Stories highlight outstanding staff members
Stories highlight outstanding staff members
Recognizing Direct Support Professionals Week
Of People Inc.’s 3,973 employees throughout Western New York and Rochester, 2,500 are direct support professionals (DSPs). These staff members work hard to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities and other special needs receive the very best support and care. In honor of DSP Week, September 10-16, 2017, we are acknowledging our DSPs for their commitment and dedication in several ways, including this special edition newsletter. If you would like to help celebrate DSPs, click here to submit a note of appreciation. We’ll make sure to pass along your kind words!
A Message from our CEO
Every day, People Inc.’s direct support professionals make a difference. They are the backbone of our agency whose work is at the core of our mission: to provide individuals with disabilities the supports they need to participate and succeed in an accepting society. From the dedicated staff in our residential and day programs to those who assist individuals in the community, every one of our DSPs makes impactful contributions.
Of course, supporting people around the clock can be difficult and demanding at times. DSPs are often the first to respond to medical needs and balance responsibilities like cooking, helping people with personal hygiene and transportation. Yet, through it all, our DSPs put those in their care before themselves, serving as advisors and advocates.
Over the last year alone, I’ve heard countless stories of the wonderful ways our DSPs have put others first, going above and beyond to make sure individuals have opportunities to explore their talents, overcome hurdles and achieve their goals. One individual who comes to mind is Danny, a young man who received assistance to transition from living at home with his family into People Inc.’s day and residential programs. This was a collaborative effort that involved employees from numerous departments coming together to ensure one young man’s success. Danny got everything he needed and his family is thrilled with the care he is receiving today. The best part of all, Danny is doing great! And it’s all thanks to the committed staff at
People Inc. – including many DSPs.
I hope this week serves as a reminder of all of the tremendous work carried out by our DSPs. Please join me in recognizing these dedicated employees, who work hard each day to ensure the people in their care are living life to the fullest, no matter the challenges they encounter along the way.
Rhonda Frederick
President and CEO, People Inc.
L-R: Meagan and Tom
Meagan Loves Being a DSP
When Meagan Santini joined People Inc. earlier this year as an ICF specialist, she knew she wanted to help those most in need. Working at a group home in Boston, NY for people with developmental disabilities who are medically frail, she was able to do just that. She’s also found that, for her, the old saying is true; you get back what you give. The job, Meagan said, "is incredibly rewarding."
It’s one of the many reasons she loves coming into work each day. Once there, she helps the individuals eat and do fun activities like nature walks. “Sometimes you have to get creative to keep everyone busy and happy,” she shared.
Meagan applied to People Inc. after the recommendation of her friends and mother. She previously worked at a bar and in hospice, but never directly alongside individuals with developmental disabilities. Becoming a direct support professional was an easy transition, thanks to a love of people and a “phenomenal” team of co-workers and leaders at the site.
Meagan has already developed great relationships with residents at the home, and can’t imagine ever leaving. “You can have the worst day, but when you see an individual smile, it’s the best thing in the world.”
L-R: Diana and Essence
Positive Encouragement Works
If you are in need of some positive reinforcement, then look no further than Diana Wieczorek. As a Self-Determination assistant and Life Coach at People Inc. for one year, she has had the opportunity to work with Essence Jackson, an individual receiving services through People Inc.’s Self-Directed Services Program. Diana has helped Essence transition from certified living to independent living.
“Essence is so intelligent and with some guidance, I’ve helped her to see her abilities. I let her know she has potential and can do it with a ‘yes, I can’ - type of attitude,” Diana explained of her work with Essence.
Committed to helping Essence achieve her goals, Diana is available at all times of day and night to offer reassurance and support, as well as to lift up Essence’s spirits when she felt overwhelmed by the changes. “Essence attributes the success she has experienced in living in the community to Diana’s positive encouragement and dedication in helping her to succeed,” said Harpreet Saran-Rokicki, program director, People Inc. Self-Directed Services. “Diana is a great asset to our department and we are thrilled to have her as a stellar member of our team!”
“I’m just so thankful,” said Diana. “Within just a year, People Inc. has done so much for me. You can’t put a price on it – it’s a labor of love.”
Andrew is a Rock of Support
At one of our group homes in Rochester, Andrew Freeman has been a true leader and rock of support for both the residents and his co-workers.
As a team leader, he looks after many of the day-to-day responsibilities. From making staff schedules to tracking the budget, he stays on top of household tasks, while also making time to be with the site’s residents. “I love that every day is something different,” he shared. “I never know what to expect.”
When Andrew first joined the agency in 2015 through a per diem position, he saw the job as something he’d do for a short period of time before moving on. Today, he sees his role at People Inc. as more than just a job.
Every day he strives to go above and beyond for those he serves. When the house recently experienced some tough times, Andrew stepped in as a calm and confident leader for the residents and his co-workers. His hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed.
“Andrew spends a great deal of time on-site and we rely on him,” shared co-worker Patricia Polizzi, IRA specialist at People Inc. “He has not let us down and is an asset to People Inc.”
Making a Difference for Over a Decade
Ismalia (Izo) Mane loves to help others. The Kenmore resident has been an employee of People Inc. since 1996, having first worked part-time at one of the agency’s residential sites before moving into full-time work after less than a year. Following more than a decade spent assisting people in the group home setting, Izo became a primary instructor at our Elmwood Day Habilitation location. There, he helps people with disabilities build important life skills, with a particular focus on community integration.
Some of his favorite activities include accompanying individuals on trips to the movies, museums and supermarkets, where they can learn new things and develop functional skills like money management. For Izo, there’s no greater feeling than helping participants and influencing the community, too. “I love seeing them becoming more and more independent,” he shared. “When we go into the community, we’re not only building skills, but we’re also meeting people and changing opinions about disability for the better.”
Although Izo says working as a direct support professional has its challenges, he enjoys the human connections the job brings and feels it’s an integral role for creating stability and happiness. “The essence of our existence as human beings is to help other people and integrate whenever we can. We all impact one another.” Izo said. “I’m proud and happy to be part of the process.”
L-R: Kaylee and Madison
An Act of Timeless Beauty
Often times, wedding dresses are stored in a back of a closet. But for Kaylee Jones, she only could think of one way that her wedding dress could be used again. She dyed it yellow...for a very good reason.
As a Self-Determination assistant for People Inc.’s Self-Directed Services Program since 2012, Kaylee works with Madison Law, 15 (she will be 16 next month). Madison has Cerebral palsy and lives with her large family in Clarence, NY. She absolutely loves Belle from Beauty and the Beast – and it played out perfectly when she landed the part of Belle for her school, Cantalician Center’s rendition of the musical. Although Belle’s village dress fit her well, it was hard to find the famous yellow dress worn by Belle to go around Madison’s wheelchair. And that’s when Kaylee stepped in.
A compassionate and energetic staff member, Kaylee did not think twice about dying her wedding dress yellow, which she described as an unreal experience. After learning how by watching YouTube tutorial videos, Kaylee and a team of helpers dyed her white dress, creating Madison’s dream gown for her big day. After a day of the dress drying, Madison couldn’t wait to try it on. Once she’d finally changed into the vibrant dress, a magical moment transpired: Kaylee played Beauty and the Beast music on her phone, Madison’s wheelchair was put in a standing positon and she started to twirl around independently. “It was an absolutely amazing moment,” shared Andrea, Madison’s mom. “She truly transformed herself into Belle.” Madison’s mom continued: “I am so grateful to have Kaylee in our lives. Madison, as well as our son, Mitchell, are both flourishing because of Kaylee’s dedication, endless energy and never wavering love.”
“Kaylee has worked with Madison and her family for many years and has developed a bond that goes beyond being a paid staff member,” said Harpreet Saran-Rokicki, program director, People Inc. Self-Directed Services. “Kaylee is an integral part of the success that Madison has experienced. We appreciate her dedication and are honored to have her as part of our team!”
Married in May of 2016, Kaylee said she wouldn’t want her dress to go to anyone else. “I love that kid so much – there’s truly no better thing I could’ve done to the dress that made me feel so beautiful,” Kaylee happily shared. “Madison deserves all the happiness in the world.”
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13 DSPs Selected to Receive Awards
For the third year in a row, People Inc. accepted award nominations to highlight our dedicated staff in recognition of Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Week. Fellow staff members, people we serve, parents and family members submitted nominations for DSPs whom they thought deserved recognition and have also demonstrated our agency’s values.
The 86 submissions included examples of kind-heartedness, selflessness and the desire to make a difference in others’ lives. These stories help show a deeper appreciation for the outstanding direct support professionals we are fortunate to have at People Inc.
While all the nominations were amazing, we selected 13 staff members to receive a $1,000 award. To view a list of the honorees, click here. Thank you to everyone who took time to submit nominations and congratulations to our winners!
Become a DSP
Since it was founded in 1970, People Inc. has grown to be the area’s largest health and human services agency, providing services to more people than ever before throughout Western New York and Rochester. As a result, we have exceptional opportunities for numerous career paths, whether you are looking to work part-or full-time. If you or someone you know wants to become a valued direct support professional, there are many career openings within our agency, including behavior technicians, community-based instructors, group home positions and respite instructors, along with LPNs and RNs. To apply or to view all of our openings, click here.
Support Rivershore Foundation Annual Dinner
The Rivershore Foundation will host its eighth annual dinner with Honorary Chair Senator Robert Ortt. The event includes a cocktail reception, hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, dinner and silent auction. Rivershore, a division of People Inc., supports people living with disabilities as they pursue and achieve a meaningful life. The event proceeds will benefit the Hinman Street Apartment Project in Youngstown, which will support people with disabilities to live independently.
When: Thursday, September 28, from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Where: Niagara Falls Country Club, 505 Mountain View Drive, Lewiston, NY
Costs: Tickets are $100 per person
Info: Denise Pollock, 716.524.2266, ext. 234
Support Headway’s Haunted Helmet Ride and Walk
Headway of WNY, an affiliate of People Inc., will host Headway’s Helmet Ride and Walk, a family-friendly fundraising event designed to raise awareness about traumatic brain injury, along with encouraging helmet use, safety and brain injury prevention. Participants are encouraged to wear their helmets and dress them up in coordination with costumes. All registrations include the following: Group Ride/Walk around Ring Road, event t-shirt, reception in Parkside Lodge, food/drink, music, games, prizes and raffles.
When: Friday, October 13, from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Parkside Lodge and Ring Road, Delaware Park, Buffalo, NY (enter Delaware Park and parking lot at Meadow Drive, off Parkside Avenue)
Pre-Registration Costs Per Person: General $20, Headway Member $15 and Child (ages 5-17) $10
Info: Click here or call 716.408.3100
Your generosity throughout the year ensures that people with developmental disabilities, special needs and seniors receive the services they need. To make a donation, click here. Often times, friends and family wish to remember someone through a memorial or acknowledge a special event, such as a birthday or anniversary. The People Inc. Foundation accepts gifts of caring and honor requests in a sincere, dignified manner (include special instructions in the note section of the online donation form). We appreciate your support!
Providers Needed for Perfect Fit Program
People Inc.’s Perfect Fit Program, a unique residential setting for people with developmental disabilities, is enlisting additional providers throughout Western New York, particularly in Niagara County and the southtowns. The program provides people an opportunity to become certified providers who open their homes and their lives to people with developmental disabilities. More than companionship, providers offer inclusion and independence, helping someone to achieve their goals.
Provider applications are now being accepted. To learn more, click here or call Carrie Grant,
People Inc. Perfect Fit program director, at 716.345.6161.