We had the good fortune of connecting with Wendy Forkas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wendy, what makes you happy? Why?
People! Since a little girl, I have always been drawn to people, especially people I could help. There is just nothing compared to the feeling I get when I see someone accomplish a goal or task they never thought they could achieve. It truly makes my heart smile and brings me a tremendous amount of happiness. In college, I realized people were my passion and my purpose to be a positive difference in people’s lives. Majoring in Psychology and receiving my Master’s in Behavioral Analysis and Therapy led me to my dream job with Adjoin, where I found true happiness in supporting people.
Like me, Adjoin believes all people deserve to have a sense of belonging, a feeling of fitting in or being part of a group. Adjoin, a nonprofit organization founded in 1983, serves more than 1400 individuals of varied backgrounds, interests, and abilities to achieve their life plans in the communities. Adjoin’s mission is to create limitless pathways for people to belong where they live, work, learn and play, and it is a perfect fit for me.
Over my 28 years of professional services, I have had the joy of meeting and supporting thousands of people seeing a limitless number of positive impacts on people’s lives. There is one thing I am sure of in my future, no matter where I go or what I do, people will be at the heart of it because that is where I feel my happiest. I cannot imagine a world without people!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Adjoin first began its path as an Escondido Special Education Department extension with its first Executive Director, a professor at San Diego State University. Then, in collaboration with concerned parents and individuals representing the schools who wanted more community-based opportunities for students with disabilities exiting high school, the North County Career Development Program, now known as Adjoin, was formed and incorporated as a nonprofit company in July 1983.
Adjoin’s original purpose to help individuals with disabilities exiting from high school programs find meaningful work has grown and taken new pathways over the years and serves multiple populations in many diverse communities throughout California. Primary sources of funding for Adjoin are from the State Regional Centers and Department of Rehabilitation for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the Department of Veteran Affairs for services to Veteran families experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless.
Adjoin creates and provides new opportunities, resources, and perspectives tailored to each individual, resulting in a very person-centered plan and pathway. In addition, Adjoin strives for all people to have a true sense or feeling of belonging through active participation in social, cultural, professional, and community groups and activities. Belonging is about transitioning all people from mere participation in their communities to a higher level of engagement with a sense of fitting in or feeling they are an essential member of a group. These efforts have resulted in long-term changes in community systems and over 30,000 positive impacts on people’s lives.
In 2021, Adjoin underwent a significant rebranding to align our divisions and structure the organization for growth. In addition, Adjoin understands the organization must diversify funding sources if it wants to be here in the future. One of the first steps in this process was to start fundraising and having the first official fundraising campaign last year. Adjoin will continue to focus on growth opportunities.
Adjoin believes all people deserve a sense of belonging. With many individuals being marginalized and having significant barriers and challenges in their lives, Adjoin continues to work tirelessly to remodel our communities by building new pathways to better support people. For Adjoin, a productive day is every day; a new pathway is built.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite spots in San Diego for day trips are the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Balboa Park (and all their museums), Coronado (bridge, downtown, and beach), Seaport Village, Mission Bay (beach and water play!), SeaWorld, Old Town, Liberty Station and maybe an excursion across the border to Mexico. For dining, some of my favorite spots are Jakes in Del Mar, Karl Strauss Brewery, Gaslamp, North Park, Adams Avenue, Little Italy, Liberty Station, and for dessert, Extraordinary Desserts.
My favorite general activities in San Diego are walking along any beach, especially at sunset, and enjoying the many trails in San Diego like Mission Trails, Torrey Pines, Miramar Lake, Lake Murray, and more!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I truly could not be where I am today without my family’s support and the people I worked with over the last 28 years. However, the one person who has had the most impact on me and where I am today is my mother. From a young age, she always told me I could do anything if I were willing to work for it. She instilled in me a good work ethic, to take pride in my work, and that a college education was valuable and not taken for granted.
Many of my most impactful lessons came from the people I supported and the many amazing people I have worked with throughout my career who have taught me patience, humility, courage, perseverance, and, most importantly, compassion. I give much credit to my many years of tenure at Adjoin that has provided me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills in the nonprofit sector.
I give much credit to my many years of tenure at Adjoin that has provided me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills in the nonprofit sector.