Cedars, a Marin County-based non-profit dedicated to supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, turns 100 years old this month, making it one of the longest-running organizations in our part of Northern California.
You may have seen Cedars residents and participants spending time helping out at The Marine Mammal Center or handing out books and magazines to patients at Marin General. You may have run into them at Peets or at a local grocery store. You may have even wandered into Artist Within in downtown San Anselmo, a gallery filled with fine art, jewelry, cards and exquisitely hand-woven placemats and napkins for sale, all made by Cedars artists. Those who are part of Cedars are deeply woven into the fabric of Marin, offering their time and their talents to make our county a better place.
Cedars has a rich history dating back to October 1919 when two schoolteachers from Philadelphia with a passion for children with disabilities made their way across the country to California to create a new school—and as it turns out, an entirely new concept. The two teachers, Cora Myers and Gabrielle Renshaw, were pioneers in creating the county’s first home-based school with a nurturing and loving environment for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
At the time of Cedars founding in Ross, families were basically limited to two options —put their child in a state-run institution, or raise them at home without any support such as public schools or community resources. Both options were less than ideal. Cedars was an entirely new model of support for these families, giving them access to programs that encouraged personal growth and independence.
Today, Cedars has nearly 200 participants in its residential and day programs. Due to the Lanterman Act which was passed in California in the late 60s, Cedars admits adults 18 and older into its programs (children in our state have other support systems available to them). Many individuals live in the organization’s Generoso Pope Jr. Residences in Ross (rebuilt in 2007 on the original 1919 site) or in one of its 10 group homes in Novato and San Rafael.
Participants at Cedars day programs are working artists, master weavers designing and creating textiles, co-op owners managing a two-acre fruit and vegetable garden, animal caregivers, chefs, and volunteers who support the community. Some are recent school graduates attending programs for the first time and others have been at Cedars for most of their lives – the oldest participant is age 88 and first came to Cedars in 1935.
To learn more about Cedars, including how to donate or volunteer, please visit cedarslife.org. In addition, Cedars is hosting its annual crafts fair on Nov. 21-22 at the Textile Arts Collaborative in San Rafael, and its first fine arts holiday sale on Nov. 21-22 at its Fine Arts Studio in San Anselmo.