MDOD Celebrates Direct Support Professional Week:
The Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD) is proud to announce Governor Hogan signed a proclamation declaring September 13-19th Direct Support Professional (DSP) Week in Maryland. Maryland joins the federal government and numerous other states in recognizing the important work DSPs provide every day of the year to Marylanders with disabilities. DSPs often make the crucial difference for many of our citizens when it comes to living a fulfilling life in the community. DSPs provide a broad range of services, which must be individualized and tailored to meet each person's needs. Not only does the position vary from person to person, it may also vary over time, making this type of work rewarding but challenging in its scope.
A dedicated DSP is often the difference between a satisfying day-to-day experience, or continued social segregation. These professionals deserve our gratitude every day of the year, but MDOD is proud to recognize the magnitude of their contributions during Direct Support Professionals Week.
Monday, September 14th-CHANGE, Inc.
CHANGE, Inc. is a provider of vocational and day services for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities located in Westminster, Maryland. They are an organization which understands the evolving needs of vocational support services and is modifying its offerings to include ever increasing community based services and competitive vocational opportunities. The staff at CHANGE, Inc. work tirelessly with the local community to form relationships which last leading to greater ability to formulate long term vocational opportunities for those they support.
Under the leadership of Executive Director, Michael Shriver, CHANGE, Inc. kicked off a week of celebrating their staff with a cookout and free water ice for participants and Direct Support Professionals on Monday. Several family members of participants and current Board members were present manning the grill and serving the staff members on site. Carroll County Administrator, Roberta Windham, along with Carroll County Commissioners, C. Richard Weaver and Stephen Wantz, were on hand to support the work of the DSPs and the contribution of CHANGE, Inc. to the local community.
When asked to comment on the most frustrating aspect of his position DSPs, Charlie and Tonya pictured with Change, Inc. Executive Director.as a Vocational Instructor, Charlie I. responded, "I actually love this job. There is always something positive. I come in smiling and I leave smiling."
Veteran Job Coach, Tonya S., indicated there is so much more to providing support than merely vocational skills. The individuals she serves want what everyone else desires in life; a job, a home, meaningful relationships, and a sense of contributing to the larger community. Tonya feels most fulfilled when the individuals she serves can meet these work and life goals which many of us take for granted.
Great job to the participants, administrative staff, and Direct Support Professionals at CHANGE, Inc. on a wonderful celebration and continued support for those with intellectual disabilities in Maryland.
Tuesday, September 15th-SEEC
SEEC is a nonprofit agency providing individualized, community-based supports to more than 200 people with developmental disabilities in Maryland. Their mission is "to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to direct their lives with dignity, choice, authority, and responsibility." The agency offers both residential and vocational support services.
SEEC developed a week long schedule of events to celebrate their Direct Support Professionals. Their festivities included an opportunity entitled, "A Mile in Their Shoes" which paired administrative staff with Direct Support Professionals to complete daily job duties. Thommasenia, a DSP at SEEC, looked forward to her turn on Friday. She noted that the opportunity to truly experience the day to day joys and struggles of her work can only be seen through hands on knowledge. She is proud to showcase her daily work and feels it is the best way to celebrate.
MDOD staff informed Direct Support Professional, Bill, of the Governor's proclamation. Bill beamed and asked to take a look at the signed order. Bill noted, "I chose to do this for my profession. I am here for these guys. There needs to be more people who really care." Bill spends his days with two gentlemen with intellectual disabilities. One has his own apartment and the other lives in an alternative living unit supported by another local nonprofit. Bill helps the men get to and from their various jobs through the day, assists them in volunteer work, and supports them as they navigate their communities.
Congratulations to SEEC and their Direct Support Professionals on a wonderful week aimed at ensuring DSPs know they are appreciated and their contributions are beyond measure.
Wednesday, September 16th- EPIC
Van, a 24 year veteran Direct Support Professional at EPIC in Prince Georges County, noted that he has seen communities change since beginning his career. He is pleased that the gentlemen he supports are now active members in their community association, places of worship, and direct their own supports. MDOD staff were honored to meet many dedicated and enthusiastic Direct Support Professionals and administrative staff at EPIC during the agency's DSP appreciation cookout.
The camaraderie was evident as DSPs showed pictures of recent vacations with those they support and shared memories of milestones along with moments of frustration. DSP, Modupe, noted that the work is a combination of ups and downs as the DSPs experience life alongside those they support. They celebrate achievements, mourn loss, and encourage tenacity in the face of adversity. Direct Support Professional, Antoinette, indicated she is continually motivated to help those she supports realize their fullest potentials.
EPIC has evolved from primarily supporting people with intellectual disabilities in obtaining meaningful work to providing an array of services. For over twenty years they have helped people become involved in their communities by pairing them with employers who offer positions which are meaningful, individualized, and community based. In 1989, they expanded their services and opened their first community home. EPIC now also provides services directly in the homes of families where professionals teach those they support various skills and assist them to participate meaningfully in their communities.
MDOD joins EPIC in saluting the hard work of their Direct Support Professionals. Keep up the good work!
Wednesday, September 16th- Compass, Inc.
Deputy Secretary Frank and MDOD staff were honored to be invited to the Hero Award Ceremony celebrated at Compass, Inc. in Beltsville. Direct Support Staff who were given this distinction were nominated by their peers as leaders in their field. Staff were honored for their dedication to those they serve; their commitment to the principals of community participation; and one gentleman was even honored for his heroic response to an emergent situation in which CPR was performed. The Deputy Secretary was pleased to have the opportunity to address the group, thank them for the work they do, and congratulate each nominee.
In addition to the award ceremony, Deputy Secretary Frank and MDOD staff were given a tour of the Compass, Inc. administrative offices and were welcomed at one of the homes of individuals supported by the program. The ladies who live in the home were proud to take the Deputy Secretary on a tour of their home, discuss their challenges in looking for meaningful work, and share stories about their hobbies and interests.
Compass provides residential support services, supported employment, community supported living arrangements, and individual support services to residents of Montgomery, Howard, Charles, and Prince Georges Counties. Compass' mission is "to support individuals to realize their dreams and lead fulfilling lives as valued members of their communities. Compass aims to provide cutting edge services and supports where every person has the opportunity to take risks to achieve unprecedented outcomes in pursuit of their dreams."
Congratulations to the Direct Support Professionals at Compass, Inc. on a job well done!
Thursday, September 17th-Chesterwye
"My job makes me smile. . . I love coming here in the morning. It is not an effort. It comes naturally." comments Kathleen who has worked as a DSP for 15 years. Direct Support Professionals at Chesterwye in Grasonville celebrated DSP Week with pictures of the proclamation from Governor Hogan and several days full of festivities. Kathleen spent much of her time with MDOD staff discussing the Special Olympics achievements of the gentlemen she supports. In addition to working as a DSP, Kathleen donates her time as a Special Olympics swim team coach. One of the men who live in the home where she works made it to the world games this year and Kathleen beamed with pride when discussing his accomplishments.
MDOD also had the pleasure of meeting Bob who works as a one to one staff for a gentleman diagnosed with Autism. Bob has been employed by Chesterwye in this role for six years. When asked his biggest challenge as a DSP, he noted, "There is just not enough of me to go around and not enough hours in the day to do all we want to do."
Great job to the DSP of Chesterwye! Your dedication and loving attitude are evident.
Thursday, September 17th-Dovepointe
MDOD staff walked into a festive party complete with a feast of desserts put out as a surprise for Direct Support Professionals by the administrative staff of Dovepointe in Salisbury. Executive Director of Dovepointe, Don Hackett, was on hand to greet staff and introduce the individuals who were receiving supports. MDOD staff were also treated to a tour of the building which boasts meeting and reception space used by the local community. When groups use the space or catering service some of the individuals supported by Dovepointe provide those services through a job training program.
Carolyn is a Direct Support Professional who has worked at Dovepointe for over 15 years. She is a one to one support for a woman who is blind, deaf, and is diagnosed with an intellectual disability. Every day Carolyn assists the woman to choose her daily schedule utilizing a box full of tactile icons and assisting her to stick them on a daily board in the order she desires. When asked why Carolyn continues in this field after 15 years of service, she noted, "I just love coming to work every day."
While Carolyn is a veteran DSP, Dawn has been in this field for only ten months after making a change from health care. She enjoys sharing her time with those she supports. She is pleased when the ladies who live in the home where she is employed, invite their friends over and just enjoy life. Dawn noted, "It is rewarding to see them smile. That is when I know I am making a difference."
Great job Dovepointe and congratulations to the dedicated DSP at your organization!
Friday, September 18th- The Arc Central Chesapeake Region
MDOD staff were pleased to attend The Arc Central Chesapeake Region's award ceremony and ice cream social. Administrative staff were on hand serving brownie sundaes, bananas splits and other goodies to Direct Support Professionals at their Arnold office. In addition, DSPs Elizabeth and Geoffrey were presented awards for outstanding service by the Executive Director, Kate Rollason, and Director of HR, Jeff Althoff.
The Arc of the Central Chesapeake Region has several offices in both Kent and Anne Arundel Counties. They offer a variety of support services including community living, employment support, and fiscal management services. The agency provides these services throughout the area in Anne Arundel, Caroline, Dorchester, Queen Anne, Kent, and Talbot counties. They currently support sixty-six residential homes with their services reaching over 1200 Maryland families in various capacities.
Geoffrey is an Employment Adviser. He came to The Arc after working as an instructor with Project SEARCH. The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business-led, one year school-to-work program that is taught entirely at the workplace. The over-arching goal of Project SEARCH is to increase sustainable employment and self-sufficiency of those students who participate. Geoffrey has particularly enjoyed seeing the outcome of the training provided by that program come to life as individuals enter the workforce and begin their economic participation in the community with support from The Arc. When asked about the most rewarding part of his work, Geoffrey summed up the meaning of DSP Week by saying, "This job is not easy. It takes a certain kind of person. It takes patience, empathy, and love for what you do and those you support. . . But I have seen tremendous growth making me realize just how capable those we support really are when given the opportunity."
Well said, Geoffrey! Congratulations to The Arc Central Chesapeake Region on a job well done!