“The people are wonderful. I feel very blessed to come to a place where it feels like family. I can openly discuss things with people, and don’t have to keep it inside if I need to talk.”
In early 1985, Ernie Strassman joined a program in San Mateo at the Poplar Center. He began taking ILS skill classes and was there for a few months when funding ran out. He then heard about a program at the Mountain View Center for Independent Living and was invited to join in September 1986. The Executive Director at the time wanted to change the name of the organization, and picked Ernie and another consumer to help pick a new name for the organization. While watching TV one night, a Toyota commercial came on and said that it was a great opportunity to buy a new car, and after some discussion, the name Greater Opportunities was created!
In the early days of GO, the organization operated out of a home in Mt. View. Seven people lived in the home together and more folks came every day to take classes. In 1988, GO bought a 6-plex in Sunnyvale and Ernie was the first consumer to move in. He lived at the Cortez Apartments for about 6 months, graduated from the program and then moved into his own apartment in 1989.
Ernie continues to be heavily involved with GO. He visits the Day Program every day, has volunteered many hours of his time through GO at the Library and thrift store, as well as assisting with group activities. He has worked in GO’s office answering phones, and he has also been a part of the crew that helps when consumers are moving. It’s obvious when speaking to Ernie that GO is a very special place for him. When asked about one of his favorite memories through GO, he told me about an extraordinary experience back in 1987. The Executive Director wanted everyone to take a trip together, so they started planning and saving for their trip in March. In December, 27 consumers and 7 or 8 staff members all took a week-long trip together to Honolulu, HI, and had a simply wonderful time.
When asked what his favorite part of GO is, Ernie replied, “The people are wonderful. I feel very blessed to come to a place where it feels like family. I can openly discuss things with people, and don’t have to keep it inside if I need to talk.” Ernie has been a fixture of GO since the very beginning, and really is a testament to what GO is all about. Through GO, Ernie has learned to live independently, he helps others, he has created and maintained meaningful relationships. We couldn’t imagine GO without Ernie Strassman, and we are so glad that he is a part of the GO family!