Celebrating Direct Support Professional Week
Celebrating Direct Support Professional Week
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Celebrating Direct Support Professionals
DSP Week: A Message from our CEO
DSPs Selected to Receive Awards
Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week is a unique time set aside to recognize and honor the contributions of direct support professionals across the country. This year, we celebrated from September 13-19. At People Inc., the work of DSPs is central to our mission of supporting people with disabilities, so that they can participate and succeed in an accepting society. Each day, our DSPs make this mission a reality, serving as assistants, advisors and advocates to the people they support. Although every year brings incredible accomplishments from our DSPs, 2020 has been particularly notable for our frontline heroes and their work in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their commitment to the safety and well-being of everyone has been exceptional and I’m so proud to have them as part of the People Inc. team!
Our Senior Leadership Team reviewed a record number of nominations this year, including stories shared by coworkers, people we support and family members. After careful consideration, the following employees were selected and each received a $1,000 award. Congratulations to our DSP winners, whose work spans Residential, Behavioral Health, Day Services, Community-Based and Respite Services, in addition to Self-Directed Services. They are: John Asibor, Teddie Blue, Nicholas Cacciotti, Scott Caffrey, Jennifer Covert, Mary Dymock, Shatasha Emanuel, Tyron Hall, Tyler King, Helen Lemme, Michelle Logiudice, Christiann McCabe, Daniel Mecca, Michael Robinson, Jessica Schultz, Nitkita Taylor, Olivia Torres, Noah Westfall and Connor Ziegler.
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. Please take some time to review the stories in this e-newsletter with some examples of our incredible DSPs across the agency, as well as for agency news and program updates.

Rhonda Frederick
President and CEO, People Inc.

Learn More about DSPs
Here are some stories from award-winning People Inc. employees who were previously recognized for their exceptional work supporting people enrolled in our programs and services. Want a job you’ll love, like our DSPs? Visit people-inc.org/careers.
Luz Cardona-Valencia: Now a People Inc. self-determination assistant, Luz was a community coordinator at our Young Adult Life Transitions (YALT) Program at the time of her nomination. She represents the People Inc. mission through her compassion, dedication, creative problem-solving and ability to easily build relationships. In every role, Luz demonstrates her ability to work well in emergency or tense situations – keeping calm, showing empathy and treating everyone with respect. Seeing people grow in the various stages of their lives and gain higher levels of independence is particularly gratifying for Luz. She highly recommends a career at People Inc. because of the great team mentality and opportunities for growth.
Vanessa Gillette: A primary instructor at one of our community-based residences, Vanessa exemplifies the People Inc. mission through her versatility, dependability, advocacy, creativity and problem-solving skills. Vanessa is adept at shifting gears and tailoring her approach to each of the people she supports. She may be teaching Spanish to one person and then helping someone else communicate via an electronic device. Vanessa also helps people who live in the residences build strong connections with organizations like the SPCA and a neighborhood community center. She loves her career because of the difference she makes. Vanessa recommends People Inc. for people who are caring, patient and compassionate.
Jon Horton: A team leader at one of our group homes in Western New York, Jon demonstrates the People Inc. mission. Jon provides consistency, compassion, and is a positive role model for both residents and staff. He likes working with people and helping them make strides towards independence through personal care and skill-building. In his role as a DSP, Jon prepares dinner for those in his care, goes on outings with them, helps them balance their financial needs and much more. Jon believes that the job really does change one’s life and he’s extremely proud of his accomplishments. Though the job isn’t always easy, he finds it rewarding and would definitely recommend working at People Inc.
Sabrina Scarantine: An IRA specialist at one of our residences in Western New York, Sabrina embodies the People Inc. mission through her dedication, creativity and compassion. Helping people through challenging situations, she supports the people living in the group home by listening, comforting and assisting in problem-solving. She is there for them during medical appointments and enjoys finding innovative ways to help them achieve their goals. Above all, Sabrina appreciates being a respected member of the People Inc. team while making a positive impact on residents’ lives.
Marquita Tubbs: A behavior technician at one of our group homes in the Greater Rochester region, Marquita illustrates the People Inc. mission. She has a very caring nature, is especially attentive, and is a positive role model for both residents and staff. She consistently takes the initiative to make sure that the people she works with are happy, motivated, involved in the community and living to their best potential. Marquita enjoys finding new opportunities for the people she supports to volunteer and work in their community. She enjoys being able to make a difference, providing excellent care and building strong relationships with the people residing in the house and their families.
COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates
Conference Call for Care Coordinators on September 28
People Inc. has scheduled a new conference call exclusively for care coordinators on Monday, September 28, at 12:30 p.m. During this call, agency management will provide COVID-19 updates, projected plans for reopening and answer questions. Questions may be sent in advance and during the call to COVIDconcern@people-inc.org, or texted to 716.868.9233. Given the anticipated volume of participants on the calls, this is the most effective way to have your question heard and answered. RSVP to 716.817.7400. The call number is 1.607.442.6488 with a conference ID of 280 440 23#. Note: even though the phone number may remain the same, a new unique access code is issued specific to each call. Please share with any care coordinators who may be interested.
Phone Lines and Email Provide Information
We’re grateful for the patience of families and to those who have shared concerns. To assist families and people supported through People Inc., a dedicated phone line and email address are available to share specific concerns related to COVID-19:
Phone: 716.817.7445
Email: COVIDconcern@people-inc.org

NEW: We have received numerous questions specifically about our day programs. As a result, a Day Habilitation and Vocational Services COVID Phone Line is now available to receive your questions at 716.529.6505.

An Advocacy Phone Line is available for people we support to ask non-emergency questions. It can be reached at 716.322.7070. Messages are monitored from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Samantha Enjoys a Birthday Celebration
Samantha lives at a People Inc. group home designed to support children with special needs. During the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Samantha had a difficult time not being able to attend school and see her parents in person. The staff has done an amazing job supporting Samantha during these unprecedented times. Samantha is full of energy and loves to play. To keep her engaged, staff supplied items, such as a water table, sprinkler, saucer swing, musical instruments, Kids Playchute, Magna-Tiles and art supplies.
In June 2020, Samantha turned nine years old. Once again, staff went above and beyond to make it a great day! Samantha received a My Little Pony bedroom makeover and a birthday celebration that included decorations, lots of presents and a spectacular cake and cupcakes made by long-term staff member Tilesha Smith! Thankfully, the Visitor Policy was updated just in time for Samantha’s parents to celebrate with her in the back yard. Happy Birthday, Samantha!
Telling the People Inc. Story Historical Moment
In honor of our 50th anniversary, we’re telling the People Inc. story through photos! In 2000, an exhibit called “The People Next Door,” by photographer Errol Daniels, depicted a day in the life of six people who received supports from People Inc. In this selected photo, Gay Meyers stands among the children she cared for at a local daycare center, where she had volunteered for 30 years (Photo Credit: Errol Daniels, 2000). Today, Gay’s smile continues to brighten the lives of those around her. She participates in the People Inc. Arts Experience and Community Habilitation Programs, where she loves to create all kinds of artwork and experience opportunities for independence and skills training. Recently retired from office jobs she had at People Inc., Gay loves to travel. Age does not stop Gay – she turned 70 on August 16, and continues to look forward to more adventures!
In the News: To share more about our 50th anniversary, People Inc. President and CEO Rhonda Frederick was interviewed in a feature story in Buffalo Business First.
Share Your Photos: It makes us proud to share the People Inc. story. More of these moments are on the People Inc. Facebook. To help spotlight our 50th anniversary, we want to include photos of historical moments from over the years. Email us your photos from past years and with your permission, they may be featured in our various agency communications. Email photos and brief, corresponding information to Nicole Forgione of the People Inc. Marketing Communications Department at nforgione@people-inc.org.
Landmarks Light Up for 50th Anniversary
On Friday, August 14, several local landmarks were illuminated blue in honor of the 50th anniversary of People Inc. News station WBFO (NPR) recognized the occasion with an article that featured remarks from Rhonda Frederick, our president and CEO. Several employees and families were able to capture the sights of Buffalo City Hall, the Electric Tower and Niagara Falls. Check out the album on the People Inc. Facebook for photos.
Photo by Steve Brady and Gail Denny.
Share Resources, Time and Skills
Your help is needed. Be as generous as you can. Share your time, talents and resources.
Help support our programs and services by donating to the People Inc. Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund: Donations will assist thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, special needs, families and older adults throughout Western New York and the Greater Rochester region. Your donation will help bridge the gap of extra expenses for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and enhanced cleaning products, as well as provided technology for remote support and to help people stay connected with family and friends. Donate $20 or more and receive a People Inc. Heroes Awareness Wristband. Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated.
Share your talents and resources: Do you sew and make protective masks? Consider donating them to People Inc. If sewing is not for you, but you are able to provide cloth and materials for others to create masks, let us know and arrangements can be made. Or how about lending support so people living in our group homes and Senior Living apartments can be creative and stay busy? Art and craft supplies, as well as crossword books and puzzles are appreciated. If you’re able to help, contact Jennifer Robinson at jrobinson@people-inc.org or 716.817.7269.
Encourage Legislators to Reverse Budget Cuts
Administrative cuts are currently being handed down from New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) that could jeopardize the residential stability of people we support. The most egregious cut, planned to go into effect on Thursday, October 1, would reduce payments to providers, including People Inc., by 50 percent, whenever people leave our residences to spend time with family or are admitted to the hospital. Legislators are currently away from their offices and the capitol, so it is important they know what is happening. These cuts bypass the budget process and we want to stress that legislators should not relinquish their authority as our elected representatives.
How You Can Help: You can add your name to the list of people advocating to prevent these cuts. The more people that participate, the bigger impact we can have on this issue! Follow these steps:
  • Visit this website, provided by The Arc New York.
  • Complete your information to identify your representatives.
  • Edit the content of your email to fit your situation: Include how these cuts will affect YOUR life.
  • Sign your name and click SEND EMAIL.
Make Your Voice Heard: Urge Congress to Fund Medicaid Disability Supports: COVID-19 cases are surging and state budgets are falling short of meeting an impossible set of demands. Meanwhile, direct support professionals (DSPs) that deliver Medicaid-funded services to people with disabilities have been on the frontlines during the pandemic. Their work has ensured the safety and well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Agencies that employ DSPs to deliver community-based services, including People Inc., have been forced to make difficult choices to ensure the sustainability of supports. This situation will not change without congressional action. All it takes is two minutes to complete this online form and ask your members of Congress to step up!
Action Alert: Contact the Governor to Oppose the 20 Percent
Withholding of I/DD Funding

Your continued advocacy for funding to support our programs and services is needed:
The Issue: The NYS Division of Budget (DOB) has directed state agencies to withhold 20 percent of funding to providers for certain non-Medicaid programs.
The Advocacy: Please contact the Governor by telephone to let him know you oppose the withholds, because of the potential devastating impact this action will have on the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Phone Calls: To contact the Governor’s Office, call 518.474.1041 and leave this message:
“The recent directive by the Division of Budget to withhold 20 percent of State-only, non-Medicaid funds to providers will potentially hurt people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by putting certain necessary services in jeopardy. Please direct DOB to reverse the decision on the 20 percent withhold. Thank you, Governor.”
Recognizing People Inc. Retirees
Two, long-time employees recently retired from People Inc. and we wish them all the best!
Mary Beth Iwanski, senior vice president, started her career at People Inc. in 1977, as relief staff in Residential. Within a year, she was promoted to unit team supervisor, and then worked in an intermediate care facility group home before moving to our Day Services. Then referred to as “DTCs,” Mary Beth served in a variety of positions within multiple day programs for 30 years before becoming associate vice president for Day Services.
Mary Beth says she quickly felt at home with People Inc. and continued to learn more about how to best support people we support, as well as fellow team members. She later reconnected with her “Residential roots” as senior vice president with a leadership role overseeing Residential, Day Services, Vocational, and Behavioral Health in 2013.
Over the years, Mary Beth has led the implementation of many changes to our services and systems. Being open and flexible, as well as her ability to adapt have been important to managing change, while helping others to do the same, has fostered development of team members. Mary Beth has been a strong advocate for people we support and leaves a legacy in maintaining a focus on doing what is right for the people being supported. Two of her children have even followed her footsteps
as People Inc. employees.
Thanks for being a great part of our People Inc. family and history, Mary Beth!
We would like to thank Dean Gross, associate vice president, for more than 24 years of service to People Inc. Dean started with People Inc. on April 22, 1996, as a systems analyst in the Information Technology (IT) Department, which was then only comprised of a few employees. Within a very short period of time, he was promoted to the director of IT, and has led the IT department ever since. In addition to his skills, Dean, also known for his wit during challenging circumstances, has empowered his team to explore new technologies for the benefit of the agency. Under his leadership, the department has grown and has implemented various technologies that allow People Inc. to operate and support a workforce of nearly 4,000, providing supports to more than 10,000 people annually.
Thank you for your dedication and the excellent job you’ve done, Dean!
A young female graduate thowing her cap into the air.
Christy Ferriter Recognized for Work in the Health Care Field
On August 24, Rochester Business Journal
held their Health Care Heroes Awards to
highlight outstanding health care organizations and recognize professionals for their accomplishments, community leadership, innovation and mentoring. Among this year’s award winners was People Inc. Associate Vice President Christy Ferriter. Christy was acknowledged under the “Special Needs” category for her dedication to supporting people with developmental disabilities. Congratulations to Christy!
People Inc. Board Member Brenda McDuffie Continues to Fight for Equality
Brenda McDuffie, People Inc. board member and retired CEO of Buffalo Urban League, continues to be active in the community, fighting for racial equality. Brenda’s efforts were recently featured in The Buffalo News, and we are so proud to work alongside such a determined advocate for human rights.
Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month
People Inc. is pleased to support National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15. During this time, we recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society through cultural contributions and achievements. Through a sponsorship with the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York Inc., People Inc. partnered with WBBZ-TV to create special programming that showcases people, places and future projects celebrating diversity. People Inc. President and CEO Rhonda Frederick and Associate Vice President Nestor Hernandez were interviewed (starts at 45:34) to spotlight our agency’s 50th anniversary and our services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, families and older adults. People Inc. is happy to celebrate Hispanic heritage year-round.
A young female graduate thowing her cap into the air.
Build Your Career at People Inc.
Sign-on bonus available for some designated positions
Sign-on bonus available for some designated positions
Whether you are looking to work part or full time, there are many opportunities to create a lasting career at People Inc. These range from direct support professionals to senior residential supervisors and behavior technicians to community-based instructors, as well as LPNs and RNs. A variety of shifts and locations across Western New Work and the Greater Rochester region are available. We offer virtual interviews, paid training and great benefits. A sign-on bonus is available for some designated positions. To apply or to view all employment openings, go to the People Inc. Job Board or call 716.322.7050 for more information.
A livingroom at a Senior Living apartment, decorated in a comforting style.
Affordable Apartments Now Accepting Applications
Do you have an elderly family member or friend who is in need of affordable and maintenance-free living? People Inc. offers a number of options:
People Inc. Senior Living is for independent, older adults age 62 and up who are income-eligible. Apartment applications are being accepted for its 19 locations throughout Western New York, including Amherst, Angola, Blasdell, Clarence, Grand Island, Lackawanna, Lockport (border of Amherst), South Buffalo, Springville and Wheatfield (border of North Tonawanda).
Academy Place Senior Apartments in Gowanda, managed by People Inc., is accepting applications for one- and two-bedroom apartments, ideal for older adults in the Southern Tier. Located at 1 School Street in Gowanda, Academy Place Senior Apartments is a HUD Section 202 Affordable Housing and NYS Tax Credit complex. The one- and two-bedroom apartments provide affordable housing for independent, older adults age 62 and up who meet federally-mandated household income guidelines. Vouchers are accepted for Tax Credit units.
Two benefits of People Inc. Senior Living are affordable rent based on income and numerous safety features. As an added cost-savings, some utilities are included. Tenants are welcome to have one small pet. For more information about People Inc. Senior Living and Academy Place Apartments, call 716.817.9090.
Rental applications are also being accepted for the new People Inc. Grant Street Apartments, offering one- and two-bedroom units. Located at 25 Grant Street in North Tonawanda, the apartments are for people who are head of household and 18 years or older, who meet income eligibility. Amenities include: Kitchen with refrigerator, stove and dishwasher; water and garbage removal included; on-site laundry facilities; safety features; air conditioning and on-site management. Tenants may have one small pet. Rent subsidies and/or rental vouchers accepted. Some apartments are designed for people who have mobility and vision challenges or who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. Tours available by appointment. For more information or to schedule a tour, contact housing@people-inc.org or call 716.693.4249.
A man and woman with janitorial equipment.
People Inc. Business Solutions Featured on Radio Show
People Inc. Business Solutions was featured on “A Slice of Life” radio show on ESPN 1520 AM on Saturday, September 12. Jim Scutt of Business Solutions and Vocational Services was interviewed during this live, call-in show. Ensuring that people with developmental disabilities and varying abilities secure and maintain meaningful, competitive employment is an important part of our agency. Jim spoke about how our agency helps people maintain employment and the many benefits for employers. Plus, Jim shared information about People Inc. offering cost-effective janitorial and carpet cleaning for businesses, following CDC guidelines, as well as information on Contract Manufacturing. The radio show is available online.
Raising Awareness and Funds During Deaf Awareness Week
Deaf Awareness Week is an extended week that takes place September 18 to September 27. This year, Deaf Access Services, an affiliate of People Inc., is collaborating with organizations all across the city of Buffalo, to educate and spread awareness about the work they do. Deaf Awareness Week is a national week of celebrating deafness, observed annually throughout the last full week of September, focusing on promoting the positive aspects of deafness, encouraging social inclusion and raising awareness for organizations supporting those who are Deaf. More information can be found on the Deaf Access Services Facebook page.
T-shirts for Sale: Deaf Access Services is running a T-shirt campaign, through Monday, October 5. This is an opportunity to start your holiday shopping early, while supporting a great cause. Purchase your favorite color or coordinate to support your favorite hometown sports teams – in ASL! Proceeds benefit Deaf Access Services, supporting people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
In the News: Plus, providing American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters to assist people in the community with accessibility and information is an ongoing goal. To learn how Deaf Access Services is helping to make this happen, check out the recent news story that aired on WKBW-TV Channel 7.
Community Partnership: Deaf Access Services is collaborating with Irish Classical Theatre Company to make their recent production of “Sea Marks” fully accessible through open captioning and ASL interpretation. You can purchase tickets to view the virtual performance from the comfort of home beginning Thursday, October 15. To purchase tickets or for more information, check the Deaf Access Services website.
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