Would you believe it if we told you that 167 of our 500 staff members have been with the company over five years? That 50 have been with Living well for over 20 years? Or, get this, that six have been on staff for over four decades?! In this culture of job hopping and staffing shortages, we are so very grateful for the incredible staff that have dedicated their careers to caring for others, and to making the lives of people living with disabilities better each and every day!
With gratitude in mind and joy in our hearts, each year we celebrate our long-term staff with an employee recognition celebration. Staff who have been employed for five or more years are invited, and those who have reached milestone anniversaries are celebrated. While it would probably take a million dollars and a parade to thank them appropriately, we want to take the time to honor them and let them know how much they mean to people we serve, their families, and the overall health of the organization.
On Thursday we gathered at The Market at Malcom Yards to recognize the special employment milestones of 54 remarkable employees who collectively have 645 years of service. These include:
-23 employees who have reached 5 years
-15 employees who have reached 10 years
-4 employees who have reached 15 years
-5 employees who have reached 20 years
-2 employee who have reached 25 years
-3 employees who have reached 30 years
-1 employee who is celebrating 35 years…
-And we are especially grateful and proud to recognize one incredible employee with 45 years of service at Living Well Disability Services!
Yep, 45 years. LuAnn Neumann started at Dakota’s Children back when she was finishing up her degree in September of 1977 and has seen the organization though two name changes and several huge milestones. When the original home closed in 2000, moving to smaller homes, she took her expertise to Poppler, where she has been ever since. Over the years she has grown close to many people and their families. She started caring for Matt back when he was just three years old, and still cares for him at Poppler, with the primary deference being he is now in his mid 40s! When asked what makes her stay, LuAnn said, “I like helping people. I am a caretaker at heart.” Adding, “I believe in the mission, and the staff, and at the children’s home it felt like a big family. The bond is still there!”
As a lifelong caregiver who started helping out at home when she was just nine years old and her mother was managing a disability, LuAnn is quite simply a caregiver who feels fulfilled when supporting others. She took care of her own children, her grandchildren, her aging parents, and now a great nephew—all while working full, and now part time, for Living Well where she cares for the people we serve. She chuckled and said she should probably be slowing down, but so far it just hasn’t happened!
Another celebrant is Chinatu Ejodamen, who started at Elgin 10 years ago as a DSP. Over the past decade she has moved her way up and is now the Program Manager at the home. Like LuAnn she is a natural caretaker who appreciates the opportunity to help others in a meaningful way. When asked why she has stayed so long, Chinatu says, “I like the job, and first impressions matter. My coworkers were great, and I loved the people we support.” So, she stayed. And when asked what she tells people who are considering a job with Living Well she says, “Forget about the money, it’s a starting wage. But it is a community, and you are appreciated.” She likes that staff is given the tools to do their jobs, and that people will help guide them through the roles. Chinatu adds, “The PTO is incredible and Living Well takes care for their staff. Some places may pay more but they do not take care of their people! The mission is important.”
And nurse Megan Burgeson, who you met when we wrote about the designated Covid Nurse team, is also celebrating 10 years. Like Chinatu she started as a DSP, but instead of working her way to a Program Manager, she worked part time for a couple years to go to nursing school and is now a full-time nurse at Living Well. Her career started in media and news, and what she appreciates most about the work she does here is that it is a complete 180 from the work she did before.
Caring for others is the polar opposite of delivering hard hitting news, and she is happy to go home with contentment in her heart. Burgeson says the reason she loves it so much is, “There is a connection because you are caring for this person, and it becomes personal. When you have connection and compassion for someone you are driven to advocate for them.” She loves direct care so much she had it added into her schedule that she would have direct care as well as nursing in her job duties. To this day she takes shifts at Kennelly, working 16 hours there a month. She says with a smile, “It’s the people that brings me back, always.”
In addition to milestones relating to time at Living Well, we also celebrated the employees who were nominated for industry awards—ARRM Cares Award, Anchor DSP of the Year and MITC awards for DSP recognition. More about the individual awards:
The ARRM Cares Award was established to recognize professionals from ARRM members who provide direct care and demonstrate a commitment to quality services. ARRM supports and encourages thier members to acknowledge their employees’ dedication and service through this award process.
All nominees are recognized by ARRM and their employers as the top our field has to offer, while six winners are selected each year who represent outstanding and extraordinary dedication, innovation and skill. Winners receive a $1,000 award and are celebrated in a special ceremony. ARRM Nominees: Brace Gotshalk (West Emerson), Dick Bain (Kennelly), Jennifer Roorda (3801), and Julie Jacob (Therapy Services). Congrats to Julie Jacob, one of six statewide winners.
Each year, ANCOR honors nearly five dozen outstanding direct support professionals with their annual DSP of the Year Awards. To profile the award recipients and celebrate their accomplishment, they publish Recognizing Excellence, a digital magazine in which they lift up the stories of success and inclusion. Recognizing Excellence becomes a key weapon in their arsenal to advocate at the federal level for investments in the direct support workforce and the important work it does to strengthen our communities. ANCOR Nominees: Adolphus Kesseh (Upper 55th), Devin Rude (Poppler), Julie Jacob (Therapy Services).
And MITC, our clocking software provider, awards a total of $5,000 to Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who stand out and go above and beyond to provide exemplary service. MITC values the hard work put forth by DSPs everyday and hopes to show thier appreciation through these prizes. After receiving 500+ nominations from hundreds of agencies, the 2022 winners of the MITC DSP Awards were chosen. MITC Nominees: Donna Sanderson (Maryland), Hammed Bakare (Highview), Jamar Jackson (Cloman), and Jenneh Kebe (Southcrest).
And last, but certainly not least, we celebrated the extraordinary efforts of the following employees who were recognized this year by the American Red Cross for using their life-saving skills and physically intervened (back blows/abdominal thrusts) in choking incidents. Big love to Jennifer Johnson (Central), Haweya Askar (Lyndale), Camille Brown, Alexa Intveld, & James Karbar (32), Devin Rude (Poppler), and Alex Buslee (Poppler). They literally saved lives on the job, and we cannot imagine a better feeling knowing you were integral in keeping someone truly safe.
We could quite literally tell you about one of our amazing staff every week for well over a year, then start all over again. There could be a book about COO Rod Carlson, who reached 35 years this year, or a TV show about Comfort Osaro at Cope and the high energy she brings to the home and has done so for 20 years. And in truth, a Netflix show about Living Well staff feels like it would be a top ratings hit! Our staff’s collective stories and the reasons they choose to work helping others will never grow tiring or feel boring. Throughout their careers, and every day, these dedicated professionals demonstrate their skills, joy for life, and commitment to the people that they support. Their passion for serving others truly transforms lives—theirs, ours, and those that they support.
With gratitude to all who choose to work for Living Well, and all care organizations, thank you! It was a total joy to honor so many at the party!