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Imagine That...May 2023

In Loving Memory of Dean Wilson and Dana Hackett
Help support Imagine!

Combo and Zuko Imagine's dogs!

Jen and Zuko!

Combo at the park!

Baby Zuko!

Julian at People's Coffee!

Eliot playing guitar!

Eliot Cooking!

Changes to Imagine Management Structure

Dear Imagine friends and family,

Our effort to hire a new Director of Services did not pan out. Although we had two excellent finalists, we were not able to hire someone we felt confident was right for the moment we are in. Rather than start the arduous process over (and invite more floods and storms to the area,) our Assistant Director for H.R. led the development of a restructuring plan that we can experiment with as a way of improving our performance without a Director of Services. She, Heather and Stephanie presented it to me and I think it might work, so we're going to try. In the name of transparency, I'm going to tell you all about it.

The above paragraph was context for this apology: this month's newsletter will be longer and more narcissistic than most. If management structure sounds like the dullest thing in the world and if you are already tired of my long sentences, skip down at least to Patty's H.R. Corner.

To give a good explanation, I want to describe our sense of our current situation, the changes we have been trying to make and how we propose to do that without a Director of Services including who will be in charge of what. I'll be more specific about support for Facilitators in the Service Sector column below.

Current situation:

As the management sees things, there are three related challenges that Imagine should improve urgently:

  1. We need to do better at building our teams to provide person-centered services for our clients.
  2. As we have prioritized direct care wages, management resources, especially facilitator time and attention, are stretched thin.
  3. Post-COVID, people are harder to find and less able to show up for all of their shifts.

I still believe, and most of the management at Imagine still believes that our services will be much better, more reliable and less crisis prone, as our culture fosters thinking, preventing and planning for the future and good communication in the present. Our hope for the last and next Director of Services has been that they push and pull us in that direction. Now our hope is that the existing team can move together in that direction.

...Facilitators are key...

Facilitators are key. They are the people charged with keeping senior management aware of the needs of every individual we serve, so that the agency's guiding vision stays focused on everyone's needs. And they do the work to bring Imagine's culture into the teams that surround the individuals we serve. They are often, and best, the closest partners for our clients' families. Their communication and attention can and should help the teams and families work better together.

One of the most common phrases I hear is "My Facilitator is too busy to..." It's the Imagine version of an Iowa farmer's "suppose it might rain." But the things that keep Facilitators so busy are a combination of factors outside our control, preventable problems and circumstances we can influence in order of increasing frequency and impact. Good structure, standards, practices and support can free up a lot of the Facilitators' bandwidth for the work that helps our clients thrive and our colleagues enjoy their work. What we'd have asked the next Director of services to do and what we are now planning is meant to help our Facilitators spend more time supporting their teams to focus on their clients and less time filling holes in the calendar or responding to crisis.

No one of us can do it, but all of us can...

When Charlie left, I took over as interim Director of Services, which I was grateful to do because I got to work more closely with the Facilitators, get a better sense of the agency's operations and through all that contact got a lot smarter (if not all the way to smart.).

I've had a lot of support too. We created a new but temporary lead facilitator position which Stephanie Urbina filled who took over some of the accountability and crisis management duties. Patty took on new responsibilities and the Facilitators put up generously with my new neediness, meeting one on one with me every other week.

But as we found it necessary to replace two Facilitators and as I accepted an interim Facilitator position, it was pretty obvious that Doug-powered traction is stubborn but not quick enough. We needed a Director of services, or...

The experiment:

On a temporary basis, unless it works, we are redefining five roles in the agency in order to better move the agency forward:

As Executive Director, I will continue to do the key components of the position I was hired for and be the immediate supervisor for the Facilitators including assisting with coverage needs that can't be met another way.

Assistant Director, HR: Patty Lopez will continue her current role but also directly supervise the Administrative Assistant and Recruiting Coordinator (who currently report to me.) I have also delegated to her responsibility for the training and continuing education budgets. Her title will remain the same. She will also track the recruiting process to ensure that applicants are responded to quickly and solicitously.

Lead Facilitator: Stephanie Urbina will continue to supervise her caseload as Facilitator and, in addition, will be responsible for managing our emergency response and coverage as well as audit teams to make sure person-centered thinking tools are being used actively on each team. She will also co-author the Service Sector column in this here newsletter after this month.

Book-keeper: Heather Miller will take on the new title of Operations Manager, and will continue to do our financial record-keeping. The new responsibilities include auditing the client files to insure that Facilitators are up-to-date with house meetings, following training protocols with teams, gathering and collecting important documentation including budgets and Medical Assistance Records (MARs.) Where Facilitators are or fall behind, she will help them make plans to catch up.

Recruitment Coordinator: Faviola Ramos, will continue to do our recruiting and follow-up with applicants and prospective applicants. She will also be transitioning to Staffing Coordinator a position support Facilitators with technicalities around our electronic clock-in system. Over the course of the year, we plan to develop her role so it will come to include a significant role in our training. We intend Fabi to become a certified trainer in several key skills so that we can more easily and frequently support our staff training needs.

In this month's Service Sector, below, I'll give more detail (I hear you begging) about how these new positions will better support our Facilitators to support their clients, staff and other stakeholders.

This is an experiment and if it does not seem to be working, we will re-open our search for an Assistant Director of Services. Our hope is to continue with the plan above through the end of the year.

Further down, this month's newsletter includes the following:.

Patty Lopez, Imagine's Assistant Director of Human Resources talks about training opportunities for our employees and the support Imagine can provide.

In The Service Sector, this month's topic is even more detail about our restructuring plans. You're welcome.

In Community Connections, Susan invites you to a zoom about two-room section 8 vouchers. Get out your topcoat and tails..

Our usual stuff in the columns around advocacy, self-determination, the Imagine Endowment and Transparency.

The Person-Centered Evolution this month talks about choice and scarcity.

This month we have spotlights on Dafne and Garrett.

As ever, if you have any questions, feedback or concerns, please don't hesitate to get in touch. You can write me here. I look forward to hearing from you.

Gratefully yours,


The Imagine Endowment

We have an endowment to support Imagine's future. Imagine will receive regular payments of the returns from these funds. Initially, we expect the impact to be small but as the endowment grows, it holds the promise of helping Imagine help others through hard times to come.

If you are considering a gift to the endowment, either right now or as part of a giving plan or bequest, we have information available here. And thank you.

To make direct contributions please make checks payable to; The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.  Designate the "Imagine Supported Living Services Fund". Mail to;   Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, 7807 Soquel Dr., Aptos, Ca.  95003. 

-Submitted by Doug

Faviola's Baby Shower

Human Resources Corner

Hello all, 

As Doug has explained above, we are working on a restructuring of roles for the Management team. A huge part of that is to make sure we are offering the right amount of support to everyone in the Imagine family. 

One of our goals is and has been, to be the employer of choice. A specific way we hope to continue to do that is to offer appropriate trainings and to strive to hire internally whenever there is an open position in the management team. In order to prepare our direct care staff for this, we offer the opportunity for anyone interested in training or course work to reach out to us as we may be able to offer a scholarship that would help with the cost of continuing education. 

Additionally, we encourage anyone interested in understanding the particulars of a specific role at Imagine to reach out and set up a meeting with the person in that role. We love to hear from employees whose goal is to eventually become a part of managing the inner workings of our agency. 

As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions. 

Best Regards, 

Patty Lopez

Assistant Director of Human Resources

Imagine Supported Living Services

Office: 831-464-8355 ext. 112

Cell: (831) 325-7760

Fax: (831) 612-6384

The Service Sector

As mentioned above, one of the long-standing quandaries in managing Imagine (Imanaging?) has been how Facilitators can do the bureaucratic work needed to comply with regulations real and imagined to maintain our relationship with the regional center, handle the emergencies that arise and still maintain presence enough with our clients and their teams to foster a strong, proactive and person-centered culture around the support we are all here to offer our clients.

We have been on a long trajectory to automate as much as possible of the bureaucracy. Our Payroll/Billing specialist and recruiter are two positions we created to reduce the administrative burden on our Facilitators. Our Caresmartz system was purchased in part to make Facilitation more efficient too. Whoops.

If you limit your definition of emergency to those events that are beyond our control, such as a change in a client's health requiring more intensive support for a while or forever, we typically don't have more than a handful, agency wide in a (non-pandemic) year.If you expand the boundaries to include staffing crunches caused by staff illness and circumstances, those are more common. Our two Client Care Responder (CCR) positions were created to help with those,

It's only when you include chronic understaffing due to high turnover, slow hiring and/or poor team dynamics and morale that the job of a Facilitator becomes so typically overwhelming that it becomes unfair to expect Facilitators to follow their duties through to the core expectation that robust teams support clients in a person-centered way. But we have seen that Facilitators who spend time with their teams have less turnover and that those who are most proactive in the hiring process typically fill openings pretty fast.

Other sources of distraction come as a consequence of routine failures to complete communication cycles or to maintain records.

The Facilitator position is very subject to vicious and virtuous cycles. The Operations Manager and Lead Facilitator positions were designed to support our a virtuous cycle and reverse the vicious ones.

No-one can do it, but we all can, part II. While it is true that the unpreventable emergencies are rare, they don't necessarily fall fairly. As I am writing this, one facilitator has three clients on her caseloads whose service needs are being substantially changed by health conditions that emerged in 2023. The other 6, together, have two. Part of refocusing our Facilitators is making sure that each participates in a culture that shares challenge.

As we bring in two new Facilitators and keep some who have been especially generous supporting their peers, we are also have the opportunity to reinforce a key principle of life at Imagine. That nobody is an island and nobody gets left to drown.




Self-Determination is now available for any regional center client who chooses it but it sure ain't smooth. If I can be of any help, please feel free to contact me. I'm pleased that there are a few current and recent Imagine employees who are developing Independent Facilitation practices and I'll be glad to connect them with those looking.

This month, the Independent Facilitator Roundtable will be Wednesday, May 3 at 11AM. The Zoom link is right here.

For people interested in Self-determination, there is also a monthly zoom event to introduce individuals and families to Independent Facilitators.It's the third Friday of each month and the time is supposed to rotate but we seem stuck on 2:30-4. Let me know if you're interested and I'll send the link and confirmation of the time.

The Independent Facilitator Network, a confederation of professionals working self-determination (which started at Imagine!) has a Slack Channel you can join by clicking here. Individuals receiving services and family members are welcome and it's a great place to have your SDP questions answered by sad, wise experts.

-Submitted by Doug

Community Connections


May 2023

7 of us showed up for a very sweet lunch gathering by the sea today. I always enjoy the comradery of sharing with other Imagine parents about how we and our “kids” are faring. There is always something important to learn and support to be shared. Unfortunately, both Doug and I forgot to take the fun photo we were going to send to you… next time. 

May 24th 4pm Families Zoom 

Housing Authority’s voucher program will be the topic of the next parent discussion. Please join us if you have had experience with having a housing voucher or might wish to have the benefit the future. Look for the Zoom invite that will go out a few days ahead of the meeting time. 

Susan Douglass, Imagine parent     831-818-2501

(Editor's note: I really enjoyed my lunch with the Community Connections crowd on the 28th. Thank you to everyone who attended and thanks especially to Susan who made it happen. -DP)

Transparency At Imagine

Our next board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday June 14 at 11AM. If you'd like to participate, please write to Norma so we know to include you. 

With some anxiety on all sides, the board passed our annual budget at the April meeting. Having increased direct care wages last July and this past March, the budget has little new spending, although health benefits are rising substantially in cost. Since it contains no new spending, there is no narrative but if you are interested, you can download the budget here. If anyone wants the full spreadsheet to see behind our assumptions, please feel welcome to email me. The main thing to note is that the projected margin is uncomfortable thin and, so, vulnerable to poor fortune. I did encourage the board not to include new spending unless and until we outperform the budget.

We are still recruiting board members. We are working to diversify the board and to add a GAAP-trained treasurer. An attorney wouldn't be bad either. Neither would you. If you know someone with a passion for our mission who might like to volunteer, please write to me.

-Submitted by Doug

Advocacy Corner

The Governor's "May Revise" updated budget should be out by mid-month. The budget then goes to the legislature which will hold hearings and make amendments. Then there is a final behind closed doors negotiation between the Governor and the legislative leaders during which nothing is safe.

As always, thanks to Marty Omoto of CDCAN for amplifying the transparency and circularity of information between the community and policy-makers. If you would like to receive CDCAN's extensive reporting, write to Marty. CDCAN's work is entirely funded by the donations of those of us who benefit. Write to me or to Marty if you'd like to kick in.

-Submitted by Doug

Person-Centered Evolution

One of the most important aspects of person-centered thinking is revision. What works and doesn't work for someone, their goals, aspirations and fears change over the course of their lives and the observations we have made in truth become false. "What's Working/Not Working" is a great tool for looking critically at how the strategies we are using and the assumptions we have made.

However good someone's ISP or Person-Centered Plan might be, it will always be important to take stock, review and reconsider. The tool works by celebrating what's going well and being candid about what isn't in various domains of the individual's life (in the example at left- the circle of support.). From there, you can go on to make informed decisions about what should change and what be preserved.

-Submitted by Doug

Staff Spotlight on Dafne

There is a saying heard throughout Imagine that goes something like: “You will see the most unlikely people shine through the worst of times”. Dafne while a bright beacon to those who know her and have worked with her, she defies the saying. In the most unlikely and likely of times, Dafne always presents herself with much knowledge and confidence while maintaining so much reliability and leadership.  Through her words you see the love she holds dearly for those in her life, one of which is Sophie, who she cares for so dearly. 

While her team has experienced many changes and faced many challenges all within a course of 2 months, Dafne has done more than anyone could have asked for in training both a new lead and new facilitator with much love and praise and guiding the team to future success as she leaves her legacy with Imagine in the fall to pursue a full-time education in the University of California school system. 

While working full time with Sophie, Dafne also lead shadowing shifts, did grocery shopping and maintaining tranquility in her team while maintaining her studies to transfer into the UC system of which she got accepted to all the schools she had applied to. You are someone many are so proud and excited for and so incredibly happy to have met. We all wish you the best this fall quarter as either a Bruin or a Mustang! (Of course, we like you best as a Banana Slug) Congratulations on graduating from Cabrillo and on all your acceptances! 

-Submitted by Alina

Client Spotlight on Garrett

Garrett Deaver has been a part of the Imagine FHA program since 2020. He is currently in the process in moving into his own space and joining the SLS side of things. We would like to give him a big congratulations from all of us here at Imagine. Garrett has worked so hard to become the independent dude that he is today. We couldn’t be more excited for him and this big step he's about to take in life. 

He has a way of becoming your friend almost instantly. A lover of sushi and pizza, our guy has great taste in food. Garrett also works at the local pizza shop, Woodstock’s where he works hard to keep the place running. Between work and school and special Olympics this guy keeps a busy schedule but always ensures he has time for the love of his life Karley picture with above. His sense of humor makes up for time lost anyway.

All in all if you have had the pleasure of having a laugh with Garrett consider yourself one the lucky ones. 

-Submitted by Stephanie


Birthdays & Anniversaries

Staff and Client Birthdays:

Maria R.

Christian T.

Brenda L.

Stephanie R.

Myrissa V.

Martin V.

Bianca T.

Derek R.

Rebecca S.

Isabel G.

Perla L.

Melissa P.

Staff Anniversaries:

Russell S. - 18 Years!!

Patty L. - 11 Years!!

Lorena F. - 7 Years!!

Dan D. - 5 Years!!

Stephanie R. - 1 Year!!

Thank you for your commitment!

Imagine Supported Living Services
9065 Soquel Drive
Aptos, Ca 95003
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