denise’s latest blog about lessons learned at First Place—and other places—on the path to fueling a new generation of housing and community options for people with autism and other neurodiversities.

Spring Symposium Theme: “Look back. Drive the future…”

The ninth First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium is just around the corner! Join us April 7 and 8 to hear from pioneers in housing and community development.

The two-day webinar, with the theme of “Look back. Drive the future…”, will focus on what’s needed and required in housing development for adults with autism and other neurodiversities and what we can do now to make those all-important advancements possible in communities everywhere. The lineup includes developers, researchers and healthcare leaders who are informing our big visions and foundational plans. Together, we can ensure housing and community options are as bountiful for people with autism and other neurodiversities as they are for everyone else. Please join us! Click here for more information and to register.

Vaccinations a Welcome Shot in the Arm!

We reached a huge health milestone this month! In partnership with Scottsdale Physician’s Group, First Place residents, Transition Academy students and several staff members were offered the opportunity to receive their first doses of the Moderna vaccine on-site. We’re preparing for dose #2 scheduled for April 20!

New Autism Documentary Breaks New Ground

In a Different Key, the new documentary on autism, depicts what’s possible for people with autism living in Forest, Mississippi, Phoenix, Arizona and communities across the country. It’s one thing to be told that your child could have a life—a home, a job, a friend, a community that supports them. It’s another thing to see it in action and experience it firsthand, too. This extraordinary film is already garnering awards soon after its introduction this month, including best documentary at the Oxford Film Festival and the Sonoma International Film Festival. It’s also scheduled for the Sedona International Film Festival this summer. Watch the trailer and read more about this exciting new film in the latest blog from Denise’s spring series.

Sustainable Housing Solutions Focus of Latest Autism Spectrum News Articles

Two timely articles co-authored by Denise Resnik, founder and president/CEO of First Place AZ, and Desiree Kameka Galloway, director of the Autism Housing Network, focus on the pressing need for housing solutions for special populations—and offer solutions for moving the needle in the right direction.

First Place Benefits from ASU Theater Talent

First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students are having a great time with our new friend, Jacob Buttry, graduate student at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Jacob is teaching everyone about theater and creative expression. Each week, participants are getting more comfortable in exciting, new settings as they learn how to communicate their thoughts and emotions while connecting with their community and neighbors in new ways.

Spring Has Sprung in First Place Gardens

Everyone is poised to harvest fresh lettuce, herbs and tomatoes from our indoor and outdoor gardens, thanks to a Sprouts Healthy Communities Grant. As part of the grant, more community gardens are being planned and developed nearby representing new volunteering, learning and harvesting opportunities for First Place residents and the broader community. Stay tuned for more details about our ever-growing bounty!

Sprucing Up for Spring

Students from xtylo Beauty College recently returned to First Place–Phoenix to offer residents and Transition Academy students complimentary haircuts and manicures. What a great opportunity for everyone to freshen up their spring look! Thanks, xtylo, for your generosity—and all the right touches!

April Symposium Webinar—You’re Invited!

The ninth First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium webinar is just around the corner! Join us April 7–8 to hear from pioneers in housing and community development—and learn how to make your big vision a reality.

The two-day webinar, with the theme of Look back. Drive the future…, will focus on a greater understanding of the needs and interests of adults with autism and other neurodiversities and the nonlinear path to real estate and community development that can help you save time and money—and stay the course! 

 Click here for more information and to register.

First Place Takes American Heart Month to Heart

In honor of #AmericanHeartMonth, Paula Banahan, president and CEO of the Arizona Heart Foundation and Julia’s mom, joined First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students throughout the month of February for various sessions on heart health. Discussion included different parts and functions of the heart, why heart disease is a serious condition, heart-healthy diets and how to keep their hearts healthy through easy lifestyle changes. Everyone enjoyed American Heart Month learning about and how to take care of their hearts—and why it’s important to be heart healthy. After all, you only have one! 💓

Take a Tour and See Why We’re the Place for That.®

We’ve lined up a variety of March and April dates for virtual tours of First Place–Phoenix. Join us for a firsthand look at this unique, modern property and the many supports and amenities offered to residents with autism, Down syndrome and other neurodiversities seeking opportunities for more independent living in a connected, supportive community. Leasing is ongoing.

Applications are also available for the fall 2021 First Place Transition Academy, a structured two-year residential program focused on building independent living and career-readiness skills. Reserve your spot for a tour and Q&A session today—space is limited!

Everyone Can Be “Free to Be!”

Kicking off 2021 with an emphasis on the mindfulness part of health and wellness, First Place Community Life has added a new weekly series of self-discovery and self-awareness workshops called “Free to Be!” During a recent activity, First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students wrote out truths about themselves to remind them that they are incredible individuals with a lot to give. Check out what makes our residents so unique and amazing!

First Place: The Story of a Mother’s Love

First Place AZ Founder and President/CEO Denise D. Resnik was recently featured in an Iconic Life story about the creation of First Place. Denise describes how a mother’s unconditional love and dedication became the driving force to develop an innovative, supportive housing community—and the Greater Phoenix community, too!

New Health Spot Clinic at First Place Welcomes Dr. Kim

After years of planning, First Place–Phoenix is pleased to announce the opening of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Health Spot. The convenience of the on-site Health Spot clinic will be a great asset to our students and residents as they learn to manage their healthcare on the path to more successful independent living. The Health Spot is also the foundational element of First Place’s 2021 focus on health and wellness.

Residents and their families recently met Dr. Caroline Kim Kupfer of Dignity Health, who will serve as the Health Spot’s lead physician. As a well-respected internist focused on special populations and transition medicine, she will oversee the Health Spot and interface with participants and staff. The meet and greet in person and via Zoom offered everyone the chance to ask Dr. Kim pertinent questions helping them better understand Health Spot operations and informing the ambitious path for how we ensure a diagnosis of autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury and related disorders does not stand in the way of equitable, exceptional healthcare—everywhere.

Join Virtual and On-Site Tours of First Place–Phoenix

Applications are available for the fall 2021 First Place Transition Academy, a two-year residential program focused on helping participants build independent living and career-readiness skills. Leasing is ongoing.

We’ve lined up virtual tours of the First Place–Phoenix Apartments to fit any schedule throughout February. Join us for a firsthand look at this unique, modern property and the many supports and amenities offered to residents with autism and other neurodiversities seeking opportunities for more independent living in a connected, supportive community. Reserve your spot for a tour and Q&A session today—space is limited! firstplaceaz.org/events

For an on-site visit, mark your calendars for Discover Days on Feb. 27 and March 20 (both Saturdays). Details coming soon!

Results Only Fitness Helping Residents—with Results!

Thanks to our friends at Results Only Fitness, several residents have “jumped” into 2021 and hit the ground running with healthy new year’s resolutions! We’re thrilled to welcome Bobby and Kelly back for some physically distanced weekly fitness and encouragement that keep participants moving and focused on good health. This program is made possible by our good friends at the K2 Adventures Foundation. Everyone is excited to start 2021 off on the right (and left) foot!

ULI Arizona WLI Supports Mentoring

The Urban Land Institute Arizona’s Women’s Leadership Institute recently gathered via Zoom for National Mentoring Month to share experiences as mentors. Denise Resnik, founder & president/CEO of First Place® AZ, served as keynote speaker for the event, encouraging the current and next generation of real estate leaders to respond to the demand for innovative housing and community options. The Arizona Chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Terwilliger Center for Housing/ULI Americas have played significant roles for decades in the development of First Place–Phoenix. ULI has also been part of two major studies in collaboration Arizona State University, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), the Autism Housing Network and First Place: Opening Doors: A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism and Related Disorders (2009) and A Place in the World: Fueling Housing and Community Options for Adults with Autism and Other Neurodiversities (2020). 

New Report on Autism and Healthcare

The 2020 National Autism Indicators Report: Health and Health Care finds that children and adults with autism spectrum disorder have many complex healthcare needs but often limited access to comprehensive care. The study recognizes that dealing with more than one condition complicates healthcare needs, often requiring multiple medications, treatments and service providers. It also recognizes more limited access to services following high school, making the case for what needs to be done for better life course outcomes in communities everywhere. For other key findings from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University in Philadelphia, access the report here.

Halloween Is Always Happy at First Place! 🎃

Halloween is always a hit at First Place–Phoenix! This year, residents and Transition Academy students decorated one-of-a-kind pumpkins with the help of volunteers who lead biweekly art projects at First Place–Phoenix. Then they dressed up in creative costumes to celebrate during a physically distanced Halloween bash. Pumpkin and costume contests resulted in awards for most creative, most realistic and best in show. There was even a surprise masked mystery dancer (a First Place staff member) who showed off some great moves while everyone tried to guess who it was. (Well done, Somer!) We hope you all had a safe and festive Halloween!

“A Place in the World” Report Takes Its Rightful Place in the World

First Place AZ is honored to join the Autism Housing Network and ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy in the creation and launch of A Place in the World, a groundbreaking report designed to raise the bar on a new generation of housing and community options and respond to the current housing crisis for special populations. The long-awaited report offers the universal language and guiding narrative to research, develop and achieve supportive housing solutions.

Years in the making, A Place in the World was presented at the First Place Global Leadership Institute’s fall symposium webinar this month. This seminal work would not be possible without the generous support of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan, the Phoenix IDA, the Arizona Community Foundation and Bill and Alyssa Sunderland.

Fall Symposium Webinars Reflect Unwavering Interest in the Cause

Record participation in the fall First Place Global Leadership Institute Symposium Webinar by pioneering leaders from across North America and around the world is a testament to the continued interest in a passionate, common goal: fueling a new generation of housing and community options for people with autism and other neurodiversities.

The packed, two-day program included the launch of A Place in the World, presentations by innovative leaders in the field, interesting polls and engaging videos.

Special thanks to our generous sponsors who made this free event possible: UnitedHealthcare Community Plan, the Phoenix IDA, Arizona Community Foundation, Sprouts, Jaburg|Wilk, Kate and Roger Weitz and Interest Ministries.

To keep the momentum going as we wrap up 2020, we’re offering a series of three free workshops focused on relevant, timely topics. Attendance is limited, so please register at your earliest convenience.

Kind It Forward Continues to Spread Kindness

The First Place Kind It Forward campaign is contributing to the community in innovative, exciting ways. We’re thrilled with the enthusiastic and creative participation of residents in volunteer and other community life activities offering ways for them to build skills and relationships.

What started as a proactive response to coexisting with and navigating COVID-19 has turned into the signature program we affectionately call Kind It Forward. We recognize there’s much we CAN’T do, so we’re focused on what we CAN do to support those in need through “virtual volunteering” projects as we continue to broaden our community of pride, purpose and endless possibilities.

Mind-Full Music Fills First Place with…Music!

We’re excited to welcome a new musical friend to First Place–Phoenix! Nathan Servilican is an ASU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and is currently completing his board-certified internship with Mind-Full Music Therapy Services of Phoenix. He’s been visiting with our residents and Transition Academy students weekly to show them how to practice “mindful music” by actively participating in the music-making process. Nathan sings with the residents while they play instruments like the guitar and drums. At the end of the session, everyone takes time to relax and meditate to the sounds of a Native American flute. Nathan is a big hit at First Place—and we’re happy to have him!

White Cane Day Helps Residents Lead the Way

For National White Cane Day on October 15, First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students learned firsthand from Lauren, one of their peers, what it’s like to be sight impaired. Lauren worked with First Place Community Life Coordinator Nina Bernardo to develop some activities representing the various struggles Lauren encounters on a daily basis, including navigating her environment and sorting medications. Afterward, everyone shared thoughtful insights about their experiences. This is just another example of our supportive community’s willingness to continue learning and leading!

Kindness All Year Long at First Place

First Place’s Summer of Kindness program is steadily moving into fall with the goal of kindness in our lives year-round! Our Kind It Forward initiative continues to move forward with lots of engaging projects for residents planned in the weeks ahead. And thanks to the generosity of the Saperstein family, another year of support from the Saperstein Entertainment Fund has enabled First Place–Phoenix to pursue various avenues of kindness to benefit the community—inside and outside our front doors. Huge, heartfelt thanks to the Sapersteins for helping us keep the kindness kicking!

Speaking of kindness, check out this heartfelt letter from resident Lindsey Eaton. Lindsey and her awesome family have been active movers and shakers at First Place since day one. We so appreciate her taking the time to reach out with such words of encouragement and affirmation to let us know we’re on the right track. Thank you, Lindsey!

Fall 2020 Symposium Webinars Present “A Place in the World”

If you’re developing or seeking to develop home and community options for people with autism and other neurodiversities, don’t miss the First Place fall symposium webinars on Oct. 21 and 22. Thanks to the generosity of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona, Phoenix IDA and Arizona Community Foundation, Jaburg Wilk and Sprouts, the First Place Global Leadership Institute is offering its fall symposium webinars free of charge.

Join us as we cover several timely and pressing topics, including:

  • A firsthand look at A Place in the World, sister study to the 2009 Opening Doors report, newly completed and ready for primetime! This long-awaited study—the first of its kind—provides the essential, foundational nomenclature for residential and service delivery models to address the current housing crisis affecting special populations.
  • Breakout sessions also offer like-minded pioneers the chance to share and learn together what’s happening across the country.

Register for these information-packed webinars that give First Place the opportunity to share our exciting, significant progress as we continue moving forward—together!

Launch of First Place Forever Planned Giving Program

Learn more about how you can empower our work through a new planned giving initiative called First Place Forever. Through the First Place–Phoenix model, we aim to set a new bar for residential and community options empowering and propeling our big vision that ensures housing and community options are as bountiful for people with autism and other neurodiversities as they are for everyone else. Please consider joining our 20 “firsties” for 2020!

Find Out Why “We’re the Place for That.®

We’re offering convenient, safe ways to explore First Place–Phoenix from the comfort and security of home with virtual tours and a handy interactive map to guide you. We’ve posted dates through October to meet any schedule. Experience firsthand all that First Place has to offer—then stay for a Q&A with staff.

New Zip for the Zen Room

Heartfelt thanks to First Place donors, Mel Mannion and Craig McKibben, who generously funded our new Zen Room and to Barbara Kaplan who generously volunteered to design the space with a bright nature mural, new lighting, a wall of mirrors and more. Residents and staff alike have been enjoying time in this special space as everyone appreciates all moments of peace, quiet and balance in this time of ongoing uncertainly. We are grateful for the chance to benefit from this cherished corner of calm in our First Place community. Namaste.

How Work in Africa Is Leading Changes Here at Home

This compelling article reveals how Kimberly Shcreiber, 2020 MBA recipient, Stanford Arbuckle Fellow and big sister 22-year-old Stephen, has developed an exciting, novel team approach to improving service access for people with developmental disabilities. A stint working in Africa on solar power taught her “the power of action” and sparked the creation of NeuroNav, a service to unlock more government funding.