DSP MaryAnn Mann: Why This Work Is So Rewarding

Posted on February 3, 2021

MaryAnn Mann is the kind of person who will always take a deep breath and get the job done. No matter what life throws at her, she tackles it with grit and grace, and above all – a deep, intense desire to help people.

Fortunately for all of us at Penn-Mar, she’s found a career here that taps into her cool-under-pressure personality as well as her drive to make someone’s life better.

A Residential Supervisor, MaryAnn has worked at Penn-Mar since August of 2019. She had jobs at two other human service organizations before coming to Penn-Mar, and prior to that had worked in a completely different field. She knew it was time for a change and hasn’t looked back since.

“Now I can’t get away from it,” she jokes. “I truly enjoy it, the joys of helping people. It’s so rewarding. To see smiles on the faces of the ladies I support – that’s what I live for.”

Even so, MaryAnn remembers being a bit overwhelmed at first. “It’s a lot at first . . . a lot of information and a lot of steps. And you interact with so many people in the beginning, it’s hard to keep track of everyone! But the trainings are so thorough. They’re wonderful and I really appreciate that. There are some companies not like that, but Penn-Mar puts you above and beyond.”

Creating a Culture of Collaboration

“I feel like not only do we help people live their best lives, but we learn from them also. Everybody has bad days, you know? The people we support are going to have bad days. But I’m going to have a bad day. You’re going to have a bad day. It’s just part of being human.”

Perhaps it’s this “we’re all human” approach that makes MaryAnn such a great supervisor and Direct Support Professional (DSP). “I tell staff that start [in the home I supervise] you can sit and read all the papers you want on the ladies we support. And the papers are important. But until you’re here and get to know them each individually, you don’t really know for sure. Once you start working with them, that’s when you get to know them. People are more than paperwork.”

MaryAnn is also quick to credit her team for all they do, both during challenging COVID times and under ‘normal’ circumstances. “I give a lot of credit to my team, the staff here. I try to have a good rapport with all my staff. I can’t do my job without them. They are wonderful to work with. I told them when I first started as a Residential Supervisor – which I knew would be tough, because I’m a stranger, an outsider just coming in – that they’d never hear me say, ‘do this because I’m the boss.’ There’s not one job in this house that I won’t do.”

A collaborative environment is essential in any workplace, but especially the human services field. “All of us have a great working relationship,” shares MaryAnn. “We spend more time here than we do at home! So, it’s important to me to be positive and flexible. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.”

Getting Creative in Quarantine

“Roll with the punches” has been an unofficial Penn-Mar motto ever since the pandemic hit. “It’s certainly not all butterflies and rainbows,” MaryAnn jokes. “A lot of the people we support don’t really understand what’s going on in the world. That makes it hard.”

Yet despite the many hurdles COVID has thrown at them, MaryAnn and her team have dug deep and gotten extra creative. “When we’re not actually quarantined, we try to get out, even if it’s just for a car ride. Some of the ladies hate wearing face masks, so we have to be creative. We’re just trying to keep everyone involved and active. We do games, baking. We have movie days, or whatever fun thing we can come up with. Everyone’s different, not all like to do the same thing. So, we try to incorporate a little bit of everything. The ladies have their own ideas, too, so ideas often come from them. One lady got a new video game system, so we’ll play Mario.”

Clearly, the commitment to creativity is working. MaryAnn recalls one moment in particular: “We’ll listen to music and dance with them. I tease one lady who tells me, ‘I don’t know how to dance’ but I always try to get her to join in. Recently I was out for a bit, and when I got back, she surprised me. She came right up to me and said, ‘MaryAnn, come on, we’re going to dance!’”

The Simple Things

Aside from her dedication and compassion, MaryAnn also has a deep appreciation for the simple moments that reinforce exactly why she’s in this field.

“There are moments that just really hit you, where it’s so rewarding,” she shares. “We delayed Christmas this year until all the ladies were back at home. There was one lady, when we brought everything out for her, she didn’t care what she was opening. She was just so excited for gifts. That smile, that moment, that excitement – that’s what it’s all about. She sat down on the floor beside me so I could help her fix her new watch, and she showed me every single thing she got. I thought Christmas with my 7-year-old-grandson was exciting enough, but I got Christmas with the ladies, too!”

Another moment that sticks out to MaryAnn is her daily interaction with a person she supports who has dementia. “She has good days and bad days. So on a good day, I’ll always ask her, ‘Can I be your friend today?’ And she’ll say, ‘Well, if you’re good.’ I always joke with her, ‘I don’t know if I can live up to your standards, but I’ll do my best!’”

MaryAnn continues, “Really, it’s about the simple things in life. You don’t have to do something extravagant to make a difference in someone’s life. Even just playing a video game with them or going to the store or to lunch. Every day moments can mean the world.”

At the end of the day, this is what keeps MaryAnn going. “Just the drive to try and make someone’s life better. Or make their day brighter in anyway you possibly can. Not just the ladies I support, or my staff – anyone. If everyone in the world viewed things that way, wouldn’t it be a much greater world?”