Direct Support Professional of the Month
We are excited to feature one exceptional Direct Support Professional each month. Direct Support Professionals fill an essential, challenging role as the front lines of support. We want to take the time to showcase and appreciate some amazing DSPs in our nine counties.
In lieu of the DSP of the Month Milestone HCQU West wishes to recognize the amazing work of our Providers. Do you know a staff or a team that is going above and beyond expectations? Contact us to spread the encouragement and recognition.
April 3, 2020 - Shout Out to
McGuire Memorial Community Home Staff
Milestone HCQU West is giving a shout out to the staff who are keeping things going in McGuire’s community homes. We hear that those you support are out walking and even riding a modified tricycle. Self-advocates are engaged in activities that are fun and personalized. Social Distancing is maintained as is thorough cleaning of their homes. Thank you for making a positive difference during these out of routine times for the individuals that you support. Dan Stadnik, your Director tells us that you are exceeding expectations. Keep up the great work!
March 2020 - Beaver County
Annette Yankello of BCRC, Inc. (Beaver County Rehabilitation Center) has been selected as March’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Annette Yankello has worked at BCRC Inc. for 5 years (over two periods of employment). The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of March.
Annette is in a dual position: one as a Direct Support Professional and the other as the Activities Coordinator for community based programs. In her role as a DSP, Annette exemplifies kindness, compassion, and dedication to the people she serves. She identifies quality opportunities to each and every one and considers it a privilege to have the chance to provide service. As our Activities Coordinator, Annette reaches out far and wide to establish a network of supports that are willing to provide people with educational, fun, and worthwhile activities that help each person grow in the areas that are identified in each person’s ISP.
When asked to pinpoint one instance that Annette has gone above and beyond, supervisors stressed that “on a daily basis, Annette strives to provide opportunities for our individuals to participate in enriching activities.” They also shared one occasion where Annette was able to orchestrate for some of their young ladies the chance to dance with performers who were dancing in the Nutcracker Ballet at the Benedum. The ladies who participated felt that a dream of theirs had been realized. On another occasion, she organized a trip for those who demonstrated an interest in history to meet with a survivor of Auschwitz. It brought out such a sense of compassion for others, for people who they would never know but definitely cared about after hearing of their difficulties.
Not only is Annette persuasive, but also she is insightful into other people’s needs. Recently, she was providing support to a young lady who was having a particularly difficult day. Annette was able to help her find a volunteer opportunity that permitted her to feel good about herself, give to the community, and even changed her outlook on how she saw herself.
Supervisors recognized Annette Yankello for this honor saying “Annette putts forth 100% in her effort to ensure that she provides genuine interaction and support to our individuals. She puts herself in their positions and treats them as she would want to be treated, ensuring compassionate interactions and quality service!”
When asked, what is the best part of your job? Annette replied "I particularly relish the challenge of helping the people we support develop and improve their skills and abilities. I find that helping people grow in their areas of interest and seeing their faces as they enjoy an event is incredibly fulfilling.”
Thank you, Annette Yankello, for your exceptional service.
February 2020 - Lawrence County
Lee Syrjanen of Lark Enterprises Inc. has been selected as February’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Lee Syrjanen has been at Lark Enterprises Inc. for 4 years and 10 months. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of February.
Lee is a Job Coach supervising four people with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities on a midnight turn janitorial crew under small group employment.
One supervisor reported this account where Lee had gone above and beyond. Crew members rotate on and off the crew as needed and a new member was put on who had a lot of interest in that type of work. After a few weeks on the crew, this member was having a lot of difficulties in many areas from retaining work instruction to poor bathroom habits, which accidents were occurring almost daily and were affecting the crew member’s ability to perform the assigned work for the shift. Team meetings took place and it was discussed that maybe this was not the best fit for this person. Lee spoke up on this person’s behalf and convinced others that with a little support, he wanted to continue working with this person. Lee worked on bathroom related things first by keeping an eye on what this person was drinking and eating in accordance with their doctor’s recommendations. Lee also assisted with prompts to use the restroom at various times during the shift and making sure he maintained a change of clothes with him daily. Lee then picked out certain tasks at each job site where this person could find the most success and did not vary from this routine. Within a short amount of time improvement was noted and this person still maintains a position on the crew.
Supervisors recognized Lee Syrjanen for this honor saying “The janitorial job coach position is a very fast paced environment with a lot of different responsibilities. It would have been real easy for Lee to go along with removing the person from his crew, but instead he took it upon himself to help bring some success to this man’s life.”
When asked, what is the best part of your job? Lee replied "Helping people with intellectual/developmental disabilities earn a living and hopefully get out on their own.”
Thank you, Lee Syrjanen, for your exceptional service.
January 2020 - Butler County
Lori Berzonski of Community Care Connections Inc. has been selected as January’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Lori Berzonski has been at Community Care Connects Inc. for 7 years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of January.
Lori is very kind and compassionate with all of the individuals she supports. She doesn’t stop there though, she gives that “loving push” and support necessary to help everyone do as much for themselves as they possibly can. That opportunity for independence is at the core of our mission here at CCC.
She is honest and direct but can get her point across in a humorous way. She gets to know all the people she works with on a personal basis and they seem to like it when she works. She doesn’t just work in her “own” house; she is willing to work and train at any house. Lori gets to know everyone personally when working with them. She can tell you something about almost every person in the agency. She will work in a variety of settings, getting to know what each person would like to do in the community.
Community Care Connections Inc. asked their Direct Support Professionals and Supervisors to nominate a co-worker who demonstrates excellence in support and compassion. Supervisors recognized Lori Berzonski for this honor saying, Lori’s co-workers apparently think as highly of her as we do. We are proud to have people like Lori working with the people we support and proud to nominate her for this award.
When asked, what is the best part of your job? Lori replied "Sharing and learning about each individual and staff. Group participation.”
Thank you, Lori Berzonski, for your exceptional service.
December 2019 - Armstrong County
Tevon Minich of Valley Advantages LLC has been selected as December’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Tevon Minich has been at Valley Advantages LLC for 1 1/2 years. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of December.
Tevon practices the values and mission at Valley Advantages as he sees each individual as their own person and respects their choices. As he assures the people he supports are safe, he also encourages them to advocate for themselves and strives to make sure they are a respected member of their community.
One supervisor reported this particular account where Tevon had gone above and beyond. Tevon had researched events and activities that he remembered enjoying as a youth. He planned a fun weekend for two young men he works with to be able to travel to George Washington’s estates and visit the beach. He managed hunting up prices, planning all the activities, and successfully pulled off a memorable event for those he supports. Everyone had a great time and it all started with Tevon taking an idea and laboring to bring it to fruition.
Supervisors recognized Tevon Minich for this honor saying “He is willing to support all individuals, engaging in activities of their choice and following service plans. He is dependable and has skills that he could use in other professions that would give him financial security but chooses to be a Direct Support Professional because he enjoys working with the people he supports. He makes our guys smile.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Tevon replied "Being able to make an everyday difference for the people I support.” Tevon shared how much he appreciates being able to work with people and make a positive difference to help others have a full, fulfilled life to the best of his and Valley Advantage's ability.
Thank you, Tevon Minich, for your exceptional service.
November 2019 - Indiana County
Christine Steffish of Fayette Resources has been selected as November’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Pictured left to right: Julie Dunmire, Program Specialist, Chris Steffish, DSP of the Month, and Amanda DuBrock, Administrative Assistant.
Chris Steffish has been at Fayette Resources for 2 ½ years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of November.
Chris has been a mentor for all of her fellow coworkers. Ensuring everyone follows a person first mindset by example, Chris evokes confidence from her supervisors. “We can be sure that we are upholding the highest of quality care to each person we support when she has been involved in their training process.” reported one supervisor.
When asked to pinpoint one instance that Chris has gone above and beyond, supervisors reported that they couldn’t limit it to one moment because everyday she comes to work, she puts her consumers first. Giving her all is more matter of fact. “It doesn't matter what is going on outside of work, when she is here, she is focused on going above and beyond for her guys and for administration.”
Supervisors recognized Chris Steffish for this honor saying “I chose her because she will do anything for anyone that is asked, if she physically can and really follows through with Fayette Resources Mission statement everyday she is at work.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Chris replied "The best part of my job is working with the people we support and fulfilling their needs."
Thank you, Christine Steffish, for your exceptional service.
October 2019 - Clarion County
Amy Divins of New Light Inc. has been selected as October’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Amy Divins started at New Light Inc. in September 2010. The following was shared with us about her excellent service for the past 9 years by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of October.
Amy Divins provides supports to a gentleman who is not only non-verbal but also has many behavioral and medical challenges. She gives him the opportunity to grow in a loving environment. Amy provides him unconditional supports that are loving, respectful, and dignified. She believes in the people she supports, in their potential and intellect. Her performance while doing her job shows how much she cares for people and shows the immense pride she has in her work.
A supervisor stressed Amy’s persistent dedication saying “Pinpointing a specific instance where Amy went above and beyond in her job requirements is not an easy task. Amy goes above and beyond every day.” Amy’s commitment is seen in how she knows those she supports better than anyone else – always going to appointments, taking them where they want to go, and treating them like family. Though one gentleman she supports is nonverbal, Amy is so in-tune with him. She can tell when he is not feeling well or needs attention. She makes every effort to ensure he is comfortable, loved, and respected every moment, not considering her own sacrifices.
Supervisors recognized Amy Divins for this honor saying “Amy has been a longtime valued employee and this was the perfect opportunity for her to finally receive proper recognition.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Amy replied "I really like taking care of people so I love everything about my job."
Thank you, Amy Divins, for your exceptional service.
September 2019 - Venango County
Alyssa Gill of Easterseals Western & Central Pennsylvania has been selected as September’s Direct Support Professional of the month.
Alyssa Gill has been at Easterseals for 7 years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of September.
Alyssa is an easygoing, caring person. She takes the time to develop a strong rapport with both the people she supports and their families. She is patient and assists the person in maintaining their independence to the best of their ability, especially with their Adult Daily Living Skills.
On one occasion a person who is especially fond of Alyssa was hospitalized. There were concerns regarding this person completing a swallow evaluation. Alyssa came to the hospital during the evaluation to provide comfort and support to them, as well as aide in ensuring a successful test was completed.
Supervisors recognized Alyssa Gill for this honor saying “Alyssa is a strong team player who always puts her best effort forward in any tasks she completes. Alyssa has a great deal of patience when working with the people she supports and takes time to listen to their wants and needs. She always assures that people's needs are met and their safety is top priority.”
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Alyssa replied "I love helping the clients who are unable to do a lot for themselves." Her compassionate heart all year round makes us excited to recognize her this month.
Thank you, Alyssa Gill, for your exceptional service.
August 2019 - Mercer County
Anthony Nassar of The Alliance for Behavioral & Developmental Disabilities (ABDD) has been selected as August's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Anthony Nassar has been at the ABDD for 7 years, 4 months. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of August.
Anthony demonstrates an admirable dedication to the individuals he supports. He assists people with disabilities in living a rewarding and productive lifestyle while maintaining and developing independence. Anthony has effectively worked with individuals who exhibit challenging behaviors, building a long-lasting rapport with them and their families, while assisting in achieving greater independence and quality of life. He has an excellent therapeutic approach and has the ability to redirect and de-escalate situations. Most recently, one individual was recently diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. Anthony encourages him to exercise daily and will walk with him to encourage healthy diet and exercise. Anthony also encourages him to make good food and beverage choices and together this has brought down the clients A1C from 13.5 to 7.7 in two months. We applaud Anthony’s heart and dedication of service.
Supervisors recognized Anthony Nassar for this honor saying “Anthony is a reliable, professional, and consistent Direct Support Professional. The people he supports gravitate towards him, and his teammates and supervisors all appreciate him.” Anthony always puts the needs of those he supports ahead of his own. Supervisors also marked how he always says yes to whatever the people he supports want to do and considers his main job as keeping the individuals happy. Anthony has a great rapport with those he supports and is able to explain things in a way that particular individual understands. This relationship has had a lasting, positive impact that the client continues to think about his health choices even when Anthony is not working. Anthony continually encourages to make the right choice and is clearly a great support system.
When asked, "what is the best part of your job?” Anthony replied "I love having the opportunity to make a real difference in other people’s lives every single day!"
Thank you, Anthony Nassar, for your exceptional service.
July 2019 - Crawford County
Rebecca Smith of The Arc of Crawford County has been selected as July's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Rebecca has been at the Arc for 18 years. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of July.
Rebecca Smith (Becky) is always kind and helpful to all and goes the extra mile to organize or help with activities that enhance the lives of the people served at The Arc. She uses her contacts in the community to help the activity work out well, such as a BINGO session at a local church hall or donations of food, prizes, and decorations for Holiday dinners. She has the knack of getting other staff and consumers involved as well.
Supervisors considered Rebecca’s exceptional dedication going above and beyond as they relayed to us her attention to details. For approximately 15 years, she has been decorating and preparing for The Arc’s Holiday Dinners. She always brings in beautiful table decorations from her home to add that special touch to the occasion. Becky and one of the people she supports are usually the two to start the front window decorations and the Christmas tree. As they begin, she is very inclusive in getting others to participate in the decorating fun. Becky was chosen for the same, memorable, reasons that made her the recipient for the most ACE (Arc Caring Employee) award last year.
When asked "what is the best part of your job?” Rebecca replied "Because I am happy to work with our clients who are versatile and very talented people in many ways."
Thank you, Rebecca Smith, for your exceptional service.
June 2019 - Beaver County
Donald Redmond of HAP Enterprises, Inc. has been selected as June's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Donald Redmond has been at the HAP Enterprises for 19 years. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of June.
Donald exemplifies all the qualities of a great DSP. He supports the individuals he works with while promoting their independence and providing excellent care. He is always willing to step up and take on additional responsibilities whenever needed. He often works extra hours to ensure those he supports have consistency. Don is a helpful, loyal staff member and the individuals are well served when he is working.
Supervisors recognized Donald Redmond for this honor saying “While we have several outstanding long-term staff at HAP, Don was selected because of his commitment to the individuals he serves and his willingness to contribute to the HAP team.
When asked "what is the best part of your job?” Don replied "There’s a good feeling inside. It’s a job that really matters and can make great friends."
Thank you, Donald Redmond, for your exceptional service.
May 2019 - Lawrence County
Kelli Stunkard of Lawrence County Assocition for Responsible Care (LCARC) has been selected as May's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Kelli Stunkard has been at LCARC for 22 years and 6 months. The following was shared with us about her excellent service by her supervisors, which made it easy to select her as our nominated DSP for the month of May.
Kelli demonstrates extraordinary commitment to the indivduals served by LCARC. She acts selflessly and effortlessly to provide the highest level of service. Acting as an advocate to promote individuals to exercise their rights, to ensure excellent health, safety, and welfare are an integral part of her everyday work ethic.
Kelli takes it upon herself to provide exceptional support to new staff, as she lives out an exemplary role model, placing the needs of individuals and the Agency in the forefront.
She so often goes above and beyond that it is actually more of a norm than an exception for Kelli. She willingly drops what she is doing on her time off to meet the needs of the individuals without being asked.
When we asked for nominations, "Kelli immediately came to mind" said Supervisors. Kelli epitomizes every quality an excellent DSP should have. She is reliable, honest, caring, selfless, professional, friendly, supportive of co-workers, well-informed, and dedicated.
Kelli shared that the best part of her job is "I like the people that I support and the teamwork it takes to do it. I enjoy the challenge."
Thank you, Kelli Stunkard, for your superb service.
April 2019 - Butler County
Gerald (Jerry) Bowlin of the Arc of Butler County has been selected as April's Direct Support Professional of the month.
Jerry Bowlin has been at the Arc of Butler County since March 2017. The following was shared with us about his excellent service by his supervisors, which made it easy to select him as our nominated DSP for the month of April.
Jerry Bowlin consistently and effortlessly puts the needs of the individual's first, focusing on maximizing their independence, ensuring that rights are upheld at all times, that they have choice and that they remain a valuable member of our community. He models for other staff what it means to provide quality and meaningful support to those in need, which in turn promotes consistency in care and dependability.
Jerry excels at going above and beyond, whether it is picking up additional hours when requested to ensure a safe and productive work environment to doing favors for other homes if they are unable, he promotes teamwork and a welcoming atmosphere to his co-workers.
He is a source of positivity and encouragement for the individuals he supports and he's made it his mission to ensure that those individuals are comfortable and happy in their home. Jerry is respected at all of the homes he has worked in which speaks volumes about his character and his dedication to this field.
Jerry exemplifies what it means to provide assistance to someone while upholding dignity and respect, providing choice, increasing independence and encouraging someone to live their best life through his attitude, actions, and behavior. The Arc is so very happy to have the opportunity to nominate this gentleman and commend him for the amazing work he has done!
When asked "what is the best part of your job?", Jerry replied "being with clients, having a good time with them everyday."