A local nonprofit organization that helps adults with intellectual disabilities is looking to support its clientele through other means.
From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 28, One Step Beyond Inc.’s (OSBI) culinary program will once again present Vive La Fiesta, a public dinner reception.
The event will include live entertainment, OSBI artwork, a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle, a selfie station and a cash bar featuring margaritas.
Becca Mungovan, culinary director, said the organization brings opportunities to adults with intellectual disabilities.
“One Step Beyond is a comprehensive program for adults who have intellectual disabilities,” Mungovan said. “We provide opportunities for our members of this exceptional population — the opportunities to grow and progress in their lives.”
OSBI was launched in 2003 by a family that was unable to find intellectual disability programs for their daughter and her peers. The goal is to provide “the opportunities required and desired to grow in skills, personal relationships and inclusion in their community,” according to its website.
At first, 16 individuals in a small neighborhood location were treated. Today, OSBI cares for over 450 individuals in four locations — three in Arizona and one in California.
“We have life skills training, a music department, a hockey team, an art department, a photo department, a dance department — if you can dream it, we try to give that to our members,” Mungovan said. “Every program we have came from one of our members saying, ‘Hey, I’d like to learn how to X, Y, Z.’ Whatever it is, we just try to meet them where they’re at and help them be the best they can be.”
OSBI’s culinary department has two different programs: day training (DTA) and group-supported employment (GSE).
The DTA program is also called the Life-Skills Culinary Program.
“Some of the members in the (DTA) program are looking to become more productive in their homes, maybe they’re looking to become more proficient in baking or cooking or they might be looking to make culinary arts a little more present in their life by working in the community,” Mungovan said. “Our DTA program provides them with basic knowledge of culinary arts — things like timing, temperature, safety, sanitation, equipment and how to safely use them.”
Individuals who complete the DTA program are then able to transition to the GSE program, also known as the Catering Program. This is where OSBI’s fully accredited catering company is introduced to the members. Mungovan said the individuals who come through this program are able to find employment.
“We provide jobs for them internally through our catering program, our hot dog cart, our proprietary products that we sell to the community — they’re able to work within the confines of our programming,” Mungovan said. “They learn budgeting, shopping, proper food preparation, customer service, catering, how to present food, how to carry food, how to serve food and how to cook food. They get to actively participate from start to finish.”
Some individuals who go through the GSE curriculum are able to branch off outside OSBI as well.
“Some of our members are using (OSBI) as a springboard to give them the opportunity to learn what they need to know to go out in the community and work,” Mungovan said. “We have a member who is individually employed by Culver’s. We have a member that has worked for Peter Piper Pizza for over 10 years. We have a member who is employed out of ASU West’s eatery.”
The culinary dinners started on a much smaller scale several years ago. Each location would host four small dinners a year and feed approximately 40 people at each. After immense success and progression of members, OSBI combined the individual smaller dinners in 2018 to host a large culinary dinner three times a year, serving approximately 200 people at each reception.
“We had to change venues because we had such an overwhelming response of people wanting to attend,” Mungovan said. “These dinners showcase their customer service skills, they showcase their cooking skills — basically everything they have learned during their culinary time. They get to showcase to the public who comes and eats.”
All profits from the reception will support OSBI programs that are not state funded, such as music, art, dance and culinary. Mungovan said incorporating the other arts departments was important for her when planning the culinary dinners.
“We want to showcase (our members’) talents and be inclusive of some of the other art departments and showcase that to the people that get to come so that it’s not just seeing what culinary does,” Mungovan said.
People with intellectual disabilities are often faced with many hardships in life, and it can be tough for some to be confident in the world. Mungovan said the organization’s programs help bring people in this community out of their shell, and that brings her joy.
“Being able to watch them grow and progress in their learning and be able to take that out into the community and apply that to a job — watching that pride that they feel is just priceless. We believe in them, and then watching them grow to believe in themselves is a privilege that I can’t even explain,” she said.