Special Needs Training and Living is Modeled at Sunflower Hill

Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch is scheduled to become the first residential community of its kind in the Tri-Valley for adults who are developmentally disabled. Sunflower Hills' founders and staff are passionately dedicated to building communities and providing life skills training programs for adults with developmental disabilities. Sunflower Hill was founded by the parents of special needs children who wanted their children to have access, as adults, to a community tailored to their needs.

The nonprofit's mission is to develop such communities, ones that provide for life long residency options and quality programming. Sunflower Hill broke ground on its first residential community, Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch in Pleasanton, in May 2019. The founders, staff, volunteers, and donors to Sunflower Hill envision it becoming a model for special needs living and vocational options in the Bay Area by ensuring quality of life, allowing individual choice, and creating an intentional community within the larger Tri-Valley area.

"With our incredible partners, the community has been specifically designed for adults with developmental disabilities," says Edie Nehls, Executive Director. "We hope it is the first of many to come."

In 2017, the nonprofit completed Sunflower Hill Gardens, a horticulture vocational training program, at Hagemann Ranch in Livermore. During the Summer Internship Program held most recently, adults with developmental disabilities chosen as Garden Interns received workplace and life-skills training. The training included learning how to follow a task list, safe food preparation, and specific garden practices.

"This summer we had an individual who has been coming to the garden as a program participant with Futures Explored Adult Day Program reach out to us with an interest in becoming a paid intern this fall," notes Nehls. "We were thrilled that she expressed an interest in the position, completed an application, interviewed for the role, and started in September."

Once a month Sunflower Hill invites the community to join them at the Stable Cafe for the best pancake breakfast in the Tri-Valley. Owner and operator of the Stable Cafe, Esther Hall, expertly guides Sunflower Hill program participants on the third Sunday of each month by teaching them cafe operation skills. Program participants learn everything from waiting and busing tables to seating guests to washing dishes. The Stable Cafe is located at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds and is open the third Sunday of each month from 8:00 AM to noon. Reservations are encouraged.

"The Stable Cafe has proven to be a great way to teach work and life skills," says Nehls.

In addition to providing residential solutions and life skills programs for adults with developmental disabilities, Sunflower Hill also gives back, notes Nehls. Every week the nonprofit donates produce harvested by program participants and volunteers to local nonprofits Open Heart Kitchen, Tri-Valley Haven, and Culinary Angels.

Sunflower Hill provides many opportunities throughout the year for community engagement. Proceeds from events support life long living opportunities as well as social, vocational, education, and recreational programs that ensure a full and productive life for special needs adults. The Sunflower Hill Garden Harvest Stand, for example, is open every Saturday between 9:30 and 11:30 AM at Hagemann Ranch at 455 Olivina Avenue in Livermore. The stand offers fresh, organic vegetables and fruit for sale.

For more information about Sunflower Hill, please visit www.sunflowerhill.org.

To make a reservation for a Sunflower Hill at Stable Cafe breakfast, please visit www.sunflowerhill.org/events/breakfast-at-stable-cafe.

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