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Our 2020 Everyday Heroes: from left, bottom row, David Steed, Kolleen Nary and Jennifer DeWolf; and, top row, Michelle Lutgen and Savanna Raymond.
The Resource Center recently observed Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week by honoring employees who have done an exemplary job of helping people with disabilities to lead meaningful lives.
TRC held its annual Everyday Heroes Celebration on September 16 at its administrative offices on Dunham Avenue in Celoron. The event honored five direct support professionals who had excelled in their jobs during the previous year: Jennifer DeWolf, Michelle Lutgen, Kolleen Nary, Savanna Raymond, and David Steed.
Denise Jones, TRC’s Executive Director, thanked all employees for their efforts during the pandemic, noting that to date no person living in a TRC home has been diagnosed with COVID. “That speaks volumes to the dedication, diligence and perseverance of our staff, particularly our clinical and direct support professionals who are on the front line,” she said.
Denise noted that the “direct support professional” job title of does not contain the words “caregiver” or “aide” and that the position’s primary role is to provide support. “A true DSP,” she said, “recognizes and sees the potential in an individual and supports and coaches them in reaching that potential. You empower people to plan, learn and recognize their potential one day, and one step, at a time.”
Mary Jo Hamilton, Director of Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services, extended her appreciation to direct support staff for the ways in which they have performed during the past six months.
“Once again, our DSPs and community coaches have stepped up during this time of uncertainty and continue to go above and beyond, and venture forward,” she said. “Thank you for keeping the calmness with individuals we support and their family members.”
Mary Jo lauded workers for ensuring that people with disabilities have been able to enjoy the best possible lives during the pandemic, and she praised DSPs for being flexible in their work assignments and being willing to make changes in their personal lives in order to meet the needs of the people they support.
Terri Johnson, Director of Employment and Community-Based Services, also cited direct support professionals for their efforts since the pandemic forced The Resource Center to alter its operations.
“You have had to step up in ways we have never asked before. You have had to wear multiple hats, adjust your schedules, do things differently, and provide the best quality services as possible,” Terri said. “You rose to the occasion. You have become leaders in your teams and showed what TRC is all about: committed, determined, inspired, honest, and strong.”
She continued, “We are so grateful for your time and dedication to the people you support. And I know they are so lucky to have you in their lives making their days and lives the best it can be. Thank you so much for all you do, and please keep up the great work.”
Also attending the event were Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Jacqueline Chiarot Phelps, Deputy District Director for Congressman Tom Reed.
Assemblyman Goodell rhetorically asked those in the room who they would want to spend time with, if they had the chance. Joking that the answer probably was not their Assembly representative, he told the small audience that the people he would want to spend time with are “those who are making a difference in other people’s lives,” and that TRC employees do that in their jobs every day.
“That’s what makes your work so extraordinary,” he added.
Jacqueline noted the importance of direct support work, saying that DSPs impact the lives of the people with disabilities who rely on them.
“The coolest thing about DSPs is that every single day, you guys face challenges in your work that others never come across,” she said.
Here are profiles of our five Everyday Heroes:
Jennifer DeWolf is a DSP at The Resource Center’s Day Habilitation Program on Lake Shore Drive in Dunkirk, and she also helps out in some of TRC’s homes. The co-worker who nominated Jenn described her as “a wonderful, loyal, dedicated person” who respects the people she supports and is committed to helping them meet their milestones. When DeWolf notices issues that should be addressed, she shares her concerns with other members of her teams.
Michelle Lutgen is a Community Coach in the Community-Based Services Program. “She cares about every single person she supports,” said the person who nominated her. “She fights for everyone she supports, whether it be an injustice in the community or in their home life.” When her program went on hiatus during the pandemic, Michelle was assigned to a TRC home and advocated strongly for the residents, her nominator said. “She loves her job and if she were to ever leave TRC, I don’t know if someone could ever fill her shoes.”
Kolleen Nary is a DSP Aide at one of TRC’s homes at its Intermediate Care Facility on Foote Avenue in Jamestown. “Her work is person-centered, and she pays close attention to the individuals and their needs. This has allowed her to develop very positive relationships with the individuals, and one in particular who others may struggle to support,” said the person who nominated Kolleen. She also is described as interacting well with co-workers. “She helps other members of the team lift their spirits with her positivity, and she has a great sense of humor. She does not let some of the tougher tasks of the job get her down. She can be counted on to do the right thing, even when no one is looking.”
Savanna Raymond is a DSP at one of TRC’s homes in Jamestown. She is described as a creative problem-solver who knows how to best support each person living in the home. “Savanna is always able to maintain a calm demeanor,” said the person who nominated Savanna. “She is someone I can depend on to follow through with behavior support plans, and also make quick decisions when something unexpected occurs.” She also is a strong team member who will provide suggestions on how to better support the home’s residents.
David Steed is a DSP at the Senior Adult Day Habilitation Program, but he was selected as an Everyday Hero for his performance while reassigned to one of TRC’s homes when the day program was closed because of the pandemic. David quickly learned the residents’ routines and favorite pastimes in order to plan activities for them. “David truly loves what he does and takes pride in the care he gives our residents,” said one of the home’s supervisors. “The residents respond well to him. The relationships he has with them is a very nurturing, mutually respected one.”
For being named an Everyday Hero, each honoree received a check and a hooded sweatshirt, as well as certificates from Congressman Reed and Assemblyman Goodell.
Thirteen other people who were nominated for an Everyday Hero award received honorable mention: Dawn Beardsley, Lisa Covey, Rachel Echevarria, Lindsey Greene, Jessica Harley, Andrew Heggarty, Robin Kestler, Holly Lange, Darlene Lascola, Jill Marsh, Sarah Nyhart, Amanda Pokoj, and Beth Ray.
Click here to watch a video of the Every Heroes Celebration on Facebook.
Other activities that took place at various TRC locations during Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week included car washes, a picnic and prize drawings.
Click here if you’d like to make a donation to next year’s Everyday Heroes Celebration, either in honor of one of this year’s awardees or your favorite DSP.