Past Spotlight Award Winners:


Jonathan Smith - May 2021

Jonathan Smith, a Facilitator with Harbor Supported Living Services, was nominated by Rebecca Donofrio.

Jon has repeatedly impacted the lives of the people he supports and assists. He has always been not only reliable, but eager and available to do his every day responsibilities as a Facilitator. Just a few weeks ago, Jon was planning to travel to Lake Tahoe with one of the people he supports and he extended the invitation to others in our agency. In the end, three people and their support staff went on a weekend trip to beautiful Lake Tahoe. They stayed in cabins on the beach, went on a cruise of the lake, and listened to live music in Heavenly Village (ski center in the winter). Jon never has to be asked to think about people's quality of life he just always DOES! He is a person who seeks out important resources and he searches for activities that people genuinely want to do.

He has exceeded expectations always for all the reasons stated above and many more. He has helped people on very fixed incomes save money to buy various items that may need or want. He accomplishes this with a high amount of respect for the person and their individual needs, gifts, and abilities. The quality of training that he provides to staff is thorough, respectful and very intuitive to the needs of the person hiring those staff. He is always person-centered and person directed. He reminds everyone around him, if we ever lose sight of those values in even a small way, "But what about...” which is often what he says to reorient the person he is interacting with in a staff training mode.

We so appreciate Jon and his smile and positive instincts regarding the life quality for ALL people. He is a social justice advocate.

Siham Mahamood - April 2021

Siham Mahamood, a Case Manager Supervisor with New Path Services, LLC, was nominated by Sheyhan Gelle, Executive Director of New Path Services, LLC for the Spotlight Award!

Siham has recently evolved in her role as a supervisor and manages a staff of 6 case managers, who manage caseloads close to 200 people. Siham has gone above and beyond to ensure that her staff are not only well prepared, trained and actively involved in their day to day lives, but she also provides a nurturing environment during these hard times. Siham is efficient and makes sure that person waiver services are person centered, and ensures that case managers are working as a team with the person they serve and their support network.

As a new supervisor, Siham has quickly been able to serve as a mentor to new staff and existing staff. Siham rolls up her sleeves and helps with no questions asked. Siham has been a great addition to our growing agency and as a result, we have seen staff morale increase. Her staff are eager to take on additional duties, and that goes to show that their leader leads by example.


Jeanne Cullison - March 2021 

Jeanne Cullison, Sponsored Coordinator with Support Services of Virginia, Inc was nominated for the Spotlight Award by Andie Plumley, Vice President of Support Services of Virginia, Inc.

Jeanne has been in the ID / DD field for over 4 decades - and she has not lost one ounce of her passion for supporting people in living their best lives. Jeanne walks the walk of advocacy, equality and social justice for the people she supports. As head of the Sponsored Residential Program for SSVA, Jeanne mentors and supports people as they develop in the role as QIDPs, continues to support a case load of people receiving sponsored residential supports, and acts as an internal Human Rights Advocate.

Jeanne is constantly working to improve processes, systems, AND the lives of the people supported by SSVA. Additionally, she has created a model for a single user, short stay residential location, similar to an Air B and B, but with fully trained support staff, with options for vacation (it is by the beach), short stays for emergencies and scheduled events, and transition stop between places of residence.

Kristen Conard - February 2021

Kristen Conard, Assistant Director and Adult Day at the J, was nominated for the Spotlight Award by Ashley Stockman, Director of Adult Day at the J.

Anyone who knows her, personally or professionally, will undoubtedly agree that Kristen is among the warmest, most sincere, and caring people on this earth. She exudes dedication, compassion, and positivity in every interaction and all that she does. A true team player, Kristen is down-to-earth, genuine, and always readily available to give of her time, talent, and energy to the benefit others. Kristen has an otherworldly sense of awareness and extraordinary ability to anticipate when another person needs an extra show of support and always knows exactly how to fulfill that need. Kristen brings substance to the concept of kindness with her unwavering selflessness. She possesses an abundance of love and compassion and does not hesitate to share these with anyone who crosses her path. If ever there was a person who could be defined as truly kind, it is most certainly Kristen.

Kristen advocates for families to ensure access to necessary resources and services, including coordination and facilitation of medical and speech therapy virtual appointments for onsite participants while attending ADJ. Whether securing a new walker to improve a participant’s posture, spear-heading fundraising efforts or volunteering through ITN to personally transport an older adult to medical appointments, Kristen’s commitment to serving others is unwavering. Within the first week of reopening our ADJ program Kristen recognized that many of the participants with Down Syndrome, despite a multitude of tying options, were struggling with properly fitting masks. Kristen, readily stepped into action to address this resource gap and develop a plan for resolving this very real struggle for our participants. Over the course of a few months and input of a lot of time and talent, Kristen has successfully developed customized face masks that comfortably fit and stay on the faces of nearly all of the participants who needed them. This is but one of countless examples of the subtle, behind the scenes yet tremendously impactful ways that Kristen makes an enormous difference in ADJ, The J and her community.


 Derek Quesada - January 2021 

image of derek in front of red background wearing gray shirt smiling at camera

Ashley Wilcox, Director of Day Services at Active Visions, Inc. nominated Derek Quesada. Derek is the QIDP/Residential Director at Active Visions, Inc.

Derek has been working at Active Visions for over 3 years now. Originally hired on as a DSP, he quickly moved up to QIDP, and now has the role of Residential Director. Derek's motivation and joy for this work is easy to see upon meeting him. Derek brings an extraordinarily positive attitude to work with him every day. Derek brings his gift of performing arts to share with those he serves-- he can often be found singing and dancing with them at their homes or in the car, bringing joy to monotonous activities like going to the doctor. The individuals are always thrilled to see him and spend time with him. Derek takes extra time to get to know them, and finds ways for them to pursue their passions and interests. Derek understands and exceeds in advocating for his clients, so they can live the way they want. He has assisted clients in learning to use online dating apps and facilitated discussions to advocate for a safe "dating" plan. He has helped individuals apply for community employment-- when other supports haven't been effective.

Derek has mastered the endless paperwork that our QIDPs need to complete, but most importantly he has exceeded in building trusting relationships with even the most difficult clients, who may not typically form bonds with staff. Derek is also great at working with parents-- which is another difficult part of the job. He is able to give comfort and reassurance to parents who are new to CILAs and learning to trust an agency with their loved ones. Derek has often been assigned to newly opening CILAs for these reasons, as he has extraordinary skills in helping clients transition and get comfortable in the residential setting.


 Nikki Weaver - December 2020

Tom McQuillan, Director of Services at The Providence Center, nominated Nikki Weaver.  Nikki is the Assistant Director of Services at the Providence Center in Maryland.    

Nikki oversees supports for 120 people with disabilities and a staffing team of 35. These supports include people in Employment, Community Development Supports, Personal Supports, and Day Hab. Ensuring that each person receives the supports in the most person centered manner requires significant coordination and organization on a daily basis. Nikki holds her team accountable at all levels and rolls up her sleeves right along side her team to get the job done. Titles are not important to her, only working as a team. Due to her enthusiasm and hard work, many people are living their best possible life. She demonstrates flexibility, willingness to change approaches as needed, and love for the work that she does, which then holds each staff member accountable for the same approach. Now people receiving supports are increasing the amount of time that they spend in their communities and working towards inclusion.

Nikki's strengths were proliferated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Leading her team during unchartered territory, Nikki ensured that services resumed for as many people as possible who wanted their services to resume, which meant daily restructuring of schedules, and assignment of vehicles and PPE equipment to staff. During the early part of 2020, the Director who was overseeing Personal Supports for the agency left. Nikki took it upon herself to take over that area and within a few months, had people receiving services who had not received services for over a year, due to previous staffing issues. Also in 2020, due to budget cuts we were not able to replace a Case Manager position that was vacant. Nikki has also taken over that caseload and works diligently to ensure that each person on her caseload receives person-centered services. She rarely shows stress, or the appearance of being overworked, and she always approaches problems with "we can figure it out."  


Emily Unthank - November 2020 


Michele Phelps, Compliance Director of IDD Facilities, nominated Emily Unthank.  Emily is a QIDP with New Vista Oakwood in Somerset, KY.  

Emily has positively impacted the people she supports.  This year, she helped someone move this year from an institutional setting to community placement, assisted several individuals in learning how to use iPADS (which has helped tremendously during the pandemic), and provided personal care to an individual during their cancer treatments and advocated for their colostomy reversal, which was successful.  

Emily also spearheaded a project to improve treatment planning. She created a peer review tool for QIDPs to review each other’s treatment plans prior to submission and developed a review schedule. The peer reviews have helped improve the monthly compliance scores.  In addition, she collaborates with her team members to address challenging issues, including creating behavior modeling videos. Emily created training materials for IDT members to improve program writing and conducted refresher training. 

When the pandemic began, Emily revised active treatment strategies/schedules to account for COVID precautions. She took a lead role in ordering supplies, games, etc. to increase activity in the homes and in the outdoor areas, implemented home cooking programs and worked beyond regular hours to provide direct coverage. 

 

Meredith Mueller - October 2020

Lee Ann KramerTeam Lead of Care Coordination of IDD Crisis Prevention and Response Services, nominated Meredith Mueller.  Meredith is a Care Coordination Team Member with NorthKey Community Mental Health Care Center in Covington, KY.  

Meredith Mueller is a case manager in the trenches daily working for the betterment of her client's lives.  Having worked in crisis case management for the past 5 years, Meredith has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The majority of these individuals also have had co-occurring mental health diagnoses.  Meredith never knows what her day will hold, yet she comes in ready to face the day every day!  She hits the ground running early in the morning and doesn't stop until she knows that the individuals she serves are safe.  This may mean traveling great distances, working over a typical workday, going into homes that are not places anyone else would dare go, and/or working with people who others would think have no value.  She is asked daily to assume roles that are not hers to assume and she does so with ease. She works tirelessly with other agencies and the state advocating for the rights of her clients.  This has led to countless individuals receiving waiver supports in the Northern Kentucky region.  Meredith also advocates with agencies to better train their staff, work with other agencies as a team, and to strive for a higher quality of life for the individuals they serve.  She goes into heated team meetings and brings calm to the situation, helping teams to debrief and come up with an action plan that will bring about collaboration and success.  She is diligent in her efforts and those efforts definitely pay off for all involved.  

 


 Hannah Eldridge - September 2020 

Laura Mitchell, CEO of Grand Care Systems, nominated Hannah Eldridge.  Hannah is a Change Manager at LADD, Inc. in Cincinnati, OH.  When LADD started exploring a new and better service model for the disabled, we knew there would be challenges. One of the challenges that is often overlooked is having the right people, with not only the right skills but the right attitude. If you have a real "doer" who believes in the vision, the project will be unstoppable. If you do not have such a person, the project is in jeopardy from the start. Hannah Eldridge is exactly the right person to pioneer these new ways of supporting the developmentally disabled. She embraced the technology on day one and is always asking how each and every piece of it can benefit the people they serve. She is an inspiration, and all people who are subsequently helped by the success of this project have her to thank for it.  When there are technical challenges, and with ambitious projects there are always challenges, most non-technical people fold. They give up and put it on the technologists to figure it out. Not Hannah. She's part of the solution every time. This kind of team player is exactly the kind of person you want to work with.

Amber Carey-Navarrete - August 2020

Dawn Beigel, Executive Assistant with Easterseals Southern California, nominated Amber Carey-Navarrete.  Amber is the Director of Person-Centered Services at Easterseals Southern California.  

Amber supports the entire Adult Day Services program at Easterseals Southern California.  During COVID-19 and distance programming, she and her team developed a "Safer at Home" newsletter that goes out to our ADS Program Directors & Associates twice a week and a newsletter that goes out to our ADS participants and their families twice a week.  The newsletters provide a wide variety of programming resources curated for all different interests, abilities, and environments.  Resources for Associates provide them with fun and interesting ways to connect with their participants, whether the person is tech-savvy or not.  Also provided are opportunities for professional education.  The resources for the Participants and Families are for the individuals to do on their own, with their families.  There have been virtual museum and geographical tours, poetry slams, sing-a-longs, concerts, trivia games, standup comedy, plays, readings, crafts, exercise opportunities resources on voting, nutrition, managing stress, advocating for self and others, games, magic, conversation starters, fashion, body image, visual and performing arts, history, and MORE! 

In addition, Amber created an Empower Hour meeting on Zoom for participants and families on topics that they have requested.  It is a chance to connect with others who might have similar questions or challenges.  Often there are guest speakers with lived experience sharing what they have learned in order to support others.  While attendees are encouraged to ask questions, they may listen or contribute in any way that is comfortable for them.

 


Melissa Skappel - July 2020 

Colleen Haley, Director of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, nominated Melissa.  Melissa is a House Coordinator with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota in Winona, MN.  

Melissa has attracted a loyal staff to the program for which she is the house coordinator, so there is low turnover. The individuals in the group home for which she is the house coordinator are treated sensitively and in a nuanced way. Melissa makes sure staff are maintaining an environment that is most helpful for the individuals they support. Melissa is expert at identifying what does not work well for individuals who have sensory issues.

Melissa handles challenging behaviors of individuals she supports expertly, including behaviors that get pretty extreme physically. She has good instincts and a good rapport with individuals she supports. Melissa regularly helps individuals to de-escalate and to get to a better and safer state, so they are not harming themselves or others. Melissa's staff trust that Melissa will assist them if they are scared or cannot handle providing support on their own.  

 


Erin Drozd - June 2020

Rachel Keyho, Case Management Coordinator with UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago, submitted the following nomination:

Erin Drozd is an exceptional Case Manager. She goes above and beyond for her clients and is always looking for ways she can do more. Over the course of the past year, she has been helping one of her clients find a provider that would accept his insurance for a much needed surgery. She called hospital after hospital, and when they wouldn't accept his insurance, she looked into the possibility of switching his insurance. After months of searching, she finally found a doctor that would see him. She took him to the appointment and when he was told he would need to lose weight before surgery, she didn't let it discourage her, and continues to work with him to get him there. In addition to making sure her clients are safe and healthy, Erin also advocates for them to have good quality of life. To Erin, being a case manager is all about the lives she can help make better. She always puts her clients first and will not hesitate to do what is best for them, no matter what.

 


May 2020:  Jamie Saturnino

 

Randy Hendrick, Director of IT and Education at Quality Life Systems, submitted the nomination for Jamie Saturnino.  Excerpts from that nomination include:

Jamie has positively impacted the lives of those she serves in a manner that is unique to her trade mark of love, care and compassion.  With rare exception, the individuals that Jamie serves have experienced at least 12 weeks of confinement, and isolation from physical interaction from family and friends. During this time Jamie has done all that she can to prevent or minimize the associated pain in many ways. To add to the perils of everyday life, we recently experienced a Power Outage lasting nearly twenty four hours. During this time Jamie stepped up and stepped in to help lead outdoor activities, secure take-out meals and secure alternative sources of lighting for bedrooms and bathrooms.

Some might grow weary with the repetitive nature of daily challenges. However such is not the case with Jamie who remains steadfast in demonstrating consistent advocacy, belonging and care for all!  For example, Jamie has implemented an unwritten protocol of promoting an environment of “Spare the Drama” if you can! As a result, the clients she serves know that they can voice any and all concerns while sparing the drama so often associated with the frustrations of daily living. 

While it would be wonderful to have an entire work force of individuals just like Jamie, to do so may be a Trade-Mark violation. Fortunately for Quality Living Systems, New Century Support Services and Group Living Facility will all have the opportunity to borrow and emulate her.  In conclusion, it has been so reassuring to have just the right person, in just the right place at just the right time, in the embodiment of Jamie Saturnino.


April 2020:  Aimee Morrison

 

Aimee was hired as a House Manager for HGH over ten years ago where she is directly responsible for two residential group homes (LRW and Castillo). These homes have a combined resident profile of 12 clients and up to fifteen direct support staff. During the fourth week of March, Aimee decided that even though neither she nor any of the six residents living in the LRW  group home were showing any symptoms of being ill, it would be in their best interests to stay together during the new shelter in place orders that came out. The LRW group home is residence to six women, all who have been diagnosed with an IDD, and four of whom are in a vulnerable age category.  

Aimee exceeded any expectation when she voluntarily decided to be sequestered with the LRW residents for fourteen days, despite having a husband and 10 year old son at home. With the support of her family, she made the decision to stay with he residents to help them and the staff adjust to the new lifestyle they were suddenly placed under. With the pandemic becoming increasingly worrisome, Morrision said, “I felt like I needed to be here not just for the residents but for the employees so they would feel they had some direction and so they weren’t alone. I can offer support and guidance.” Aimee ended her quarantine yesterday and returned home to her family. She is deserving of recognition for the personal sacrifices she made. She truly is an HGH Hero. 


March 2020:  Carol Skeese 

Jackie Householder, Program Director at Echoing Hills Village submitted Carol's nomination.  "Most Q's work 9-5 jobs. Carol does not.  She is not afraid to work late or early hours and even weekend days. Not only that, but Carol picks up shifts on the floor to make sure that all the needs of the individuals we support are met. Carol goes the extra mile by spending quality time with the individuals and their families to make sure that their needs and desires are met. She takes on any task that is given to her regardless of whose job it is. She has helped people visit their families they haven't seen in years, move into their own homes, and helped people who others would consider "behaviorally challenging", really excel and reduce these challenges."  

February 2020:  Matt Buxton

Deborah Roberts, a fellow QIDP from the Utah State Developmental Center, submitted the nomination for Matt.  "Matt is a participatory manager....and is actively involved in the daily lives of the individuals he supports. He seeks opportunities to make individuals’ lives better, helping them to grow and fulfill their wants, needs, and desires.  In addition to the great job he is doing as a QIDP, Matt also serves in our community’s Autism network by serving on the Autism Resources of Utah County Council, coordinating activities with other agencies and programs to better meet the needs of persons with Autism in our county."


January 2020:  Nicci Upton 

Jeff Patton, CEO of Arc of Wabash County, Inc. submitted the nomination for Nicci.  "Nicci is an "advocate by nature," meaning she is naturally caring, attentive, and in tune with the personalities, preferences, and needs of those she serves. She always speaks and interacts with those we serve with gentleness, patience, and respect. Her caseload is composed of all 13 clients who live in our supported living residences and so she is current with the minute, daily intricacies of each person, delivering a holistic service to each individual that addresses his/her medical, social, mental, and employment needs and preferences. She is upbeat, positive, bubbly, and encourages each person she serves to pursue avenues and decisions that promote the greatest independence and self-sufficiency while at the same time promoting inclusion and integration into community social groups. She is absolutely where she wants to be and should be in her career-calling, and it shows!"  

"Nicci lives outside her official job description; she will do whatever it takes to help those she serves achieve their goals or receive what they need. She chaperones trips with her clients, she sits with and nurses sick clients in their own homes, she advocates in "the gap" with case managers, employers, and community stakeholders on behalf of her clients. Nicci recently volunteered to do 16 weeks of on-call duty per year, which entails being ready at the phone 24/7 to solve problems and help her clients in times of their greatest need, thus often sacrificing her own free time. Last year, Nicci turned down an advantageous job offer from another company because she just "couldn't leave her clients" and co-workers. Nicci works in the lunchroom every day for an hour, helping clients prepare and eat their meals. Nicci is not "just" a Case Coordinator QIDP - she has chosen to be a part of the lives of those she serves: family gatherings, birthdays, funerals, trips, vacations, medical appointments, problem-solving, and personal counseling and encouragement. As her President/CEO, I would do whatever is necessary to keep her at Arc Wabash County - we would not be the same without her."


 December 2019:  Mary Therese Conway

Lina Workman, Director of ICF at Koinonia Homes in Independence, OH, submitted the nomination for Mary Therese:  "Mary Therese embraces quality, teamwork, and excellence – when in turn, enhances the performance of her core team. She creates a collaborative environment that empowers and motivates people – staff and people served - to do their best every day.  Mary Therese is a shining star and all of us who work with her know how special she is and that she can be counted on, even when the going gets tough. Mary Therese digs her heels in deeper, rolls up her sleeves and just does it!"


 November 2019:  Kristena Partridge

Stacie Bradley, Program Director at PremierCare in Naperville, IL, submitted the nomination form for Kristena:  "Kristena has been a Q for many years. She has brought experience, knowledge and resources to the people we support and their families. She is has been providing presentations to people supported and their families on various beneficial topics such as self-advocacy, community activities, recreation, safety, work and vocational issues, resources and benefit explanations. She wants people supported and their families to know what they can do and offers them the knowledge of resources to give them the help they desperately need."


October 2019:  Sandy Weaver

Gena Boyle, Program Center Manager at Annandale Village in Suwanee, GA,  submitted the nomination form:  "Sandy has been working at Annandale for 30 years in a variety of capacities. In her most recent role as Assessment and Curriculum Coordinator, Sandy provides residents with opportunities to learn new skills in a fun and exciting way, utilizing the Assessment of Functional Living Skills Program. She works hard to ensure that residents have every opportunity to enjoy activities out in the community - whether for religious purposes, volunteer opportunities, skill building or just to have fun."  

September 2019:  Elizabeth Lutmer
 

John Pingo, CEO of Goldie B. Floberg, submitted the following nomination.    In our experience, change happens when someone rises up to champion a specific cause. Liz has risen up to become our champion for each person's right to be a part of their community. In the past year, she has helped nine people served take their first vacation in their adult life. She has supported people to become involved in a local book club, an Aktion Club with Kiwanis, a gardening club, and sports such as baseball and bowling. She is also helping people served give back to their community by organizing volunteer days for the Kiwanis Brat days, volunteering at a local recycling center, working a spaghetti dinner for the Aktion club and holiday bell ringing for the Salvation Army. She has also taken the lead in organizing an internal get out the vote campaign to support people served to exercise their right to vote in the last elections. She has worked to help people served take advantage of activities put on by our local park district that include movie events, going to see hockey games, dances, cooking classes and going to see the local community college put on a play.  None of this was required of Liz. She wasn't told she had to do it. She saw a need. The basic human need to be a part of our larger communities. To belong. The basic human need for enrichment by trying new things. Liz saw these needs and has become the champion of supporting the people we serve to be a part of and to experience all their community has to offer.


 August 2019:  Ashley Van Huis

Ashley Van Huis, a disability professional from Illinois, was nominated by a parent of a person she supports - Alice Roth-Dean.  "Ashley makes me feel respected as a parent.  She lightens the stress - from explaining paperwork to simplifying things to giving concrete suggestions for goals - which, in turn,  makes me a better mother.   I'd like to see her acknowledged for her professionalism and kindness."      


 July 2019:  Dawn Knights

 

Dawn Knights, a disability professional from Illinois, was nominated by a parent of a person she supports - Alice Roth-Dean.  "Dawn makes a profound difference to our daughter and to us as a family.  She keeps me up to date on changes and does it professionally and kindly.  She is on time for meetings and never cancels. Dawn has seen Taylor go from a child to an adult and is a positive constant in my daughter's life."   


 June 2019:  Rumond Taylor

Rumond Taylor, a disability professional from Tennessee. was nominated by Lisa Izzi - an Administrator with RHA Health Services.  "Romund thinks outside the box.  For example, he recently began creating PowerPoint presentations for people to show at their annual meetings.  This allows the team to visualize and celebrate the person's accomplishments over the previous year.  Rumond also serves as a mentor to new Qs.  He has 20+ years working in the field and is the true definition of an advocate for those in our care."