November 2021 HEART Award Winners

Posted on November 24, 2021

The Penn-Mar HEART Award program recognizes team members whose passion and performance leave the mark of their own legacy through exceptional demonstrations of Honesty, Excellence, Advocacy, Respect, and Teamwork.

Michelle Delozier – nominated by Rhonda Morano

I would like to nominate Michelle Delozier because I believe she best represents not only the HEART Award but what Penn-Mar’s Mission and Core Values represent.

Michelle has worked with Penn-Mar for over 20 years and during that time has worked as a DSP, Residential Supervisor, and eventually transitioned to a Residential Program Manager. Michelle is always willing to help in any situation across any program. I can remember times she would be cleaning a residence when it needed a good cleaning. Michelle would not ever ask her staff to do anything she would not be willing to do herself. And when there is an event and volunteers are needed, Michelle does not hesitate.

When day programming initially closed in March 2020, Michelle voluntarily worked several months at the front desk, while the position was vacant. She ensured all the essential duties of that position were met. Michelle did this all while continuing to provide support to her residential teams and individuals.

When MD Line was preparing for DSP Week and one of our food trucks canceled the day before the event, Michelle single-handedly ensured that the Tuesday morning breakfast was provided at the MD Line location despite the cancellation. She shopped and prepared the many items for breakfast to make sure we provided something special for the DSPs and enlisted the help of other team members the morning of to pick up last minute needed items. After receiving a large donation of Raisin Bread, Michelle had the idea of making the extra bread into bread pudding to share with DSPs for our other upcoming DSP event. It is because of Michelle and her drive to step up when it is needed that this event was more meaningful for everyone.

These are just a few of the examples of what Michelle does for Penn-Mar. I could have listed many more. I know that if there is anything I need she will be there to assist with no hesitation. Michelle will always go above and beyond to support our individuals and our DSPs. These are just some of the reasons that makes Michelle worthy of a Heart Award!

Emily Finnegan – nominated by Michelle Delozier & Lee Carrion

I would like to nominate Emily because of her “We can do this” attitude.

As we all know, there are several factors happening today that make an already challenging job even more challenging. Emily somehow keeps several schedules in her head, she knows which staff are good at a last-minute change, and who prefers to stay in their home program. When a quick change must happen due to call offs, days scheduled off, or anything that interrupts a plan, Emily has already prepared plans B and C. She has developed relationships with the other Supervisors on her team so that she can shuffle and move staff without any other Supervisor feeling like she is stepping out of her lane. She does this by keeping them informed, but they also trust she is doing the right thing. This is a true art. She in turn trusts these same Supervisors to make changes when and where needed.

What naturally occurs with this is the Individuals remain supported by staff they know and are comfortable with. They have also had to learn that change is necessary and is no reason to be upset. They have become so accustomed to the seamless changes that we have seen a decrease in the anxiousness some of our Individuals experience with sudden change. The Individuals love that all the staff who work in these programs know each of them very well. They know their likes, dislikes, and maybe even a few tricks!! The programs are full of laughter, singing and friendships.

We have seen many positive changes in the programs for both Individuals and the staff. They all experience what it is to be a valued team member who is looked upon to lead when necessary. The Individuals in these programs have learned to go with the flow and feel they have a part in the operation of their homes as they are frequently part of the discussion about what is happening and who will be with them. Emily has been very instrumental in creating this incredibly positive environment.

– Michelle Delozier

I respectfully submit Emily Finnegan for the Heart Award. Although she is a Residential Supervisor at a different house than my daughter’s, she often is asked to work with her because of Emily’s extraordinary skill-sets. My daughter has significant behavioral challenges which Emily accepts and handles with finesse. When it was time for the COVID vaccine, it was Emily who facilitated a fun experience for her. During the trip, I received two calls from the van to report the progress as I was highly concerned. Both times were filled with laughter and singing; merriment had by all on a high-stakes endeavor. That is Emily’s gift to make everyone around her confident in her innate and learned abilities to avoid a crisis, de-escalate when needed, and create an entertaining, positive experience for everyone.

Throughout the Pandemic as she worked with my daughter, Emily would frequently take her out of the home on grand adventures where other staff have been uncomfortable with this challenge. Because of spotty internet connections at the house, Emily would drive to “hot-spots” to use her personal phone so I could video visit. This was an enormous blessing during the many long months that I could not see her in person. Further, I received many photos of the two together playing. Emily’s joie de vivre is contagious particularly for my daughter, who is always focused and engaged with her. Emily makes every activity a joyful adventure and their exploits are infamous!

– Lee Carrion

Tanja Markel – nominated by Janae Householder

It is a big responsibility to take care of one entire building that houses a day learning center, as well as a large number of offices. It’s an even bigger responsibility to take care of three! Not only does Tanja do this for Penn-Mar’s Maryland Line location, but for the last several months she has also been maintaining the cleanliness and sanitizing needs of the Penn-Mar North and Far Hills locations.

Tanja started splitting her time when the janitor position in Pennsylvania became available. This is a large undertaking as she is also responsible for ensuring that our Day Learning locations are sanitized thoroughly as required. She orders supplies for all of the locations and works hard so that we all have a clean and safe place to spend our days.

Though it must be tiring to be responsible for the care of so much space, she never complains and continuously finds ways to brighten the days of others. At the Maryland Line Day Learning Center, she regularly leaves uplifting, inspiring, colorful notes for the people we support and employees to find.

While she doesn’t normally see the people we support, she makes sure that they know her presence, and that they all mean something to her! She makes sure to highlight accomplishments, wish people a good day, and thank them for their efforts to help keep things clean.

Everyone loves receiving or finding a note from Tanja. It’s because of Tanja’s support that we can continue to meet our mission, and she certainly does her part to go above the call of her role!

Dawn Mitzel – nominated by Folashade Small

Dawn has exhibited great leadership in her role since I have worked with her. In the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the people we support were confused about their routine changes caused by the mandated quarantine. Dawn did her best to keep everyone’s spirits up, while dealing the illness in the group home. Those we serve and all the employees felt her support. She volunteered to stay with the person who tested positive to limit everyone else’s exposure. This also helped to ensure the gentleman did not feel isolated while he quarantined. During the quarantine, Dawn made arrangement to make sure the home had all that we needed, like toiletries, snacks, and food. She even brought games to help everyone enjoy the time. If the guys want something to benefit their lives, she makes it happen.

Dawn’s dedication goes beyond scheduled work hours, she calls even on her days off work to check on us. When the weather is bad, she will text everyone to give updates on the road and offers more safe route options when there is a road closure. Dawn appreciates many employees have limited access to email and keeps everyone in the group home updated about important messages from Penn-Mar. Dawn explains things thoroughly (health, PTO, 403 B or any new information) to the best of her knowledge. When she’s unclear about information she will help us to find it.

Dawn is so compassionate and considerate! Dawn surprises team members some days by giving us something as simple as a thank you card, demonstrating she appreciates every effort we put forth. Dawn also goes all out for those we support and their families. She organized a Christmas party for the guys and their families. She encourages the guys with whatever they want to do for their families. Dawn is after the guys’ happiness and does anything to keep their spirits in a good place. Dawn is epitome of a good leader. She is caring, honest, helpful, very knowledgeable of this job and her position. Dawn deserves this award in even more ways than stated above.

Teresa O’Brien – nominated by Maria Swift

Teresa O’Brien is hands-down the most amazing manager I’ve ever worked with. She lifts her employees up with praise and encouragement, continuously thanking them for a job well done. She speaks to everyone she encounters with thoughtfulness and respect. She handles any situation thrown at her with compassion, integrity, and tactfulness. She takes the time to get to know her employees and coworkers both professionally and personally, taking a moment to ask how things are at home and with your family.

My daughter was recently sick which meant I was unable to come to work the next day. Teresa’s first response was “How is your daughter doing?” She checked in with me the following day to find out how things were going with my daughter and asked what my plans were for the rest of the week. Despite how I felt about calling out, never once did she make it feel as if it were a burden or interruption.

Teresa never forgets a birthday! Despite me not even knowing when her birthday is, each year I have received a card with kind and thoughtful words and a small gift. This always makes me feel appreciated and acknowledged. In our often busy and forgetful lives, Teresa makes sure to celebrate your day!

We recently had an individual on our team pass away. Before he had fallen ill, Teresa had begun encouraging and supporting his sister to make arrangements for his care as he aged. While he was ill, Teresa checked in with his sister each and every day to offer words of encouragement and a shoulder to cry on. He has been gone for more than six months now but Teresa continues to check in with his sister to make sure she is taking care of herself and to offer any assistance she might need. Teresa’s kindness and compassion knows no bounds.

We recently added new individuals and teammates to our team. Teresa felt it was important for all of us to meet and get to know each other so that we could work together successfully as a team. Location, availability and COVID proved to be hurdles for that to happen. Teresa opened her own backyard to the entire team for a Bring Your Own Lunch, complete with fans, fruit, and Italian ice to keep us cool. It was a relaxed, socially distanced gathering that we all needed to feel complete as a team.

Teresa thrives on keeping busy and supporting all people she encounters. If I were to ever need an advocate in my corner, Teresa would be my first choice.

Katherine Ray – nominated by Sue Thorpe

Katherine has been subbing at two houses for several weeks now. We have been struggling with a pretty severe staff shortage, only one full time AON position filled at each program and myself as permanent staff, and Katherine has been willing to help us out, which is a very big help to us; we appreciate her.

During these past months Katherine has been a real team member, in the fact that these programs are indeed one big team. Recently, Katherine supported everyone after we, at both programs, were struggling because an individual was exhibiting some very challenging behaviors for several weeks. Katherine, seeing that I was struggling, not only offered to work my weekend day for me but insisted that she would cover any issues that arose at either program for that day. Following that she contacted all of the staff and let them know to call her with any issues. I had a total day off with no stress!! Thank You Katherine!!

Katherine’s supervisor, Tyler Stackhouse, adds: “Katherine has gone above and beyond the call of duty as a support to the individuals here but also to the care giving teams. Not only has Katherine picked up substantial hours at houses other than her own program, but she has also made arrangements and secured coverage so that she may assist these other teams. In one of the programs that Katherine was helping, there were significant behavioral challenges emerging. This, coupled with the extreme staffing crisis the program was facing, made her help very welcome. Katherine took it upon herself to secure coverage for her own program so that she could provide much-needed support and relief to the individuals and staffing team in another. Katherine has done so several times and has even moved things around in her personal life to accommodate the needs of this program.”

Debbie Wagner – nominated by Michelle Delozier

Debbie goes above and beyond on a regular basis. Not only do I depend on Debbie, but so do the other program managers. Debbie can almost always “work it out” if there is a last-minute call off for a shift, generally an Awake Overnight (of course). Debbie frequently changes her plans to cover the shift if possible. It is very important to Debbie to ensure those we serve are supported by staff who are familiar with them. She makes sure they feel comfortable with the staff.

It should be noted that Debbie will work in any program no matter what the need. She consistently steps in to help with those who have the most intense support needs. This past year when a woman we support was going to lose another supervisor, Debbie stepped up. Debbie left her long-term position to manage the program. She was always the go-to when that position was open, but Debbie wanted to ensure that the woman received the consistency that is so very important to many, but in this case even more so. The woman is unable to communicate verbally and sometimes expresses her frustration through her behavior. Debbie helped staff to build positive relationships with the woman they were supporting. Debbie has made an incredibly positive change in the woman’s life.

Debbie works with a group of supervisors that are the epitome of collaboration. As the senior residential supervisor in the group, Debbie has provided support, guidance, and leadership for the supervisors in this pod. She is very compassionate with both her staff and the staff on other teams. Many staff feel comfortable expressing their concerns to Debbie, as she ensures those matters are directed to the person who can help most. She is a strong advocate for people to exercise their rights and is fierce when it comes to kindness and equality for all.

Adam Zayed – nominated by Mark Swift

I would like to nominate Adam Zayed, Program Manager of the SW team from the Westminster location. During the past year, I have seen Adam working hard with staff to find creative ways to best meet the needs of consumers to experience meaningful days in their community, especially during COVID. This includes working with the other managers and the employment team to make a difference in the lives of the people he supports.

As a team leader, Adam is first and foremost prioritizing what the consumer is interested in doing and their concerns. He is a confident leader and always riveted by everyone’s point of view.

Adam is also a major proponent for following the approach of MANDT and applying it with how we interact with our consumers. He actively uses this approach to support people that we serve and uses this method in his opportunities to coach his team. He is also a MANDT trainer and is passionate about the MANDT approach. During any of Adam’s trainings you can hear in his voice that this approach is central to how he supports the people that he serves in his role of Program Manager. It is something that he instills in others during his training and ongoing in his interactions with the staff that he supports and working with others. A great example of Adam’s belief in good MANDT practice was when a family member (not on his team) shared their concern about the quality of service and a team member’s interactions with their son. Adam took time from his regular duties to shadow the team member for half a day, met with the family and team member to discuss strategies, coached the DSP on those strategies, and then followed up with additional shadowing and coaching. The family was thrilled with this approach. Adam’s actions not only supported the DSP (not someone he supervises) but helped to restore and build further trust with a family who wants to be an active partner in services. He has supported several teams this way with great success.

Adam makes the time to hear from other staff and consumers about what interests, concerns, or suggestions that they may have to make improvements for others.

Adam always frames the experience in the view of the consumer and is always trying to find what they want to do and how to accomplish that task from that perspective. He meets with staff on a regular basis to find out what is going on and meets with consumers as they are being served.

He works with his staff to have them strive to their best in their roles and gives positive feedback to them as well. During the past year, he has had two senior DSPs be promoted to Quality Coordinators and championed their upward mobility at the Westminster location. This speaks volumes as he is always trying push staff to do their best and looking to see that they expand their horizons within the Penn-Mar team.

Adam is a true role model for the staff that he supports and leads in making sure that they do their utmost in their roles and giving support to our consumers and the services that we provide. He certainly goes above and beyond and gives true credit to his coworkers, the people that he supports, and, of course, Penn-Mar as a whole.