COSTA MESA, California, December 5, 2017 – Debra Marsteller, CEO and President of Project Independence, an Orange County nonprofit that has been working with adults with developmental disabilities since 1977, is marking her 35th year with the 40-year-old organization.

In 1982, Marsteller joined the former Vantage Foundation when it was housed at Rae community center in Costa Mesa. At that time, she was hired by Dr. Paul Coyne as a behavior specialist, designing curriculum for a new program that was serving people as they moved out of Fairview Developmental Center.

She was later promoted to program director as Vantage expanded its services, and then executive director in 1985.  In 2005 she took on the role of executive director at PI, in addition to also serving as executive director of Vantage, until the two organizations successfully merged in 2007, retaining the Project Independence name.

Earlier this year, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the California-Nevada-Hawaii Kiwanis Foundation and Kiwanis Club of Orange County. The award was bestowed in recognition of the partnership and support Debra and Project Independence have provided to Kiwanis’ Aktion Club, the only service club for adults with disabilities.

She was born and raised in Costa Mesa, and is a resident of the city today. She graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a teaching credential in Special Education and earned a Master’s degree in Education from San Diego State University. She is a member of the Board of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce and the Nonprofit Insurance Alliance Group (NIAC), whose mission is to serve and make other nonprofits stronger as an insurance company offering risk management and dividends.

“We are delighted to celebrate Debbie’s 35 years of service with our organization and her longtime devotion to our mission to promote civil rights for people with developmental disabilities through services which expand independence and choice,” said Project Independence Board Chair Dan Pittman.

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