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2010 DSP of the Year

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2010 DSP of the Year

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maria Cordova, Adelante Development Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Despite an unstable economy and record high unemployment, particularly for those with disabilities, Ms. Cordova garnered an incredible 115 jobs for Adelante’s persons served. An effective advocate, Maria established positive relationships with 57 new employers and single-handedly coordinated a job fair. Realizing the need for job candidates to look the part, she created the Clothing Closet and acquired donations of professional attire for client job interviews.

ANCOR President Peter Kowalski presented the ANCOR 2010 Direct Support Professional of the Year Award to Ms. Cordova during an awards ceremony at the ANCOR Management Practices Conference in New Orleans, LA. “Unemployment is especially high among those with disabilities, which makes Maria Cordova’s achievement all the more impressive,” noted Kowalski. “She is making an incredibly valuable social and economic contribution to Albuquerque’s community-at-large.” He went on to announce that in recognition of the accomplishments of all of this year’s winners, the National Association of Direct Support Professionals is honoring them with complimentary one-year memberships. Also during the ceremony, Bill Tapp, national director of the College of Direct Support (CDS), praised Ms. Cordova’s exceptional job performance and presented her with a VISA gift card. He made known that CDS would be awarding VISA gift cards to all state winners as well.

“There were so many inspiring and deserving nominees that it was difficult to choose the final winners,” said Renee Pietrangelo, ANCOR CEO. “ANCOR takes great pride in recognizing and honoring the remarkable work done by these professionals. We congratulate Maria Cordova and the other 40 for their stand-out achievements.”


The ANCOR Direct Support Professional Recognition Award is judged on criteria in concert with the overall philosophy of ANCOR’s National Advocacy Campaign to raise awareness and compensation for the direct support workforce. Among other criteria, nominees are judged on their effectiveness in building social networks, meaningful and productive participation in the community for the people they serve and advocating or effecting change on behalf of people with disabilities.


ANCOR announced the winners from 39 states and the District of Columbia as State Direct Support Professional of the Year recipients during the ceremony in New Orleans. They will receive their awards from ANCOR and the gift cards from CDS in conjunction with ANCOR’s Governmental Activities Seminar, September 13, 2010, in Washington, DC.

  • Arizona: Sarah Joswick, RISE Services, Inc., Mesa

  • Arkansas: Jessica Dunnick, Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled, Inc., Little Rock

  • California: Mallika Zavalza, Dungarvin California, LLC, Santa Rosa

  • Colorado: Rita Hirsch, Community Advantage, Greeley

  • Connecticut: Susan Hancock, Ability Beyond Disability, Bethel

  • District of Columbia: Rachael Houston, St. John’s Community Services

  • Delaware: Rebecca Loller, ResCare/VOCA DE, Newark

  • Florida: Lucinda McGruder, United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Florida, Pensacola

  • Georgia: Willie Grove, EnAble of Georgia, Roswell

  • Illinois: Maria Rivera, Misericordia, Chicago

  • Indiana: Cathy Peters, Dungarvin Indiana, LLC, Portage

  • Iowa: Barb Edsill, Exceptional Persons, Inc., Waterloo

  • Kansas: Eric Hammond, Rosewood Services, Inc., Great Bend

  • Kentucky: Deborah Robertson, Community Alternatives Symsonia, Benton

  • Louisiana: Linda Grant, Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries, Pineville

  • Maine: Dawn Doak, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, Portland

  • Maryland: Sheila Washington, Chimes Maryland Vocational Services, Baltimore

  • Massachusetts: Karen Dooley, WCI (Work, Community, Independence), Waltham

  • Minnesota: Kim Sirek, Mount Olivet Rolling Acres, Victoria

  • Missouri: Ola Pennington, St. Louis Arc, St. Louis

  • Montana: Nate Byrne, Family Outreach, Inc., Bozeman

  • Nebraska: Kathie Chisholm, Community Alternatives Nebraska, Lincoln

  • Nevada: Ann Stirling, Dungarvin Nevada, LLC, Carson City

  • New Hampshire: Dambar Kadariya, Moore Center Services, Inc., Manchester

  • New Jersey: Marie Quilter, Neighbours, Inc., Princeton

  • New Mexico: Stacy Roanhorse, Dungarvin New Mexico, LLC, Albuquerque

  • New York: Gavriel Sienov, HASC Center, Brooklyn

  • North Carolina: Felicia Haywood, Easter Seals UCP NC, Charlotte

  • Ohio: Addie Moore, Outlook of America, Ottawa

  • Oklahoma: Karen Clark, Dungarvin Oklahoma, LLC, Norman

  • Oregon: Sekou Dolley, Dungarvin Oregon, LLC, Portland

  • Pennsylvania: Barb Sanders, Erie Homes for Children & Adults, Inc., Erie

  • South Dakota: Twila Baade, Oahe, Inc., Pierre

  • Tennessee: Jermaine Favors, Open Arms Care Corporation, Ooltewah

  • Texas: Velma Winston, ResCare, Inc., Houston

  • Vermont: Lynn Brooks, Families First, Brattleboro

  • Virginia: Justin Orndorff, Community Alternatives Virginia, Gore

  • Washington: Carla Stevens, ResCare, Inc. dba Creative Living Services, Seattle

  • West Virginia: Donna Keister, Potomac Center, Inc., Romney

  • Wisconsin: Jennifer Sabally, Dungarvin Wisconsin, LLC, Milwaukee

Sarah JoswickArizona : Sarah Joswick (RISE Services, Inc.) takes her commitments seriously. She began working with an autistic brother and sister when they were eight and ten. Today they are 18 and 20. Sarah’s seen them through seven local moves, their high school studies, a high school graduation and their mom’s return to graduate school. Under her guidance, the siblings receive the latest therapies, enroll in special needs classes and attend empowering conferences on autism. A whole new world of “can do’s” opened up for Rebecca when she heeded Sarah’s advice to embrace her autism and participate in a panel with other autistic teens and adults. Because of Sarah’s unfailing devotion and support, Rebecca is a high school graduate pursuing her dream career designing art for holiday cards, tee shirts and postcards. With two down and one more graduation to go, Sarah can look back with pride on a DSP job well done.

Jessica DunnickArkansas : Jessica Dunnick (Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled, Inc.) is a mainstay for her family of five, her agency and Ryan. Jessica spends seven days a week with Ryan although he lives with his mother and brother. Ryan’s mom is wheelchair bound and medically confined to home. Jessica and her husband often support day-to-day tasks for the family to help out. The Dunnicks are big baseball fans and volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club to give rural kids access to games. Naturally, Ryan enjoys going with them. He and Jessica are volunteer workers at the Boys and Girls Club concession stands during baseball season. Jessica has a remarkable nine-year relationship with Ryan that provides him the stability, consistency and social interactions he craves. To Jessica and the rest of the Dunnicks, Ryan is one of the family.

Mallika ZavalzaCalifornia : Mallika Zavalza (Dungarvin California, LLC) has an affinity for being with people. She intuitively advocates for her residents by coaching them to speak for themselves and preparing them to be successful in their daily experiences. The Council on Aging recently honored the fifteen individuals Mallika supports for their exemplary service delivering meals and building personal relationships with the homebound. Mallika’s a natural at turning advocacy into opportunity, fostering the rights and choices of individuals, initiating language development and making every opportunity a learning one. Her DSP talents know no bounds.

Rita HirschColorado : Rita Hirsch (Community Advantage) has been working 27 years advocating for civil rights and opportunities for the people she supports. She folds them into her life by including them in her own volunteer and family activities. They attend the People First Conference annually and volunteer with the Greeley Museums, neighboring elementary schools, Meals on Wheels, Relay for Life and local nurseries. An individual sums her up this way. “By Rita’s actions we have come to know that we are not just clients!’ ‘She has a wonderful sense of humor where silliness and craziness are a part of life.’ ‘We have known her for many years, she has given her whole life to devotion, compassion and caring.’ ‘Rita reminds me of an angel; she is like a miracle of love.”

Susan HancockConnecticut : Susan Hancock (Ability Beyond Disability) is a go-getter who sees to it that the people she supports build strong bonds in their community. She specializes in developing opportunities that suit their particular interests, needs and desires and gets them out on a daily basis. You’ll see the people she supports at the elections polls, animal shelters, Halloween festivities and local events. A believer in the maintaining family ties, Susan planned a surprise 50th birthday for one of the people she serves, gathering friends and family from throughout New England. She topped it off by producing a souvenir slide show of the festivities. Susan went into high gear when one of them was hospitalized; she organized a crew of staff to help her maintain a 24-hour watch in order to facilitate communication with nurses until the patient was stabilized. She secured dentures for an individual whose dentist didn’t see the value in them. He loves his new teeth and is proud of his new look.

Rachael HoustonDistrict of Columbia : Rachael Houston (St. John’s Community Services) started her DSP career 15 years ago. Today she is one of SJCS’s top DSPs and recently received honors for her caring, giving spirit and furthering the quality of life for people with disabilities. Rachael devotes her life to two roommates who reside in their own apartment. They admire her cooking skills, witty sense of humor and her steady companionship. When vacation time rolls around, it’s Rachael they want with them. Rachael involves them in activities and events best suited to their needs and works tirelessly to make things happen for them, often forgoing personal time. The roommates love and appreciate Rachael for the sacrifices she makes and all she does for them. She’s one of a kind and they know it.

Rebecca LollerDelaware : Rebecca Loller (ResCare/VOCA) makes it her goal to support the people she serves and achieve theirs. Some accomplishments are vacationing in Florida, attending concerts and going to NASCAR races. One gentleman succeeded in remaining steadily employed in his restaurant job until his retirement. Rebecca makes it one of her goals to maintain strong family bonds for the people she supports. Everyone gets a birthday celebration with friends and family and she annually prepares a lavish Thanksgiving feast. In 2009 over 50 people enjoyed her turkey dinner! A mother writes that the support her daughter receives from Rebecca “…is the next best thing to being at home.”

Lucinda McGruderFlorida : Lucinda McGruder’s (United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Florida) clients, families and co-workers regard her as a teacher, mentor, confidant, and most of all a friend. About her work as a DSP she says, “I have discovered that you will learn to appreciate your ability to look at life differently.” So, while she encourages her persons served to pursue community participation, Lucinda also practices “reverse inclusion.” She enjoins the community to enjoy the warm hospitality of the people she supports on their own turf. They invite visitors for tea and tailgate parties, special events and presentations. She started a pen pal program allowing people served to correspond with members of community civic groups, and keeps everyone current on local and national events by initiating discussion on newspaper and magazine articles and the Internet. After 25 years of DPS work Lucinda says there is one constant, “…the bond and love between the people I serve and myself has remained the same.”

Willie GroveGeorgia : Willie Grove (EnAble of Georgia) is well known for his deep voice, gentle soul and person-centered approach. He lives by his personal philosophy that good interventions can make the world a better place for all people. Mr. Willie counts computer technology among the good interventions available to open access and communications with the people he supports. And, they make the most of the opportunities Mr. Willie offers. They use technology to make their opinions and voices heard and are front and center at People First of Georgia events and Disability Day at the Georgia State Capitol. Mr. Willie says that because he is using his gifts to positively influence others, he is “living his purpose.”

Maria RiveraIllinois : Maria Rivera (Misericordia) has encyclopedic knowledge of personal history; medical, behavioral and emotional issues; and the likes and dislikes of 100 people served. Scheduling activities, parties and trips to the swimming pools are routine for Maria. She’s amazingly insightful and highly adaptable. To accommodate those with hearing impairments, she took it upon herself to learn sign language and set up discussion groups. If anyone’s holiday plans fall through, they’ll end up at Maria’s house for a festive family celebration. No one gets left behind on Maria’s watch.

Cathy PetersIndiana : Cathy Peters (Dungarvin Indiana, LLC) is totally relentless in her pursuit of desired outcomes for her person served. “T” and Cathy were paired up when T’s custodial grandparent was diagnosed with dementia and put in a nursing home. T showed up with a couple of garbage bags of clothes, but NO personal documents. Cathy worked quickly to orient T to her new circumstances and get her comfortable in her new home. She also set out to get T all the benefits and services to which she was entitled. Undaunted, Cathy made hundreds of phone calls and countless visits to state county offices. She was applauded at a License Bureau when she loudly insisted that, “If people victimized by Hurricane Katrina can get temporary documentation, then T can!” And, T did. Cathy goes far beyond what can reasonably be expected of any DSP and her tenacity gets results.

Barb EdsillIowa : Barb Edsill (Exceptional Persons, Inc.) loves what she does and turned down a promotion in order to continue working as a DSP. She advances personal independence and initiative by carefully matching tasks and responsibilities to the people she supports. She’s side by side with her group when they clean, remove snow and organize supplies. She’s very proud that they developed such a strong work ethic that they act when they see a need, rather than wait to be asked. Together they sew, stuff and deliver pillows to Hospice, sew and deliver quilts to nursing home residents and send handmade cards to service people in Iraq. They plant, reap and cook homegrown vegetables and fruit, and enjoy local and statewide excursions to picnic, fish, ride boats and tour the John Deere factory. One individual’s mom chose “P” words to describe Barb’s attributes: Personality, Pleasant, Patient, Potential, Praise, Pleased, People Person. Another P for Barb is Professional.

Eric HammondKansas : Eric Hammond (Rosewood Services, Inc.) believes people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have unique talent. His position as a certified instructor and manager of the Rosewood Horse Ranch & Therapeutic Riding Program proves him right; his riding program has evolved from a handful of riders to 40 adults and 24 children. Eric focuses on what each individual rider can accomplish and holds classes five days a week, 52 weeks a year. One of the people Eric supports suffers from a rare brain malformation and was confined to a wheelchair, unable to hold up his head. He gained little through physical therapy. Under Eric’s skilled attention he dramatically strengthened his core muscles and physical condition. Eric’s riders compete in the annual Rosewood Rodeo as well as other equestrian events in communities across Kansas. They won the 2008 American Quarter Horse Association’s National Equestrians with Disabilities Western Horsemanship High Point Exhibitor Award. It’s obvious to everyone that Eric found his calling and that he embraces it unconditionally.

Deborah RobertsonKentucky : Deborah Robertson (Community Alternatives Kentucky) supports three individuals with serious medical and physical challenges; they are family to her and she stands by them through thick and thin. Larry was born with arthrogryposis and is unable to walk, talk or complete the simplest of daily living tasks. He uses a wheelchair, communicates by computer and relies on Debbie. During their 18 years together Debbie championed Larry’s interest in the Murray State Basketball team and the St. Louis Cardinals by taking him to games and eating out. They decorated his room in a sports theme with pictures of famous players, lots of sports memorabilia and a big screen TV. When Larry became ill and was placed on a respirator, Debbie visited him regularly. She drove long distances to be with him, even when his Medicaid ran out and he was placed in an out-of-state rehab center. It was fate that Debbie was there the day the doctors’ made a decision to unplug Larry’s respirator. Larry communicated to Debbie that he was not ready to die! Debbie and her agency kicked into high gear, relentlessly pursuing protection and advocacy officials in two states to block the doctors’ plan. With just two days to spare, the rehab center’s ethics committee agreed to put a speech therapist on Larry’s case. The astute therapist confirmed that this disabled body contained a very intelligent and alive person who did not want to die. Thanks to Debbie’s supreme level of dedication Larry is on the mend. He writes, “I cannot wait to get well and come back to my home at Campbell, be back in my own room, and get to be with Debbie again.”

Linda GantLouisiana : Linda Grant (Evergreen Presbyterian Ministries) keeps two goals top of mind: Socialization and employment. Linda involves the people she supports in both. She typically works on a janitorial crew with six individuals to be sure each chooses their task for the day and receives the appropriate training to be successful. They volunteer to prepare items for nursing homes and are involved in numerous other volunteer efforts. When it’s time for fun, they work hard at that, too! As an example, they orchestrate an annual Valentine’s Day Dance that has become a date night filled with food, music and lots of dancing. Linda has a deep and personal relationship with each individual and is gratified to be able to spend her retirement years serving those who need her most.

Dawn DoakMaine : Dawn Doak (Goodwill Industries of Northern New England) has a zeal for work and play, and is eager that everyone achieves their very best. She enhances community relations and easily secures volunteer placements by focusing on non-profits struggling to stay in business. She’s a highly visible advocate and no stranger to the Maine legislature. She places persons served as pages in the state senate and coaches self-advocates to speak at public hearings about budget cuts and other issues. But, Dawn isn’t all business; she has a real flair for the theater. Those she supports enjoy the drama class she created as a venue for them to freely express their fears and dreams. Everyone has a role in Dawn’s class whether its setting props, painting sets, pulling curtain calls, writing the screenplay or selecting the music. Last year group spirits soared when they performed High School Musical. For Dawn, the best part was that everyone involved came away with something a little different, something their very own.

Sheila WashingtonMaryland : Sheila Washington (Chimes Maryland Vocational Services) possesses a natural instinct for working with those ill-suited to classrooms and training sessions. She succeeds exceptionally well in cases where people have a dual diagnosis and/or were housed in institutional settings and require intensive support to feel comfortable in the community. Sheila currently supports 13 people, six of whom require one-on-one atten-tion. It’s her primary responsibility to promote independence and groom them for employment, but she is much more than a vocational coach. Sheila teaches them personal hygiene, peer interaction and community awareness, and chaperones numerous trips to shops, the library and local happenings. What she considers “downtime” is getting the group together to discuss social behaviors, music, movies, TV shows, and current events. Sheila is a bundle of energy who goes the extra mile everyday.

Karen DooleyMassachusetts : Karen Dooley (WCI: Work, Community, Independence) meets every challenge with resolve, every setback with encouragement and every frustration with good humor. Her incredible track record of accomplishments makes her a go-to DSP. To ease communication between deaf individuals and staff she became proficient in American Sign Language. That was followed by certification as a First Aid and CPR instructor to provide in-house training for WCI staff. When funding ran short for an individual undergoing cancer treatment, it was Karen who researched and secured a grant from the New England Medical Center to pay for a portion of the necessary supports. Karen does nothing halfway. She plans, organizes and delivers boat cruises, social and sporting events, and monthly dances. She has deep and abiding relationships with the people she supports and treats them with warmth, dignity and respect. In turn, her commitment to them is matched by their trust and affection.

Kim SirekMinnesota : Kim Sirek (Mount Olivet Rolling Acres) gets a warm greeting when she walks through the door. This reflects her own welcoming style that values open communications and teamwork with the people she supports, families and co-workers. Kim is an efficient professional and caring friend who carefully tracks each person’s equipment and changes in medication on a daily basis and follows current research on their medical conditions. She’s a strong community advocate, and organ-izes trips to local theater productions, professional sporting events, water parks, outdoor concerts, dances and movies. Keeping the whole person in mind, Kim involves them in adaptive swimming, downhill skiing, ethnic activities, theater productions and overnight vacations. She often sacrifices time with her family, not only in service to others, but to further her education as a DSP.

Ola PenningtonMissouri : Ola Pennington (St. Louis Arc) has spent the majority of her life supporting people with developmental disabilities. When her son was born with hydrocephalus, Ola first went back to school and then went to work to fight for rights, supports and services for her son and others like him. Now Ola is part of the “Parents Learning Together” program where she assists families with every facet of their lives, whether its setting up doctor appointments, negotiating the court system, or conferring with teachers and schools. Ola is always on call and always stands ready to provide support, offer advice and celebrate her families’ achievements and accomplishments no matter what the time or the circumstances. Although past retirement age, Ola has absolutely no intention of slowing down. One of the mothers said, “She [Ola] has shown herself many times to be a woman of integrity…She has bought us groceries many times over… When I needed it she would talk with me or just listen to me.” Ola’s heart is with her families just as theirs are with her.

Montana : Nate Byrne (Family Outreach, Inc.) has a reputation for dedicating himself to those he supports no matter how difficult their disability. He actively participates in Eagle Mount, a therapeutic recreational program, to provide an avenue for them to enjoy community sporting and leisure activities, such as swimming, skiing and horseback riding. Nate is so dependable and reliable he doesn’t think twice about putting a hold on his own plans to help a family in need. He is especially committed to an individual with aggressive behaviors and severe autism. Through Nate’s devoted guidance and encouragement this individual is blossoming! The key to Nate’s exceptional success is his personal attention and participation in everyone’s physical, occupational and speech therapies. After learning what they need and how to execute their therapies, Nate teaches the techniques to family members so they can integrate them into daily routines. Nate is a natural DSP and his track record proves it.

Kathie ChisholmNebraska : Kathie Chisholm (Community Alternatives Nebraska) just isn’t interested in retiring. As it turned out, she made an excellent choice because she loves being a DSP at the Senior Center. Kathie has a green thumb and put her gardening talents to good use. With help from the seniors, she set up an elaborate garden at the Center, bringing flowers, vegetables and fruit plants from home. She created a Memorial Rose Garden that is lovingly tended by the seniors in honor of friends who have passed away. At harvest time Kathie involves the seniors in making birdhouses from the garden gourds and making some money on the side. Birdhouse sales generate money for seeds to start next year’s crops. It’s obvious that Kathie showers on the TLC, and her seniors soak it up. Birthdays are fêted with desserts of the celebrants’ choice that Kathie lovingly bakes herself. She shares and reads her own books and magazines with them and enjoys their company just as much as they enjoy hers. Kathie does what comes naturally to her and enjoys every minute of it.

Ann StirlingNevada : Ann Stirling (Dungarvin Nevada, LLC) is a civic-minded advocate for people with developmental disabilities. She has built an impressive network of community members and politicians who joined her in supporting community integration and assuring quality services. Ann is a watchdog for new opportunities that enable those she supports to maximize their community’s resources. The men she supports are registered voters who actively followed the presidential campaign, made educated choices and voted. One was invited to submit his name for jury duty and another was elected Sergeant at Arms for the People’s First Nevada Carson City chapter. Ann assists in weekly meetings with the men and together they plan their meals, shopping trips, extra curricular activities and responsibilities. Ann gives freely of herself and her time to ensure a high quality of life for them. She gets them involved in activities with the Adventure Camp at Sparks Marina and the Shriner’s Circus because they create recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. Ann is an advocate with a cause that’s near and dear to her heart.

Dambar KadariyaNew Hampshire : Dambar Kadariya (Moore Center Services, Inc.) gains respect from the people he supports through his genuine caring and sincerity. He naturally exudes leadership and possesses a clear sense of purpose that empowers those he supports and enriches the quality of their lives. During an enormous ice storm that crippled New England for more than a week, it was Dambar who was able to keep everyone safe, warm, calm and secure during a very scary time without heat and power. He always takes time to understand the needs and wants of those he supports and makes appropriate connections for them in the community. To Dambar, his DSP job is more like helping family than work and his special family loves him for it. A Mom wrote that, “He provides peace of mind for us when he is with our girls. They love him, and we love him for the wonderful caring person that he is.”

Marie QuilterNew Jersey : Marie Quilter‘s (Neighbours, Inc.) work with L.W. successfully turned a tightly closed introvert into a social butterfly, self-advocate and active community member. They volunteer at nursing’s homes with Marie’s pet therapy dog, participate in voter registration drives and yard sales. L.W. assists a vision-impaired neighbor to dress, go for walks and locate items around his house. Marie and L.W. also participate in letter writing campaigns to legislators, and L.W. voluntarily attends conferences and meets with local government officials to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. Marie never lets extenuating circumstances interfere with her relationship with L.W. She worked with him on a voluntary basis for two months when he was faced with budgetary constraints. Marie and L.W. are a deeply connected team who set out to make a difference every day.

Stacy RoanhorseNew Mexico : Stacy Roanhorse (Dungarvin New Mexico, LLC) passed up a promotion for an administrative position so she could stay with the women she supports. They are doing well, and she instinctively felt that a change would be too upsetting for them. In part, that is what makes Stacy a great DSP, putting the people she supports needs ahead of her own. She ensures that each woman maintains her own identity and each develops personal relationships within the community. Concerts, pedicures, manicures and hair styling appointments are part of Stacy’s routine to pamper them. Additionally, Stacy is alert to their medical and emotional needs. When one of them needed to transition to a home with a higher level of medical intervention, it was Stacy who trained the new staff and arranged for additional support services through the local hospital. Stacy has a big heart and gives her all everyday. And the women she supports love her for it.

Gavriel SienovNew York : Gavriel Sienov (HASC Center) goes the extra mile to provide meaningful community interaction for the people he supports. He facilitates weekly bank, shopping and recreational trips as well as daily trips to their synagogue. Gavriel always finds creative ways to stimulate the people he supports. His compassion is limitless. He confidently and successfully organized co-workers to advocate for a hospitalized individual to return home, trach and all, rather than submit to nursing home care. Gavriel is a stand out DSP who is intuitively driven to “do the right thing”. When the residence manager was on vacation, it was Gavriel who stepped in to advocate on behalf of an individual whose doctor was ignoring the major symptom; the person had stopped walking. Gavriel insisted that the doctor check the brain and a subsequent MRI showed there was bleeding in the brain. Thanks to Gavriel’s persistence, he received lifesaving treatment.

Felicia HaywoodNorth Carolina : Felicia Haywood’s (Easter Seals UCP NC) zeal for helping others was significantly intensified when she willingly left her full time job with the school system to work with a young woman who suddenly lost her father. It soon became clear that Melanie’s needs were much greater than originally anticipated. Felicia worked closely with officials to ensure that Melanie had a safe environment and eventually applied to become her home provider. It was a perfect match for both. Melanie says, “I like living with her [Felicia] because I am becoming a woman. We shop for new clothes and I feel better about myself and I am happy she lets me talk to her about everything.” Felicia’s big heart gave Melanie the chance she needed to become a happy, productive young woman. And, Melanie filled a void in Felicia’s compassionate heart. DSP kismet.

Addie MooreOhio : Addie Moore (Outlook of America) is the real thing, the walking talking epitome of a DSP. She doesn’t shy away from what is needed and she instills positive attitudes in everyone she knows. Even after 20 years on the job and ten people to support, her infectious spirit and optimism remain undaunted. One of the people she supports has physical and verbal impairments and requires kidney dialysis eight hours a day three times a week. She requested Addie’s companionship during these traumatic procedures. Addie’s calming influence and undivided attention worked its magic; no sedation was needed and Addie was able to communicate with the patient and pass important feedback to the nursing staff. Addie is confident and determined about her mission to support people with disabilities. She believes that her strong faith in God guides both her life and her work as a DSP.

Karen ClarkOklahoma : Karen Clark (Dungarvin Oklahoma, LLC) is an advocate, friend, confidante and mentor to three young women living in their own home. Her relationship with each is very strong, yet she was especially close to Patsy, who had multiple physical disabilities and communication challenges. Patsy’s health deteriorated to the point where doctors placed a feeding pump in her stomach, which of course meant no more solid foods. To help with this difficult transition, Karen filled Patsy’s days with activity, such as community outings, arts projects and shopping. Despite Karen’s loving care, Patsy grew increasingly frail and was put on oxygen. Again, it was Karen who stepped to the forefront to make sure Patsy didn’t suffer more than necessary and was showered and groomed daily. When Patsy moved to a hospital, it was Karen who advocated for hospice so Patsy could return home and be allowed to pass away surrounded by her friends and roommates. And, it was Karen who was by Patsy’s side at the very end. Patsy’s guardian wrote, “I stand amazed at her [Karen’s] love and devotion and will be forever grateful…”

Sekou DolleyOregon : Sekou Dolley (Dungarvin Oregon, LLC) survived the horrors of civil war in his native Liberia before arriving in the U.S. Despite relative comfort here, he dreams of the day when he returns to his homeland to help restore law, order and justice. To that end, he will graduate with a B.A. in criminal justice and psychology in 2011. Sekou intensely believes that all people should be allowed to live in dignity; his work as a DSP is a manifestation of his commitment. The people he supports do not communicate verbally, and all have additional challenges, such as autism and pica, so he schedules his classes to accommodate them. He ensures that they enjoy their community and maintain their family bonds by regularly listening as parents and siblings talk to them by phone. Sekou is tremendously important to those he serves and he takes this responsibility very seriously. One person served allowed only Sekou to feed her during a two-month hospitalization. She wouldn’t respond t0 or acknowledge anyone, yet always smiled and laughed when Sekou arrived. Sekou willingly supported still another individual during both his hospitalization and his rehabilitation so as to facilitate communication with medical staff and expedite treatments. No matter what he ultimately chooses for his life’s work, it’s crystal clear that Sekou will be successful in bringing about meaningful and positive change.

Barb SandersPennsylvania : Barb Sanders (Erie Homes for Children & Adults) works in the MOVE program (Making Opportunities for Volunteerism and Exploration). She supports individuals who thrive in their volunteer positions at the Erie Art Museum and a local day care center. Others participate in community groups such as Santa’s Helpers and a jazz/bongo band. Everyone is involved in making family gifts, such as scrapbooks or books about themselves, and hosting special luncheons for families and friends. Barb took the lead in organizing fundraisers to earn vacation money for a family Disney Cruise. She coordinated the sale of pizzas, pies and candy and organized a hands-on yard sale where everyone got involved. Once they reached their financial goal, the group hoisted anchor taking Barb and a few other staff with them to ensure “smooth sailing.” A happy mom wrote, “This is the first true vacation that John and I have had with Amber in 23 years! I was not exhausted and stressed…not once during the last 8 days had I thought about…what if things were different for Amber…I wish this…or I wish that… then I realized my wish had also come true.” Something else Barb can add to her DSP credentials: Dreammaker.

Twila BaadeSouth Dakota : Twila Baade (Oahe, Inc.) uses her person-centered thinking to recognize peoples’ capabilities. With characteristic humor and grace, she effectively and efficiently serves as the lead DSP for two homes that house six women and five men. Twila thinks outside the box to get them engaged in community activities and works at involving them in cancer awareness events, Special Olympics, South Dakota Advocates for Change and attendance at a church of their choice. She is a proud advocate for the Native American population that Oahe serves and encourages them to remain in touch with their culture and customs. Twila’s person-centered vision has a nice way of taking hold. Through her initiative many of the people supported by Oahe have strong relationships outside of the agency and have become active members of their community.

Jermaine FavorsTennessee : Jermaine Favors (Open Arms Care Corporation) makes every attempt to model socially appropriate behavior at all times and encourages the people he supports to do the same. Rather than speak for them, he guides them to interact personally with people in the community. Jermaine supplies plenty of opportunities to self-advocate by setting up trips to other service providers, shopping centers, and sporting events; even obtaining jobs at the local Ronald McDonald house, Humane Society and Meals on Wheels. He insists that the people he supports show respect for each other and themselves every day, in every way. A parent of one commented that her daughter had begun to demand respect from her parents and other family members. She told them that Jermaine always treated her and everyone else with respect and they needed to do the same. Jermaine holds himself to his own high standards well beyond his DSP workday. In his spare time he volunteers at the local food bank, and homeless shelter, and regularly visits local senior centers. Jermaine truly walks the walk.

Velma WinstonTexas : Velma Winston (ResCare, Inc.) makes high expectations her dictum. She expects her staff to be responsible, the homes to be well maintained, and the people she supports to be actively involved in their community. Everyone is treated with dignity and respect. The result is that those she supports are community-oriented and very active in local goings-on. Weekly activities include garage sales, opening of local parks, and festive events. Plus, everyone dresses to impress and weekly attendance at church services is followed by Sunday dinner on the town. This past year, Ms. Velma was instrumental in happily reuniting a non-verbal person served with his birth mother and grandfather after a 10-year separation. She gifted him with a photo album of the event to remember his special day. Ms. Velma proves time and again that her high expectations philosophy consistently garners positive results over and above routine standards and measures.

Lynn BrooksVermont : Lynn Brooks (Families First) opens doors to a world of opportunities for the people she supports in the Adult Services Division, but especially for E.R. “Before I met Lynn, I was suicidal and depressed, but Lynn has helped me so much, and now I am so happy. I love having her in my life,” writes E.R. Lynn created a highly personalized regime for E.R. that includes regular participation in outdoor recreational adventures, and exercise and volunteer programs, plus paid employment. This means that Lynn spends an extraordinary amount of time driving E.R. from place to place, often exceeding her weekly allotment of paid miles. Lynn’s relationship with E.R. is the envy of others, but she doesn’t rest on her laurels. Lynn’s successful experience with E.R. is her template for mentoring new DSPs in building strong, positive relationships with the people they serve.

Justin OrndorffVirginia : Justin Orndorff (Community Alternatives) routinely goes beyond the call for his persons served. He knows what they like best and sees that they enjoy themselves, whether it’s attending a concert or simply delivering a surprise cup of coffee or cocoa. Justin schedules shopping trips and visits to the library where the people he supports can use the Internet and, if inclement weather prevents outdoor sports, they all head to the local gym and sportsplex. Their camping trip to the beach is a highly anticipated annual event. Justin conveys compassion and respect by giving his full attention to individual wants and needs and by simply being a good listener. Add to this his creativity and innate people skills, and its easy to see that Justin’s presence is a bright spot in everyone’s day.

Carla StevensWashington : Carla Stevens (Creative Living Services) says, “I love my job. I would do it for free.” Her enthusiasm and spirit have created positive change in the lives of the people she serves for over 11 years. She loves to cook with them and has a special recipe for lasagna. She also has a special recipe for her DSP support work that consistently produces good results. She engages people in spirited conversation, yet is a considerate listener. She leads through example and that, along with her irrepressible optimism, rubs off on others. Carla always makes a particular point to help others see the unique qualities that make quiet, shy people notable: “Did you notice how she arranged her room? Did you see the pictures she took on her trip?” Carla views her DSP work as a fulfilling and rewarding addition to her life.

Donna KeisterWest Virginia : Donna Keister (Potomac Center, Inc.) loves people and intentionally sought a career where she could make a difference in people’s lives. “What I like most about my job is always having a connection…and understanding their wants and needs. I have the awesome opportunity to assist them in making improvements in their lives.” The child of two deaf parents, Donna learned signing before she could speak and uses these skills today to translate at events and teach sign language classes. She sticks very close to those who don’t have a strong family source by inviting them to her home for dinners and making sure they receive festively decorated holiday gifts. Donna is super trooper with a great attitude. Nothing deters her from arriving at work ready and willing to take on extra duties as needed, not even the 30 inches of snow that fell last winter.

Jennifer SaballyWisconsin : Jennifer Sabally (Dungarvin Wisconsin, LLC) supports high needs men and women with cognitive, behavioral and medical challenges. What’s unusual about Jennifer’s work is that most of them are or have been involved in the criminal justice system. Without strong support and supervision, they are at risk for returning to jail or prison. On any given day Jennifer handles routine and emergency medical issues, works with police and probation officers, coordinates transportation and manages behavioral (sometimes aggressive) challenges. She makes sure everyone is heard and that they feel they are being treated fairly and with respect. She provides individualized attention and has a track record of successfully reintegrating the people she supports into the community and reconnecting them with family and friends. Jennifer leaves no stone unturned to make things happen for those she supports. She believes and acts on her philosophy that people can and will rise to higher expectations if we help them take on new challenges, overcome their fears and build self-worth.