Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week is a great opportunity to highlight the dedicated, innovative direct support workforce at CWI who are our heart and soul of supports for people with disabilities. This is a time for all of us to say “thank you” to the staff who continue to rise to the challenge each day to keep the people we support, along with our friends and loved ones, safe and healthy.  We have been in the midst of a global public health crisis that was new to all of us and threatened both our well-being and our way of life. And while the COVID-19 crisis continues to this day, much of the progress we’ve made is due to the professionalism and know-how exhibited by our staff members whom were right there on the front lines, working around the clock to do what needed to be done. This experience has shined the spotlight on our staffs’ ability to work under extreme pressure while showing compassion.

The heroes who make up the I/DD workforce provide critical supports making it possible for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live, work and thrive in their communities. As many of you know, this work requires specialized skills and competencies that are not reflected by the low wages, limited access to benefits, and lack of professional recognition for our direct support staff.  At no time in our history has the value of this workforce been more clearly demonstrated than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As members of this select team, these staff are the backbone of the service delivery system. They are a group of dedicated people who are in the field every day helping people with developmental disabilities to live independent, productive lives. They only provide assistance with someone’s day-to-day needs; they serve as a role model, teacher, mentor, friend.

On behalf of CWI Administration and Board of Directors, we would like to extend a special thank you to all our staff who have made it their mission to serve the people with developmental disabilities we support. We continue to need you more than ever. Please know how grateful we are for what you do every day.

Here are some highlights of the CWI role models who represent dozens and dozens of other team members in their passion and dedication to service of people who rely upon them:

Heather Mattison is a DSP at Faxon IRA.  She has played a key role in promoting physical and emotional well-being to the ladies that she supports. Over the past year, Heather has shown a tremendous amount of dedication to the ladies at Faxon IRA. This includes working in a COVID positive home. During this time period, Heather supported the ladies who receive services to remain engaged and healthy with creative ideas and an upbeat & positive attitude. Heather has taken a lead role in scheduling medical appointments as well as supporting the ladies at home, who typically attend Day Programs. These ladies thrive on routine and Heather has done well to be sure that they remain active, engaged and happy. Heather is an asset to the individuals that she supports and to CWI.

Our Operations Team is AWESOME!  They worked closely with our Ryan Ave. team to support the transition of one of the Big Bay residents to their home.  This gentleman enjoys the outdoors but benefits from the protection of a fenced in yard.  While exploring options to have one put in at Ryan Ave., it became quite apparent that the wait list for fencing and contractors to install it was going to be problematic.  Our operations team researched how to move the fencing at Big Bay IRA to Ryan Avenue IRA and within a couple of weeks had it installed looking like it had always belonged there!!  Well done!  THANK YOU!  Kevin Elms, Larry Hall and Mark Deyette.

Victoria Minick is our most senior behaviorist with CWI and has been with us going on three years. She goes above and beyond to enrich the lives of those we support with enthusiasm and authenticity. Victoria is a great support to our staff during behavioral challenges, and is very much appreciated for what she does to support our individuals.

CWI is pleased to welcome Maxwell Prier as our new Transit Director. Maxwell is originally from Missouri, and holds a B.S. in Environmental Sciences. He has held a position with the U.S. Army over the past several years as a Training Administrator/Logistics Coordinator, along with other leadership roles, and has been stationed at several bases across the United States. Max enjoys travel and hiking and currently lives in Queensbury. He has delved quickly into his role at Transit, managing multiple tasks in re-organizing the shop, maintaining our fleet of vehicles to ensure safe transportation, and supporting our drivers/monitors. We are glad he has chosen to be a part of the CWI team!

Cara Catone, Residential DSP at Men of Moreau IRA, once again invited Ted Abel along on her family vacation. Ted enjoyed vacationing for four nights/five days in Wildwood, New Jersey in September, 2021. Ted spent time going out to eat, walking the boardwalk and relaxing at the beach. Upon returning to his home, Ted was heard saying, “I had a great time and cannot wait to go back next year!” Thank you Cara for being such a great advocate for Ted and ensuring a safe and fun time for him.

In July, Schenectady ARC and Assemblyman Santabarbara sponsored a rally to raise awareness about the critical need for more funding for DSP wages and the current crisis. The rally was on July 29, at 4 pm in Proctor’s Arcade in downtown Schenectady.  CWI’s Kristen Sanchez-Himmelblau, Day Services Manager and Jared Himmelblau, Applied Behavior Specialist participated and reported back that it was informative and worthwhile.

Thank you one and all!

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