Developmentally disabled advocate proud of her new job

  • Cindy White and her grandson Conrad, 3, shake a few presents under the tree in their Petaluma home on Christmas Eve.

Cindy White and her family in Petaluma will open presents this morning, then sit down to a holiday feast like many other folks in the North Bay and around the nation.

They also are celebrating a life-changing event that occurred about two months ago when Cindy, a 52-year-old grandmother with a learning disability, got a state job.

"It's a great gift," White said Wednesday, seated at the dining table in her home at the south end of Petaluma, watching her rambunctious 3-year-old grandson, Conrad, play with toys.

Icicle lights line the outside facade, and family photos crowd the walls inside.

Her mother, Martha Hagemeier, 88, watches television in the living room, where a brightly lit Christmas tree stands.

"I always wanted to get out of the system," said White, who wears glasses and long, straight dark brown hair.

By that she means the network of services that assist and employ developmentally disabled adults, and the Supplemental Security Income payments she has received from the government.

White's new job, as an office clerk at Sonoma Developmental Center, pays about $2,000 a month -- nearly three times her SSI allotment.

"My first real job," she said.

White starts work on Jan. 2 at Impressions, a clothing shop that serves residents at Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge, home to about 680 disabled people.

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