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Meet Mark Klaus of Home of Guiding Hands in El Cajon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Klaus.

Mark, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I began volunteering in what was called a sheltered workshop that provided training for people with developmental disabilities when I was in High School I continued to volunteer during my days at the University of Illinois and then accepted a part time position while I was in college. After graduating from the University of Illinois, I applied for and accept t a full time position with an organization that provided training, job placement and residential services in Champaign, Illinois. I love the interaction with the individuals, the staff and knowing that I was making a positive impact on the lives of many.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road I have traveled in this business has been overwhelmingly rewarding, but as in life, it has included it’s share of struggles. I tend to focus on the opportunities that are created rather than the problem or the struggle. Working with legislators and elected officials (in Illinois and now in California) is always an opportunity. We support and advocate for some of our communities most vulnerable citizens… many unable to advocate for themselves. Educating elected officials on the system of supports, rate inadequacies in terms of reimbursement and fighting for our staff has always been on the top of my priority list. The people we employ to provide exceptional supports to those we serve, but have historically been viewed as entry level / minimum wage earners in the eyes of our funders. Keeping abreast of the very changing rules, regulations and laws has become a challenge. As a non profit, we can go to our customers and increase what we charge due to the many unfunded mandates.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
HGH was founded in 1961 and was first known as the Lutheran Association for Retarded Children. HGH’s first services started in 1967 in a state of the art campus setting located on 14 acres of land in Lakeside. In 1986 the name was changed to Home of Guiding Hands and it became nondenominational. We currently provides supports and services to over 2,500 children, adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities in San Diego and Imperial Counties and employ over 800 staff with an annual payroll in excess of $16 Million annually. The services we currently offer include:

Residential Services:
HGH owns and operates 31 homes in the San Diego communities of El Cajon, Lakeside, San Carlos, Santee, Spring Valley, and Encinitas. The majority of these are home to 6 people. Two of these homes are HUD Homes and four of them support children (ages 8 – 21) with significant behavioral challenges.

Community Living Program:
The Community Living Program supports individuals who live independently in their own homes or apartments, but require some assistance and training in skills such as cooking, home management, finance and transportation.

Respite Program:
Our skilled and trained staff provides services to almost 1,000 families a year.

Adult Family Home Agency:
This program creates the opportunity for people with disabilities to live with a family in a private home in the community, and receive care from them. Families go through extensive screening and training program, before being matched with a resident who will move into their home.

Early Childhood Development:
This program supports children birth – 3 who are risk or who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability. Services are provided on a 1:1 basis in natural environments

HGH currently provides fix route / door to door transportation for almost 300 adults in San Diego County. In addition to our fixed routes, HGH also provides community access programing on nights and weekends to afford individuals with developmental disabilities access to our community and all it has to offer.

HGH provides individual and family counseling as well as support groups in a confidential and structured setting.

When you ask what program I am most proud of, that it a difficult and impossible questions to answer. It’s like asking which of your children you love the most. I am proud of all the programs and services that we provide. I do take great pride in the fact that all individuals we support are treated as individuals.. not just a number or a participant. Services and supports are individualized and goals are set by the family, the person supported and a team of professional. We all want something different out of life and at HGH we want to take and do take an individualized approach to how services are provided.

What were you like growing up?
As a child, my family moved quite a bit. We’ve lived in many states including California, New York, Ohio, Illinois and others. I would say that I was outgoing (had to be given we moved every couple of years) and loved to play sports — baseball and football. While I would consider myself a good student, I was always pushing back. I think a few of the “antics” I participated in in High School are now “legendary”. It was a much different time almost 40 years ago. That’s probably all I should say.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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