Compassion and empathy are the main driving forces in Chevon Miller’s life. In many respects, it’s no surprise she found herself pulling into Penn-Mar two-and-a-half years ago, and staying.
Chevon is a DSP and Community Activity Instructor, who works out of the new Far Hills Day Program in New Freedom, Pa., as a one-on-one with longtime Penn-Mar resident Shawn Prindle. A Career Ladders Program participant, she recently completed the DSP-I course load and is waiting for her certification. The mother of three also serves on Penn-Mar’s Person-Centered Supports Committee that recently rolled out the tagline “Empowering People to Be Their Own Voice,” which describes the nonprofit’s approach to its person-centered culture.
“Person-centered supports is a way of thinking, thinking first about the individual and getting to know them, their needs and desires, and building a relationship with them,” said Chevon. “It’s providing personal attention that makes the individual comfortable to express themselves… be their own voice.”
Chevon’s work with Shawn has been a perfect example of person-centered supports in action, and of how her compassion and empathy have fueled her approach to her work. When she first met Shawn he was in a group setting with about 10 other individuals, and as she said, he adamantly refused to participate in any kind of excursion. However, within months of working with him one-on-one, he started going out just about every day. Today, Chevon just has to tell him to grab his coat, which he does, along with his lunchbox, and they’re out the door.
“It was a 180-degree turnaround, and people couldn’t believe the change in Shawn and were curious as to what I had done,” she said. “Working with him and making him feel comfortable with his choices was key to getting him out and about. I would ask him to give it a try, and if he didn’t like being out, we would come back. I think I catered to his needs rather than his wants as a person. I showed him personal attention, and Shawn likes being the center of attention,” she laughed.
Road to Penn-Mar
Although Chevon’s educational background is in interior design (she holds an associate’s degree in the profession), she has spent more than 25 years working in customer service, “taking care of the needs of others.” Prior to coming to Penn-Mar she worked as a dispatcher with York County’s Rabbittransit, where she often coordinated rides for people at the nonprofit.
Supporting others and their needs was not a new experience for Chevon before Penn-Mar. Over the years she cared for her mother, aunt and godmother. She also cared for her nephew who had cerebral palsy and who passed away in 2017 at the age of 23, defying the doctor’s expectations that he would only live to the age of five. His mother, Nakia Hollman, Chevon’s niece, joined Penn-Mar as a Residential Supervisor this past March.
“My background is Christian-based,” she said. “Supporting and caring for others takes patience, compassion and empathy, and your heart has to be in the right place too.”
She credits her faith in guiding her along the way. A single mom and native Baltimorean, personal struggles brought her to the New Life for Girls ministry in Dover, Pa., 20 years ago, where she stayed for a few years before moving out into the community with her children – son Chaz and twin daughters Chavon and Chelsea. She settled in York County and today lives in York. Her daughters both work, but live at home with her, and her son and granddaughter Campbell live close by. Chaz is a Penn State graduate who received a full scholarship to attend the school and play for the Nittany Lions.
“My life wasn’t always on the right path,” she said. “But by the grace of God, he steered me in the right direction and I’ve been on that path ever since.”
She admits that life isn’t always a bed of roses, that it can be frustrating at times. But at the end of the day she feels she’s making a difference in someone’s life.
“It’s been a great learning process working with Shawn and being here at Penn-Mar,” she said “There’s nothing like feeling appreciated for the work you do. It’s my passion and enthusiasm to work with people, to help them to move forward and to grow.”