Posted on May 15, 2023
I just returned from the 2023 American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) Annual Conference in Chicago and found the attitude and mood of the event incredibly positive.
Last year the Conference returned to Miami after a COVID-related hiatus but people were still on their guard. This year the whole atmosphere felt lighter, more normal, and the networking opportunities were outstanding (not to mention the Chicago deep dish pizza…!).
Roaring back with the theme, “Possibility Unleashed,” the three-day Conference challenged attendees “to embrace the creativity generated through intentional innovation.”
With some 30 concurrent workshops, attendees were exposed to “purposeful brainstorming, catalytic collaboration and experiential education” focused on tackling some of our industry’s most pressing challenges.
Mike Shriver, Dale Verstegen, and Kevin Walker from our Consulting Team attracted a standing-room-only crowd for their case study presentation showing how they assisted five Maryland human services organizations in transforming their service delivery models. This was made possible through a grant by the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council to promote best practices that help providers recover, rebuild, reimagine and revolutionize their business practices.
A highlight for me was seeing Penn-Mar DSP Vanessa Cooke honored with ANCOR’s 2023 DSP of the Year Award for Maryland.
With us for less than a year, Vanessa works across multiple programs supporting people in various day program activities at Penn-Mar West. She is a young emerging leader in our organization who is a delight to work with and very progressive in her thinking. Vanessa continually helps the people she supports pursue their dreams, encouraging them to imagine doing things they never thought possible before.
Vanessa was nominated for the award by our Community Support Team Manager Teresa O’Brien and Senior DSP Maria Swift. Maria happens to be Vanessa’s cousin and the winner of ANCOR’s 2022 National DSP of the Year Award.
In fact, four of our DSPs have walked away with ANCOR Awards since 2019, including Natalie Finnegan and Hayley Krzywulak.
At Penn-Mar, recruiting and retaining good DSPs is, and has been, at the top of our list. With the successful Building Bold Futures campaign behind us, this goal is now my personal obsession. I’m committed to making our team as healthy and engaged as it should be.
Our “Belonging” initiative is gathering important feedback from our team members on a variety of work-related issues so that we can learn and grow together.
We are also looking at a pilot program that uses creative scheduling to offer new ways to better support the well-being and lifestyles of our hardworking DSPs.
Many of the Conference discussions centered on how organizations can value the people with disabilities they support. There were multiple sessions showing innovative ways where technology can deliver supports.
We have certainly taken advantage of many of these opportunities where appropriate since the COVID crisis. But technology will never replace the personal supports we provide to people with disabilities.
The pandemic dramatically changed attitudes about work. Statistics are showing that nearly 75% of current job seekers are looking for remote work opportunities. This obviously has an impact on our hiring and retention efforts.
The ANCOR Conference focused on how to innovate for the future while maintaining important relationships. I was gratified to see that we are ahead of the curve in many of the areas discussed.
And I walked away with several new ideas Penn-Mar leadership will be exploring to ensure that we continuously move our organization forward and share our successes on the national stage to benefit our entire industry.