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  • The Resource Center presents annual employee awards

    Stephen Bulich, Dana Ellsworth and Deseree Johnson recently were honored with The Resource Center’s top staff awards for 2023.

    Steve, who has worked for The Resource Center since 1995, received the Joseph Trusso Jr. Employee of the Year Award. As our Safety Compliance Coordinator, he ensures that TRC adheres to policies and protocols regarding the safety of staff and the people with disabilities whom TRC supports. He builds strong relationships with employees and people supported, which makes them comfortable confiding in him. Steve makes new staff feel welcome and takes the time to teach them to perform their jobs well so they become strong employees.

    He was nominated for the award by Jacqueline C. Phelps, Assistant Executive Director of Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement and Compliance, and Jessica Smith, Director of QA/QI, Compliance and Auditing. They noted that Steve is an effective ambassador for The Resource Center.

    “With his vast agency knowledge, ability to creatively problem solve, and mission-driven mindset and commitment to the people we support, Steve has earned the trust and respect of staff and individuals alike,” Jacqueline and Jessica stated.  “People believe in our mission after spending time with Steve, because they understand the `why’ behind it and how it impacts our entire agency.”

    The award is named in memory of the late Joe Trusso, who served on The Resource Center’s Board of Directors for 38 years and was a strong advocate for TRC employees and people with disabilities.

    Resa Rosen-Murray presents the Employee of the Year Award to Steve Bulich as Executive Director Denise Jones looks on. Rosen-Murray, a longtime TRC employee, is related to Joe Trusso Jr., for whom the award is named.


    Deseree, who has worked for TRC since 2007, received the Norma J. Smith Award for her role as a Direct Support Professional at several homes operated by The Resource Center. A co-worker, Britnie Barmore, described Deseree as a strong advocate who is kind and a good listener.  “She engages with each individual personally, always makes sure their needs are met and is a fun person to be around.  She takes her job seriously and pays attention to important details that may have been missed by others.”

    John Vogan, Day Services Administrator, nominated Deseree for the award because of her actions in the previous year as she supported two people during their final months. She worked with other staff to support a couple in taking their last vacation together, and she then supported the husband in grieving his wife’s passing and helped him plan the funeral. A few months later, Deseree supported a man in first moving to a new home, and then when he was in the hospital she visited him regularly and advocated for the best care for him until he passed.

    “I have known Desi for over a decade, and she has been an exemplary DSP during that time frame,” John stated.  “I’m convinced that she would do this job for free.”

    The award was created in memory of the late Norma Smith, who worked as a Direct Support Professional at The Resource Center from 1983 to 1991.  The honor recognizes excellence exhibited by an employee in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

    Deseree Johnson, standing next to Denise Jones, accepts the Norma J. Smith Award from Melissa Rasmussen, a long¬time TRC employee who is Smith’s daughter. Also pictured is Joanne Bevan, Assistant Executive Director.


    Dana, a Cleaner with TRC’s Environmental Services, received the Allied Industries Employee of the Year Award. He has worked for Allied Industries, The Resource Center’s manufacturing and employment division, since 2008.

    “Dana has the respect and admiration of his peers, management and our customers.  Dana leads by example. He has a great attitude and takes pride in his work,” his supervisor, Harold Roberts, told the audience. “Dana is the go-to guy for his co-workers and management when issues arise.  He knows the strengths of each of our employees and assists management with daily assignments. With Dana’s help, management has been able to develop check lists and training aides for many of our existing and new employees.”

    Harold added, “In my 40 years of management experience, it is rare that you find a co-worker that reaches Dana’s level of dedication, experience and knowledge.”

    Dana Ellsworth holds his Allied Industries Employee of the Year Award while posing with Denise Jones and Harold Roberts, Production Superintendent.


    The three were honored during The Resource Center’s annual Employee Service Recognition Luncheon, which was held at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron.

    Other employees nominated for the Smith or Trusso awards were Sabrina Avery, Faith Baker, Jason Carnahan, Kiyah Carpenter, Debra Densmore, Wendy Doutt, Rick Gray, Cheyenne Green, Lisa Gross, Paul Hurley, Sommer Levandoske, Ladena Marks-Nalbone, Resa Rosen-Murray, Tammy Sawyer, Jeanne Slade, Mary Straight, Jean Thomas, Connie Truax, Margaret “Cookie” Wilson.  People who received an Allied Industries Employee of the Month Award during 2023 were eligible for the Allied Employee of the Year honor.

    Those who served on the awards selection committee were staff members Michele Albaugh, Victoria Bardo, Mark Constantino, Bonnie DeJoy, Melissa Rasmussen, Donna Trusso, and Evelyn Wright-Kegelmyer; and community members John Felton from Southern Chautauqua Federal Credit Union and Richard Kimball, Vice Chair of TRC’s Board.

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