Living Well Disability Services is delighted to shine a light on Julie Jacob, who has been with the organization for an incredible 31 years. Her dedication to our mission, her commitment to caring for others, and her gentle yet strong advocacy make her an incredible employee. And lucky for us, ARRM agrees, choosing her as one of six ARRM Cares Award Recipients. The ARRM Cares award recognizes the top tier of Direct Support Professionals and their commitment to provide stellar care and support to Minnesota’s disability community. Julie was one of 178 nominees from five care organizations, and her big WIN was announced last week during DSP Week.
Everyone at Living Well knows Julie is an incredible advocate, and now the entire state knows, too. Julie had a brief stint as a kitchen supervisor after college, but then one day a bit of serendipity pointed in her in our direction when she found an ad in the newspaper and applied for a job with us. Back in 1991 when she started as a Certified Occupational Therapist no one could have guessed that she would stick around for over three decades, but goodness are we grateful she did! In her time with us she has worn many hats, and while primarily a therapy services coordinator, she dives in whenever and wherever needed.
One day you can find Julie writing a therapy plan, then the next training staff on the best practices to implement the individual therapies. She relies heavily on our Direct Support Professionals to carry out the plans and is very grateful to be surrounded by staff who are equally committed to providing quality care—care beyond the basics. She is also an expert at fixing equipment like braces, orthotics, walkers, wheelchairs, standers, lifts, bath equipment like shower and bath chairs and adaptive eating equipment utensils. And better yet, as one of the team that writes the plans, she can personalize all of that equipment to best suit the individual who needs it, basically customizing the equipment. Julie also trains staff on proper accessible van usage and the essential tie downs required to keep people in wheelchairs safe while in transit.
She often leads the Train the Trainers class with the therapy team, where she works with house Program Managers and Assistant Program Managers. This helps ensure that everyone is using equipment safely and that they understand the importance of the individualized plans. Julie also assists with communication devices, pointing out how when used properly and in the hands of someone interested in using one, how it opens the world of communication to the person using the pad. Since she started in 1991 Julie has been Jim’s personal advocate. She says his world opened immensely when he got a communication device, and even more so when more pages were added. A few weeks ago, Julie and Jim attend a Twins game and after a bit of back-and-forth Jim punched in “jersey” on the device, pointed to the store, then Julie grabbed the jersey and paid. She said that would have been more complicated without the assistance of assistive technology.
So how did Julie end up making a career out of caring? Sure the ad was a way in, but her dedication to be of service to others started years earlier. Her uncle has developmental disabilities, and her mom and sister, as well as Julie are his guardians. She grew up comfortable within the environment of his home, and says, “Ever since I was little and able to go visit him, I fell in love with working with people with developmental disabilities. It has been my calling for a very a long time.” Julie admits that the work can be hard, but that the good far outweighs the bad. She adores the flexibility, loves that no one day is the same, embraces each and every opportunity to help find ways to make other peoples lives better, and considers the staff and people served family. Julie is very hands on and effortlessly steps into whatever task is on her agenda for the day.
Back in 2000 when the original home closed and shifted to nine smaller homes, she was instrumental in planning and opening the new locations. Imagine opening Casey, Carmen, Congress, Highview, Mary Adele, Maryland, Poppler, Schletty and Upper 55 without dedicated and knowledgeable staff. It would have been an impossible lift to plan, distribute materials, integrate staff to changes, hire new staffing and physically close the larger facility without a full team of caring staff and volunteers committed to making the lives of others better.
From her first day, and every day since, Julie shows up with kindness in her heart and her sleeves rolled up to get to work. She is a born caretaker who loves her family at home, and her family at work. Huge congratulations to his incredible human on wining this incredible award! She deserves it, and we are grateful she won! Please take a minute to watch Julie and Jim in this video about their relationship, and how making a career out of caring is a beautiful thing to consider.