Direct Support Professional of the Month
September 2020 - Clarion County
LW Wangler of United Community Independence Programs has been selected as September's Direct Support Professional of the month.
LW Wangler has worked at United Community Independence Programs (U.C.I.P.) for four years and four months. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP of the month.
LW Wangler was recognized as upholding the U.C.I.P. mission and values UCIP is committed to establishing communities so that all people can experience their desired quality of life, where choices, relationships, and values are respected and where they have ongoing opportunities for personal growth. LW shows up to work day in and out with the sole purpose of making the lives of the people that he works with better. He builds positive relationships between not only himself and the people he supports but also assists with building those relationships with coworkers. LW comes to work and anyone that is around him seems to be more positive about the situations that are encountered whether it be fellow DSP’s or the individuals we at UCIP serve.
Simply by showing up, being positive, and only concerning himself with what is best for the person he works with proves that LW goes above and beyond his job description daily. He truly embodies what everyone at UCIP strives to be day in and day out for the people we serve.
Supervisors recognized LW Wangler for this honor considering the following. LW is a calm and understanding DSP. He never says no when he is needed to cover a shift in his house. He takes the person he supports on explorations and never worries about doing his job in the face of challenges. He is a calm, trusted and adventurous staff. In addition, LW is always trying to think of new things he can do to bring new experiences into the life of the person he supports. He is an asset to this person and the agency.
When asked, what is the best part of your job? LW replied "Going out into the community with my individual, also just hanging out with him!”
Thank you, LW Wangler, for your exceptional service.
August 2020 - Venango County
Mark Chittester of Easter Seals of Western and Central PA has been selected as August’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Mark Chittester has worked at Easter Seals of Western and Central PA for five years, three months, and twenty-one days. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of August.
Mark truly makes it a point to ensure the people he works with have the opportunity to live, learn, work, and play in their community. When asked to pinpoint one instance that he had gone above and beyond, supervisors told of how Mark has volunteered on numerous occasions to take on projects outside of the typical Residential Program Worker job duties. When they purchased a new home, Mark offered to mow the grass. He also assisted with preparing the home for the move, as well as played a key part in the move being successful. Recently, he also did a fantastic job with helping to train a new staff member in the home. This particular new staff had never been a caregiver before and Mark volunteered to come in on his day off to check in and make sure that both staff and individuals being supported were comfortable with the new staff member and ensure he was available if the new staff member had house specific questions.
Supervisors recognized Mark Chittester for this honor saying “he is a very caring and compassionate caregiver. He takes pride in his work and goes above and beyond when working with the people he supports. Mark is very aware of the likes, dislikes, and needs of the people he works with and does a great job keeping those in mind while working with them. Mark also is the first to volunteer to assist the agency when there is an identified need – mowing the grass, fixing wheelchair lifts, assisting other houses, etc.”
Thank you, Mark Chittester, for your exceptional service.
July 2020 - Crawford County
Susan Henry of Touch-Stone Solutions, Inc. has been selected as July's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Susan Henry has worked at Touch-Stone Solutions, Inc. for 7 years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of July.
Susan demonstrates a commitment to the mission and vision at Touch-Stone Solutions, Inc. by giving 100% to assist people in achieving productive and rewarding lives. She exemplifies characteristics that uphold TSSI values by her consistent dedication to the families and individuals she works with. In all of her performance she shows integrity, accountability, and upholds a professionalism that everyone at Touch-Stone values. Susan always puts the needs of her those she supports first and truly understands each individual’s unique characteristics in order to assist them in achieving fulfilling and meaningful lives. She does not look at her work as a DSP as just a “job”. She is fully committed, willing, and motivated to give her best each and every day.
When asked to pinpoint one instance that Susan had gone above and beyond, supervisors told of how she rearranged her entire schedule in order to provide consistency for someone she supports and to minimize the stress on that individual during a time when their family had faced an unforeseen emergency. For weeks, Susan worked long hours, excessive overtime, and continued this support for the duration of the family member’s hospitalization without one complaint. Susan often rearranges her schedule to meet the family and individual’s needs on a week-to-week basis.
Supervisors recognized Susan Henry for this honor saying “Susan stood out to all of our team as one of the best DSP’s within the agency. In addition to her accountability and flexibility, Susan has worked with almost every individual in our agency, who all have different needs and she has done so seamlessly and effectively. Susan always puts the people she supports first and maintains a positive and committed attitude no matter what situation she may face. Susan always goes above and beyond, giving 100% in everything she does at Touch-Stone and it is for these reasons that we have selected her to be recognized for this award.”
When asked, what is the best part of your job? Susan replied "Helping the people she supports live a more “normal” life.”
Thank you, Susan Henry, for your exceptional service.
May 29, 2020 - Shout Out to Crawford County
Milestone HCQU West is giving this week’s Shout Out to Crawford County. Moving from the yellow to green phase happened today, May 29, 2020. Staff remain prepared to practice social distancing as they assist self-advocates in moving forward.
Tammy Leone from Touch-Stone Solutions Inc. tells us that all of their staff is “working super hard, not complaining, and not calling off.” They are doing a great job keeping everyone healthy and safe. Everyone, and that includes Touch-Stone’s staff, is healthy. In the yellow phase, not much changed. As of May 17th, families were allowed to visit following the social distancing procedures. To day they will move into the green phase and plan on opening the programs to run four days weekly from 9 a.m.– 3 p.m.
Good Luck moving to Green Touch-Stone! We applaud the DSP’s that remained vigilant moving through each of the phases! Your hard work is commended.
Valerie King from ARC of Crawford began by saying “the residential staff have been fabulous! The people in our homes have been creatively engaged.”
The Lifesharing Families have done a great job helping their folks understand the need to remain in their homes. Not an easy task as most Lifesharing self-advocates are used to being on the go.
ARC’s day services were scaled back to the most basic services. They were working with independent individuals and “chomping at the bit to get back to work with everyone.”
Valerie is proud to report that all of the ARC staff have kept positivity going. She also asked to give a special Shout out to the ARC Scheduling Department. Gladys Hurbert and Amanda Peterson have gone above and beyond their normal job duties by creating new schedules and finding activities to help staff.
Valerie also wanted to give a special Shout Out to Haley Price, RN for “always being available for everything with meds and answering questions.”
Great teamwork Arc of Crawford, your example shows that it truly takes a village to produce solid results!
Kathy Lee, from Supports Inc stated “we are so proud of our staff. They are showing up for work and doing a great job keeping individuals busy and safe, while following all of the social distancing practices.”
Kathy said some staff are really going above and beyond, giving an example of one young man with Autism being very anxious about the staff wearing masks. The house manager has been working tirelessly to find masks that will ease his stress.
Supports Inc. staff demonstrate an overall positive attitude. They will be moving slowly into green phase, but will not be changing many things!
Keep up the great work and positive attitude Supports Inc.!
Kathy woods from Child to Family Connections is happy to be bringing staff who have been laid off for six weeks. For self-advocates that want to return, Supports Inc. is focusing on outdoor activities.
Enjoy the great outdoors as you welcome your participants back!
May 22, 2020 - Shout Out to Clarion County
This week Milestone HCQU West is giving a Shout Out to Clarion County. Moving into the yellow phase has allowed some businesses to reopen; DSP’s in Clarion continue to show their commitment to those they support.
Brett Weaver Area Manager at UCIP tells us he is very proud of their DSP’s. They are holding weekly virtual art classes and group sessions. About half of their staff had to learn to use technology and have done a great job! All front-line staff have stepped up incredibly; there have been no call offs and they are on top of keeping those they support safe. To quote Brett, “DSP’s have the most difficult job and it has been eye opening to see how well everyone has come to work together”. Everyone is healthy, but most impressive are the staff who have volunteered, if needed, to work with specific individuals if they would become ill. How lucky those self-advocates are to have such dedicated staff. UCIP staff you are most impressive indeed!
May 15, 2020 - Shout Out to Armstrong County
Armstrong County is this week’s recipient of the Milestone HCQU West Shout Out! Flexibility and commitment are making a difference.
Cathy Malec from Evergreen Homes proudly reports: staff have been “AWESOME!” They have flowed right along with all of the guidelines and changes that have been asked of them. We have not had call offs, which is great! They do a great job with social distancing. We are happy to report that all of our people are healthy!
The HCQU Shouts Out a big thank you for your flexibility and commitment!
May 8, 2020 - Shout Out to Venango County
Social isolation is in place but not stopping creative activities and connecting with others. Venango County is receiving the Milestone HCQU West Shout Out this week. We have heard from three providers and think you will like what you read!
Sam Judy, Residential Area Manager at UCIP sent us this:
At the start of this Pandemic we started brainstorming on some activities for the individuals to do while being quarantined. As a result, people got their heads together and really came up with some great ideas. Here in Venango, UCIP purchased 5 activities that I have been distributing over the weeks. The first week each house received a tabletop green house and either a vegetable or flower to grow. They have planted and have been taking turns watering and watching them grow. The houses are planning on mixing and matching with the other homes so everyone has a little of each variety. Week two there were two activities. I had one house staff come up with the idea to have a Easter themed gingerbread house making contest. Each home participated and the individuals had a great time creating them. The second activity this week was game night. Each house received a game of some sort that could also be easily sanitized and traded with other homes. The third week each home received an Easter themed cupcake making kit. Each individual got the opportunity to decorate several cupcakes to their liking and eat the tasty treats they created. The 4th week was movie night. Each home received a movie to watch and some puff corn. Houses were encouraged to then share the movies among themselves to provide multiple nights of entertainment. We are now coming into week 5 which has not been handed out yet however I am sure they will have a blast completing. Each individual will receive a window ornament to decorate and hang in their windows. Also, the HCQU has been so kind to create a packet every week full of activities. We have been handing these out along with a weekly coloring page that UCIP has picked out and everyone has had fun week to week completing these. Our behavioral support department has come up with weekly skype projects/events that Dr. June Rice helped facilitate with her staff. Also, she has helped organize a weekly craft project with the Art Teacher we use in springboard via zoom. I will say the individuals have embraced this temporary way of doing things and it has been awesome to see all the new creativity during this time. We will continue to find new ways to make sure the individuals receive the best quality service even in times of uncertainty. Also, we are excited to provide and teach new ways for people to still communicate with their family and friends.
Sam also provided some pictures of the actives in which the UCIP staff have been engaging the individuals!
Gingerbread House Activity
Wow, UCIP, as the weeks have progressed so has the creativity and enthusiasm grown! Your efforts and passion are making a difference! Bravo!!
May 1, 2020 - Shout Out to Indiana County
Milestone HCQU West is giving a Shout Out to Indiana County this week. The essential employees have continued to persevere through the COVID-19 mandates. We received the information below from two Indiana providers:
J Ann Hawk, Executive Director of ICW Vocational Services Inc. shared this: On March 16, 2020, The Office of Developmental Programs and the Office of the Governor issued a mandatory closure of our facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the physical closure of our facility, the management staff and I have been working very hard to follow all Pennsylvania directives, meet the health and safety needs of individuals, and continue all essential functions of ICW to provide the stability necessary to maintain our program until we are able to physically return to our building.
Over the past several weeks, ICW has transformed services from facility based to a more mobile based program. At this point, we have retained all staff to deliver activities packets for remote programming, provide on-call and remote support service, assist individuals with essential activities to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, getting necessary supplies, and delivering supplies to individuals to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of their residence. Also, ICW has been operating with a few staff at the physical location to continue contract obligations for our life sustaining business partners.
Thanks ICW staff for your flexibility in meeting the needs of those you support! Great work!
Heather Gelles, Executive Director of I&A Residential Services Inc., told us that staff are continuing to do what they always do. Heather said “they are doing a fabulous job! I & A has not experienced any call offs and the staff are consistent with their CAN Do attitude.”
The HCQU recognizes staff’s dedication to the I&A individuals!
Three cheers (or should I say Shout Outs) for Indiana County! Hip Hip Hooray, Hip Hip Hooray, Hip Hip Hooray!!!!!!
April 24, 2020 - Shout Out to Lawrence County
Creativity is escalating. Milestone HCQU West is giving this week’s Shout Out to Lawrence County where positive actions are taking place. Staff are keeping their spirits up as they continue to support those that they work with.
Dr. Susan Lutenbacher, Deb Leddon and Wendy McCutchins from LARK collaborated to provide information not only on activities, but also on community needs as well. Several self-advocates have essential jobs in the community as you will read about in the Shout Out these great ladies put together.
The virus has put a new prospective on our daily routine. We have changed many of our daily living tasks just to get through the day. However, there are some things that have stayed exactly the same at Lark Enterprises, Inc. – our dedication to the individuals we support.
The Direct Support Professionals have worked tirelessly to care for our individuals both remotely and physically. Their hard work has made a difference to those individuals that we support that continue to work in essential jobs and those individuals confined to their homes. Their dedication and commitment have been truly impressive!
In addition to telephone calls, Face Time, and Facebook, the individuals we support have enjoyed Car Parades. The staff have participated in three separate Car Parades, waving and honking at the homes of people we support. Because the individuals knew the group would be driving by their house, many were out on their porches or standing in driveways waving just as fiercely as the staff.
In Supported Employment, our team has continued to support individuals who work in local areas that are considered essential. Our staff has worked hard to ensure these individuals understand the importance of working safely in their positions. Their devotion to the people we support is truly inspiring.
The Supported Employment team also worked hard to ensure our small group employment recycling program was able to continue during this trying time. Bev, Missy, Kim, Susan and Andrea Corvi assisted individuals who work in this program to continue to engage in their jobs. This was necessary as we decided that only one individual should be in a car with one staff to be able to safely distance in the car. Recycling is generally done with one job coach and three individuals. The willingness of our SE team to help out this endeavor allowed us to ensure the essential job of recycling removal continued in New Castle.
The staff has also put together a video with encouraging messages to the individuals we support.
Dr. Susan Lautenbacher, CEO adds:
"It is at a time like this that you come to truly know the cut of the people you call your colleagues. We have been privileged to see a remarkable level of dedication from our staff for all of the people we support and the ongoing mission of our organization. I am proud to call our staff my colleagues and my friends."
Wonderful! When faced with adversity, some people really rise to the occasion. The HCQU applauds LARK Enterprises.
Lawrence County CARES is busy working with basic needs of their consumers. They are thinking ahead as they will have building updates completed when the program is permitted to reopen. That is very exciting! The consumers will be so excited when they return and see the changes!
Maggie K. shared with us what is going on at LCCC:
As you know, LCCC may be closed to our members, but our support continues. Our Representative Payee program continues to provide services during this unprecedented time to the 96 representative payee clients who receive SSI, by paying their bills and rent, and making sure they have adequate resources for food and personal supplies, even ordering food online for curb side pickup. Once the stimulus checks are deposited, Tina, the Program Coordinator, will make sure that their basic needs are being met, and maintain a savings balance for their future needs.
Our Next Step Program, whose Program Coordinator is Sarah, continues to make healthy lunches Monday through Friday. Members call in to let us know if they need a lunch delivered or they will pick-up here at the Center. Our Staff, Sue and Teresa, prepare and pack up the meals in to-go containers. Teresa delivers them to the members who do not drive. In addition, she will pick up boxes of food from the Epworth Methodist Church Food bank on the third Friday of each month for those who call in for lunch.
The Consumer/Family Satisfaction Team (C/FST), the Program Coordinator, Sarah, Angela and Cynthia, are performing phone surveys to people receiving mental health services to provide a confidential way to report concerns regarding their behavioral health providers and to check on their mental health.
The Executive Director, Holly, is making numerous upgrades to our Center to ensure an inviting environment for our members when we open again.
Of course, we are following the federal government requirements of social distancing, disinfecting, taking our temperatures, and wearing gloves and masks. We are all in this together! Hope to see you soon.
In times of crisis, people can be truly amazing. The HCQU recognizes Lawrence County CARES reassurance to the people they support.
Lawrence County you are an inspiration!
April 17, 2020 - Shout Out to Butler County
Milestone HCQU West is giving this week’s Shout Out to Butler County. We know that parts of Butler are seeing snow and cold, cold, temperatures for this time of year. Thank you for working the front lines and keeping the self-advocates motivated and busy.
Here are some of the great things going on in Butler County:
Lynn Pukylo, Program Director at Lifesteps Transitions program in Zelienople tells us that they are attempting to maintain structure and routine as much as possible through virtual connection with the people they support. They discuss the news and weather. They also focus talks on health and safety. To get folks up and moving Lynn says they offer a virtual dance fitness class. On the business side of their connection they also work with employment issues. Wow! So nice to hear! Your work is appreciated!
Lifesteps in Butler is keeping the people they support and their staff involved. Program staff have been deployed to help in the community homes. Thank you for the extra help! Telephone check-ins are made to talk with individuals, families, and guardians. The staff have also completed a very thorough cleaning of the program area. Virtually, staff have been attending some ODP webinars, keeping ISP meetings up to date, and holding phone conferences. Bonnie Broad, Program Director, is thinking ahead and planning to review health and safety information when everyone is permitted to return. Lifesteps Childcare is open for first responder families. Great! That is a considerate way to support others who work the front lines. So glad we can let others know the good things you’re doing.
Cathy, a program specialist at CARES in Mars, says although the program is closed physically, virtual and electronic connections are keeping participants and staff in touch. Weekly Zoom meetings give people an opportunity to talk with their CARES friends and program specialists. Craft ideas and activity suggestions are sent electronically to keep people from becoming bored. Every contact says you care!
There are many others in Butler County working with individuals in community homes. We include all of you in the HCQU Shout Out and thank you for reporting to the front lines to keep individuals safe and well cared for, as we continue in this uncharted territory.
April 16, 2020 - A Special Shout Out from LARK Enterprises, Inc.
Milestone HCQU West is touched by Debbie Leddon’s contribution to our shout out spotlight in recognition of Kim Miller, a job coach at LARK Enterprises, Inc.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Lark staff have stepped up to support our individuals in a variety of unique ways. Leading this effort in originality is Kim Miller, who has comfortably left the facility floor and supported individuals in person and through technology. Kim has gone above and beyond during this moment of crisis.
Like the other Job Coaches in our Community Participation Supports program, Kim has been checking in with our individuals by telephone and computer. During this time, she listens, encourages, and is just there to help people through this trying time. All of the job coaches ensure that the individuals are safe, and that their needs are being met.
Additionally, Kim is working with an older woman who lives on her own and is very independent. This individual generally takes the bus to get her groceries, to go to the bank and to run personal errands. Having a change to all of her routines has been challenging. Kim realized that she was going to have to be creative to make a difference for this individual.
The phone contact wasn’t going to work, because she didn’t have a phone; her apartment manager was her contact. This was easy to solve; Lark provided a phone. Not so easy was getting her to use it. Kim provided instruction, but because the individual wasn’t used to having a device, she didn’t answer it when it rang. Kim made several trips to her home to check on her and re-instruct her on the use of a phone.
To make sure she wouldn’t have to use the bus, Kim transported her to the grocery store and bank. While at the bank, Kim assisted her in obtaining an ATM card, so she would not have to enter the building.
Supporting this individual continues to be a work in process; Kim has not given up, when the individual doesn’t answer the phone, she goes to her residence and practices with her. She continues to transport her to ensure her essential needs are met.
Kim Miller, Job Coach for Lark Enterprises, definitely deserves a “Shout Out” for providing service over and above to the people we support!
April 10, 2020 - Shout Out to Mercer County
Milestone HCQU West continues to hear tremendous things about the dedication of the staff working the front lines with the self-advocates throughout this difficult time. The HCQU is giving this week’s Shout Out to the staff who work in Mercer County.
Read on to see what is going on in Mercer County.
Josh Winder at ABDD, sent this statement, ABDD would like to acknowledge and thank the Direct Support Professionals for their hard work, dedication, and positivity during this difficult period. Although we are not finished, they have shown tremendous work ethic and determination already. This is as good a time as ever to shine light on their career and why it deserves so much recognition. The people we support are able to maintain their success due to the DSP's unwavering devotion.
Dave Bodien from MCAR says the DSPs are really working hard. He thanks them for their work and dedication. They are being as creative as possible. MCAR has takeout once each week to help the local restaurant businesses. And local businesses have offered to make dinners to help ease stress on staff. Mangers are working in the community homes to help as well.
Martina Finnigan at Verland tells us that the ATF staff are helping in the homes. One staff is making masks and Martina has pulled out her sewing machine to start making masks as well.
At DFS Stacey Cannon has seen the staff using virtual activities like tours of the zoo to help pass the time in a fun way. She says staff are great!
DSPs are continuing to go above and beyond according to Donna Nacastro of Whole Life Services Inc. They are encouraging social distancing as they take it one day at a time.
Mercer County DSPs, you are champions for those you support!
April 9, 2020 - Shout Out to Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh
Milestone HCQU West is giving a shout to the DSPs of the Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh! DSPs have gone above and beyond, working tirelessly to help their residents find new and creative ways to stay connected. All of the people supported at Emmaus now have access to Zoom, and DSPs have been planning daily activities to connect friends who live in different houses. Activities have included read-alouds, cooking classes, BINGO games, craft activities, dance parties, and more. One of the people at Emmaus had a birthday last weekend, and DSPs decorated her house, and held a Zoom party with all her friends! They’re also helping people connect to online religious services and planning for special dinners, as many people celebrate holidays this week. DSPs who work in Emmaus' in-home services program are delivering groceries and sanitation supplies to those who live alone or with family and are in need of support. They’re our heroes!
April 8, 2020 - Shout Out to Beaver County
Milestone HCQU West is giving a Shout Out to several agency front line staff in Beaver County. We know that staff in community homes, day programs, and community hab are working hard to support self-advocates. Staff are showing their creativity with activities that have self-advocates engaged while keeping social distancing in mind.
We gave McGuire Community Homes a Shout Out last week. This prompted great feedback which gave us the idea to recognize outstanding work from staff in each of the counties we have the privilege to serve.
This is what we hear:
Paulette Miller, Executive Director of BCRC, is proud to report Program and Employment staff are working creatively to keep the people they support connected through activities such as virtual tours of the zoo and Facebook Chats. Individuals who do not have electronic connectivity available are receiving mini one on one sessions with routine phone calls. Paulette knows her staff are amazing and really look forward to seeing the clients as soon as permitted. WOW what great work! Thank you for keeping the energy up!
Holly Callender, from ARC Human Services tells us that their DSPs have been planning creative, fun activities for their folks. They are also keeping the people they support connected with friends and family. Holly is proud to say ARC Human Service DSPs are going above and beyond keeping their folks safe, happy, and healthy. Great! We appreciate what you are doing!
To all of the agencies in Beaver County, thank you for your dedication! Remember, you are so important. We wish you good health and safety throughout this time!
April 3, 2020 - Shout Out to
McGuire Memorial Community Home Staff
Milestone HCQU West is giving a shout out to the staff who are keeping things going in McGuire’s community homes. We hear that those you support are out walking and even riding a modified tricycle. Self-advocates are engaged in activities that are fun and personalized. Social Distancing is maintained as is thorough cleaning of their homes. Thank you for making a positive difference during these out of routine times for the individuals that you support. Dan Stadnik, your Director tells us that you are exceeding expectations. Keep up the great work!
We are excited to feature one exceptional Direct Support Professional each month. Direct Support Professionals fill an essential, challenging role as the front lines of support. We want to take the time to showcase and appreciate some amazing DSPs in our nine counties.
March 2020 - Beaver County
Annette Yankello of BCRC, Inc. (Beaver County Rehabilitation Center) has been selected as March’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Annette Yankello has worked at BCRC Inc. for 5 years (over two periods of employment). The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of March.
Annette is in a dual position: one as a Direct Support Professional and the other as the Activities Coordinator for community based programs. In her role as a DSP, Annette exemplifies kindness, compassion, and dedication to the people she serves. She identifies quality opportunities to each and every one and considers it a privilege to have the chance to provide service. As our Activities Coordinator, Annette reaches out far and wide to establish a network of supports that are willing to provide people with educational, fun, and worthwhile activities that help each person grow in the areas that are identified in each person’s ISP.
When asked to pinpoint one instance that Annette has gone above and beyond, supervisors stressed that “on a daily basis, Annette strives to provide opportunities for our individuals to participate in enriching activities.” They also shared one occasion where Annette was able to orchestrate for some of their young ladies the chance to dance with performers who were dancing in the Nutcracker Ballet at the Benedum. The ladies who participated felt that a dream of theirs had been realized. On another occasion, she organized a trip for those who demonstrated an interest in history to meet with a survivor of Auschwitz. It brought out such a sense of compassion for others, for people who they would never know but definitely cared about after hearing of their difficulties.
Not only is Annette persuasive, but also she is insightful into other people’s needs. Recently, she was providing support to a young lady who was having a particularly difficult day. Annette was able to help her find a volunteer opportunity that permitted her to feel good about herself, give to the community, and even changed her outlook on how she saw herself.
Supervisors recognized Annette Yankello for this honor saying “Annette putts forth 100% in her effort to ensure that she provides genuine interaction and support to our individuals. She puts herself in their positions and treats them as she would want to be treated, ensuring compassionate interactions and quality service!”
When asked, what is the best part of your job? Annette replied "I particularly relish the challenge of helping the people we support develop and improve their skills and abilities. I find that helping people grow in their areas of interest and seeing their faces as they enjoy an event is incredibly fulfilling.”
Thank you, Annette Yankello, for your exceptional service.
February 2020 - Lawrence County
Lee Syrjanen of Lark Enterprises Inc. has been selected as February’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Lee Syrjanen has been at Lark Enterprises Inc. for 4 years and 10 months. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of February.
Lee is a Job Coach supervising four people with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities on a midnight turn janitorial crew under small group employment.
One supervisor reported this account where Lee had gone above and beyond. Crew members rotate on and off the crew as needed and a new member was put on who had a lot of interest in that type of work. After a few weeks on the crew, this member was having a lot of difficulties in many areas from retaining work instruction to poor bathroom habits, which accidents were occurring almost daily and were affecting the crew member’s ability to perform the assigned work for the shift. Team meetings took place and it was discussed that maybe this was not the best fit for this person. Lee spoke up on this person’s behalf and convinced others that with a little support, he wanted to continue working with this person. Lee worked on bathroom related things first by keeping an eye on what this person was drinking and eating in accordance with their doctor’s recommendations. Lee also assisted with prompts to use the restroom at various times during the shift and making sure he maintained a change of clothes with him daily. Lee then picked out certain tasks at each job site where this person could find the most success and did not vary from this routine. Within a short amount of time improvement was noted and this person still maintains a position on the crew.
Supervisors recognized Lee Syrjanen for this honor saying “The janitorial job coach position is a very fast paced environment with a lot of different responsibilities. It would have been real easy for Lee to go along with removing the person from his crew, but instead he took it upon himself to help bring some success to this man’s life.”
When asked, what is the best part of your job? Lee replied "Helping people with intellectual/developmental disabilities earn a living and hopefully get out on their own.”
Thank you, Lee Syrjanen, for your exceptional service.
January 2020 - Butler County
Lori Berzonski of Community Care Connections Inc. has been selected as January’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Lori Berzonski has been at Community Care Connects Inc. for 7 years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of January.
Lori is very kind and compassionate with all of the individuals she supports. She doesn’t stop there though, she gives that “loving push” and support necessary to help everyone do as much for themselves as they possibly can. That opportunity for independence is at the core of our mission here at CCC.
She is honest and direct but can get her point across in a humorous way. She gets to know all the people she works with on a personal basis and they seem to like it when she works. She doesn’t just work in her “own” house; she is willing to work and train at any house. Lori gets to know everyone personally when working with them. She can tell you something about almost every person in the agency. She will work in a variety of settings, getting to know what each person would like to do in the community.
Community Care Connections Inc. asked their Direct Support Professionals and Supervisors to nominate a co-worker who demonstrates excellence in support and compassion. Supervisors recognized Lori Berzonski for this honor saying, Lori’s co-workers apparently think as highly of her as we do. We are proud to have people like Lori working with the people we support and proud to nominate her for this award.
When asked, what is the best part of your job? Lori replied "Sharing and learning about each individual and staff. Group participation.”
Thank you, Lori Berzonski, for your exceptional service.
December 2019 - Armstrong County
Tevon Minich of Valley Advantages LLC has been selected as December’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Tevon Minich has been at Valley Advantages LLC for 1 1/2 years. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of December.
Tevon practices the values and mission at Valley Advantages as he sees each individual as their own person and respects their choices. As he assures the people he supports are safe, he also encourages them to advocate for themselves and strives to make sure they are a respected member of their community.
One supervisor reported this particular account where Tevon had gone above and beyond. Tevon had researched events and activities that he remembered enjoying as a youth. He planned a fun weekend for two young men he works with to be able to travel to George Washington’s estates and visit the beach. He managed hunting up prices, planning all the activities, and successfully pulled off a memorable event for those he supports. Everyone had a great time and it all started with Tevon taking an idea and laboring to bring it to fruition.
Supervisors recognized Tevon Minich for this honor saying “He is willing to support all individuals, engaging in activities of their choice and following service plans. He is dependable and has skills that he could use in other professions that would give him financial security but chooses to be a Direct Support Professional because he enjoys working with the people he supports. He makes our guys smile.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Tevon replied "Being able to make an everyday difference for the people I support.” Tevon shared how much he appreciates being able to work with people and make a positive difference to help others have a full, fulfilled life to the best of his and Valley Advantage's ability.
Thank you, Tevon Minich, for your exceptional service.
November 2019 - Indiana County
Christine Steffish of Fayette Resources has been selected as November’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Pictured left to right: Julie Dunmire, Program Specialist, Chris Steffish, DSP of the Month, and Amanda DuBrock, Administrative Assistant.
Chris Steffish has been at Fayette Resources for 2 ½ years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of November.
Chris has been a mentor for all of her fellow coworkers. Ensuring everyone follows a person first mindset by example, Chris evokes confidence from her supervisors. “We can be sure that we are upholding the highest of quality care to each person we support when she has been involved in their training process.” reported one supervisor.
When asked to pinpoint one instance that Chris has gone above and beyond, supervisors reported that they couldn’t limit it to one moment because everyday she comes to work, she puts her consumers first. Giving her all is more matter of fact. “It doesn't matter what is going on outside of work, when she is here, she is focused on going above and beyond for her guys and for administration.”
Supervisors recognized Chris Steffish for this honor saying “I chose her because she will do anything for anyone that is asked, if she physically can and really follows through with Fayette Resources Mission statement everyday she is at work.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Chris replied "The best part of my job is working with the people we support and fulfilling their needs."
Thank you, Christine Steffish, for your exceptional service.
October 2019 - Clarion County
Amy Divins of New Light Inc. has been selected as October’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Amy Divins started at New Light Inc. in September 2010. The following was shared with us about her excellent service for the past 9 years by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of October.
Amy Divins provides supports to a gentleman who is not only non-verbal but also has many behavioral and medical challenges. She gives him the opportunity to grow in a loving environment. Amy provides him unconditional supports that are loving, respectful, and dignified. She believes in the people she supports, in their potential and intellect. Her performance while doing her job shows how much she cares for people and shows the immense pride she has in her work.
A supervisor stressed Amy’s persistent dedication saying “Pinpointing a specific instance where Amy went above and beyond in her job requirements is not an easy task. Amy goes above and beyond every day.” Amy’s commitment is seen in how she knows those she supports better than anyone else – always going to appointments, taking them where they want to go, and treating them like family. Though one gentleman she supports is nonverbal, Amy is so in-tune with him. She can tell when he is not feeling well or needs attention. She makes every effort to ensure he is comfortable, loved, and respected every moment, not considering her own sacrifices.
Supervisors recognized Amy Divins for this honor saying “Amy has been a longtime valued employee and this was the perfect opportunity for her to finally receive proper recognition.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Amy replied "I really like taking care of people so I love everything about my job."
Thank you, Amy Divins, for your exceptional service.
September 2019 - Venango County
Alyssa Gill of Easterseals Western & Central Pennsylvania has been selected as September’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Alyssa Gill has been at Easterseals for 7 years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of September.
Alyssa is an easygoing, caring person. She takes the time to develop a strong rapport with both the people she supports and their families. She is patient and assists the person in maintaining their independence to the best of their ability, especially with their Adult Daily Living Skills.
On one occasion a person who is especially fond of Alyssa was hospitalized. There were concerns regarding this person completing a swallow evaluation. Alyssa came to the hospital during the evaluation to provide comfort and support to them, as well as aide in ensuring a successful test was completed.
Supervisors recognized Alyssa Gill for this honor saying “Alyssa is a strong team player who always puts her best effort forward in any tasks she completes. Alyssa has a great deal of patience when working with the people she supports and takes time to listen to their wants and needs. She always assures that people's needs are met and their safety is top priority.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Alyssa replied "I love helping the clients who are unable to do a lot for themselves." Her compassionate heart all year round makes us excited to recognize her this month.
Thank you, Alyssa Gill, for your exceptional service.
August 2019 - Mercer County
Anthony Nassar of The Alliance for Behavioral & Developmental Disabilities (ABDD) has been selected as August's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Anthony Nassar has been at the ABDD for 7 years, 4 months. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of August.
Anthony demonstrates an admirable dedication to the individuals he supports. He assists people with disabilities in living a rewarding and productive lifestyle while maintaining and developing independence. Anthony has effectively worked with individuals who exhibit challenging behaviors, building a long-lasting rapport with them and their families, while assisting in achieving greater independence and quality of life. He has an excellent therapeutic approach and has the ability to redirect and de-escalate situations. Most recently, one individual was recently diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. Anthony encourages him to exercise daily and will walk with him to encourage healthy diet and exercise. Anthony also encourages him to make good food and beverage choices and together this has brought down the clients A1C from 13.5 to 7.7 in two months. We applaud Anthony’s heart and dedication of service.
Supervisors recognized Anthony Nassar for this honor saying “Anthony is a reliable, professional, and consistent Direct Support Professional. The people he supports gravitate towards him, and his teammates and supervisors all appreciate him.” Anthony always puts the needs of those he supports ahead of his own. Supervisors also marked how he always says yes to whatever the people he supports want to do and considers his main job as keeping the individuals happy. Anthony has a great rapport with those he supports and is able to explain things in a way that particular individual understands. This relationship has had a lasting, positive impact that the client continues to think about his health choices even when Anthony is not working. Anthony continually encourages to make the right choice and is clearly a great support system.
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Anthony replied "I love having the opportunity to make a real difference in other people’s lives every single day!"
Thank you, Anthony Nassar, for your exceptional service.
July 2019 - Crawford County
Rebecca Smith of The Arc of Crawford County has been selected as July's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Rebecca has been at the Arc for 18 years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of July.
Rebecca Smith (Becky) is always kind and helpful to all and goes the extra mile to organize or help with activities that enhance the lives of the people served at The Arc. She uses her contacts in the community to help the activity work out well, such as a BINGO session at a local church hall or donations of food, prizes, and decorations for Holiday dinners. She has the knack of getting other staff and consumers involved as well.
Supervisors considered Rebecca’s exceptional dedication going above and beyond as they relayed to us her attention to details. For approximately 15 years, she has been decorating and preparing for The Arc’s Holiday Dinners. She always brings in beautiful table decorations from her home to add that special touch to the occasion. Becky and one of the people she supports are usually the two to start the front window decorations and the Christmas tree. As they begin, she is very inclusive in getting others to participate in the decorating fun. Becky was chosen for the same, memorable, reasons that made her the recipient for the most ACE (Arc Caring Employee) award last year.
When asked "what is the best part of your job?” Rebecca replied "Because I am happy to work with our clients who are versatile and very talented people in many ways."
Thank you, Rebecca Smith, for your exceptional service.
June 2019 - Beaver County
Donald Redmond of HAP Enterprises, Inc. has been selected as June's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Donald Redmond has been at the HAP Enterprises for 19 years. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of June.
Donald exemplifies all the qualities of a great DSP. He supports the individuals he works with while promoting their independence and providing excellent care. He is always willing to step up and take on additional responsibilities whenever needed. He often works extra hours to ensure those he supports have consistency. Don is a helpful, loyal staff member and the individuals are well served when he is working.
Supervisors recognized Donald Redmond for this honor saying “While we have several outstanding long-term staff at HAP, Don was selected because of his commitment to the individuals he serves and his willingness to contribute to the HAP team.
When asked "what is the best part of your job?” Don replied "There’s a good feeling inside. It’s a job that really matters and can make great friends."
Thank you, Donald Redmond, for your exceptional service.
May 2019 - Lawrence County
Kelli Stunkard of Lawrence County Assocition for Responsible Care (LCARC) has been selected as May's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Kelli Stunkard has been at LCARC for 22 years and 6 months. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of May.
Kelli demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the indivduals served by LCARC. She acts selflessly and effortlessly to provide the highest level of service. Acting as an advocate to promote individuals to exercise their rights, to ensure excellent health, safety, and welfare are an integral part of her everyday work ethic.
Kelli takes it upon herself to provide exceptional support to new staff, as she lives out an exemplary role model, placing the needs of individuals and the Agency in the forefront.
She so often goes above and beyond that it is actually more of a norm than an exception for Kelli. She willingly drops what she is doing on her time off to meet the needs of the individuals without being asked.
When we asked for nominations, "Kelli immediately came to mind" said Supervisors. Kelli epitomizes every quality an excellent DSP should have. She is reliable, honest, caring, selfless, professional, friendly, supportive of co-workers, well-informed, and dedicated.
Kelli shared that the best part of her job is "I like the people that I support and the teamwork it takes to do it. I enjoy the challenge."
Thank you, Kelli Stunkard, for your superb service.
April 2019 - Butler County
Gerald (Jerry) Bowlin of the Arc of Butler County has been selected as April's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Jerry Bowlin has been at the Arc of Butler County since March 2017. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of April.
Jerry Bowlin consistently and effortlessly puts the needs of the individual's first, focusing on maximizing their independence, ensuring that rights are upheld at all times, that they have choice and that they remain a valuable member of our community. He models for other staff what it means to provide quality and meaningful support to those in need, which in turn promotes consistency in care and dependability.
Jerry excels at going above and beyond, whether it is picking up additional hours when requested to ensure a safe and productive work environment to doing favors for other homes if they are unable, he promotes teamwork and a welcoming atmosphere to his co-workers.
He is a source of positivity and encouragement for the individuals he supports and he's made it his mission to ensure that those individuals are comfortable and happy in their home. Jerry is respected at all of the homes he has worked in which speaks volumes about his character and his dedication to this field.
Jerry exemplifies what it means to provide assistance to someone while upholding dignity and respect, providing choice, increasing independence and encouraging someone to live their best life through his attitude, actions, and behavior. The Arc is so very happy to have the opportunity to nominate this gentleman and commend him for the amazing work he has done!
When asked "what is the best part of your job?", Jerry replied "being with clients, having a good time with them everyday."