Cyndy Dixon Named PAR Direct Support Professional of the Year
Skills of Central Pennsylvania, Inc. employee Cyndy Dixon was honored at Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities’ 43rd annual meeting and awards celebration on November 20 at the Harrisburg Hilton as the direct support professional of the year.
Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities (PAR) is a nonprofit organization comprised of member organizations all over the state that provide services and supports to people who have autism and intellectual disabilities living in Pennsylvania. PAR presents the Direct Support Professional of the Year award annually to someone employed by a PAR Provider member organization that, according to the PAR award application, “has shown extraordinary determination and success in empowering consumers to lead fulfilling and enriching lives.”
Cyndy is a direct support professional at the vocational training program at Skills of Central Pennsylvania, Inc. (Skills). She assists nearly 50 people with intellectual disabilities to participate in local volunteer projects. She helps them develop skills to increase their independence and be involved in their community.
“Cyndy has always exemplified the mission of Skills by creating opportunities and developing supports for people with disabilities,” said Becky Aungst, Skills Chief Operations Officer. “She has made a tremendous impact in the lives of those she supports. We are very proud and grateful for Cyndy’s 18 years of dedicated service.”
In addition to her responsibilities at the vocational training program, Cyndy also coordinates Skills’ horticultural therapy program, which is an integral part of the Discovery Garden project at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg. The program is funded by Skills Foundation, which augments the costs of programs and services for the people Skills supports. Dixon’s love of gardening and her passion for the people she supports is demonstrated through her tireless efforts to find ways for people with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of horticultural therapy and the outdoors.
Cyndy’s coworkers have heard her say numerous times that she loves her job. She is a dedicated, conscientious employee who lives to make people with intellectual disabilities feel welcome and take ownership of their lives. We are thrilled about her incredible achievement being named the 2013 Direct Support Professional of the Year — and we are very fortunate to have her as a member of the Skills family!
Skills Caregiver Wins Excellence in Lifesharing Award
One of our Skills Lifesharing caregivers, Alicia Smith, was presented with the Excellence in Lifesharing award for Central Region at the 6th annual Pennsylvania Lifesharing Conference on Oct. 17–18 at Millersville University.
The award was established to recognize individuals and families for demonstrating the vision and mission of Lifesharing throughout the year. Lifesharing is a residential option that gives people with intellectual disabilities the choice to move in with a loving family.
Criteria for the nominees included advocacy, creativity, quality and commitment.
Mary Rhodes, Skills Lifesharing Specialist, nominated Alicia by writing about why Alicia deserved to win. Mary then read the nomination request at the conference. Read Mary’s nomination.
The conference was held in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Lifesharing Coalition, Pennsylvania Association of Resources: Autism and Intellectual Disabilities, Pennsylvania Department of Welfare and Office of Developmental Programs. The conference included keynote speakers such as Rep. Thomas Murt and Fred Lokuta, deputy secretary of Office of Developmental Programs.
Excellence in Lifesharing is awarded every year to one person in four regions in the state: Central, Western, Northeast and Southeast.
For more information about Skills Lifesharing program, visit our Lifesharing page.
The Journey to Become a Person Centered Organization
There is something to be said about putting yourself into someone else’s shoes.
Over the last few decades our society began changing its thinking about people with disabilities and the way services are delivered to them. Our society started a transformation from a system dictating lives to one of individuals choosing their own lives.
In 1998, Skills adopted the Person Centered Thinking developed by experts Michael Smull, Bill Allen, and Mary Lou Bourne. In 2009, all Skills staff in Blair County as well as all executive staff came together for training on becoming a Person Centered Organization (PCO). Skills staff members attended monthly meetings and underwent training to be coaches. Coaches help teams for individuals find out what each individual really likes and wants in their life then help guide teams to make decisions based on the individual’s choices.
Skills goal is to become a PCO, initially in Blair County, and to improve the lives of the people we serve whether in residential or day programs. Skills mission has always been to enhance the lives of the people we serve and give them every opportunity we can. Now Skills is taking it one step further — having the people we serve be the authors of their own lives. This is not an easy step to take; state regulations, doctors, hospitals and other agencies need to be on board with this philosophy.
To accomplish this goal, Skills included training opportunities for county support coordinators and state representatives from the Office of Developmental Programs. Skills is offering this training to other counties. In November 2009, Skills held a two-day training in State College (Centre County) for Skills employees and county support coordinators about this philosophy. The journey to becoming a person centered organization is underway, thanks to Blair County, and spreading throughout the agency. Skills goal is eventually to become a PCO throughout all of our 16 counties.
Environmentally Friendly Place Mats
Skills of Central PA, Inc. has been making place mats out of recycled, biodegradable paper for over 10 years. The Deli, a restaurant in downtown State College, has been a loyal supporter of this project by purchasing Skills recycled place mats. Hotel State College also uses Skills recycled place mats in Bill Pickles Tap Room Restaurant & Bar. This project is both good for our environment and supports individuals with disabilities by providing valuable work.
Individuals who attend WOSKOB Vocational Training Services in Centre County earn a paycheck to make the place mats. Until now, client-workers had been using a home-made cutting contraption that could only cut two place mats at a time.
Thanks to Penn State University Students and the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS), Skills now has a newly refurbished place mat cutter that can produce six place mats at a time — tripling production with one cut! Tim Wheeler, research assistant for the Department of Electrical Engineering, is the program coordinator. Matt Cornwell, Penn State mechanical engineering student in the EPICS program, designed and built the new place mat cutter for Skills.
The EPICS program at Penn State gives engineering students the opportunity to use their developing skills for the community. Students put what they have learned into play to help agencies like Skills solve everyday problems, which in our case helped Skills increase production to better serve our customers.
Interested in purchasing Skills environmentally friendly place mats for your restaurant or business? If so, please call the WOSKOB Industrial Site Manager at 814-234-2330 ext 318 for details.