Minka van der Zwaag, an employee of the City of Palo Alto, partners with
Abilities United

Abilities United takes great pride with its place in the community, and Minka van der Zwaag, who manages the Office of Human Services for the City of Palo Alto, sees the organization as something special.

“What I enjoy most is when I go shopping at Safeway and see that the courtesy clerk is a person with special needs, and that he’s exuding pride in his job. Having a job can help provide a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose, and Abilities United helps people with disabilities get and keep these jobs. It’s a great legacy of the organization.”

Each year the City of Palo Alto offers a summer camp at the Lucie Stern Community Center, pairing special needs kids with youth volunteers. This year, Abilities United ran the camp, helping deliver results that are consistent with the organization’s philosophy of inclusion for those with disabilities. “The summer camp program has been amazing,” says Minka. “It gives all the children that special memory of summer camp, and helps build inclusive relationships among the campers and the volunteers many of which carry over to the school year.

Abilities United is one of a select group of non-profits that has received grants from the city. “We view Abilities United as the leader in providing great services for those with special needs.” she says, “We’ve always been very impressed with how much Abilities United can do with just a little money. Whenever the city provides a grant, the receiving organization has to specify what they hope to accomplish with the money, and Abilities United always meets or exceeds their objectives.”

With the fiftieth anniversary of Abilities United, Minka offers her congratulations. “Thank you for your service and passion for those with special needs,” she says, “We look forward to continuing to partner with you in the future.”

Abilities United greatly appreciates the support of the City of Palo Alto, and looks forward to continuing to expand their positive impact in the community.

Based on a 2012 interview with Minka van der Zwaag.  Written  by Bob Thomas, edited by Minka van der Zwaag and Wendy Kuehnl