There is one word to describe 2019 and that is “unbelievable.”
If someone told me last January that we would have a structural realignment, take on a leadership role at the state level in advocating for Direct Support Professional wages, launch an employee engagement strategy that led to a new internal brand, complete a full renovation of our Maryland Line Day Learning Center, and begin the process of merging with a like-minded organization, I might have said that it can’t be done.
But, that’s exactly what we did in 2019. While “unbelievable,” it was done with the full support of our board, team members, families, people we support, donors, and many community stakeholders.
We began our structural alignment with the philosophy that we are ONE Penn-Mar. Jackie Stevens, formerly our Chief Operations Officer for Pennsylvania, was promoted to the role of Chief Operating Officer for all Penn-Mar Human Services. Jackie has been invaluable in identifying where the organization’s strongest resources are as it relates to internal talent, ensuring that everything we do across the organization consistently aligns around our strategic imperatives and helps us attract a committed workforce to support the mission.
As part of our affiliation, and upcoming merger, with Change, Inc., we tapped Mike Shriver, a former CEO of Penn-Mar and Executive Director of Change, Inc., to oversee the task force involved with navigating the many details to ensure a successful merger of the two organizations.
In addition to Mike, I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Mettrick, Director of Operations for Change, Inc., to our Leadership Team. Jen brings a perspective and talent that has truly complimented our team. Our affiliation also provided us the opportunity to expand our board with several new members and I could not be more pleased. They immediately added value and expertise and embraced the collective mission.
With outstanding leadership from Penn-Mar’s Chief Advancement Officer, Kathy Rogers, the organization embarked on an employee engagement initiative that led to a new internal brand and promise.
This involved teams across the organization engaging in surveys and focus groups to take the pulse of the organization. Our goal was to find out what mattered most to Penn-Mar team members, what worked and what could be done better to bind our team together to achieve our goal – support a life of purpose and meaning for the people we serve. We are creating and ensuring a culture of One Penn-Mar, where everyone is held accountable and recognized in a consistent manner.
We are using these fact-based insights to reinforce the 2019-20 Strategic Plan that has three clear strategic imperatives:
- Transforming our Team Members’ work experience so that each member is fully valued, supported, engaged and accountable to our shared mission and values
- Supporting individuals as they optimize their lives in a person-centered culture
- Building the reputation of Penn-Mar Human Services as an innovative leader advocating for best practices supporting people with intellectual disabilities and sharing expertise with others
Our voice is being heard at the policy table in both states and we continue to advocate loudly for competitive wages and opportunities for DSPs. In the spring I had the opportunity to meet with Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and we met with many legislative leaders in Maryland to keep the pressure on our government to do the right thing.
Last, but not least, we completed a full renovation of our Maryland Day Learning Center. We were able to celebrate the opening with families, team members, policy makers, and our generous funding partners in October. We are grateful to the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation, The State of Maryland, The Penn-Mar Foundation, and the France-Merrick Foundation for their generous support. As more individuals spend time in the community, those who continue to need the services of a Day Learning Center require an environment that is meaningful and productive for all.
Everything we do at Penn-Mar is seen in the light of transforming life into living for those we support, their families, and our team members. We take that seriously because everyone connected to us depends on us to always do the right thing.
As we close out this “unbelievable” year, I am thankful for all of our team members, families, donors, community partners, and all who share our mission of transforming life into living for the courageous people we support.
Wishing each and every one of you a blessed, joyous, and safe Holiday season.