The Tierra del Sol Foundation (literally “Land of the Sun”) was founded in Sunland, CA in 1971.
Originally created by parents as an alternative to institutional care, Tierra was first an early demonstration project in self-advocacy. It was born of a partnership of parents who were determined to raise their sons and daughters as permanent members of their family, rather than abandon them to the State. Our historical beginnings started with the notion that all people have gifts, something to contribute and that our community is richer when all of our citizens are valued for their contributions. We have never lost this important principle.
Tierra’s first two decades in the 70’s and 80’s were marked by educational training, fitness activities, artistic endeavors and social skill acquisition for the people Tierra served on its seven-acre campus. Family members supported the new organization by volunteering in classes, providing transportation, performing clerical duties, and whatever else they could do to ensure that the learning programs succeeded. In 1989, we opened the door to our First Street Gallery Art Center in downtown Claremont, where we acted on the idea that human potential for creativity is not limited by developmental disability.
In the 90’s, Tierra began pushing beyond the perimeters of the original seven-acre ranch. We expanded first with the Community Integration Program (CIP), a service that pioneered completely community based services. CIP identified volunteerism as a solid training track to expand the possibility and the potential waiting to be developed within the people we serve. Tierra’s community training grounds grew with each community-based organization that welcomed our helpful teams and individuals. Volunteerism paved the way for more trained workers to earn real jobs through Tierra’s growing Supported Employment programming. Different industries and businesses recognized the value of Tierra workers in areas of clerical, retail, janitorial, and assembly work. Our partnerships with local employers grew, as well.
In the early 2000’s, Tierra continued its track of innovation and personalized service delivery. New services were created as people presented a need for them. We developed Path Planning to assist in career identification, became entrepreneurial on behalf of our artists in the development of an art center, developed jobs and paid work experiences and most recently, claimed our place on the campuses of community colleges to help people attend college and benefit from Supported Education. All in all, Tierra has grown to provide direct service to 675 individuals with disabilities, as well as their families and their wider community. Over the years, Tierra has been a pioneer in volunteerism, employment, the arts, community service and citizenship. Today, having served thousands of people, Tierra is a proven leader in the field of service to people with developmental and other intellectual disabilities.