Joseph Spinelli of San Rafael’s Lifehouse has won one of the North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Awards.
Describe your organization:
Lifehouse was founded in 1954 by parents struggling to find services for their children with developmental disabilities. Originally called Marin Aid for Retarded Children (MARC), our mission expanded over time to include services for adults in Marin, Sonoma & San Francisco counties.
Lifehouse continues to be a leader in providing services for people with developmental disabilities. Over the years, we have been instrumental in starting many services and programs in the community. We also have taken a leading role in developing recreation programs, advocating for affordable housing, and developing creative living arrangements to meet the individualized needs of the people we serve.
Today, Lifehouse serves over 260 people and is recognized as a leading agency in creating many unique services and programs. Lifehouse believes everyone should have the opportunity to live as independently as possible and to participate fully in our community.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am married and we had three children, one who was profoundly developmentally disabled.
I believe that all people, including those with developmental disabilities, mental problems, “poor students,” prisoners and those with dementia, can benefit from education and that all people should be granted an education that will maximize their potential to contribute to society.
I was educated as a veterinarian and had the honor of working for 31 years at the University of California. Since 1967 I have volunteered for many organizations that serve the developmentally disabled in our community. These included Lifehouse, the Golden Gate Regional Center and Developmental Disabilities Area Board V.
After I retired from the university I became a classroom volunteer at several Marin County schools and tutored math at San Quentin.
Currently my wife and I reside in a retirement community in Fairfield, but I continue to serve of the Lifehouse Board.
What is your role in the organization?:
I am on the Lifehouse Board of Directors where I serve as vice-chair.
What achievement are you most proud of?:
In the 1970s I chaired a committee that opened Lifehouse’s first residential program for 12 profoundly developmentally disabled persons. Many could not feed or toilet themselves. That program has expanded. For some individuals, the only family they have is there.
What is your biggest challenge today?:
To develop, in our service area, low cost housing so that we can provide care for people on our waiting list and those who will be dislocated for the Sonoma Development Center.
What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?:
To continue to develop programs for the autistic and for those being dislocated from the Sonoma Development Center. To develop low cost housing for those on our waiting list
What motivates you to volunteer your time and talent?
Seeing how well our clients are treated and how happy they are. I receive more from volunteering than I give.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?:
I believe the board will need to focus on developing low coast housing so that we may meet the communities’ needs in a cost-effective manner. The board will also need to be alert to reductions in the government support of health care. Many of our clients are dependent on Medi-Cal or Medicare. If these programs are cut it will endanger continuation of our programs. We would need to find alternative sources of funding.
899 Northgate Drive, Suite 500, San Rafael 94903
August 1963 to October 1966: Private veterinary practice.
October 1966 to July 1967: Assistant Specialist II; Radiobiology Laboratory; University of California, Davis, California
July 1967 to October 31, 1997: Director, Animal Care & Cell Culture Facility; University of California; San Francisco, California (UCSF)
July 1967 to June 1977: Assistant Clinical Professor of Veterinary Medicine; School of Pharmacy; UCSF
July 1977 to October 31, 1997: Associate Clinical Professor of Veterinary Medicine; School of Pharmacy; UCSF
• President of Parents Group, Forest Meadows Child Development Center, September 1967–June 1969.
• Board of Directors, Marin Association for Retarded Citizens, January 1969–December 1976; July 1978–June 30, 1981; July 1, 1987–June 30, 1995.
• 1st Vice President, Marin Association for Retarded Citizens, January 1969–December 1972; July 1978–July 1979.
• President, Marin Association for Retarded Citizens, January 1973–December 1974.
• Treasurer, Marin Association for Retarded Citizens, July 1980–June 30, 1981; July 1, 1988–June 30, 1990.
• Chairman, Special Education Advisory Council, Marin County School District, January 1970–December 1971.
• Chairman, State of California Developmental Disabilities Board V, September 1975–September 1977.
• Member, Board of Trustees, Golden Gate Regional Center, August 1981–June 30, 1987.
• Secretary, Golden Gate Regional Center Board of Trustees, December 1981–July 1982.
• Vice Chairman, Golden Gate Regional Center Board of Trustees, July 1982–January 1984.
Chairman, Golden Gate Regional Center Board of Trustees, January 1984–June 1986
• Member of the Nova Inc. and Stonehaven Inc. Boards, May 1991 - January 1999.
• Classroom Volunteer, Brookside Elementary School, San Anselmo CA, November 1997–June 2001.
• Classroom Volunteer, White Hill Middle School, Fairfax CA, September 2001–June 2004.
• Math Tutor, Prison University Project, San Quentin CA, October 2009–August 2012
• Classroom Volunteer, Sir Francis Drake High School, San Anselmo CA September 2004–2013 & 2014.
• Lifehouse Board of Trustees, San Rafael CA, July 2010–present.
• Vice-Chair, Lifehouse, San Rafael, July 1, 2016–present.
• Math Tutor, Free to Succeed, San Quentin CA, October 2012–July 2017.
• Member Board of Trustees, Senior Access, San Rafael CA July 2013–July 2017.
• Treasurer Senior Access San Rafael CA July 2013–July 2017.
• Veterinary Advisor, San Francisco Zoo, Joint Use Committee, September 2009–present
Education: B.S., University of California, Davis, June 1961; D.V.M., UC Davis, June 1963