General, News

STARability Celebrates 40th Anniversary

STARability Foundation is excited to announce that 2023 marked 40 years of serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families, throughout Collier County. This milestone was reached through steady growth, innovative programs and an unwavering commitment to the Southwest Florida community.

On Tuesday, March 19, the community is invited to join STARability to celebrate this achievement at an open-house style Family Fair. This free event will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. and guests will have the opportunity to learn more about the organization’s program offerings, upcoming events and initiatives, volunteering and more.

For four decades, STARability has been shining a light on abilities. Formed by a small community of caring parents in 1983, STARability has become one of Southwest Florida’s leading nonprofits. Through several name and organizational changes, the vision remained steadfast to serve as a voice for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Today, the organization is opening a world of possibilities for hundreds of individuals ages 14 and older by offering a variety of inclusive, community-based programs focused on vocational training, continuing education, teamwork, social engagement and community involvement. In addition to celebrating the 40th anniversary of the organization, the year marks the 10th anniversary of STARability’s seasonal baseball league, which includes 45 participants formed into 4 teams led by 12 coaches.

“We are grateful to our staff, volunteers, donors and the entire Collier County community for their support of our STARs and their families over the past 40 years,” said Karen Govern, CEO of STARability Foundation. “We are excited to celebrate our journey and look forward to a bright future with more expansion, opportunities and exciting developments in the years ahead.”

Throughout the years, STARability has experienced exponential growth, adapting to meet the increasing needs of the community.

  • Between 2009-2013, the organization started a variety of social events and recreational programs, including the seasonal baseball league in 2013. These programs became part of STAR Connections, and STARability continued to expand programs focused on life skills, creative expression and community engagement.
  • The Trailblazer Academy launched in 2016 to meet the needs of individuals with intellectual and disabilities who age out of school and face a gap in services at the age of 22. The program quickly became the centerpiece program because of its focus on community engagement, vocational training and continuing education. In this structured community-based program designed for individuals 18 and older, participants are active and engaged with local employers, nonprofit organizations and recreational centers.
  • STARability launched the Jr. Trailblazer Academy in 2017, building on the success of the Trailblazer Academy and growing need of services for individuals, between the ages of 14 and 22, transitioning into young adulthood. This after-school program offers vocational training, continuing education and life-enriching opportunities such as art, health and wellness activities to students who attend Collier County high schools. The program also focuses on employment readiness training, life skills education and community connections through the arts and environment.
  • The organization changed its name to STARability Foundation in 2018 to reflect their focus on what people with disabilities can do, not what they can’t do.
  • STARability opened its STAR Store & Studio in 2019 to further support their mission through the sale of donated furniture, décor and other home goods. The upscale resale store is a vocational site, where participants can work and create artisan products in the studio. That same year, STARability started its vocational services program, and earned its first Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar. STARability currently holds a Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid (GuideStar) and a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.
  • In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a suspension of in-person programming, causing STARability to quickly shift its program delivery to virtual platforms so STAR participants could continue learning and engaging with their community. Virtual programs are now an integral part of program offerings.