Newsletter – December 2021

Welcome to the First Holiday Tour of Doors!

First Place–Phoenix’s Holiday Tour of Doors was a bright and cheery success! Residents and Transition Academy students had a blast getting festive in a variety of ways. They proudly showed off their beautiful doors for family, friends and visitors, and enjoyed making First Place–Phoenix even homier for the holidays. Awards recognized most colorful, creative, festive, unique and best theme. Big thanks to everyone who joined us for the tour and stayed for hot cocoa and s’mores!

First Day of Winter

On the first day of Arizona’s “winter,” First Place–Phoenix residents and Transition Academy students bundled up and headed downtown to CityScape Phoenix for an ice-skating adventure. Most participants were new to the activity, but didn’t take long to get confident on the ice and skate circles together around the Christmas tree.

Creative Ways Donors Make a Lasting Impact at First Place

Donors are finding creative, unique ways to make extraordinary things happen at First Place!

Special thanks to our generous donors and creators of the “First Place, First Time” arts initiative: Judy Ackerman, Lisa Greve, Mac Perlich, John Reyes, Scott Talbot and John Kitts. They have done an amazing job helping First Place–Phoenix feel and look like home with such a beautiful palette of talent.

The “Art and Appetizers” event earlier this month brought residents and Transition Academy students together to spend the evening enjoying some lively new pieces generously curated for and donated to First Place AZ. Participants meandered through the exhibition—and even got the chance to choose a special piece for their apartment home decor. Everyone loved what they chose!

Donors Judy Ackerman and Richard Epstein also (re)introduced friends to First Place through a lovely reception last month where Richard announced a $15,000 challenge grant in honor of wife Judy’s January birthday. Friends made good on the challenge, too—what a beautiful way for everyone to honor this special champion of our cause!

The Saperstein Entertainment Fund has just wrapped up its third year, thanks to the generous support of Sherman and Linda Saperstein, which made possible a variety of memorable activities for participating residents, Transition Academy students and staff at First Place–Phoenix. We’re grateful to the creative and capable leadership of Community Life Coordinator Lexie Egerer for bringing fun and festivities together in 2021—with more to come in 2022!

First Place Volunteer Program Going Strong

In the spirit of giving this holiday season, First Place–Phoenix staff, residents and Transition Academy students continue their tradition of volunteering at St. Mary’s Food Bank. They spent a recent morning packing boxes with a variety of foods and beverages for families in need. Everyone enjoyed participating and giving back to our supportive community. Lots more volunteering opportunities await in 2022!

First Place in National Media

First Place AZ Founder & President/CEO Denise D. Resnik was recently featured in ideamensch, an online interview series spotlighting entrepreneurs, makers and doers across the country. In her interview, Denise talks about her dream to create a supportive community for son Matt after his autism diagnosis in 1993—and how that dream became a reality with First Place AZ.

In his Psychology Today series “What Will You Do When I’m Gone?”, fellow parent Erik Raschke—who has a child with autism—interviews leaders and thinkers who are reframing the supportive living and housing industries. In his interview with Denise, she shares her eight lessons for building a supportive community where special populations can thrive and other insights like this one, guiding the development of First Place: “I’ll never forget my conversation with an 80-year-old mother, who had moved her adult son 10 times and wanted to make sure First Place-Phoenix could be his forever place. She knew this next move might be the last one on her watch. It was stories like that made me carefully consider my plans.”

What’s Behind Our “Perfectly Imperfect” Community

Read First Place AZ Founder & President/CEO Denise D. Resnik’s latest blog for insights on how our “perfectly imperfect community” is guiding adults with autism and other neurodiversities on the path to successful independent living in some important ways.

2021 Arizona Tax Credit—It’s Not Too Early!

Arizona residents can receive a dollar-for-dollar credit with the Arizona tax credit program for donations made to First Place AZ, a qualifying charitable organization (QCO). Individual filers can claim up to $400 per year; married couples can claim up to $800 per year. Tax credits are based on the total donation amount for the year. You can donate here—and thank you for including First Place in your 2021 giving!

Sobering New CDC Autism Stat

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this month, autism prevalence in children rose to 1 in 44 in 2018, up from 1 in 54 in 2016. The study examined the prevalence in 8-year-olds in 11 different states across the country, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin. The CDC states this increase is most likely due to improvements in diagnoses and an increase in referrals to autism services. This study also relied on a new method of data collection, gathering information from clinicians’ diagnoses, special education classifications and hospital billing codes for autism services.

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