"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
--John F. Kennedy
Every September, Tri-Valley Developmental Services celebrates Direct Support Professional Month. It is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for all of the hard work that has taken place over the previous year. This year, we held luncheons in Chanute, Fort Scott and Iola to honor our employees and the dedication they have shown to caring for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Caring for others is not an easy task. Those of us who have had to care for our aging parents with dementia or children with attention deficit disorder understand that it takes more than just a quick check in once a week to ensure they are safe. It involves 24/7 care. It requires assisting with cooking, hygiene, transportation, cleaning, health, and the list goes on and on. Without our direct support professionals, Tri-Valley would not exist. They are the backbone of the organization and deserve praise for the professional work they do with the people we serve.
I wanted to take this time to call out some of our employees and the great work they do.
The first is Jeff Chaplin. Jeff originally started with Tri-Valley in 1996 as a vocational trainer and left in 2002. He later returned in April 2010 as a residential support specialist in Fort Scott. Jeff has taken the TVDS mission statement to heart since his return. Jeff recently began working with an individual in Fort Scott who refused services even though he was in dire need of them. It was to the point that this individual was about to evicted. Jeff began working with this individual and a change was seen immediately. The individual became more involved in his community, developed a healthier lifestyle and is living in a neat and clean environment. This individual has improved so much that earlier this year; he was able to go on a trip with two other people. Jeff was able to help this individual make positive changes in his life by offering choices and providing new opportunities to help him achieve the quality of community life the individual has been seeking for years.
Another employee is named Tony Moyer. Tony began working at Tri-Valley in August of 2009 as a behavioral support specialist. We hired Tony to work with a very challenging and aggressive person that we served. This person was obsessive compulsive, and with the help of Parsons State Hospital, we developed a plan for the individual that required a lot of creativity and community interaction. With Tony's help and dedication, the person is now very successful in both their day and residential program. In addition, we recently added another very challenging individual into our program, and when Tony was informed of this, he asked to be transferred so that he could help this person adjust and become successful as he did the other client. Tony indicated that he would not feel good about it if he did not give it a try. With Tony's help, this individual is now living in the community and recently obtained employment.
Without people like Jeff, Tony and the hundred or so direct support professionals at Tri-Valley who just don't talk the talk, but walk the walk, people with intellectual disabilities would not be successful, living in the community in integrated settings, employed at local businesses or participating in community events. My hat is off to all of the employees at Tri-Valley and their dedication to ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities lead the life they seek.
Editor's Note: Tim Cunningham is the executive director of Tri-Valley Developmental Services, which serves developmentally disabled people in Allen, Bourbon, Neosho and Woodson counties.