The Teen Project and Vocational Visions are the current recipients
Table for 10, orchestrated annually by KM Productions for deserving nonprofits, held its 10th annual culinary spectacular for a sold-out crowd of 300 at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point on March 6, 2016. Vocational Visions and The Teen Project were the recipients of the $300,000 netted for the fundraiser.
“We loved working with both charities and believe in their causes so much that we invited them back this year for Table for 10, 2017, scheduled for March 5th at Laguna Cliffs Resort,” Table for 10 Founder/Director Kristin Martin says.
The Teen Project
Lauri Burns was working at Northrop Grumman as a project manager with a $250,000 annual salary in 2014 when she left to devote herself full-time to The Teen Project, which she founded in 2007 in her off hours. After an abusive family situation, Burns grew up in the foster system, aging out at age 18 to a life of drug addiction, prostitution and homelessness. Rescued from the streets at age 23, she has since parented 36 teenage foster girls and launched a nonprofit that has been awarded $30 million for 20 years by the Department of Mental Health, had stories published in People, Family Circle, and Oprah and has appeared on CNN, CBS, FOX and ABC News.
Burns was a member of the county’s foster care advisory board when she found out there were 25,000 foster kids exiting the system each year and that 65% of them turned up homeless.
“I decided to fix it,” she says.
Burns’ mission was to provide transitional age youth (both boys and girls), ages 18-26, with all the resources and support of an intact family and to allow the greatest opportunity for a successful transition to adulthood.
The Teen Project provides homeless women with room and board, college support, paid job internships, savings programs and an independent living education.
The nonprofit’s Venice PAD (Protection and Direction) Drop in Venice, California is home to hundreds of homeless youth.
“The mission is to move youth from the streets to safe housing, education and job obtainment quickly,” Burns says.
The Freehab (free rehab) Life Transformational Center combines free residential drug treatment, counseling and education to move youth beyond addiction into a life of success. The training is focused on technology (web development and design), machining, customizing cars and motorcycles, medical billing, cosmetology and culinary arts.
How does Burns feel about her work?
“I feel amazing when I’m with the kids, but I’m always thinking, ‘Could I do more?’”
In the works is a movie based on Burns’ life through her book Punished for Purpose, a TV drama and a reality show.
Joan McKinney has worked since 1978 on behalf of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and has been with Vocational Visions as executive director since July, 2013. Founded in 1974, Vocational Visions enhances the community by developing the talents of adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities by creating pathways to employment, life-long learning and social inclusion. Located in Mission Viejo, the organization is partially funded by the Regional Center of Orange County and the Department of Rehabilitation.
McKinney is a firm believer in the mission.
“Our goal is to identify people’s barriers and help them become as independent as possible,” she says
Vocational Visions offers the following services: Employment Services (with trained workers and job coaches provided), Packaging and Assembly, and the Leash Lovers Service (a dog walking service).
The nonprofit’s programs, which address each person’s needs, include a Day Training Activity Program, Work Activity Program, Adult Development Program, Health Related Services Program, Supported Employment Program and the Emeritus Program for seniors to help maintain or slow down loss of skills.
McKinney points to a success through one of the services offered.
“A group of our clients established their own dog walking service, which has become a micro-enterprise,” she says.
Vocational Visions also provides day programs for individuals with restricted health conditions that require nursing care during the program day. Site-based activities focus on sensory stimulation, music and art. Opportunities to access the community include excursions to the library, park, zoo, coffee shop, etc.
McKinney sums up her experience with Vocational Visions this way.
“I’ve worked with people with disabilities for a long time, and I can honestly say I’ve learned far more from them than they have from me. They have taught me perseverance, a good attitude and to show up every day and try your best.”