Celebrating Direct Support Professional Week
Celebrating Direct Support Professional Week
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DSP Week: A Message from our CEO
18 DSPs Selected to Receive Awards
At People Inc., we believe in a person-centered approach that enables people of all abilities to live life to the fullest. Of our nearly 4,000 employees, many are direct support professionals (DSPs). Their work is central to ensuring that people with disabilities and other special needs have the tools they need to succeed. Each and every day, these wonderful employees serve as assistants, advisors and advocates to the people they support. Whether they are teaching life skills, assisting with transportation or responding to medical needs, our DSPs play a vital role in empowering people to explore their talents, overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.
In honor of our DSPs, People Inc. is again celebrating DSP Week, a special time set aside to recognize and celebrate direct support professionals. For the fifth year in a row, we accepted award nominations to highlight our dedicated staff. Employees, people we support, parents and family members submitted nominations for DSPs they believe demonstrate our agency’s values.
We were thrilled to receive 98 submissions! After careful consideration, 18 winners were selected to receive a $1,000 award. Thank you to everyone who took time to submit nominations and congratulations to our winners!
If you would like to express further appreciation for the work of DSPs, you are welcome to submit
a note.
Rhonda Frederick
President and CEO, People Inc.

Here are just a few examples of our incredible DSPs across the agency.
Dacia Nurtures Successful Outcomes
Starting in 2018, Dacia Hirsch has made a lasting impact on the people she supports. She demonstrates a positive attitude, treats everyone with respect, is reliable and expresses empathy to establish a professional relationship that develops trust. An instructor in the People Inc. Community Habilitation Program in the Greater Rochester region, Dacia continues to learn and perform her job with enthusiasm, encouraging involvement and making specific suggestions based on the interests of people participating in the program.
“Dacia overcomes obstacles on a daily basis as she learns English through American Sign Language (ASL). She exemplifies that no matter what your abilities are, you can be successful,” noted Senior Community Supervisor Jeannine Adydan. “Dacia’s insight and skills for observing the people she supports is an asset to the implementation of a person-centered plan.”
One of the highlights of her position is helping diverse participants work toward personal goals, while watching the impact of this process on their self-esteem and continued growth. Dacia feels appreciated and is encouraged to take initiative. She is then motivated to face new challenges, be creative and build on her skills in order to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Someone suggested that Dacia apply to People Inc. because of her positive attitude, patience, people skills and outgoing nature. Working here, she has found a culture that is empowering and she believes strongly in the agency’s core values. Her leadership skills are also nurtured. “I am passionate about my occupation, work with people I respect, have a great mentor and love my job,” Dacia exclaimed. “I enjoy every moment and go home feeling that I truly did something meaningful and important.”
Michael Wouldn’t Want to be
Anywhere Else
Michael Mayflower is having the time of his life
– and has ever since 2010 when he first stepped into a People Inc. Day Habilitation setting located in Niagara Falls, NY. Currently
a primary instructor, he worked in several other careers before becoming a DSP. When asked about past places of employment and how they compare to People Inc., Michael stated, “I woke up and dreaded going to work, but now I wake up early and am excited to start my day.”
His proudest moments are when he can make people laugh and help them focus on tackling their goals.
“Spend any time with Michael and you’ll quickly see his exceptionally kind heart, integrity, openness and sense of humor,” offered Senior Day Supervisor Mike O’Shea. “He truly knows how to treat everyone as equals in a way that goes beyond just supporting the people in our program.”
Even though Michael does not have a background in human services or art, he gives 110 percent every day, while teaching others to express themselves through art. “I love taking the extra step and seeing the reaction when they achieve something they didn’t think they could do.”
Kimberly Makes a Difference
Being a DSP is no easy task – Kimberly Thie
knows this well. It takes a patient and empathetic type of person to perform well in this profession. Kimberly has been with People Inc. for two and
a half years, working as an administrative specialist/instructor as part of the People Inc.
Day Habilitation Program in Lancaster, NY. She is responsible for general administrative duties, assisting staff with behavioral or medical tasks
and supporting people in the program directly. With a degree in social work, Kim feels working
at People Inc. is a good fit because it allows her to put her training to good use.

Kimberly‘s favorite part of her job is seeing the progress of program participants and staff, as well as being a part of their everyday lives. She also enjoys accompanying groups on community-based outings to places like the Buffalo Museum of Science, Canalside, the Aquarium of Niagara, the Niagara Power Vista and various parks.
“Kim is always ready to help! When new staff members are hired, she takes it upon herself to begin training them, answer their questions, offer suggestions and help them organize their days,” Senior Day Supervisor Debora Striewing said. “Kim also advocates for everyone. She enjoys a good rapport with the people we support and they will seek her out, knowing that she will help them.”
Many factors go into working as a DSP. According to Kimberly, the most important of these are honesty, companionship, tolerance and the ability to learn. A major part of the job includes creating an open and honest space to communicate with not only staff, but also the people who are supported through the day program.
Kimberly is extremely grateful to work alongside her coworkers and the people who participate in the day program, remarking, “I feel lucky to have met the people at my site and am so glad to work with them every day. Working here has taught me so much about life in general.”
Nathan is a Natural Leader
Since joining the People Inc. family in 2017, Nathan Burnett has embraced each day. An IRA specialist at a supported apartment building in Tonawanda, NY, he loves coming to work every day, helping residents work toward their goals and develop new skills along the way. One resident wanted to start using paratransit services, but did not know where to begin. With some guidance from Nate, they were able to successfully schedule the transportation and get to their destination, increasing their level of independence. Nate was so proud!
Senior Residential Supervisor Crystal Whalen shared that Nate is well organized, thorough, asks great questions and provides insightful feedback. “Nate goes above and beyond to learn and complete every task that has been assigned to him, including taking on leadership responsibilities. Nate also has built great relationships with the people we serve, families and team members,” she said.
The keys to his success are a positive attitude, compassion and really listening to the people he supports. “I get to change someone’s life every day – that’s why I am here,” Nate shared.
Anitra Focuses on Goals
For over 14 years, Anitra Owens has exemplified the agency’s dedication to providing superior care. In 2018, she was recognized as one of the People Inc. DSPs of the Year for her exceptional efforts providing compassionate support to the people our agency serves and developing effective relationships with their families.
Anitra is an IRA specialist at a Buffalo, NY, location in the Residential Program, who spends her days helping residents attend their scheduled appointments in the community. She will remind people about an appointment’s date and time, as well as when the transportation will arrive to take them there. While encouraging people to be as independent as possible, Anitra also reassures them that she is there for them, if needed.
Senior Residential Supervisor Kekeli Olympio remarked, “Anitra is excellent under pressure, dependable and embodies all the good we are trying to achieve as an agency.”
Some of the things that Anitra enjoys about the job is the flexibility, watching as residents strive to reach their goals and assisting people to enhance their daily living skills – especially cooking. She said, “I am passionate about working at this agency and enthusiastically recommend this career to friends and family!”
. Pictured here (from left to right) is Jack Barrett, senior vice president of Human Resources, Tops; Denise Bienko, senior vice president, People Inc.; Ashley Gracie, community relations coordinator, Tops; John Persons, president and COO, Tops; and Bradford Watts, community relations coordinator, People Inc.
People Inc. Receives Donation from Tops
We’re pleased to share that last month People Inc. was presented with a check from Tops Friendly Markets. The money, totaling more than $13,000, was raised during the 2019 Taste of Buffalo.
All proceeds from the Tops tent and prize wheel benefited the People Inc. Foundation! We’re so grateful to Tops for their support. Pictured here (from left to right) is Jack Barrett, senior vice president of Human Resources, Tops; Denise Bienko, senior vice president, People Inc.; Ashley Gracie, community relations coordinator, Tops; John Persons, president and COO, Tops; and Bradford Watts, community relations coordinator, People Inc.
WNY Coalition Pooled Trust Grant
Requests Open
The WNY Coalition Pooled Trust is now accepting grant requests for the 2019 cycle. The grants are only available to former beneficiaries of the trust OR people with disabilities currently served by People Inc. and its affiliates or by Center for Elder Law & Justice. Request forms must be submitted by Thursday, October 31, 2019. All grant awards expire on March 31, 2020. All necessary lines must be completed. You will be notified of your grant request status at the end of November and awards will be issued in December. The maximum amount of the request is $750.
Checks must be made payable to a store, company, or organization and they must accept third party checks. Itemized receipts/invoices must be provided after purchases are made. If a purchase is made by an organization that is asking for reimbursement, any itemized receipts or invoices must be submitted before a check can be issued. Grant checks cannot be cashed or used to purchase a gift card. Grants cannot be used to pay for outstanding debt.
For questions, contact Denise Bienko at dbienko@people-inc.org or 716.817.7470.
Build Your Career at People Inc.
We’re grateful for the dedication and talent of all of our staff members, from our direct support professionals to the staff members in our administrative support departments. Each role is critically important to the overall success of People Inc., a multispecialty non-profit health and human services agency. Our agency provides services to more than 10,000 people throughout Western New York and the Greater Rochester region. This also means we have a large variety of exceptional career paths. Whether you are looking to work part or full time, there are many opportunities to create a lasting career. These range from direct support professionals to senior residential supervisors and behavior technicians, community-based instructors and respite instructors, as well as LPNs and RNs.
Staff receive numerous benefits like health insurance, paid time off for part and full time employees and tuition assistance, along with flexible hours to help with a balanced life. Plus, People Inc. is committed to encouraging and supporting continuing educational opportunities and fostering the personal and professional development of our employees. Apply today or encourage someone you know to join our team! Employment openings are updated regularly on our website.
Your Donations Mean So Much
Your generosity throughout the year ensures that people with developmental disabilities, special needs and older adults receive the numerous services provided by People Inc. Often times, friends and family wish to remember someone through a memorial or acknowledge a special event, such as a birthday, retirement or anniversary. The People Inc. Foundation welcomes Tribute Giving year-round and honors requests in a sincere, dignified manner. Donations can be made online or a printable form can be downloaded. For more information, contact Jennifer Robinson at jrobinson@people-inc.org or 716.817.7269. We appreciate your support!
Register for Upcoming Brunch and Learn
Brunch with us and learn about our Charitable Gift Annuity, the smart way to help meet your financial goals while supporting the important mission of People Inc. Join us on Saturday, September 21, from 10 a.m. to noon, at
The Buffalo Club, 388 Delaware Avenue,
Buffalo, NY. For more information or to RSVP
by September 15, contact Christine Mathieu at cmathieu@people-inc.org or 716.817.7256.
Support Southeast Foundation’s Annual Challenge Dinner and Auction
The Southeast Foundation is pleased to host its 20th Annual Challenge Dinner and Auction on Thursday, September 26, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens, 6461 Transit Road, Depew, NY. The event includes a cocktail hour, gourmet dinner and an opportunity to bid on amazing auction items. Event proceeds will enhance employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities served by People Inc. Tickets are $75 per person and sponsorship opportunities are still available. For more information or to assist, contact Melanie Brown at mbrown@people-inc.org or 716.817.7450.
Events for Historians, Avid Book Readers and Vincent van Gogh Fans
As part of its Dialogues on disABILITY Speaker Series, the Museum of disABILITY History will host two upcoming free presentations:
Historians and books fans are invited to join author David Mack-Hardiman and photographer Char Szabo-Perricelli at the Museum of disABILITY History on Saturday, September 21, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a presentation on The Colony Chronicles book. They will discuss institutional living and the history of these environments for people with disabilities. Additionally, author Stefan Foster will present parts of State of Emotion, his modern artistic work that is themed around institutional living. Both books will be for sale and there will be a book signing following the presentations. This is a great opportunity to learn about disability history through the lens of institutional living. If you miss the presentation, the books are also sold in the Museum store.
Also, on Saturday September 21: The Museum of disABILITY History is proud to participate in "Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day Live" event. There will be FREE admission for Museum Day Ticket holders from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Museum of disABILITY History, 3826 Main Street, Buffalo, NY. Download your ticket. Stop by for a day of awareness, intrigue and education.
A presentation called, “Vincent van Gogh, Validated,” will be shared by certified New York State Art Educator Jean Serusa on Wednesday, October 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. Jean will discuss Van Gogh’s life, as well as speculation about his intellectual disability, which may have been the lens through which some of his art came to be. A question and answer session will be held intermittently throughout the presentation.
Both Dialogues on disABILITY Speaker Series events will be held at the Museum of disABILITY History, 3826 Main Street, Buffalo, NY. To RSVP or for more information, call 716.629.3626.
Annual WNY in Support of Veterans Symposium
Headway of WNY, Catholic Charities and People Inc. are pleased to present the 4th Annual WNY in Support of Veterans Symposium. Bridging the Gaps, Part II - A Discussion between Veterans and Community Providers will be held on Wednesday, October 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Pvt. Leonard Post, Jr. #6251 Veterans of Foreign Wars, 2450 Walden Avenue, Cheektowaga, NY.
The goals of the symposium are to: Help participants gain a better understanding of obtaining community services for veterans and their families, identify resources to better link veterans and their families with appropriate community services and recognize ways to improve access to these services. Those who have served in the U.S. Military (including the Guard and Reserve) are encouraged to attend, along with medical providers and others interested in the topic.
Featured speakers and panelists include:
  • Alyssa Vasquez, Veteran’s One Stop Center of WNY, Inc.
  • Bonnie Vest, PhD, University at Buffalo
  • Max Donatelli,MS, USAF 1968-1972 Sergeant, Vietnam 1970-1971,
    Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition, Community Veterans Engagement Board, Family Advocate
  • Tracy Schmidt, LMSW, Horizon Village
  • Delcey Pulvino, LMSW, Buffalo Vet Center
Continuing Education Units (CEU) will be available. Two hours of CEUs available for pre-registered Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) and Social Workers (MSW). $20 fee for CEU participants only, cash or checks payable to Catholic Charities. Please indicate in your RSVP that you are interested in the obtaining the CEUs and mail your check to:
Headway of WNY, Inc.
Veterans Symposium RSVP
2635 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14216
Buffet lunch will be provided. To register for the Veterans Symposium, RSVP by Wednesday, September 18 to support@headwayofwny.org or 716.408.3110.
Celebrating Deaf Awareness Month and Upcoming Events
Deaf Access Services, an affiliate of People Inc., is pleased to bring attention to September being Deaf Awareness Week (and month). The dedicated time encourages people to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations.
As for its history, the first International Day of the Deaf was first celebrated by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) in 1958. The day of awareness was later extended to a full week, becoming
the International Week of the Deaf.
A variety of events by Deaf Access Services are open to the community to help spread awareness:
• Mental Health First Aid Workshop for the Deaf community on Saturday, October 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Museum of disABILITY History, 3826 Main Street, Buffalo, NY. The session encourages early detection and intervention by teaching participants about the signs and symptoms of specific conditions like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and addictions. To learn more about the workshop or to reserve a spot, email Office@wnydas.org. Space is limited.
• A dinner to support Deaf Access Services will be held on Wednesday, November 13, at Josephs Catering, 275 Columbia Avenue, Depew NY. Stay tuned for more information and how to purchase tickets!
Deaf Access Services is the only local community organization solely dedicated to serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.
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