Direct support professionals are saluted

Direct support professionals are saluted
Cassidy Sutton, CHOICE, Inc.

Direct Support Professional Recognition Week is September 13- 19. It is a time to honor the dedicated and hard-working direct support workforce that is the heart and soul of supports for people with disabilities. 

Every year, MOHR honors dedicated direct support professionals (DSPs) from around the state. MOHR’s 2020 Direct Support Professional Award winners are from two Twin Cities area service providers and one from west-central Minnesota. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic brings physical changes to how the award winners are honored this year, the heartfelt appreciation for the work of DSPs remains the same. 

“DSPs are the lifeline to services and supports for people with disabilities and we thank them,” said award organizer and MOHR Board Member Lynne Megan. “There are amazing creative supports that are happening each and every day by DSPs across our state.” 

Deb Ebner portrait
Deb Ebner, Functional Industries

At Functional Industries in Buffalo, Deb Ebner is a “tireless advocate” and job coach who always finds the positives, solves problems and defies the odds with moral backing for the people she supports on the job. 

Ebner has worked at Functional industries for 12 years, spending the majority of her career providing job coaching services to individuals in competitive integrated employment settings. She is committed to person centered services and has proven that time and time again. She makes each individual feel as though he/ she is her top priority, and is a strong advocate for her clients. 

Ebner has a think outside of the box approach and attitude which allows her to succeed in supporting individuals on their jobs. She is praised by coworkers for always finding the positives even in situations that there seems to be none. 

Cassidy Sutton is with CHOICE, Inc. in Eden Prairie. She is an innovative art instructor who started new programs which have taken on many forms. Creative, dedicated and supportive, she brings many opportunities to the people she serves. 

One activity Sutton worked on received a 2019 grant from the Eden Prairie Community Foundation. The $2,000 grant was used to purchase filming gear and film-editing software, enabling CHOICE participants to produce music videos to be used in fundraising and in a community-theater setting. 

In an article posted on the foundation website, Sutton said that the project prompted even the most bashful clients to open up and have fun in front of the camera. 

The projects created new opportunities for program participants to be seen and understood, Sutton added, and the result was magical: participants beaming, laughing, and sharing high-fives while watching the end results. 

The third honoree is Katie Whiteford, an 18-year employee of Rise. Whiteford is a devoted, person-centered problem solver who provides intensive job support. She knows each person well. 

Katie Whiteford portrait
Katie Whiteford, RISE

Whiteford supports four to five people in the data ability program. She has had the unique privilege of working with the same group her entire Rise career and describes her relationships with them as mutually beneficial. 

Her day-to-day responsibilities include greeting people and supporting them throughout their day — getting settled in to work, answering questions, and solving computer and technical issues as well as attending to their personal care needs. 

Her team works on a wide range of work projects for Rise business partners, Rise’s Transportation Department, and other Rise offices. Each computer, its hardware and software, require customization to meet the skills and abilities of each worker. 

Learn more about past award winners at the MOHR Awards website.


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