October 2022 HEART Award Winners - Penn-Mar

October 2022 HEART Award Winners

Posted on October 10, 2022

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.

Beth Chege, nominated by Lee Carrion

Beth posing against a wall“I respectfully nominate Beth Chege, AON for my daughter since 2018, to receive The Heart Award. Beth and my daughter have a very special relationship marked by trust and cemented in love. Beth worked hard to build that unshakable bond through extremely challenging behaviors meant to repeatedly test her resolve. Beth met every challenge with a calm reserved determination to help her feel safe and secure. Beth never sees behavior as anything but an attempt to communicate. My daughter has faith that Beth will protect and care for her in the most loving way. Beth possesses an ethereal quality in aeternum that settles and consoles her. When distraught, Beth can mitigate the raging battles within her mind by alleviating her fears in quietness. It is Beth who she trusts to bathe her after an abusive situation years ago in the tub. It is Beth who soothes the night terrors and holds her close while gently singing in her native language. It is Beth who prepares special meals from her African country to bring as treats to delight her. It is Beth who picks up open shifts as often as she can because she understands my daughter and her needs. Last year, Beth was pregnant, and she chose to continue working with her although her aggressive nature was well known and experienced. Beth literally stayed until the start of labor. Beth is fearless, empathic, intuitive, and responsive. She innately knows my daughter’s unspoken language. Beth penetrates her hard shell to unveil a tender, loving young lady. When Beth returned from Maternity Leave, she immediately embraced her! Her beloved friend and guardian had returned to her universe; a bright light engulfs her when she is with Beth. Beth gives freely of that je ne sais quoi luminescence that defines her soul to help my daughter live courageously, peacefully, and happily.”

Rochelle Daniel, nominated by Emily Finnegan

Rochelle posing“I would like to nominate Rochelle Daniel for this HEART award. Rochelle works at a house that some (okay many of us) would say is slightly more difficult than others. For as long as I have worked with her, she has put in endless hours to make sure the Individuals that live there are not just cared for, but well cared for. She has been through the ringer on multiple occasions including having no staff, and while many have experienced this lately, Rochelle has captained this ship with 3 crew members when there should be 10!! Rochelle runs an over/under program, and this at times doubles the workload on a supervisor. She frequently laughs and says the running up and down the stairs helps to keep her in shape and ready for the next challenge! She had a temporary move in of another individual that lasted far beyond the expected time. This really changed the dynamic of the program. Before they moved in everyone upstairs was retired, but when they moved in everyone had to shift gears and now ensure they were up and ready for Day Programming 5 days a week. They had moved into the room of the Individual who had passed away during a particularly rough time personally for Rochelle. Did she hesitate to again take on the challenge? NO, she collaborated with other programs and helped to lead the way to a smooth transition, both to move to a different house and then back to their previous program. All of this during the COVID pandemic. With this move happening during the pandemic, Rochelle was responsible for getting the individual all settled. She helped the individual unpack and make her new room feel like home. She worked hard to connect with this individual and found that she really enjoyed getting her hair done and this was something Rochelle could do for her. When it was time for the individual to move back to her house, Rochelle prepped the individual gradually. Since the individual has moved back to her group home, Rochelle has continued the connection she made with her. Rochelle continues to do the individual’s hair regularly. This is time that the two get to spend with each other. Rochelle handled all these situations as well as anyone could and still to this day is taking every challenge thrown at her like the leader she is. I feel as though she goes above and beyond what is expected of her and never even asks for a thank you. We all deserve to be recognized at one time or another, and I feel like Rochelle’s time is due if not overdue, she truly embodies every aspect of HEART in her everyday work ethic and caring positive attitude.”

Betty Diaz-Griffith, nominated by Matt Bahn

Betty smiling“Betty helped me out a lot in my first few weeks here at Penn Mar. When she started training me, she did an amazing job at both helping me learn the ropes of the Maryland Line Day Program and instantly made me feel like a welcomed member of the team. After my training was done, I began working with someone who had unique personal care needs and the need for medication that I was not able to administer yet, due to not being med certified. Betty not only showed me how to take care of this persons care needs but applied the medication almost every day for over a month until I was certified. She also helped me with the necessary documentation of medication tracking on CaraSolva until I was able to do it myself. It’s important to note that Betty did all of this while supporting a group of her own most days. She ensured that her group had their needs met so that she could assist me with this person’s needs. Betty’s support continues for me whenever I have a question or need any guidance, and never makes me feel like I’m burdening her. It is clear in her work that she wants those around her to succeed in their roles and most importantly, wants the people we support to receive the best care from everyone. Every time I would thank her profusely, and Betty would say things like, “it’s no problem at all, Matt… seriously, any time”. She never complained or even frowned when I needed her assistance. But that is Betty’s character; she’s there for everyone and wants to see all of us succeed and give the best support we can. She always smiles and even made me and the person I was supporting laugh with her humor. She goes above and beyond her duties every day and made my job so much easier. Her efforts have made me, and others feel supported and included as part of a strong team. She deserves the HEART award.”

Christine Eckard, nominated by Megan Ball

Christine smiling“Christine Eckard is a Poster DSP for Person Centered Services. In addition to coming to work every day with the perfect ratio of enthusiasm to determination, Christine is always focused in on the individual she is supporting in the moment. She has an amazing dedication to our individuals and a fantastic sense of humor, making the best of things even when they go awry. She has worked tirelessly to develop a solid rapport and foundation of trust with the individuals that she supports; she has learned ASL as well as worked to come up with a system of photo cards to better communicate with the people she supports to help them feel heard. But I feel the best example of Christine’s impact in the lives of someone else she supports. Christine has helped this gentleman explore his self-expression and creativity through large-scale crafts like a massive piece of resin pour artwork and the design, creation and embroidery of a quilt, both framed around his passion for firefighting. Christine and this gentleman worked together and were both certified to use the embroidery machine in the newly built Exploration Commons not long after the area was opened to the public. She has encouraged and assisted him in getting more comfortable and confident in using his cane while out in the community as well as engaging with his peers both in Penn-Mar and in the Federation of the Blind. This gentleman confided in Christine that he had been advised by his doctor to lose weight and in the height of winter, Christine worked with him to build a plan of low-impact exercises and healthier eating choices and he lost 25lbs. Christine also helped him feel safe and secure through a breakthrough seizure while he was out in the community; it was his first seizure in over 5 years and Christine was able to remain calm and in control throughout. And afterwards, she has made sure to keep a sharp eye out for any triggers or signs that he might be having any additional issues, documenting everything so that it can be used both in his current treatment as well as prevention of any future seizures. She has made herself utterly indispensable to the Northwest Team.”

Dawn Findley, nominated by Teresa O’Brien

Dawn smiling“Dawn Findley has demonstrated the ability to go above and beyond her daily duties of a DSP. When Dawn realized that the reading program the person she supports was using was being discontinued, she began searching for other tools. This gentleman is an individual Dawn supports who needs both visual and auditory cues to comprehend written language. Through her research, she learned about the reader pen which is a tool that reads aloud written words. She supported him to complete an application to borrow a reader pen from Maryland Technology Assistance Program. It took time and strategy adjustments but after three months, Dawn was able to support him to use the tool affectively. He can now move the reader pen slowly across the words and use ear buds to be able to hear the written words. I admire how Dawn has since shared this technology with her teammates. Through her encouragement, another teammate is preparing to support an individual with reading comprehension using the reader pen. This is all thanks to Dawn’s nature to assist and educate. Dawn is also supporting him to explore other technology strategies with Allis Kensing, Penn-Mar’s Enabling Technology Coordinator. Dawn has reviewed the programs suggested by Allis and believes the Seeing AI app might be a good fit. This technology requires you to take a picture of something and the app tells you what the picture is about. The tablet case he was using covered his camera option. Dawn supported him to search local stores for the correct case to fit his tablet. When he was unable to find one, she advocated for him to ask his parents to purchase one on Amazon. Now that the correct tablet case has been purchased, he will be able to experience the Seeing Al program. Dawn’s determination to find a way for him to enjoy reading again is one reason why she deserves this nomination for the Heart Award.”

Ellen Killefer, nominated by Karen Koenigsberg

Ellen smiling“All the DSPs who work at the Respite Inn get to know the guests who stay there—what their likes and dislikes are—but Ellen takes things a step beyond. Ellen brought in a tent from home to put up in the backyard of the Inn because she knew how much one of the guests at the Inn loved camping. She helped the guest put the tent together (and keep in mind this was not just a two-person tent, it was a family-size tent). The joy on his face was priceless when they finished putting it together! Ellen also works with several individuals in wheelchairs and wanted to find a way they could utilize the sidewalk chalk at the Inn. She found a “Walkie Chalk” stick (adjustable length 1′ to 3′) that the guests could use while in their chairs. It has been a huge hit and the guests are enjoying decorating the driveway! Over the last two months, Ellen has handled two emergency situations at the Inn calmly and professionally. The first was when a guest (M.D.) came back from her day services to the Inn. As Ellen was taking her to the restroom, she noticed M.D. was having difficulty talking. Ellen asked her if she was having trouble breathing; M.D. said yes, and that her chest hurt. Ellen stayed calm and in control of the situation, working to help M.D. stay calm and present. Ellen called Dimensional and 911 while keeping other managers there at the time in the loop. There was a lot going on at the Inn during this time, including other guests at the Inn, a meeting going on with managers and staff, and as the door to the Inn was opened for paramedics, a stray dog came running into the Inn! Other staff handled the stray dog, but Ellen continued to stay focused on M.D.’s needs while still staying aware of the other guests’ needs. After everything settled down, Ellen went to the hospital and stayed with M.D., remaining even after the family arrived and she had filled the family in on the situation. Ellen didn’t want to leave until she knew what the plan was for the M.D. When M.D. was able to return to the Inn, Ellen returned with her to the Inn to help settle her for the night even though her shift was over. The second situation happened when a guest (T.G.) was being dropped off at the Inn by her family member. The family member fell outside and began yelling and crying. Ellen went out quickly and assessed the situation; since the family member was talking and alert though in pain, Ellen brought T.G. inside and made sure she was settled and calm. Then Ellen called 911 and went back outside to the family member to provide any aid that she could and let the family member know that help was on the way. After the family member went to the hospital, Ellen checked in with her to help keep T.G., other staff working at the Inn that weekend, and management in the loop. She did her best during her times on shift to make sure that T.G. was able to enjoy herself and not be worried about her family member.”

Hope Schneider, nominated by Maricel Border

Hope smiling“I want to nominate Hope Schneider for the HEART Award. Hope is a person with a heart for helping other people. Hope has worked with Penn-Mar for over 8 years as a DSP, and she has completed the Career Ladders program. Her compassion and dedication to people in need has been beyond ordinary and she has done it wholeheartedly. Hope continued to support individuals even during the surge of the pandemic. She even volunteered to pick up extra hours to help residential programs struggling with staffing needs. One morning, Hope was doing her morning routine, picking up individuals that lived in their parent’s house. One of the individuals did not come out when she got there. When Hope went to the door, the individual was yelling, saying, “mom fell on the floor.” Hope ran inside the house and saw the mom on the floor with blood everywhere. She quickly called 911 and assisted the mom the best she could, all while ensuring the supervision needs of those she was already supporting. Hope did not panic and helped the individual and mom to remain calm even though deep inside her heart, she was scared and feared for what might happen to the mom. She never showed her fear in front of the individuals so that the individuals would also feel at ease until paramedics arrived. When paramedics arrived, Hope helped them get the mom ready for transport. Hope then continued the route, picking up the last individual until they arrived at the day program. Hope supported the individual and reassured her that her mom would be okay, so the individual had a good day, even in her situation. Hope helped save a LIFE, and without her at that time, we don’t know what would have happened to the mother. I am thankful for Hope for being calm and alert and her dedication to helping above and beyond.”

Kellie Spies, nominated by Jessica Fishel

Kellie smiling“I am nominating Kellie Spies for the Heart Award. Kellie has been with Penn-Mar for almost 20 years and is always going above and beyond her duties. She consistently puts the needs of her individuals and staff first. She is the first person to step up and volunteer to help out in any situation. Kellie has not only helped in her own program but lends her time and talents to other programs. She has filled in at another house as the acting supervisor while the current supervisor went on vacation. Most recently she stepped up to help a house that was almost completely out of staff to work with an individual. She selflessly gave up an entire weekend to spend with this individual in order to keep his environment familiar and stable. She continues to be a huge support, in this house and other houses, to work additional shifts when no one else is willing to fill in. Kellie will do whatever it takes to make sure the individuals we support are taken care of. She advocates for their needs and well-being. She will speak up when she feels an individual cannot do so for themselves. She takes care of not only their physical needs but is mindful of the social and emotional needs. Without a doubt, she cares and takes pride in the relationships she has developed with the individuals in her program, their families, and the others in which she helps. It is through these relationships that she has been able to engage the individuals in social activities that interest them, give them purpose, and help them feel connected as housemates and to the community. She supports her staff 150% and never leaves them without guidance. She is not just their supervisor, but their role model and mentor. Kellie has a staff that has been with her for several years and they are a very solid team. They all speak highly of Kellie and appreciate her willingness to truly work as a team.”

Tonya Stonesifer, nominated by Court Dudek

Tonya smiling“Tonya has gone above and beyond in her role as Job developer. Over the last year, Tonya has worked hard to set herself up as Mentor to one of our Job Coaches. She really is the glue that holds our team together. She has been supporting this Job Coach to help him expand his knowledge and understanding of the entire employment process. This job coach has gone on to take Tonya’s lead and is now a much better peer lead and is assisting staff in the NADSP program (as he has completed it). This particular job coach, under Tonya’s tutelage was instrumental in 2 gentlemen landing new jobs! She has created an amazing work partnership with our local VR agency, so much so that they are now bringing us individuals who may need a little more support to land a job than what is common. Tonya doesn’t hesitate to support these non-DDA individuals to live their best lives and find an awesome job where they can be successful. She goes above and beyond working odd hours and taking calls as the families, employers and individuals need to contact her around their schedule, not hers. She is so supportive and creative in how she supports the job seeker to try new things and explore their interests. Tonya, like all of us, has professional goals. She is working very hard to learn, outside of her role as a JD, how to support and coach staff. She is actively seeking situations where she can mentor staff to be employment and individual focused while supporting people in the community. Tonya just recently secured an amazing new partnership with a wedding venue in New Windsor, MD. The individual that she placed there is thriving and Tonya credits the individual’s success to the open-mindedness of the management to be completely person-centered and creative in their partnership with the job seeker. Tonya is an awesome leader, both at PM and in the community and she deserves to be recognized for all she does.”

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