Every year in September we celebrate our DSPs by celebrating Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. This nationwide annual week-long celebration of Direct Support Professionals is a great opportunity to spotlight the dedicated and innovative direct support workforce who enable Living Well to meet our mission of transforming the lives of people impacted by disabilities through the delivery of exceptional services. Our DSPs are the backbone of our organization, and their tireless and continued support of people with disabilities is essential beyond measure! Our celebrations this week, which honor the DSPs at the foundation of our field, are part of an industry wide party thrown every year to highlight the amazing and often overlooked work of these incredible professionals. And leave no room for doubt, these are professionals.

Here is what our Retention and Recruitment Team came up with for daily thank yous:

Day 1-Chalk your Sidewalk. Each home was gifted a chalk kit to share some fun messages and to brighten the staff’s day as they entered the home for work. Chalk donated by HR Manager, Anh Phan.

Day 2-Sweet Treats from Hometown Sweets and Fun Food Prep Sets. 500 bags of popcorn were delivered to our houses in care packages for the staff along with bento boxes and travel cutlery sets. Treats supplied by the Senior Leadership Team, at a discounted rate from Hometown Sweets. Utensils donated by Xcel.

Day 3-Wellness Wednesday. What better way to take care of ourselves than to spend a few minutes practicing selfcare. Mears Program Manager, Elvin Jones, hosted guided meditations over Zoom at 10AM and 3PM. And our resident yoga teacher volunteer, Jean Jentz, gave a 15-minute intro to Tai Chi over Zoom as well. Also part of the wellness theme is a weeklong wellness bingo card where DSPs can win great prizes, and a call for healthy selfies to share with the staff (healthy meals, walks, exercising…). Program hosted by the Wellness Committee, led by Josie Jeffrey.

Day 4-Thirsty Thursday. Another part of selfcare is drinking enough water! We all know it, yet somehow forget to drink our 8 glasses a day. This year’s DSP bags included a water bottle and a Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a GMO-free powder with added vitamins and minerals that help the body hydrate faster. Hydration materials supplied by the Recruitment and Retention Committee.

Day 5-Free Meal Friday. Breaking bread and sharing meals is a beautiful way to nourish our souls and connect with our community. DSPs will receive baked oatmeal freezer meals for breakfast, individual frozen pizzas for lunch, and for dinner—it’s time for takeout. Breakfast and lunch provided by the Recruitment and Retention Committee. Dinner provided as part of the home budget.

It is a delight to honor our employees during this special week. The work can be hard, but the connection and caring that comes with the role makes it worth it. Anh Phan, HR Manager, says, “We want to do everything we can to let our staff know how very much we adore them and their dedication to caregiving.” Adding that she worked a few shifts in a home during a particularly low staffing patch which opened her mind and heart to the role and all that it entails. Volunteer Manager, Kathy Anderson, helps secure volunteer teams to assist with various tasks throughout the year. Since 2018 she has worked with a team from Xcel Energy, during their Xcel Energy Day of Service to prep for DSP week. This year they came out the weekend before and spent a couple hours packing the materials to be delivered to the homes on Monday. Kathy says it takes a lot of preparation to get things ready, and that we need a big team to get everything right, but admits it is one of her favorite weeks of the year. “It brings me such joy to be on the team that helps put all of this together.” Adding, “I appreciate the work our DSPs do and am honored to be part of an organization dedicated to both the people we serve and our employees.”

Jake Sedlacek, Manager of Community & Local Government Relations with Xcel, was part of the team Kathy brought out and had a great time pitching in. He says of the opportunity to be of service, “When staff feel supported it makes a difference. That support gives you power to do an amazing job like the staff do at Living Well.” He then added, “Disability is often overlooked in disability, equity, and inclusion. It does not have the biggest voice and it’s a growing population that needs care.” With that we know his team gets it—that being fully seen and feeling supported, the people we serve can thrive and live rich and full lives.

All of us at Living Well want to thank the DSPs who show up every day and do the heavy lifting, you are incredible and make our mission possible. And to the volunteers at Xcel Energy (and any group, individual, or family that has ever helped) we appreciate your advocacy!

In truth, it would take a million dollars and tickertape parade to thank DSPs appropriately. But with a small budget and lots of enthusiasm, we recognize the work they do 24/7 throughout the year (and in our case for over five decades) with treats and treasures. We know it could never be enough but love the opportunity to celebrate them in any way we can. It takes a village, or in our case, a legion of employees willing to make a career out of caring.

A million thank yous! Happy DSP Week!