The Resource Center recently observed National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week by honoring several employees who have done an exemplary job in providing direct support to the people with disabilities who TRC serves.
The agency’s annual Everyday Heroes Celebration was an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of direct support professionals (DSPs) throughout the agency while spotlighting six employees for their efforts during the past year. Those employees were Brian Burch, Larissa Catanese, Holly Lange, Lisa Schmid-Miller, Christine Southwick, and Allison Urbanski.
Mark Morton, Assistant Executive Director for Employee Relations, welcomed people to the event. He noted that there are about 75,000 DSPs in New York State and some 875,000 nationwide, providing a range of supports to people with disabilities. He said that although there are so many DSPs in the United States, much of the general public is not familiar with the job title and the duties involved. Efforts are under way to improve people’s awareness of DSPs and the jobs they perform.
“My hope is that someday when someone asks you what you do and you say, `I’m a direct support professional,’ they will nod their head with understanding as if you said, `I’m a nurse’ or ‘I’m a teacher,’” Mark said. “What you do is as valuable and important as those professions”
He noted that when he began working for TRC in 1978, it was as a DSP. “I remember it being hard, especially at first. I remember coming across situations where I wasn’t sure what to do,” he said. “But most of my best experiences and fondest memories come from that time. I was asked to do things I never thought I could do, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world and I became a better person from it.”
Denise Jones, TRC’s Executive Director, praised the DSPs for the support they provide to people with disabilities.
“You are family for those without a family, a voice for those who cannot speak, ears for those who can’t hear, and hands for those that cannot reach. You provide family members with peace, comfort and assurance that their loved one is receiving the supports they need,” Denise said.
“You inspire individuals to reach for new goals, challenge them to become more independent and support them in a caring way each and every day. I am inspired, as I see you throughout the community participating in countless activities which contribute to the quality of life for individuals you support. On behalf of our board of directors, the individuals you support and their families, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making a difference.”
Assemblyman Andy Goodell dropped by the event to praise TRC’s DSPs.
“In my mind, the everyday heroes here at The Resource Center are the people that really make a difference in people’s lives every day. What could be more important than a person who comes on every work day, does their best and makes life better for someone else every day?” said Assemblyman Goodell, adding that one of his daughter’s had worked as a DSP in a TRC home. “For parents and families, thank you so much for being an everyday hero in someone else’s life.”
Congressman Tom Reed’s representative, Katrina Fuller, also attended the celebration, which she said was an opportunity to “shine the light on your dedication, commitment and compassion.” She said that as an area native, she is familiar with the important roles that DSPs play. “You are the unsung heroes who come in every day and work hard,” she told the DSPs. She and Goodell brought with them certificates for the DSPs being honored.
The Resource Center also presented awards to the six everyday heroes. The gifts were handed out by Mary Jo Hamilton, Director of Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services, and Terri Johnson, Director of Employment and Community-Based Services.
“I am honored to be standing here today in honor of our direct support professionals who make all things happen,” Mary Jo said. “The list of duties is endless, but it all amounts to ensuring that the people we support are living a meaningful life. You do this by getting to know the person, role modeling, listening deeply, taking time, being patient, and on and on.”
Terri said she researched the characteristics possessed by everyday heroes and found these four traits: awareness, authenticity, recognizing one’s power, and service. She said TRC’s everyday heroes exemplify those four characteristics in the course of their work days, and she acknowledged that their jobs are not easy “Every day comes with different challenges.”
Here are this year’s Everyday Heroes:
Brian Burch – Brian works as a Transportation Aide and as a DSP in several of The Resource Center’s homes. He has been with TRC since 2001.
Brian is described as being an employee who will help out whenever called upon. “All of us can depend on him to show up,” said the manager of the Transportation Department. “Even in the middle of his work day for us, he will fill in at a home or program.”
Brian was cited for the way he has gotten to know a resident who has communication challenges. Through patience and experience, Brian has gotten to know the resident so well that co-workers ask for Brian’s input when developing plans for the resident. Brian helps co-workers understand how the resident communicates. With permission from the home’s managers, Brian redecorated the resident’s room to personalize it for him.
Larissa Catanese – Larissa works in one of The Resource Center’s homes on Benedict Avenue in Jamestown. She has been with TRC since 2014.
Larissa is described as having a servant’s heart and always willing to lend a hand, no matter what the job is. She plays a key role in the day-to-day flow of getting the residents where they need to be.
“It is easy to tell as you watch her go about her day that she has a real love for those we serve and enjoys her work here,” said the co-worker who nominated her. “She has gone the extra mile so often that it is almost part of her normal work day.”
Click here to watch an interview with Larissa.
Holly Lange – Holly works in the Day Program on Jones & Gifford Avenue in Jamestown. She has worked for The Resource Center since 2007.
Holly is described as a confident person who always gets her work done, even during stressful or demanding situations. She establishes friendly relations with co-workers and the program participants she supports.
“Holly does not hesitate in helping out others,” wrote one person who nominated her as am Everyday Hero, “and with her upbeat personality and positive attitude, she makes each day fun for those around her.”
Another co-worker said of Holly, “All the participants really enjoy her, and the way she treats them is amazing.”
Click here to watch an interview with Holly.
Lisa Schmid-Miller – Lisa is a Community Coach in TRC’s Community-Based Services Program. She has worked for The Resource Center since 2014.
Lisa is described as kind, patient, creative, and dependable, as well as someone who is patient and doesn’t show frustration when stressful situations arise.
“Lisa takes time to thoroughly get to know the people she is supporting, discovering what their likes and dislikes are. She then incorporates their personalities into providing the ideal type of support,” wrote the person who nominated her as an Everyday Hero. “When you see Lisa in action in her role as a community coach, you know her heart is in it. Not only is she a great staff to the people she supports but she is a superb employee.”
Click here to watch an interview with Lisa.
Christine Southwick – Christine works in The Resource Center’s home on Forest Avenue in Jamestown. She has been with TRC since 2012.
Christine is described as being a team player and a strong advocate for the home’s residents. If she feels that an activity or routine is not working for one of the residents, she will speak up and discuss possible changes with co-workers and supervisors.
“Christine really stands out as an employee that truly gets to know each individual she cares for,” wrote the person who nominated as an Everyday Hero. “She takes the time to find out what works and doesn’t work for each individual. She can communicate effectively with everyone, no matter their communication preferences or abilities.”
Click here to watch an interview with Christine.
Allison Urbanski – Allison works in one of TRC’s homes on Hunt Road in Busti. She has worked for The Resource Center since 2009.
Allison is described as being a strong advocate for the people she supports, and she is the favorite staff member of many of the residents. She sets an example for her co-workers and is a good coach for new employees. “Allison isn’t afraid to challenge decisions made and forces those around her to look at the bigger picture,” said the co-worker who nominated her as an Everyday Hero.
Sixteen other employees nominated for Everyday Hero recognition received honorable mention: Brianna Ashdown, Britnie Barmore, Tammi Blodien, Emily Brown, Rose DeJesus, Diego Ermida, Karla Gutknecht, Carla Hall, Brook Kesby, Amanda Little, Ashley Luka, Haydee Marte, Dante Moore, Justin Simpson, Jeanne Slade, and Dawn Wachter.
Click here to watch an interview with Allison.
A radio show about the Everyday Heroes celebration will air from 11:30 to noon Saturday, September 29, on WJTN 1240 AM. The program also will stream live at www.mediaonegroup.com.
Click here if you’d like to make a donation to next year’s Everyday Heroes celebration in honor of one of this year’s awardees.