Meet the Cohens: Pursuing Matters of the Heart without Missing a Beat

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.” This idea of success, rooted in the betterment of another, is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

These words are emblematic of the lives of this month’s cover family: Elaine and George Cohen.


Cooperative Living Home Named in Recognition of Elaine Cohen

Some great news and a new chapter in the services we provide!  Earlier in November we held the joint ribbon cutting ceremony for the two cooperative living homes on 16th Avenue in San Mateo.  As you may recall, the homes were made possible by the Peninsula Healthcare District.  We will be operating the homes in partnership with PARCA, with the support of the Golden Gate Regional Center.

We also unveiled a special recognition for Elaine Cohen.   We named the one of the homes after Elaine.  We are appreciative of the many impactful contributions she has in our community.  Here is the message I shared about during the event about Elaine:

I have had the pleasure of working with Elaine Cohen for many years, beginning when she became the President of the Auxiliary to AbilityPath, and began her first term on the AbilityPath Board of Directors.  Elaine’s leadership as a Board Member and as our Board Chair, has enabled us to take on new opportunities and reach new levels of success.

Helping others and taking risks seems to be in Elaine’s DNA! She was a Founding Director of the Hillsborough Schools Foundation (HSF) one of the first nonprofit public-school foundations in the country – since 1980 HSF has allocated over $50 million!

Her professional career was spent teaching – inspiring hope, igniting imaginations and instilling a love of learning to her students at the College of Notre Dame, the University of San Francisco, the Millbrae School District, the Laguna Salada District, the Texas-San Antonio Unified School District, the Springfield School District, the Lower Merion School District, and the Philadelphia School District.

During her career at NDNU, she helped shape and nurture 15 master’s degree programs, four credentials in education, and eight professional certificates. Upon her retirement her many friends and colleagues created an endowed scholarship in her honor to recognize her outstanding contributions to the University.  Elaine has held leadership positions in numerous community groups, including Notre Dame de Namur University, Mission Hospice of San Mateo County, Mills-Peninsula Hospital Foundation, University of Pennsylvania, Hillsborough Schools Foundation, San Mateo County Medical Auxiliary, and San Francisco Symphony Upper Peninsula League, to name just a few!

Most recently, under her leadership as Board Chair of AbilityPath, we merged with Abilities United, increasing our staff from 220 to 300 and our budget from $17M to $22M, as well as extending our services into Santa Clara County. This growth has been made possible in large part because of her visionary leadership, collaboration, and drive.

Elaine, you’re simply amazing!  Thank you for all that you do for others.  Your tireless dedication is inspiring!

The second home was named after Sheryl Young.  As you know, she was the Chief Executive Officer of AbilityPath for over 25 years and during her tenure she inspired the agency’s dedication to “Turning Disabilities Into Possibilities”.

Please join me in thanking and congratulating Elaine for her dedication and commitment to our community and to the Auxiliary! (More pictures below).


Bryan Neider
Chief Executive Officer
Pronouns:  He/Him/His


Gatepath Auxiliary Honored

The Gatepath Auxiliary was honored in October 2018 at an annual appreciation event hosted by Gatepath to recognize the members for their incredible dedication to the mission since 1950. Remarkably, more than half of the Auxiliary members have been with the Auxiliary for 20+ years! The members who were able to attend the event were recognized for their commitment with an honorary pin noting their years of service. It was a very special treat to also welcome Michael Collopy Photography, world renowned photographer, who spoke about his portrait work of inspiring changemakers who are “Architects of Peace” such as Saint Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, and many more.

Celebrating the Value of Volunteering

By Erin Montgomery, Vice President of Human Resources, Gatepath


“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

– Nelson Mandela


With the holiday season upon us, the quote above from Nelson Mandela serves as a terrific reminder that volunteerism is the rewarding way to make a difference in the lives of others and give back to the community. At Gatepath, we deeply appreciate those who volunteer their time and talents to support our mission. In addition to helping those with special needs and developmental disabilities, our volunteers can improve their overall sense of well-being by helping those we serve. This mutually beneficial relationship between volunteers and program participants is extremely important for Gatepath, as it is for many non-profits.

Doing Good is Good for You

Many who donate their precious time understand the inherent value to their wellbeing and the health of their community by giving back and helping others. The theme of “doing good is good for you,” quantified in the 2013 United Health Group study, continues to be true. The study found that 76% of people who volunteered in the past 12 months said that volunteering made them feel healthier – with an amazing 94% stating that volunteering helped improve their mood. In addition, 78% of those surveyed said that volunteering reduced their stress levels. The study also confirmed that “people who volunteer feel a deeper connection to their communities and to other people.”

“Making them happy, makes me happy,” said Julianne Zuniga, a former volunteer at one of Gatepath’s adult programs who served once a week as a lunchtime dance party DJ. Participants in this program experience joy and happiness from listening and moving to the music. Julianne said she developed a great compassion for those with disabilities from her experience as a babysitter for a child with Down syndrome. “I was motivated to volunteer at Gatepath because I wanted to learn more about the organization and to work more closely with the people they serve.”


Doing Good is Good for the Community

Volunteer contributions have a direct impact on program quality at Gatepath. Every day, our volunteers make an incredible difference in the lives of people with disabilities and their families. Volunteers teach classes based on interest and skillset, serve as chaperones at outings and celebrations, help with administrative tasks, and create experiences that strengthen others.

Volunteers also have an impact on each other and on other community members. I’ve seen firsthand that we build community when we volunteer, and I’ve observed people connect through their volunteer work with peers (and groups of peers) who share experiences and similar values.

“When I first arrived at Gatepath I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a great learning experience and I enjoyed interacting with the participants,” said Jack Loftis, a 16-year-old student at Sacred Heart Preparatory, who volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at Gatepath.

We Appreciate You!

Volunteers are an essential part of Gatepath’s mission. Last year, our volunteers collectively gave 14,000 hours of their time. In recognition of those generous community members, we issue a certificate of appreciation and host a special activity to show our gratitude.

Many corporate volunteer groups have supported Gatepath over the years, including Genentech, Electronic Arts, and Netflix, to name a few. A special thanks to all our corporate volunteers and to our board members who volunteer their time in governance, as well as our Gatepath Auxiliary members who organize fundraising events and host parties for our program participants.

Ways to Volunteer

There are many different ways a person can volunteer at Gatepath, including:

  • Individual Volunteers: We have many individual volunteers who provide pro-bono services and donate their time in many ways, such as assisting in our administrative office, teaching various educational and recreational classes, and attending community outings and events. We work with each volunteer to schedule a time that’s most convenient for them.


  • Corporate Volunteers: Many businesses in our community help us out with various activities, like building a sandbox, painting a building, hosting a community outing, etc. Earlier this year, for example, Genentech sent about 100 volunteers to host a “Career Day” at our Learning and Employment Campus in Burlingame. We work closely with each organization to create a rewarding experience for their teams that support our vision of creating world where people of all abilities are accepted, respected and included.
  • Gatepath Auxiliary: One of the longest standing and largest group’s supporting our mission is the Gatepath Auxiliary. This group of women have volunteered for more than 67 years to help support Gatepath’s fundraising efforts. They’ve helped us purchase our transportation vans, hosted a summer picnic for the adults in our programs, hosted an annual holiday party, and much, much more. Their extraordinary partnership and dedication is greatly appreciated.

We Want You!

At Gatepath, we couldn’t do what we do without volunteers! We invite you to get involved. We’ll work with you to find the right volunteering opportunity for your interests and schedule. If you’re interested in making a difference and giving back, we’d love to talk to you. Check out our website to explore the opportunities and to sign up to volunteer.