Benchmark Blog

Fourth Quarter Thrive – October, 2018

Oct 05, 2018
Benchmark Blog


Welcome to the electronic edition of Thrive, the Benchmark employee newsletter. Enjoy, and please share any stories you would like to include in a future issue with Courtney Heiser or Simon May!

From the Front Lines


Teona Sewell, DSP, Maryland


What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is seeing the clients every day and helping them achieve their goals.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part at times is encouraging clients to be their best self.

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
If I were an animal, I would be an elephant because they have a close family bond and when one of them is struggling the group surrounds that elephant, supporting them in any way.


Leo Carvalho, DSP, New Jersey


What is the best part of your job?
I like working with the consumers and seeing them achieve their goals and change themselves for the better.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Sometimes as staff it’s hard for everyone to be on the same page and that creates a challenge.

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I would like to be a bird so I can just fly to where ever I wanted to go.


Carolyn Hansen, DSP, Montana


What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is building relationships with individuals and being there for them daily.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is the sadness of the individual’s families not being there which causes behaviors that make the day challenging.

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
The animal I would be is a lion because they are fierce and will fight for what is theirs and they have a lot of pride.

Phone Call Speaks to Benchmark’s Legacy of Helping People Find Meaningful Employment


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month – a month designated to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities and educate about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. This month holds great significance for Benchmark, as helping people with disabilities find gainful employment was the original mission of the organization, and a service that continues today.

Benchmark recently received a surprising and delightful phone call from a gentleman formerly in the company’s Employment Services program. Richard will be retiring next year from Wayne Combustion in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Benchmark’s (then Anthony Wayne Services) employment program placed him in a job 47 years ago. Richard called to offer gratitude, and although none of Benchmark’s current staff were working for the company at the time, he wanted the rest of the staff to know the legacy they are carrying out. “I’ve been very happy in my job and in my life,” Richard said. “And I’m proud to say I have never taken a sick day – in almost five decades.”

Richard has loved every minute of his work, but is looking forward to retirement next September. He plans to spend his time volunteering at Mustard Seed Furniture Bank, whose mission is to provide household furnishings to families and individuals as they rebuild their lives after suffering disaster, personal tragedy, or other misfortunes.

Partnership in Missouri Drives Job Success


In a partnership that began on a golf course, individuals who otherwise may not have had employment support are moving toward their goals of vocational success.

Benchmark clinical director in Missouri, Dr. John Guercio, was golfing with Greg Kramer, VP of business development at Easterseals Midwest (ESMW). Guercio mentioned James and Damien, individuals Benchmark serves in residential programs, who were hungry for jobs, but for whom Vocational Rehabilitation was not an option. Kramer suggested contacting ESMW’s employment services director.

James found employment previously, but had left or lost jobs for various reasons. James’ behavior became a barrier to Vocational Rehabilitation, however, his case manager believed that James had the potential to succeed in a competitive workplace and referred him to ESMW for career planning. Last December, James was hired by a long-standing employer partner of ESMW – Shop ‘n Save – as a courtesy clerk. James has become a valued member of the team at his store, where he continues to gain hours – meaning more money in his pocket and more opportunity to make choices about how he uses that money. His self-esteem has climbed too!

Damien was equally enthusiastic about finding work. He had struggled to keep jobs due to difficulty interacting with coworkers. Ultimately, ESMW became Damien’s employer – a position opened up for a building porter at one of the agency’s day program locations. With ongoing support, Damien has thrived in his job.

This partnership between Benchmark and ESMW has led to a total of ten individuals receiving support in career planning or supported employment. So far, every individual supported by Benchmark who has gone through ESMW job development has been offered a job. Thanks to that golf course conversation, these individuals have found support that matches their drive to succeed.

Individuals in Ohio Lobby at Statehouse for Better Wages for DSPs


Last month, several Benchmark employees and individuals served in Ohio attended a rally at the statehouse in Columbus to address the issue of the DSP staffing shortage that has plagued our industry.

St. Marys, OH Day Services Program Manager, Christina Murray, eloquently shared her thoughts on the day. “Working in this field, it is obvious the crisis we face day-to-day with employment and low pay.” The rally was held outside the state building. The most impactful speakers were two individuals with disabilities who spoke on behalf of themselves, their peers, their providers, their DSPs. They discussed how they are not sure who will come in to work with them day to day or how long employees will stay. Essentially strangers are often assisting with things like food prep and food assistance, but also bathing and cleaning them in ways most uncomfortable because they don’t know them. They said that DSPs who stick around long enough to build a trust and friendship become family.

Another piece they touched on was how DSPs are often referred to as glorified babysitters. The truth is, they have an interdisciplinary profession. They have job responsibilities that resemble aspects of many different professions. They are teachers, teaching new skills, developing and implementing new strategies. They are like nurses, dispensing medications, administering treatments, documenting care, and communicating with medical professionals. They are like various allied health professionals, assessing needs and implementing individualized treatment plans. They are like social workers, helping connect people to community resources and benefits. They are like counselors listening, reflecting, and offering suggestions. Most importantly, DSPs are like family, showing compassion, love, support, and understanding.”

BuckUp Program Awards Over $60,000


$66,663. That’s the total number of dollars awarded through the Buck Up program last month. In 2002, Buck Up was established as an employee annual giving program to provide resources for under-funded or unfunded activities and projects that support individuals served. To make giving easy, employees can contribute “a buck”- $1 (or more if desired) per pay period through payroll deduction. Last year, employees contributed $22,221. The AWS Foundation matches every dollar raised 2:1, giving the fund over $60,000.

Awards this year included trips to amusement parks and major league baseball games, therapeutic equipment not covered by Medicaid dollars, items for sensory rooms at day programs, outdoor patio furniture for group homes, kitchen items to hold cooking classes for individuals served, and more!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to Buck Up. If you’d like to give $1 or more per paycheck to help fund these cool trips or items for the individuals we serve, log onto the intranet and fill out the form under the Applications tab > Forms icon > BuckUp Sign Up from the drop down menu. Hit submit and Payroll will handle the rest. Huge thanks to the AWS Foundation for their generous matching funds!

#NationalDSPWeek Recap!


Benchmark truly appreciates the incredible commitment of our staff to serving individuals with disabilities. As a special acknowledgement of this year’s National DSP Week, interviews with outstanding DSPs were featured on the company’s social media pages. Here are some of our favorite snapshots, and please visit the Benchmark Facebook page to read their interviews.

Congratulations to you all and Thank You!




Thrive honors employee hire anniversaries for October, November, and December, celebrating those who have worked at Benchmark for five years and longer.


Matthew Aremu – 5
Mario Baker – 5
Dennis Belsh – 5
Joshua Campbell – 5
Tammy Coyner – 5
Damon Dear – 5
Helene Ettang – 5
Charles Fox – 5
Kimberly Gabbard – 5
Kimberly Galaviz – 5
Anette Houghton – 5
Albert Jaramillo – 5
Brandon Johnson – 5
Grace Lazum – 5
Cynthia Lewis – 5
Daniel Linger – 5
Bashyra Manns – 5
Michael McKinney – 5
Beth Mills – 5
Jose Morales – 5
Nancy Mueller – 5
Kathy Newland – 5
Ethan Oakes – 5
James Paul – 5
Ruth Perez – 5
Terry Phillips – 5
Debra Robinson – 5
Jessica See – 5
Ulaunda Sinclair – 5
Thomas Spaur – 5
Thomas Stark – 5
Coty Stinson – 5
Jasmine Thomas – 5
Dale Toth – 5
Megan Walters – 5
Stephen Agyeman – 6
Debora Baskerville – 6
Amy Brown – 6
Kathy Cesar – 6
Milagros Diaz – 6
Daniel Dick – 6
Richard Edison – 6
Tori Fuhrmann – 6
Jennifer Gilbert – 6
Stephen Gyasi-Mensah – 6
Lisa Hains – 6
Isaac Harris – 6
Cherrie Hawes – 6
Latoya Jackson – 6
Sharron Jones – 6
Suliman Khalil – 6
Shannon McAllister – 6
James Minor – 6
Amber Moppin – 6
Christopher Murei – 6
McDonald Mvula – 6
Ameer Newell – 6
Jeffrey Nicholson – 6
Katie Noel – 6
Rebecca Norton – 6
Samuel Ofosu – 6
Olamide Ogunmolawa – 6
Anthony Ogunsin – 6
Telesa Pernell – 6
Jessie Rush – 6
Benjamin Schroeder – 6
Elizabeth Shinolt – 6
Diane Smith – 6
Edward Agyemang – 7
Dericka Anderson – 7
Tamera Blount – 7
Chantal Cardriche – 7

Leo Carvalho – 7
Lynn Davies – 7
Carolyn Derrick – 7
Keyana Dillard – 7
Margarita Espinosa – 7
Jeffery Gootee – 7
Latosha Hansley – 7
Wendy Harris – 7
Makarious Kibe – 7
Brenda Kromah – 7
Devin Long – 7
Lois Miller – 7
Robert Mtika – 7
Adrienne Norman – 7
Linda Pops – 7
Camille Solga – 7
Debra Sorg – 7
Kanetha Walker – 7
Suzanne Weiss – 7
Ashli Wilt – 7
Ogunyemi Alewi – 8
Mary Ali – 8
Selam Ayele – 8
Abdul Barrie – 8
Robert Bayne – 8
Andrew Beeks – 8
Jana Bunch – 8
Vicky Carr – 8
Catherine Conner – 8
Salena DePew – 8
Teresa Domsic – 8
Susan Durham – 8
Patricia Everage – 8
Mikeion Ewing – 8
Jennifer Falk – 8
Kelli Ferguson – 8
Pamela Fields – 8
Pamela Ford – 8
Angelia Glosser – 8
Sharon Goerler – 8
Linda Griffy – 8
Shana Hall – 8
Theodore Hamilton – 8
Deborah Hatfield – 8
Lucy Hatfield – 8
Lisa Hicks – 8
Paul Hicks – 8
Rebecca Holladay – 8
Judy Lattanzi – 8
Donna Livingston – 8
George Lopez – 8
Marla Manifold – 8
Amie Mansaray – 8
Raymonna May – 8
Jennie McAllister – 8
Martine McPeak – 8
Dawn McPheron – 8
Jonna Potter – 8
Donald Pozil – 8
Nicole Price – 8
Amanda Richardson – 8
Nakia Robertson – 8
Marie Romulus – 8
Bessie Sanders – 8
Craig Schmitt – 8
Ashley Scott – 8
Hachile Shandomo – 8
Valerie Showalter – 8
Marti Spaulding – 8
Darlene Spicer – 8
Teresa Steffee – 8
Melissa Taylor – 8

Desiree Taylor – 8
Crystal Toney – 8
Laura Wadsworth – 8
Tammy Welch – 8
Dorothy Wesley – 8
Michelle West – 8
Kimberly Bell – 9
Marcella Brown – 9
Jeffery Brumbaugh – 9
Valerie Church – 9
Antonia Gatewood – 9
Harold Graham – 9
Magdalena Henriquez – 9
Teresa Sims – 9
Keith Thompson – 9
Sharon Ward – 9
Andrew Bostic – 10
Charone Logan – 10
Jasman Lyles – 10
Brandon McGill – 10
Latasha McKnight – 10
Abimbola Olugbenga – 10
Andre Ottley – 10
Barbara Parks – 10
Tyra Poindexter – 10
Jackie Stuck – 10
Joshua Tomlinson – 10
Cynthia Boyd – 11
Michael Burdine – 11
Lois Dada – 11
Esther Gichanga – 11
Jennifer Heimann – 11
Ryan Knodel – 11
Barbara McCarty – 11
Mary McIntyre – 11
Frank Rousey – 11
Joshua Slone – 11
Mark Walters – 11
Mary Crawford – 12
Melissa Dykes – 12
Christine Henderson – 12
Natujwa Kivaria – 12
Emily Pace – 12
Lucille Sweet – 12
Linda Thomas-Carlisle – 12
Mariann Tindall – 12
Mamon Trotter – 12
Deborah Ungemach – 13
Josiah Chisale – 14
Karen Lewis – 14
Zwanaka Patsika – 14
Eric Weeks – 14
Kimberly Bolen – 15
Hellen Chimbuka – 15
Shannon Rhoton – 15
Jennifer Bauer – 16
Laura Conrad – 16
Shari Bail – 17
Nancy Grone – 17
George Haldar – 17
Julie Kent – 17
Lucy Maina – 17
Sandra Ffrench – 18
Barbara King-Foist – 19
William Kartholl – 20
Ada Wilkinson – 21
Carol Telley – 23
Muriel Baker – 24
Carl Lampton – 24
David Ross – 26
David Howe – 32

Movin’ On Up!


Below is a list of employees who were promoted in July, August, and September and the position to which they were promoted. Congratulations to all!


James Ailstock, Activities Coordinator
Furius Balderos, Team Leader
Laura Bonano, Supported Living Manager
Taneka Borders, Team Leader
Deborah Boyd, Team Leader
Lynell Ellis, Supported Living Manager
Lois Erwin, Team Leader
Donna Gaul, Supported Living Manager
Merissa Harden, Residential Manager
Isiah Harris, ESN Management Coordinator
Toni James, Team Leader
Natalie Kovets, Recreational Therapist
Martha Landry, Supported Living Supervisor
Carmelita Lee, Team Leader
Stacy Lorenz, Client Financial Specialist
Leann Love, Team Leader
Unique Parker, Team Leader
Chelsea Rogers, Team Leader
Gloria Rogers, Supported Living Manager
Shyra Seals, Supported Living Supervisor
Gloria Winston, Team Leader
Cynthia Zike, Supported Living Supervisor

Colisha Amos, Licensed Clinical Staff
Jason Byram, Licensed Clinical Staff
Dana Griffith, Licensed Clinical Staff
Ricketta Mccoy, Associate Licensed Clinical Staff
Lorraine Smalls, CNA
Ayesha Thomas, Associate Licensed Clinical Staff
Helen Turner, CNA

Crystal Davis, Supported Living Supervisor

New Jersey
Kameisha Johnson, Team Leader

Tania Bronaugh, Team Leader
Kylie Dawson, Team Leader
Balinda Fonner, Team Leader
Anna Geething, Program Manager
Stephanie Ingram, Team Leader
Christina Murray, Program Manager
Drema Myers, Team Leader
Gabrielle Poling, Team Leader
Michelle Truesdale, Team Leader
Donna Tyler, Team Leader

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