Each year, the Autism Society celebrates the month of April as Autism Acceptance Month: an effort to spread awareness and acceptance of individuals and families affected by autism. 2022 marked the fourth consecutive year the Oxnard Police Department joined in this effort with educational community “pop-ups” and fundraisers. This year, the Oxnard Police Department and Oxnard Police Community Foundation teamed with Autism Society Ventura County and local Starbucks stores to raise over $10,675.00 for the cause.
Funds were raised through sales of Oxnard Police Department “Autism Acceptance” patches and T-shirts, which were produced in part through donations from title sponsors Stacy Miller Public Affairs, Silver Mortgage Group, and the Oxnard Peace Officers’ Association. The Channel Islands Farmers Market, The Collection Farmers Market, F. Morton Pitt Company (Ventura), and local business owner Ron Wertzenberger of Ron’s Signs also donated services to the cause.
Oxnard Starbucks stores served as host to four police department pop-ups and also collected in-store donations from customers throughout the month of April. Local District Manager Anthony Valdez noted, “When communities and leaders come together, we know that we can achieve greater things than when we are apart. Being involved is part of our mission and values at Starbucks. We are passionate about supporting the communities that we serve and the Autism Society is a great partner and well deserving organization.”
According to their website, the Autism Society Ventura County was founded in 1994 by local parents, educators and professionals to help support newly-diagnosed families and develop needed local resources. The mission of the Autism Society Ventura County is to improve the lives of all affected by Autism. They work to promote lifelong access and opportunity for all individuals within the autism spectrum and their families to be fully included members of the community. As a local non-profit, the organization relies on local partnerships. Autism Society Ventura County Vice President Ashley Pope explains, “Fundraisers and donations are our only source of income for our operations and the programs that we hold. We serve thousands of families in Ventura County each year, and it’s all funded through these efforts. It was amazing to work with Oxnard P.D. & Starbucks for the third year! The relationships we hold are so much more than the funds they raise for us, it’s about the community seeing a united front for our cause.”
The Oxnard Police Department strives to build strong community partnerships and assist Oxnard’s vulnerable populations. Police Chief Jason Benites recognizes the importance of autism awareness and education. According to Benites, “As more attention has been brought to autism, it has become increasingly apparent how far reaching this condition is. More and more people have mentioned that they have someone in their family that is on the autism spectrum. We have a number of officers and staff members who have personal experiences and have shared them, and they are highly motivated to raise the level of both understanding and acceptance to the forefront. I would like to thank and commend all of those persons and organizations that have come together with us in the effort to promote understanding and acceptance. I would also like to thank everyone who has made some form of contribution, which will help improve the lives of those impacted by autism.”