The Power of Volunteering Changes Lives, Shapes the Future: The Dayle McIntosh Center Relaunches Volunteer Program Leading by Example

Pictured L-R: Harm Tarrant, Nelly Gomez, Christine Ngyuen and Danyelle Cerillo – Volunteer Success Stories-turned-DMC Employees.

Anaheim, CA –– They say what goes around, comes around. Volunteering at The Dayle McIntosh Center (DMC) punctuates the adage, with continuous service leadership examples rooted in the passionate advocacy of its employees as Orange County’s only Independent Living Center celebrating forty-seven years serving people with disabilities and older adults.  The long-standing peer-based State of California 501(c) (3) non-profit organization opened its doors in 1977 as a result of volunteer activism, creating opportunities for the community, while uniting through service.  This distinguished foundation is the springboard for the 2024 relaunch of the DMC Volunteer Program, being revived after the pandemic temporarily shut down the program.

Open to individuals 18 and older the program welcomes everyone – people with disabilities and older adults, those with all levels of volunteering experience, and individuals needing to fulfill community service hours through a church or school. Volunteers are given necessary training and support, along with flexible times of service through normal business hours and are expected to go through a Live Scan background check and wear a mask as DMC is an organization working with high-risk and immunocompromised individuals. 

“I’m excited we have a fresh start for the DMC Volunteer Program where we can fulfill the needs of the organization, as we continue to spread awareness for how others can make a difference to contribute to our community and mission,” states Stephanie Hernandez, DMC’s Volunteer Coordinator. “We are looking for reliable individuals who are open to learning, up to the task to deliver, and are passionate about our values. Our opportunities include volunteers for Reception, the Youth Program, Blindness and Low Vision Support, Deaf Services, d/Deaf Peer Mentor, Assistive Technology, Independent Living Skills, Housing and Community Outreach.  My hope is that individuals who volunteer will find fulfillment and community in our inclusive, no barriers open environment and will gain satisfaction knowing they are providing a service for others,” shares Hernandez.

The power of volunteering is a 360 degree full-circle opportunity, where DMC’s volunteers end up having such a strong connection to the community they serve, and the people they help, that it becomes a sincere interest and commitment to creating a career with heartfelt dedication. Many go on taking their valued volunteering experience to empower others. The organization has many inspiring stories where volunteering grows into something more on both a personal and professional level, like for DMC’s Youth and Information Coordinator Service Advocate, Nelly Gomez. She started her volunteer journey at the organization and now works in her current position in leadership at DMC, managing the Youth Program and Reception/Information and Referral as well as Youth Advisors and Volunteers, where she seeks volunteers for her own program she oversees.

“I became a volunteer at DMC in 2010 through the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), which is now called Disability Works California, where I was introduced to new opportunities and experiences. Being a volunteer helped me to define who I am and learn more about the Independent Living Movement.  This helped me to see community service differently through skills I learned like problem-solving, being adaptable and flexible, gaining a positive outlook and more. I used to be shy when I was younger. Volunteering gave me and continues to give other individuals a chance to build confidence, like in public speaking. I found my voice as a volunteer, even by working with another volunteer where I observed someone with a great voice (both literally and figuratively) – a great singer. Even though they went on to find other passions, my takeaway was learning assertiveness and striving toward goals, like I apply today.”

For DMC’s Independent Living Skills Instructor Harm Tarrant, the volunteering journey led him to gain insights and perspective in what could be possible from a learning-to-teaching evolutionary catalyst. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if I never volunteered; volunteering for youth, putting my hands in different projects, helped me accept my own disability, understand others a bit better, as well as realizing my own strengths. I was a consumer of DMC at the time, working on Independent Living Skills. It inspired me to see that my ILS Instructor had a disability, and that other staff did as well—when I had only seen people with disabilities represented as entry level grocery store positions (bagging/stocking things). While I genuinely believe that no job is above or below any other, I had no idea these roles like an ILS Instructor even existed, let alone giving people with disabilities the opportunity to be thriving in these fields. This opened my perspective on what I could do, so when I was asked to teach youth about system advocacy, I jumped for it,” shares Tarrant who now serves both North and South OC as an ILS Instructor.

Pictured L-R: Team DMC’s Juanita Herrera, Marysol Cuadrado, Board Treasurer Jose Pena, Danyelle Cerillo, Lizette Martinez and Socorro Arroyo-Merchain at CSUN Conference.

The Dayle McIntosh Center not only has created opportunities for volunteers to become employees, but even opening up doors for higher leadership. Employed at DMC for nine years, Jose Pena began his career as the youngest member of the staff, who also happened to be just starting out as a new driver. His passion for advocacy grew as he took on multiple roles, including Systems Change Advocate, where he learned about the injustices and inequalities faced by people with disabilities. He then transitioned to the role of Assistive Technology Coordinator before becoming a member of the Leadership Team as Director of IL Services. Eventually, Jose transitioned from an employee to a volunteer, now serving as the Treasurer on DMC’s Board of Directors.

“Volunteering for DMC’s Board of Directors is a privilege and an honor. It means that I’m able to support, shape, and provide input on the work and initiatives that DMC is doing for the disabled and senior communities in Orange County,” shares Jose Pena, DMC’s Board of Directors Treasurer. Living in Santa Ana/Orange County most of my life has allowed me to experience areas where access can be improved. Being a Board member now, I can highlight these areas so that change happens. DMC stays true to our mission of access and equity by, and for, people with disabilities and older adults with a community motto of Nothing About Us Without Us. Volunteering for DMC will enable people to be part of this movement while highlighting areas that need to be addressed, working to create change. If you want to make a difference in your community, I highly recommend volunteering at DMC. We work hard to create change like our life depends on it, because it does.”
DMC’s Financial Administrator, Christine Nguyen also echoes the power of volunteering. “I started as a volunteer for DMC back in 2005. A few months after that, I became a part-time employee. I was inspired by DMC’s mission and impressed with the work it has provided to the community. One of the most valuable things that I learned from being a volunteer is how to advocate for others and myself to lead an independent life. Meaningful work offers vital help to people who are in need. At the same time, the benefits can be even greater for the volunteers. If it is the right match, volunteering can help one to connect with the community, learn new skills that can enrich their resume, and advance one’s career.”
For Danyelle Cerillo, DMC’s ILS Instructor for the Blind, volunteering meant finding deeper purpose, which later led to her own purpose working in Blind and Low-Vision Services, first for Los Angeles County and presently Orange County. “In May 2018, I was inspired to volunteer at DMC when I found out that they provide services to assist individuals with disabilities for living independently in the community. The most interesting part of my volunteer experience was I had a chance to meet with staff, answer phone calls for consumers and other individuals directing them to the proper staff members and programs. In volunteering, I shadowed an individual in real time, as they were working in a specific program, and had a chance to ask staff about their positions such as the purpose of the OIB (Older Individuals who are Blind) program. I soon became an employee at DMC 4 months after my volunteer experience. I encourage individuals to volunteer at the Dayle McIntosh Center because it will give them a chance to learn more about the independent living movement and how individuals with disabilities can live their own lives with specific options to increase independence,” she explains.

Pictured: DMC’s Youth Community Liaison and appointed California State Independent Living Council member, Alan Cruz speaking at IL ConferenceVolunteering can lead to unexpected leadership career milestones. For DMC’s Youth Community Liaison, Alan Cruz, who started as a consumer, transitioned to being a volunteer, and later became DMC’s very first Youth Advisor. More than just having a seat at the table from lived experiences, Cruz is able to pass along learned skills, mixed with his own determination, tenacity and strengths having overcome obstacles by putting in the real work. From learning English when Spanish was his first language; to working with a Braille writer, facing challenges head-on, he grew a leadership mindset from his own beliefs and support. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t first been introduced to volunteering at DMC through Department of Rehab (DOR – Now Disability Works California). Interacting with others gave me and still continues to give me an adrenaline rush of being able to help others thrive. I get a charge when I learn how resources can change lives. When people share how they are now able to connect to their families through a screen reader on a computer or able to communicate through a video chat in a job or learn new skills – it’s exciting!” exclaims Cruz, who now has created DMC history with his recent appointment by Governor Gavin Newsom as California State Independent Living Council, a position he wouldn’t have imagined now having from his early days as a volunteer, but believed was possible. “I have always told everyone in my life to never give up and never stop believing. Trust yourself and everything you do, even when it is hard.”

To get started on your own unique volunteer journey, join the DMC Volunteer Program HERE.  You can invite your friends, family, professional and school networks to also circulate the Volunteer Flyer.

My hope is the DMC Volunteer Program will grow – not just from word-of-mouth, but through the beneficial experience volunteers have by serving the community,” shares Stephanie Hernandez.  

Nelly Gomez adds, “Volunteering is powerful in that it makes us feel less alone and is an important reinforcement for all of us to remember how we can grow with our skills.”

If you’d like to donate to The Dayle McIntosh Center you can do so by clicking HERE.  Find out about the many ways you can support DMC HERE.  Help DMC circulate this services donor flyer to your networks. Interested in joining DMC’s Board?  Click HERE.

For more information on DMC’s programs and services go to or call directly at 714-621-3300.  For media story inquiries, please contact Publicist, Stacey Kumagai, Media Monster Communications, Inc. at 818.506.8675.                                                                    

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