The Resource Center recently took time to pay tribute to the employees who are the backbone of the agency - those who provide direct support to individuals with disabilities.
The week of Sept. 8 through 14 was National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. On Sept. 12, TRC recognized four employees during its annual "Celebrating TRC's Every-day Heroes" event inside the Conference Center at its offices on Dunham Avenue in Celoron.
The celebration began with Michele Albaugh, assistant director of staff training, sharing some of the qualities possessed by the Everyday Heroes:
Pictured from left, Jessica Mosher, Joelle Iuculano, Danielle Chase and Tabatha Stenstrom.
They believe in actions rather than just words.
They put others before themselves. They make themselves available when they are needed. They're selfless.
They know what is right and what is wrong. The have moral correctness and a conscience.
They have courage and uphold the morally right option, even when that isn't easy.
They have to have presence of mind. They can assess or read a situation to direct their next course of action.
They have initiative. They make the best of their gifts and try to help people with them.
They have endurance. They are strong enough to face failure and to keep going to achieve the goal.
They have perseverance. They know they will eventually be victorious.
They make sacrifices, without hesitation.
Joanne Bevan, director of residential services, said that DSP Recognition Week is an opportunity to show appreciation to all TRC employees who provide direct support.
"If it wasn't for them, the lives of the people we touch wouldn't have as much in them," Bevan said. "We thank you every single day for what you do."
Debbie Brown, director of day services, noted that while the work performed by DSPs is challenging at times, it also is rewarding.
"I hope all DSPs know how much what you do each day is appreciated," Brown said. "You do amazing things and support those we work with to become the remarkable people we all care so much about. Your every interaction touches the life of someone, and what you do means so much. Your commitment to the participants and dedication to support them is greatly appreciated."
She added a quote from renowned newscaster Tom Brokaw: "It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference."
Executive Director Paul Cesana read some dictionary definitions of what a hero is, noting that characteristics such as "feats of courage and nobility of purpose" and "special achievements in their field or endeavor" apply to TRC's DSPs.
"You have a type of commitment that's so special and unique," Cesana said. "Thank you so much for your dedication."
The four employees honored as Everyday Heroes were:
Danielle Chase - Chase, a DSP in the "Discoveries" Day Habilitation Program on Jones & Gifford Avenue in Jamestown, used to volunteer at TRC before becoming an employee in June 2010. Autumn Wilson, manager of the Discoveries Program, said that Chase "can motivate everyone to have a higher expectation for themselves, and makes it their idea. She then revels in the fact that people discover what they can do and that there is no limit to what they can achieve." This spring, Chase organized a flash mob performance that was a huge hit at the annual TRC Expo. "She constantly looks for new ideas, or takes old ideas and implements them with a new and exciting way. She strives to constantly offer new ways of learning to those she works with. She prides herself in supporting others to take charge of their own lives, and to experience life to the fullest," Wilson said. In a videotaped interview that was played during the celebration, Chase said that the hardest thing about her job is not knowing what each day will bring, because the people she supports have good days and bad days. But she relishes her job working with individuals who are disabled. "I love seeing them flourish and get to where they want to be," Chase said. "If you want to better someone's life this would be the job that you would want."
Joelle Iuculano - Iuculano, a DSP in the home on Whitehill Avenue in Jamestown, joined TRC after graduating from high school in 2000. "In my observations of Joelle, one thing that stands out is her professionalism," said John Vogan, residence coordinator. "Even though the residents of the Whitehill IRA view her as a family member, Joelle always maintains professional boundaries and carries herself as an employee working for the individuals at Whitehill. Joelle always appears bright and energetic, and I have never seen her in a bad mood while at work."
Vogan noted that Iuculano recently took two of the home's residents on a shopping and dining trip to the Galleria Mall, a day that required her to handle some difficult tasks for the residents, who both use wheelchairs and need significant supports. In her interview, Iuculano said a challenging part of her job was learning to have patience and recognizing that everyone makes mistakes. She said the crowning achievement of her TRC career occurred last year when she was involved in helping a resident reconnect with the son she hadn't seen in 20 years. "The people who live here have a harder life than we could ever imagine," Iuculano said. "I just see myself as a person who cares about people." Several residents and employees from Whitehill were on hand to see Iuculano be honored.
Jessica Mosher - Mosher, a DSP in the home on Norby Road in Kiantone, began working for TRC in October 2010. "Jess is dedicated to the residents and has a keen sense of behavioral and medical need of the residents," said Karen Silzle, residence coordinator. "She takes pride in her job and has the trust of the residents, which shows how much she cares. Jess is a valued staff member and is very important to the success of our team at Norby. She steps in and takes on extra responsibilities as needed. She is here for the consumers first, as we all should be."
In her interview, Mosher said that having a brother on the autism spectrum helped prepare her for her job at TRC. She said that a DSP could easily get frustrated when someone with a disability doesn't want to work on goals or household tasks, but that you "have to figure out another way" to motivate the residents. Noting that a DSP's job is "not just a paycheck," Mosher said that the individuals she supports "are absolutely wonderful" and have "probably taught me more than I've taught them."
Tabatha Stenstrom - Stenstrom, a supported living specialist in TRC's Individualized Services Department, joined TRC in 2006. Kevin Anderson, administrator of the Individualized Services Program, noted that Stenstrom "works by herself out in the field," supporting people with disabilities who live on their own or with their families.
He said that one of Stenstrom's biggest accomplishments has been the effect she's had on a young man with behavior challenges. Whereas Ms. Stenstrom used to only be able to work with this man in his home due to concerns of a behavioral issue occurring in public, the man now regularly goes bowling, plays in a park and attends a community recreation center when he is with her. "She's a great leader for us," Anderson said.
In her interview, Stenstrom said that one of the things she likes about her job is that, "The simple achievements that people make, you feel good about yourself because you were a part of that." She said she enjoys working with people who are disabled. "You learn to care deeply about the people you work with."
All four Everyday Heroes credited teamwork as a critical factor in being able to do their jobs effectively.
To view the video interviews, go to www.resourcecenter.org.
Each of the Everyday Heroes received $25, a TRC jacket, candy, a frame bearing inspirational words, a copy of their videotaped interview, and the opportunity to go to the Direct Support Conference in Keuka Lake next June. Their names have been added to a plaque containing the names of Everyday Heroes from previous years.
A number of employees also received honorable mentions: Mickey Berlin, Melissa Cardone, Jennifer Edwards, Debra Hall, Shan-ti-ka Jessie, Karen Johnson, Jill Marsh, Margaret Meek, Jessie Mekus, Annie Melendez, Roberta Pratt, Ashley Randolph, Jeanne Slade, Brian Smith and Autumn Walters.