Direct support professionals or DSPs who make a positive difference have been honored by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR). Awards were recently presented to four DSPs, who serve people with disabilities around Minnesota. The presentations were made at a recent conference in Duluth.
Award organizer and MOHR Board Member Lynne Megan said DSPs are the lifeline to services and supports for people with disabilities. “There are amazing creative supports that are happening each and every day by DSPs across our state.”
Megan herself was honored with MOHR’s Tip of the Spear Award. (See related story.)
Here’s a look at the honored DSPs:
Samantha “Sam” Davis is honored in the Enrichment Focus category for Greater Minnesota. Davis is a DREAM case manager at Functional Industries, a Buffalo-based nonprofit. DREAM is an acronym for Developing Relationships, Empowerment and Motivation.
Davis always puts the individuals she serves first, said Functional Industries Lead Case Manager Jenna O’Donnell. She understands “person-centeredness,” thinks outside the box and involves others in decision-making. She has worked for the Buffalo-based organization for five years.
Davis meets weekly with program participants and assists as they plan their week. This often involves laying out and staffing multiple community outings including a library book club, bingo at the community center, museum tours, visits to parks, orchards and the local police station.
Tom Fix is honored in the Enrichment Focus category in the Twin Cities metro area. ProAct’s Fix entered the disability services field after checking out a home for his sister with disabilities 36 years ago joining the staff. This led to a longas a day services DSP in Scott County.
Fix is a dream employee for every caregiver, supervisor and coworker, said ProAct Day Support Services Manager Ali Brown. In his three decades of service, he has worked with many people, ranging from those who need complete help to some with behavioral issues and those who just want to have fun and be included.
Alyssa Sampson is honored in the Employment Focus category for Greater Minnesota. Sampson is an arts instructor at Epic Enterprise, Northfield.
With an intense drive to learn and expand the knowledge of Epic Enterprise participants, arts instructor Alyssa Sampson breaks down barriers and creates a sense of pride and accomplishment, said Program Director Leah Williams. “She uses her skills, abilities, and passion to help Epic participants develop holistically by expanding their artistic/cognitive functioning, physical functioning, and social/emotional wellbeing.”
As Epic uses a hybrid model for art classes today, Sampson ensures that each participant is greeted, engaged and feels a part of the class, whether they’re in-person or joining remotely.
Mari Sorgatz is honored in the Employment Service category for Greater Minnesota. For nearly 30 years, Epic Enterprise job coach Sorgatz has been a teacher and supporter of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has helped many reach their career goals. “Mari encourages them to increase their skills, work ethic, independence and level of professionalism,” said Michelle Sticken, Epic Enterprises program coordinator.
Sorgatz coaches three crew members who work for the City of Northfield, cleaning parks, the city shop, ice arena and water treatment plant. Some crew member have transitioned to competitive employment. Sorgatz helped to make that process go smoothly.
During the pandemic some workers stepped into volunteer roles to build and maintain skills, including holiday bell ringing for the Salvation Army and helping at an animal shelter.
Anna Thompson is honored in the Employment Service category for the Twin Cities metro area. TSE employment specialist Thompson in St. Paul is a star employee in the nonprofit’s Work Ahead Resource Center, where she matches people with disabilities with jobs in the area.
Thompson, who rose to the challenge during COVID, said it was a strange time in the field. “I’m thankful for the support I got from my family and coworkers, my boss and the resources and time to do extra things,” she said. “I like being busy and doing a variety of different things. That’s what has kept me in this field for so long.”
This summer will mark 25 years for Thompson at TSE, Inc. and 18 years with the resource center there.