About This Project


Our Special Needs Program is very near and dear to our hearts. For over 8 years now, Grateful Hearts has encouraged the involvement of those with Special Needs to join our volunteer ranks.

We believe strongly in providing a safe and welcoming atmosphere where tasks are custom fitted to the ability and functioning capacity of each student involved. We have found that this gives them a sense of satisfaction, empowerment and purpose.

We have been in partnership with the Los Alamitos High School Special Needs Program for over 6 years, having many of our volunteers  go through their training program. Students initially come with their aides, and then generally at age 22, they transition out of their program, and several have learned to take instruction directly from our volunteer leaders, as well as to take the bus independently to GH.

Additionally, we  have students with special needs who come independently, and others in groups from a special needs school in Anaheim. Several of these students have gained mainstream employment, due largely to their training at Grateful Hearts.

Our program focuses on teaching and building life, social, and work skills. Some students work in our food pantry warehouse, sorting and packing food items, while others work in our retail thrift store, hanging and tagging clothes, tidying the store and greeting customers.

Others have learned to paint, sand, and wax furniture pieces for resale. Please click on the link below to meet Kiki Ruiz who is the assistant to Blair Pietrini (director of GH) and whose job is to take notes during meetings, file paperwork, sweep, participate in GH events, and basically do her best to help keep Blair from losing her phone and keys.