About five years ago, Nancy Eddy, Vanessa Brown and other East Bay parents of deaf adults with developmental disabilities banded together to address a problem that alarmed them. Many of their grown children had become anti-social and stopped leaving home after graduating from school.
"They were not working or in day programs," Eddy said. "For the most part, they were terribly isolated."
So their parents started small and kept it simple; they planned parties and day trips to brighten their children's lives and get them in the habit of socializing. The gatherings helped, but the parents soon recognized they were just scratching the surface, and other problems needed to be addressed. Deaf adults who possess developmental disabilities -- described by Eddy as "deaf plus" -- often have problems fitting in with the general deaf community, for example.
"They are a minority within a minority," she said. "And they need all kinds of activities that promote learning, exercising and socializing, all the things that keep us healthy in life."
Eddy and Brown then began pounding the pavement with a proposal to form Deaf Plus Adult Community, which aims to give its participants the skills to live independently. They received seed money last year from the Regional Center of the East Bay, a state-affiliated nonprofit group that aids developmentally disabled individuals. They also have received assistance from Art, Research and Curriculum Associates,
Eddy, the organization's director, moved her family to Fremont in the mid-1990s so that her daughter, Christy, could attend the California School for the Deaf.
There, Christy met Emerald Brown -- Vanessa's mother -- and their parents since have worked together to help their children.
"It's always been a dream of ours to open a center for deaf adults," said Vanessa Brown. "A place where they can do things together and, ultimately, build a community."
Eddy and Brown have continued to work on that dream, spending several months this year in Newark converting a Central Avenue warehouse into a working office. The organization is in the process of obtaining its nonprofit status, they said.
Once that work is completed, Eddy said they envision a center serving dozens of "deaf-plus" adults with educational and social programs. Its staff, most of whom have not yet been hired, would number about a dozen people, including American Sign Language interpreters, instructors, and job coaches who teach employment skills to students and then recruit companies to hire them, Eddy said.
First, though, the group needs something that, in these cash-strapped times, is more rare than a Christmas miracle: operating revenue.
A fundraising concert featuring the Virtuoso International Flute Ensemble -- a Fremont-based musical group -- has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Dec. 15. It will be held at Centerville Presbyterian Church, 4360 Central Ave. in Fremont. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged, and a raffle for several prizes will be held.
"We'll need to do continual fundraising to make this the kind of program we want it to be," Eddy said.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
WHAT: Christmas Benefit Concert
WHERE: Centerville Presbyterian Church, 4360 Central Ave., Fremont
WHEN: 3 p.m. Dec. 15
WHY: Benefiting Deaf Plus Adult Community
INFO: Call 510-979-9263 or 510-610-0170