Officials with Home of Hope celebrated National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week recently in honor of direct support professionals who provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our area.

Home of Hope, headquartered in Vinita, provides services throughout northeastern Oklahoma to more than 240 adults with disabilities with a staff of nearly 600, including 200 men and women with developmental disabilities and nearly 350 direct support professionals.

Direct support professionals (DSPs) assist individuals with a disability to lead a self-directed life and contribute to the community, assists with activities of daily living if needed, and encourages attitudes and behaviors that enhance community inclusion.

“Our direct support staff - the men and women who provide daily personal care in each of our 55 homes in five different communities and who work as job coaches in our full range of work settings for individuals with disabilities – these folks are truly the heart of everything we are able to do,” said Dr. Ralph Richardson, CEO at Home of Hope. “They are the ones out there making a difference, helping to make life not just bearable but enjoyable and meaningful for people who have disabilities that make going it alone impossible.” 

The national direct support workforce is made up of over 3.6 million workers and the demand is expected to increase by 35 percent in the next 10 years. While the job can be very demanding, the rewards are great as evidenced by the following stories from a sampling of DSP staff at Home of Hope. 

Stephen Bradley started his work life as a heavy equipment operator but an interest in healthcare and a special place in his heart for individuals with disabilities attracted him to his job.

“It’s not really a job to me; it is a way of life. The clients are a joy to be around and no matter what is going on in their life, or in my life, they make my day brighter," Bradley said. "I want to do my part to help the people I work with achieve their potential. It is amazing what I get to see and be a part of.” 

Unlike Bradley, Kristen Black has always known her career path as her mother and father both work at Delaware County Friendship Homes (DCFH) in Jay.

Black loves her job and often receives compliments from parents of the consumers she works with.

“The best part of my job is knowing I make a difference in their lives. I enjoy how the little things, like helping with nails and hair, make them light up," Black said. "I like going on outings in the community and helping with daily tasks like cooking and cleaning, knowing that everything learned is with the goal of helping them live more independently.”

DeShawn Ewing, who receives services in Jay, expresses the importance of direct support professionals in his life.

“Heather (King) makes me feel good about myself and motivates me to do better," Ewing said.

Through his four years at DCFH Ewing has made steady progress toward his goals moving up through the jobs in vocational from working in the recycling program and stocking the snack shop to counting money and working in the office and commissary.

Ewing also credits Shawna Foreman and her family for teaching him many things, especially how to be more patient.

Delbert Foreman helped Ewing become a member of the Fighting Peacocks softball team and he enjoys playing traditional Cherokee marbles with Delbert and Jacob.

A shining example of the dedication and motivation provided by direct support professionals is the story of Tiffany Haddock.

Haddock's journey with DCFH began four years ago when she graduated from Grove High School and joined the DCFH vocational program as a consumer.

Haddock worked very hard and, with the inspiration from direct support professionals, obtained the skills and training to be a DSP herself.

Haddock joined the staff at DCFH as a job coach and receptionist almost two years ago. She said she was nervous at first but proud to have met her goal and gets great satisfaction from helping others.

Haddock said she learned a lot about doing her job well from the days when she was receiving services. Many consumers see Haddock as a role model and follow her example of hard work. 

Those interested in making a difference in a career as a direct support professional may contact Charlene Lee, Home of Hope human recruitment specialist, at charlene.lee@homeofhope.com or at 918-256-7825.