Lisa Hartley has been interested in the Human Services industry ever since she volunteered with her church youth group at an Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Down Syndrome at just 13 years old. “This first venture grabbed my heart and I knew this work would be part of my life in some capacity.” She began her career providing direct care as a Residential Assistant at a group home in 1987 before coming to Penn-Mar in 1991. She has had the opportunity to work in various residential group homes as a Residential Assistant, a live-in Senior Residential Assistant and a Residential Manager as well as subbing for many different programs in the organization.
For the past 16 years, Lisa has dedicated herself to improving the lives of the women living in one of Penn-Mar’s Residential Homes. Lisa said, “There have been opportunities within Penn-Mar to advance, but I am committed to these women who I have the privilege of working for.” Her career goal is to continue advocating and serving in the lives of her individuals. “I have witnessed and helped these women grow, change, face challenges of life, grieve the deaths of loved ones; and overcome those challenges with perseverance, strength, and grace.”
Lisa feels that advocating and helping her individuals ‘find their voice’ is one of the most important aspects of her job. When one of the women she worked for was nearing the end stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Lisa advocated for this individual to be able to remain in her home, because this was one of the only things still familiar and comforting to her. It also motivated her to do additional research on Alzheimer’s and Down Syndrome and with continued education and training, she has become an Affiliate NTG Regional Trainer with The National Task Group covering Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia. With this degree, she can train other DSPs within and outside of Penn-Mar.
“I am excited to be able to continue to help these women live the lives they choose to live. Having been in the field for over 25 years, it is amazing to look back and see how far we have progressed but also realizing how far we still have to go to help them live fully authenticated lives that are truly guided by their own wishes, goals and desires.”
After working in the Human Services industry since 1993, Patrick Sgro can honestly say that not much of what he learned in college prepared him for what he has experienced over the past 23 years. He has had some of the most rewarding, heart-warming and interesting experiences with some difficult challenges along the way but no matter what he has faced in his career, he absolutely loves it.
Patrick currently is a Residential Supervisor for one of our Maryland Homes. He considers himself to be a patient, caring and empathetic person and he encourages his entire staff to be the same way. He said that it has been a journey watching the evolution in how we work with our individuals and how they are now perceived. He feels we still have a long way to go so that all individuals with Intellectual Disabilities are included and are welcomed members of society.
One of the individuals that is under Patrick’s care, Michael Pitts, was recently featured with Patrick in the Carroll County Times because his family saw the need to help fix the DSP Crisis in America. The Pitts family created an endowment for Penn-Mar to start a Direct Support Professional credentialing program that creates opportunities for recognition for performing important work and wage enhancements that reward professionalism.
Patrick said, “Ultimately, I would love to be able to afford to work directly with the individuals that I serve and continue to make an impact on their lives.” Patrick is presently going through the Career Ladder/Credentialing program at Penn-Mar in hopes that it will help him advance his career even further. “We are making sure our individuals are living a life of purpose and meaning, yet we are one of the most undervalued services in the nation. If this DSP program provides us the opportunity to grow and evolve, to be a role model to other staff, and to give accreditation to our field so that perceptions change, we can make so much more of an impact.”
From a very early age, Stuart Stoltzfus, was involved with volunteer and mission work. “My parents instilled in me the importance of helping people in need whether it be handing out blankets to the homeless during the winter, serving food to the hungry or sharing our family home when people needed a place to stay. These experiences shaped my strong desire as an adult to advocate for and work in the Human Services field.”
Stuart said, “I work in this field because I find fulfillment advocating for people who traditionally don’t have a voice.” He finds it extremely fulfilling to watch the individuals in his care enjoy their days out in the community and said that he learns so much from them such as appreciating each day as it comes.
Stuart is part of the Direct Support Professional Career Ladder program and according to his Residential Program Manager, Lydia Claudio, he is completing all the necessary assignments ahead of schedule and is going above and beyond to help the individuals he supports.
Stuart’s mentor in the program, Sarah Willey, said, “Stuart is committed to Penn-Mar and our mission and has taken the challenge of the Career Ladder program and excelled. He has shown dedication and support in all avenues he chooses in both day-to-day and challenging situations.”
Stuart feels that people should not be defined by their disabilities and that everyone has abilities that they can ‘bring to the table’. He feels truly blessed to have the job as a Direct Support Professional and everyone here at Penn-Mar feels blessed to have Stuart as part of our team.
In many instances people search for a long time to find that perfect job, but for Nadine Ritmiller, she feels that the Human Service industry found her. When her youngest child started school, she wanted to find something where she could incorporate her college degree and give her a feeling of purpose. That’s when she saw the sign outside the Penn-Mar Maryland Line office that said they were hiring and thus started her 15-year career with Penn-Mar and the Human Services industry.
When talking about her job, Nadine said, “I am happy to report that this has been, is, and continues to be my passion. I have the utmost respect for the individuals I serve and strive to treat them with the dignity and affection that they deserve as human beings.”
Nadine is truly dedicated to each individual that she serves and her mentor, Rhonda Morano, who is the MD Quality Administrator and Certified Benefits Counselor at Penn-Mar, said, “Nadine is a pleasure to work with. She has a genuine desire to work with individuals with disabilities and is motivated by them. She also prefers direct interaction with her individuals and is always looking out for their best interest.” Rhonda went on to say that Nadine embodies Penn-Mar’s Core Values and demonstrates compassion and empathy to the individuals in her care every day.
We know you will agree that Nadine is very deserving to be named our Direct Support Professional of the Month for May and we are very thankful for her. She summed it up for us by saying, “These individuals have impacted my life in so many ways, I can’t even begin to count them all. My commitment to the field of direct care isn’t so much a commitment, but my vocation, my life’s work.”
It is with great pleasure to introduce you to Rita Arnett, our Direct Support Professional of the Month. Rita has worked in the Human Services industry since 1984 and finds great fulfillment in knowing that she has the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. This is apparent to those who have the pleasure of working with her.
Ally Cox, Residential Program Manager, said that Rita is very passionate in her daily work and loves to talk with anyone about how they can Transform Life into Living for the individuals we support whether she knows you for 20 years or 3 minutes. Ally said, “Rita provides the utmost care for the individuals she supports and ensures their needs and wants are met.”
Jackie Stevens, COO for PA, said, “I had the pleasure of directly supervising Rita when I was a Program Manager. She has tremendous passion for providing supports that are truly trans-formative. She is an advocate who is willing to lead and challenge others to redefine how services are provided. She is amazing.”
Just one example of how Rita goes above and beyond was when she had an individual who developed Alzheimer’s, and she saw that it manifested differently in someone with intellectual disabilities. She made it her mission to research extensively how to better care for this individual as well as train her staff. Today, Rita is the regional trainer on Dementia and ID for the National Task Group on ID and Dementia Practices. She conducted her first class along with her colleague, Lisa Hartley in March 2017. Rita said that with this new certification, “it will allow me to continue to advocate and provide services that are not only excellent but innovative and life changing.”
We feel that Rita not only changes the lives of the people she supports but also the lives of those of us who have the privilege to work alongside of her for the better. Thank you, Rita!
Gretchyn Lathrop is a Direct Support Professional working in one of Penn-Mar’s group homes as a Residential Assistant. Gretchyn has always been drawn to the human services field, commenting that “It is the best fit for me because helping others in need has always been something that I have cared deeply about”.
After working in various human services industries, Gretchyn found her calling and her lifelong career aspirations when she began working as a DSP at Penn-Mar. She said, “I feel that the importance of integrating the individuals we support out into the community so that they are able to lead fulfilling lives cannot be understated. The individuals we care for are great assets to society and should always be encouraged to live up to their full potential.”
“Gretchyn is a valued member of the staff at the home she works at. She is seldom seen without a smile and a warm chuckle in any given situation and all the extra work she does every day is not for the recognition but because she is truly invested in the lives of the individuals she supports. Gretchyn embodies all of our core values and I am proud to have her as a member of my team,” said Gretchyn’s Mentor and Residential Program Manager, Michelle Delozier.
Gretchyn’s unwavering support to Penn-Mar and her commitment to the individuals she supports is limitless. “The consumers I care for are amazing people and my time spent with them has come to feel more like spending time with family rather than being at a job. I feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I am making a difference in someone else’s life.”
Thank you for all your hard work Gretchyn.
Meet Abby Brenneman, one of our Direct Support Professionals in our 2016-2017 Career Ladders program. She has been in the human services field since 1999 and came to Penn-Mar in 2009.
Abby has always loved to help people and said she enjoys assisting them to achieve their highest level of capabilities especially when that is more than they ever thought was possible. She believes that the individuals she supports can achieve anything they set their minds to and is honored to be given the opportunity and privilege to help and guide them in succeeding their goals.
Jackie Stevens, Chief Operations Officer, in Pennsylvania, said that Abby is an exceptional employee who provides excellent leadership to the staff in the home and ensures quality care to folks with complex medical needs.
Abby said, “Being in this field, I have discovered a lot about myself and my strengths. I have done quite a bit of advocating for some individuals and have discovered that I am pretty good at it. For example, one of the individuals I support wanted to go horseback riding and needed the ‘OK’ from their doctor. The doctor was not on board with it at first but after sitting down and talking with him, I learned what his hesitations were. I made sure I had put safety measures in place so I could address each concern and went back and presented them to the doctor. When he still seemed hesitant, I invited him to come and watch one of the horseback riding lessons and he agreed. Once he saw how much joy the lesson brought to the individual, he said he was glad that I kept persisting and that I took all the safety measures to make this happen.”
“It is hard to imagine my life before I came to Penn-Mar. Being able to serve the individuals I do has definitely been a life changing experience. I have grown to love and care for these incredible people. They have become a special part of my life and family.”
We would like you to meet, Wilson Mosiori, one of our Direct Support Professionals in our 2016-2017 Career Ladders class. Wilson’s career with Penn-Mar started in October 2001 and in his 16 years here, he has held many positions up to his current position of Residential Supervisor.
Throughout the years, he has transformed the lives of many individuals in our program and now as a Supervisor, he has done the same with numerous staff. In his current position, he encouraged the growth and development of a man who spent his life institutionalized prior to coming to Penn-Mar. Since at Penn-Mar, Wilson has taught this man what turning Life Into Living is truly about.
Each participant in the Career Ladders class wrote a Statement of Professional commitment. In his letter, Wilson stated that, “after being a part of the human services field for over 10 years, my career goals are to continue to have a positive impact on the individuals I serve and to be able to advance in my position where I am able to have a greater direct effect on the lives of adults with disabilities”. His desire is to genuinely enhance the lives of the individuals he serves.
Wilson said, “Based on my professional experiences as a human service worker, I have come to the conclusion that we must instill in our individuals that it is okay to be themselves. Yes, there are norms in society and we all want to fit in but as human beings the norms should be there to provide moral and social guidelines. The norms should not make a person feel embarrassed or less of a person because they have a disability or special need. As a human service professional throughout my career, my commitment is that I will continue to teach and guide my consumers to be responsible and productive members of society to the best of their abilities.”
It is professionals like Wilson that we felt so strongly in starting a program that will help him succeed in his career path and continue to transform Life Into Living for all the individuals he supports.