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About us  

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Photograph of a white lighthouse on gray rocks on a sunny day


BEACONS, Inc. is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit corporation founded in 2018 to provide vocational, recreational, and social activities as well as services to adults with developmental disabilities and their support teams to create pathways and outcomes to improve access to employment, the community and social connections. Effective August 19, 2019, Beacons, Inc. became a state funded vendor of the San Diego Regional Center (vendor # PY1700).


Beacons is the brainchild of parents who through their participation on a variety of special ed related organizations, task forces, boards and groups, recognized that more postsecondary options were needed in North County San Diego to serve individuals with developmental disabilities. Too many individuals with developmental disabilities did not have jobs or sufficient postsecondary educational options leaving many isolated and at home. Beacons opened its doors in November 2018 to provide meaningful options created by those who "live" the journey and recognize the need for better outcomes for their loved ones. (Back to top)


Photo of wooden staircase leading down to a beach with small ocean waves on sunny day

​Our mission is simple: To empower adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve their vision of success, with purpose and joy to the best of their ability. Through our on-site (and off-site) structured programs, workshops, services and activities based on these individuals' preferences and needs, Beacons, Inc. strives to equip individuals with developmental disabilities (as well as their families, and care teams) with knowledge, tools, and support to help them succeed! 


Beacons seeks to maximize opportunities and experiences for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to develop relationships, be part of community life, and increase control over his, her or their life. Our clients will be out and about in the community working, training, volunteering, interacting and exploring. 


Join us as we work around their needs and interests, instead of trying to make these individuals fit into options others select for them.  (Back to top)


Sunset on the ocean horizon with red sun setting against pale orange sky with gray clouds and two silouettes of palm trees on the right.

​We opened our doors in November 2018 to create a family guided, outcome oriented, and person-driven postsecondary option in North County San Diego. In less than a year, we launched a bi-monthly social club (Club Beacons), vocational training workshops (Pathfinder Program), a Leadership Council to provide a forum for input and guidance from those we serve. Beacons now also offers an additional vocational training option ExplorerSelf-Determination planning to help individuals devise their life plans, and Tailored Day


Our vision is to work with adults with disabilities so that they can better engage in their community, access local workforce, increase social opportunities, support healthy and safe life choices, explore and identify housing needs and options, and self-advocate so that they can meet their life goals.

Our founders and Board members are parents of individuals with developmental disabilities and use their personal experiences to shape Beacons' vision, programming and mission.  





President/Board Chair (Co-Founder)

A UCLA alumni, Lucile brings to Beacons her business experience as a co-founder of an educational company that produced and distributed educational tools throughout North America and Asia, and former interim superintendent of the San Dieguitio Union High School District. Products Lynch guided from concept to market earned top honors from KidsFirst! Coalition for Quality Media, CreativeChild Magazine, Dr. Toy, The ToyMan®, School Library Journal, Booklist and other nationally recognized entities. Lynch has appeared on NBC San Diego, the Balancing Act (airing on the Lifetime Channel), and has been featured in other media for her work (SD Voyager 2020). She also wrote for on special education issues until its change in ownership in 2016 to Axys. Lucile has over 15 years experience advocating for persons with developmental disabilities as an education advocate and as an active participant on local and regional committees and boards dedicated to supporting persons with disabilities and other barriers, including the CAC executive board for the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education, representing the Encinitas Union School District. She helped bring the "independent" division to the Miracle League and continues to think outside the box to find solutions. She has been awarded a congressional Order of Merit for her work in addition to two awards for "excellence in special education" by a regional 14-district special education consortium. Prior to the arrival of her twin boys, Lucile served as a prosecutor, chief of staff for a state Supreme Court Justice, and as a litigation attorney for the firm of Reed Smith. She also served as an account executive for an entertainment public relations and marketing firm, where she handled talent, film releases and sports-related nonprofits such as the World Games for the Deaf. Lucile's other contributions have included being the nonprofit's President (2019, 2022, 2023), Vice President (2020), and Treasurer (2018). She currently supports Beacons as the Board mentor of the Pathfinder and Tailored Day divisions, and also designs vocational curriculum, coordinates assistive technology, writes grants and contributes to general program development in addition to Board governance. She also started the self-determination division and presented as part of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities statewide "Festival of Learning" series on Self-Determination (August 2020).  (back to top)

Mary Backer Photo


VP & Treasurer (Co-Founder), Chair: Fundraising & Grants & Transportation

Mary Backer has a B.A. in American Studies from Notre Dame and a Masters in Library Sciences. Mary worked in publishing before leaving the 9-5 world to care for her three daughters. For the last several years, she has dedicated her energies to supporting her daughters' schools and athletic pursuits. She served as a Girl Scout leader for all three girls and on the GS Encinitas Service Unit Team for all three daughters. Mary's community contributions have also included serving on the Committee for the local Young Life Capernaum and Young Life fundraising committee for 4 years. Mary served on the Board for NCL, Inc. Surf Cities Chapter as VP of Standards and Hours. She also served on the Special Education Forum for the San Dieguito Union High School District and actively fundraises to find a cure for Rett Sydrome through the Rett Syndrome Research Trust. Mary's other contributions to Beacons, Inc. have included being the nonprofit's President (2020 - 2021), Vice President (2019), Treasurer (2022) and Corporate Secretary (2018), and Director of Human Resources. Mary has been featured in the San Diego Voyager and was recently recognized as a 2022 "Woman of Impact," in nonprofit leadership by the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. Mary also chaired the 2021 and 2022 annual fundraisers for Beacons. (back to top)

Janet Schenker, a smiling white woman with mountains i with gray shoulder length curly hair wearing an aqua and navy shirt with mountains in the background.


Vice President (Co-Founder)

Janet has a Master's in Public Administration from USC and a Master's in Non-Profit Management and Communal Service from Hebrew Union College. She has dedicated her life to being an advocate for others. From her younger years to her career choices, to her personal family story of having children with special needs, Janet has been a fighter for what is right and an organizer who makes things happen. Her first career was a community organizer, an advocate for civil rights, religious liberty, public education and women's rights, and an experienced project director for various organizations. Her second career has been as a property manager and owner of a residential senior property. Janet has been an unwavering advocate for her younger son with special needs as well as for her older son. In Orange County, she was active as the chair for the Community Advisory Committee for the regional special education consortium for Saddleback Valley Unified School District, and a member of the Brit Tikvah support group for families with special needs in her synagogue. She is a founding member of the Special Education Parent Forum with the San Dieguito Union High School District. Janet's past contributions to Beacons, Inc. have included serving as President (2018), Treasurer (2019) and as a Board member at-large. She currently leads the development of the nonprofit's self-determination program, which helps individuals develop person-directed plans in the areas of employment, education, community integration, and advocacy. She also serves as a presenter for parent training workshops and a facilitator for person-centered planning.  (back to top)


Corporate Secretary

Melanie Landers is an alumni of California State University Fullerton with over 20 years of Marketing and Public Relations experience. She held an executive level position at a San Diego based ad agency and managed the advertising for the Zoological Society of San Diego. An entrepreneur, Melanie started her own Marketing company in 2004, Landers Hospitality Marketing, successfully serving clients within the California tourism industry. After her youngest child received an Autism diagnosis in 2005 she became a strong advocate within the special needs community of San Diego, and is a former member of the Rady’s Children’s Hospital North Coast Auxiliary Unit which supports many programs including the Autism Discovery Institute.

Melanie co-founded a special education parent council in the Encinitas Union School District as well as a special education chapter of the Encinitas Education Foundation to provide support networks for families, inclusive student activities/events, and a forum for parents and school staff to share ideas for improving educational opportunities for students. In 2014 she received an “excellence in special education award” from the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education for her work on the Community Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Board of Directors at Beacons, Melanie served on the Club Beacons committee assisting with the development and implementation of that program. She currently leads the Committee on Serving High Needs Individuals, which is exploring options for individuals who may need 1:1 support to access community and Beacons activities. 



Board Member-at-Large

Melissa has her Master's in Film from SDSU, and her B.A from UCSD in Communication. Melissa has served as associate faculty at Mira Costa College for over two decades, teaching regular and honors film courses, and providing leadership and professional development to educational teams. She also taught film production at SDSU. In 2021, Melissa was honored by the MiraCosta Social Justice and Equity Center for her work on disability awareness and inclusion. Melissa has also been recognized for her documentary "Aging Out," which she produced and directed to raise awareness about the challenges facing those with disabilities such as her son as they age out of their school districts into adult life. Melissa has been a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities supporting a variety of efforts by organizations that empower those with disabilities.


She has been featured in articles in the San Diego Tribune and The Mighty, and commended by the Association for Science in Autism Treatment for her work.  Melissa contributes to Beacons as a member-at-large board member and served as the co-chair of Beacons' 2022 funderaiser.

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Board Member-at-Large

Charlie Duncan is the President, Chief Investment Officer and founding principal of Duncan Investment Advisors, Inc., dba Duncan Financial. Charlie holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration Degree from the University of San Diego. He is a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP), an Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF®) and holds the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation. Under Charlie’s direction, Duncan Financial has assisted over one thousand individuals and families with their financial and investment needs. Duncan Financial’s history of providing Independent Investment Advice has opened the retirement door to many clients who otherwise may not have been able to provide themselves a comfortable income throughout their retirement years. 


Charlie serves on the USD sports banquet committee, helping raise tens of thousands of dollars each year to benefit scholarship programs for underprivileged scholar athletes. He also supports nonprofits such as Beacons dedicated to helping individuals with Autism such as his son. 

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Photo of Beacons corporate secretary Laura Makings


Board Member-at-large
Laura Makings is a licensed Cosmetologist and mom to two young men. Laura brings to Beacons, Inc. her extensive experience working with persons with disabilities and real world business experience to help guide workforce discussions and programming input to Beacons, Inc. Laura worked for many years in local salons, negotiating rental space, managing client schedules, and balancing customer needs and will contribute valuable business insights to help budding entrepreneurs and entry-level job applicants prepare for successful job exploration into the community. After becoming a mom, she dedicated her efforts to supporting the local public school districts as a classroom aide, art instructor (Arts Attack), den leader for Cub Scouts, and committee member for the Boys Scouts. She was also active on the PTSA at Diegueno Middle School and the Foundation at La Costa Canyon High School. Laura now advocates on behalf of adult students with disabilities at the community college level and hopes to help Beacons, Inc. illuminate a fresh path.


Laura led the efforts at Beacons to develop social recreational activities to reduce isolation and improve social facilitation. Under her leadership and with her creativity and the help of our wonderful volunteers, Club Beacons events are typically full with waitlists only. During the pandemic-related shutdowns, Laura volunteered to bring together teams to provide up to four free monthly online activities to reduce isolation of those homebound. Her prior contributions to Beacons have also included serving as Beacons, Inc.'s Corporate Secretary (2019, 2021 and 2022) and as a Board member-at large (2018).  (back to top)



Board Member-at-Large

Jennifer has her Masters in nursing administration, a teaching credential in health services and has also been certified as a trainer/handler for Tender Loving Care Assistance Dogs (Autism/PTSD) (2010-2012), along with a CA teaching credential in health sciences. Jennifer brings to Beacons both her varied perspectives and community connections from her service as a parent representative and credentialed nurse for the San Diego County Hope Infant Program, a parent rep and staff rep (DMUSD) to NCCSE, a credentialed and registered nurse for the Del Mar Unified School District where she managed health plans and advised admin regarding legislative changes, training and other district-related topics, and most recently retired as a care coordinator for Aveanna Healthcare Services to support clients with developmental disabilities with complex medical needs in the home setting.


She has been honored by the Stand Down Program for unhoused community members, and the Miracle League for her volunteer work. She is also the proud mom of a daughter who has participated in Beacons' options. 

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Board Member-at-Large/Co-Chair Grants & Transportation

Ana is a professional photographer, whose experience began with magazines such as the National Geographic. Her work has appeared in Traveler Magazine, and numerous national magazines and newspapers. She also worked as a staff photographer at the Orange County Register, where she was responsible for illustrating stories for OC Home and Family Magazines.


Before relocating to San Diego County, Ana advocated for full-inclusion in her son’s home district of Los Alamitos. She helped organize local O.C. police departments to meet with parents of children with autism to help prepare police to recognize and understand behaviors during encounters. While there is much more to her story, she is an organizer at heart, having in the past created a mom’s support group and family social experiences, as well as running a Boy Scout den.


Ana joined the board to help Beacons with continued development of its vision in recognition of its value as a resource created by parents who are at the front line of caring for adults with special needs.

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