The Vista Hill Foundation has received a $1-million grant from a retired frozen-food entrepreneur to modernize its Vista Los Ninos Education Center.
Sam and Rose Stein of Poway will be honored by the foundation in January when it renames the center in the Steins' honor. The center will receive $500,000 for renovations and a $500,000 endowment for operating expenses.
Last year, nearly 200 disabled clients received one-on-one care in the deteriorating converted Grantville Elementary School on Decena Drive, which the center has called home for four years.
The center, which began 19 years ago teaching 10 autistic preschoolers at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in North Park, cares for children and adults with developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and mental retardation.
The center will use the million-dollar grant, the largest in its history, for remodeling and other improvements, said Liz McInnis, the center's executive director.
The private center, whose $3-million annual budget is mostly government-subsidized, allows disabled children and adults to remain in the community and out of state institutions.
"The children at the center cannot be served in the public school system," said Marsha Alex Lubick, director of community affairs for the Vista Hill Foundation. "They are multiply handicapped children. Our goal is to reintegrate them back into the public schools' special-education programs if it is possible."
"We place five to six children a year, and for us that's a success story," McInnis said. "Because we are here, we are keeping children out of state institutions and help keep these kids in the community."
With a staff of 130 consulting psychiatrists, occupational therapists, psychologists and teachers, the center boasts a teacher-student ratio of 1 to 1 for most of its special education, after-school recreation and adult day-care programs, McInnis said.
The adult program, launched in 1980 with about six clients, grew out of a need to "serve disabled adults who needed more supervision than traditional programs were able to provide," she said.
Today the adult program teaches more than 90 clients, ages 18 to 64, how to handle leisure time and basic living skills.