October 2023 HEART Award Winners - Penn-Mar

October 2023 HEART Award Winners

Posted on October 17, 2023

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.

Kelly Baker, nominated by Jennifer Skelly

Kelly smiling for a selfie.“In 2016 Penn-Mar created the Career Ladder Program. Although there were several DSPs who obtained national certification through the NADSP, the true growth and continued success of the program came when Kelly Baker took the position of Career Ladder Program Coordinator.

For 4 years Kelly has supported DSPs in the program, resulting in 95 team members currently certified through the NADSP. Currently, there are 163 Penn-Mar team members in or “graduated” from the program. Kelly is diligent in reaching out to each person still seeking certification every month. She offers support to team members who struggle with the technological aspects of the program, as well as those who simply need a little encouragement to keep going to meet their goals.

Kelly reads every badge submission that team members submit, providing feedback so that they have the best chance of success with certification. She has worked to evolve and improve the program by creating and implementing a Penn-Mar specific requirement for DSP III certification, which involves a capstone project.

Kelly is frequently called upon by the NADSP to share the success of Penn-Mar’s Career Ladder program with providers throughout the country. She has met with dozens of providers. Kelly has directed and coached several organizations through the process of creating their own credentialing program, as a Penn-Mar paid consultant.

If all of this were not enough, Kelly is a PCI Trainer, having helped create and facilitate the training. Kelly also recently presented at the NADSP national conference in Pittsburgh and will be presenting at the PAR annual conference in Harrisburg. Kelly is working with several of Penn-Mar’s certified DSP’s to help prepare them to co-present with her at these conferences.

Kelly’s work at Penn-Mar is crucial to our ability to meet our mission and develop a dynamic, knowledgeable, professional workforce.”

Lila Barchey, nominated by Marion Dyke 

Lila smiling in front of a field.“As an Employment Coordinator, Lila consistently and reliably collaborates with her entire team in supporting people in their jobs. She has been instrumental in providing training for myself as her new co-worker. I personally appreciate all of the time and effort Lila is putting forth to ensure that I learn my new role and responsibilities. Her kind demeaner, patience, and ability to teach has made this past year a pure pleasure coming to work every day.

Lila fosters a work environment where others feel empowered whether it is a coworker or an employee she supports. Lila collaborates with the Day Program and Residential Team Members, going above and beyond in providing the support for the people who have jobs within the organization. Lila fosters positive relationships, empowers others, possesses self-awareness, and is constant and fully present. She also possesses immense leadership qualities and I feel the most important leadership quality is to exhibit humility. Lila lives by these traits daily and it shows. Lila’s enthusiasm for her job and the people we support is truly contagious and she is a true leader!

Lila’s supervisor Jenny added: Lila has assisted several people we support in filling unemployment claims due to the pandemic. Not only did Lila assist them in filling out the claims, but she also assisted them through hearings and documentation checks to ensure they received the benefits due to them. Lila spent countless hours diligently researching and following through with these claims resulting in all the people we support finally receiving the back due benefits. One of the people we support was able to get back $16,000 in back pay owed to them. Lila possesses self-awareness, garners credibility, focuses on relationship-building, exhibits humility, empowers others, is authentic, is constant, and is fully present.”

Emily Bowers, nominated by Jessica Fishel

Emily smiling.“In the 8 years that Emily has been with Penn-Mar, she has gone above and beyond for her team and the gentlemen in her program. She guides her co-workers and the people she supports through both the great times and some tough situations.

Emily has always exemplified Penn-Mar’s core values. She works with her peers to brainstorm new ideas that can help the people they support deal with past trauma, behaviors, and discovering new interests. She takes time to review behavior plans with her colleagues in group settings and one-on-one to ensure that the integrity and consistency of the plans are being upheld. This has led to a drastic decrease in instances over the past year.  

Emily consistently goes out of her way to support the men in her program, and has developed a personal bond and rapport with each gentleman living there. She has taken the time to get to know them and their families. She communicates weekly with their families to provide updates on their care and lives. She helps the gentlemen to explore new topics, ideas, and interests to provide person-centered care.

When one gentleman could no longer compete in certain events for Special Olympics due to health concerns, she worked with him to try out other events and find things that he still enjoyed so that he could continue being engaged in activities he loves. Another one of the men is eager to make connections outside of his home, so Emily is getting him involved with our speed connections event and looking into other community-based activities for him to pursue.

Emily has stepped up on numerous occasions when there was and still is no RS for the house. She took on those additional roles without being asked, ensuring that the gentlemen were still receiving the best care and living their best lives.

She advocates for the people she supports when they cannot advocate for themselves. One gentleman came to the program without the ability to communicate easily. Emily took the time to watch, listen, and observe to learn his “way” of communicating and shared her knowledge with the other staff. She soon realized that even though he may not verbally communicate, he could communicate through writing! It opened a whole new world of understanding for everyone and soon the individual was thriving and so excited to be understood.

These are just a few of the examples to demonstrate the amazing heart, dedication, perseverance, and leadership that Emily brings to Penn-Mar every day!”

Lisa Heim, nominated by Kelly Lorenzen and Jackie Summers

For the sake of brevity, portions of both nominations have been combined below:

Lisa smiling.“Lisa has been a long-time employee with Penn-Mar and has a deep understanding of, and care for our mission. Lisa has had experience in working directly with the people we support before transitioning to the Finance Team, where she has been for the past several years in Accounts Payable. Lisa is a dedicated employee, who is committed to completing her tasks in an efficient and timely manner. She has an extraordinary number of receipts and invoices to review and record regularly. She often arrives early in the morning to ensure all checks are prepared and ready for signers and distributed on schedule.

Lisa regularly goes above and beyond what is necessary in her job. She always has the time to help, no matter what is asked. While Lisa is the person that we send invoices to, she has helped people in many more ways. She is always willing to take the time out of her day to answer questions whether it is to help with the coding on an invoice or making sure someone gets a last-minute check printed. Lisa willingly does this with everyone she interacts with and is a great example of someone who is always willing to go above and beyond the basics of her job.

A recent event that demonstrates her devotion to Penn-Mar was when a severe storm left roads impassable with downed trees and power lines. Lisa lives in a remote area which was hit particularly hard by the storm, making it incredibly difficult for her to get to work. She was nonetheless determined to come to the office, and never once complained. She was grateful everyone was safe, and she continued to focus on her work and the necessary tasks at hand.

Lisa’s job takes place behind the scenes and so most people don’t realize the effort and caring that Lisa puts into her job. She is always supportive and even when she is stressed with too much on her plate, she always has a kind word to say to anyone who stops by her office.

Lisa’s commitment to Penn-Mar is obvious to anyone who has the pleasure to meet her. She exemplifies HEART in her work, in her attitude, and in her commitment to doing the right thing always. She is living her legacy and is most deserving of this honor. We are better for having her on our team at Penn-Mar!”

Pam Richmond, nominated by Kelly Gillispie

Pam smiling.“It is with great admiration and respect that I nominate Pam Richmond for a Penn-Mar Heart Award. It is because of Pam’s huge “heart” that I feel she deserves this recognition.

Pam has worked in Personal Supports for many years at Penn-Mar. Currently, she supports a gentleman in MD, providing him with new experiences and exposures each and every day. Pam exhibits great patience, humor, and kindness when interacting with her coworkers and those she supports.

Several years ago, Pam was an in-home support staff for a young man who, due to Cerebral Palsy, has extensive physical challenges that require round the clock care. Over that time, Pam took the initiative to learn how to best meet her client’s needs by listening to him and working with his family. Due to unforeseen circumstances following the death of this young man’s mother, he was moved into residential care with a facility outside of Penn-Mar’s service area.

Recently, I was amazed to find out that, to this day, Pam is continuing to support this individual on her own time, visiting him once a week at his new group home. Pam observed that many of the things that this young man used to enjoy were not being provided for him. His current staff expressed that they did not know what he wanted because he “could not communicate.” This inspired Pam to advocate even more on his behalf. Having worked with him for several years, Pam knew he had his own ways of communicating and shared this with his new staff.

Pam was careful not to “step-on-toes” or offend his new staff by being respectful of their operations. However, she was still brave enough to talk to them about Person Centered Supports and explain how Penn-Mar puts the individual’s wishes and goals at the forefront. She continues to work with them, sharing everything from the foods he likes to eat, to the activities he enjoys.

Pam will often sit and read to him when she visits. She has worked closely with his Service Coordinator and will give updates to his family to encourage them to advocate on his behalf as well. She never stopped caring about his life is continuing to be a support to him, despite the fact that he is no longer receiving services at Penn-Mar.

I feel Pam is certainly leaving her legacy, not only in this young man’s life, but by sharing all the important values she has learned from Penn-Mar with others in the Human Services field. We are lucky to have such an incredible human being on our team!”

Olivia Spahr, nominated by April LeFevre and Sarah Paterniti

For the sake of brevity, portions of both nominations have been combined below:

Olivia smiling.“Over the past several years, Oliva has consistently demonstrated a level of commitment to the organization and the individual she supports. Oliva works as a 1:1 in the PA Day program supporting one of the ladies who lives in one of the houses Sarah oversees. Although this is her primary job, Oliva also works at the house often. She has developed quite the relationship with the individual she supports. She is respectful of her and in turn she has earned her respect.

Oliva has gone above and beyond the scope of her regular responsibilities and has had a positive impact on the individual she supports. Olivia advocated for her to attend a concert for one of her favorite artists, Drake. Oliva and another team member took her to the concert where she had an awesome time. She spent the night in a hotel and had brunch on her way home! This trip was successful because of Olivia and the relationship she has with her.

Several weeks ago, this individual needed to be taken to the emergency room on a Friday evening. Although Oliva was not working, she came to the house and took her. She spent the entire night with her there to make sure she was comfortable. She ensured that she received the care that she needed and was feeling well enough to return home in the early morning hours. Oliva communicated with Sarah and the individual’s family to keep them updated about what was happening. This same individual needed to be taken again a week later on a Saturday afternoon. Again, Oliva was not working but came in to take her. Again, she stayed with her all night and supported her through all the testing that needed to happen. Once she was admitted Oliva went home to get some much-needed rest but returned to the hospital Sunday evening to sit with her. Oliva continued to come to the hospital everyday and advocate for her needs and ensure that she received what she needed.

Oliva works with the new members of the team to help them develop a healthy trusting relationship with the individual she supports. She is always giving tips and tricks that she has learned while supporting her. This is especially helpful to new team members and even those of us who have been here a while! Olivia also advocates for communication devices, adaptive equipment, and any other needs for the individual. She takes her to get her hair done in cute braids and extensions regularly. Olivia has been helping her with some of her health goals, supporting her to eat healthier foods and going for walks, with great success!

Olivia protects and makes sure the individuals are always safe and happy, while still ensuring that they get to live their best lives and experience all life has to offer. She is a kind person with a big heart for all the individuals and staff. She is always willing to help out other staff when there is a need. She interacts positively with all the individuals, making sure they have a smile on their faces and feel appreciated.”

Nicole Swartz, nominated by Court Dudek

Nicole smiling.“Nicole is a leader in various ways. She headed up the Work-Based Learning Experience program this summer, which is also known as Summer Youth. This summer program is in addition to her yearlong caseload responsibilities. She knows each student well and finds their conditions for success quickly. She led the team and delegated development for each student. She found several placements throughout the summer to meet the right fit for several students.

Additionally, she supported two other DDA-funded people in finding long-term jobs. Nicole demonstrated integrity in showing deep respect for each person, getting to know them, and finding work placement that fit the person well. And if the person struggles, she is great at finding ways to help the person adapt and engage in the work. She is also great at recognizing people’s strengths and supporting them in the job search, in life, and on the job.

Nicole will say, “I’m always working.” She makes business contacts outside of work hours and finds possible connections for those looking for employment – long-term or for the summer.

Nicole’s accomplishments have been outstanding. What is most impressive is her ability to maintain this level of achievement during an incredibly difficult time. Two teammates on the employment team tragically passed away. Nicole carried on and met the day-to-day challenges while grieving such a profound loss to her personally and to her team. She truly demonstrated leadership qualities and commitment to her team and those she supports. Well done, Nicole.”

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