Benchmark Blog

First Quarter Thrive – January, 2019

Jan 11, 2019
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


Melissa Martinez, Service Coordinator, Early Steps program, Florida


What is the best part of your job?
The best part is the impact I have on the families we serve. As a service coordinator, I am their first point of contact into the world of early intervention and understanding what we do at Early Steps. It is my job to make the families on feel comfortable and confident in the decisions they will be making for their child. When a family comes to Early Steps they are coming because they have a concern about their child’s development — this is a sensitive and difficult position to be in as a parent. As their coordinator I need to be empathetic and understanding of this and assist them in navigating obtaining services and additional resources. It brings me great joy as a service coordinator following up with families and seeing how they are thriving and knowing that I have empowered them to be an advocate for their child.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is giving parents who are not ready to accept help the space they need to reflect and digest their child’s delay. Working in early intervention you come to realize that the earlier services are started the better it is for a child. When a parent is unwilling to follow through with services it is difficult for me because as much as I want to help their family they need to be ready to accept the help we can provide.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?
My New Year’s Resolution is to continue bettering myself as a person. I feel we are life-long learners and need to be open and willing to learn new things. I am looking forwarded to continuing my path to receiving my masters in applied behavioral analysis so that I can better assist my families of children with autism and other behavioral concerns. I also want to focus on teaching/showing my 2 daughters the importance of approaching life in a positive light!


Kiesha Walker, DSP, Supported Living, Fort Wayne, IN


What is the best part of your job?
Seeing my client’s faces light up when I take them out in the community.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Not being able to always understand what my clients want/need.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?
To reduce the stress in my life.



Maria Sandoval, DSP, New Mexico


What is the best part of your job?
The best part of the job is being with those I support, helping them to have a smooth and happy day. Knowing that they went home happy at the end of my shift makes my job rewarding.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is when a person I support is upset, but I try to help them to understand that it’s okay to express his or her feelings.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?
My resolution for this New Year is to eat healthy and get plenty of rest so that I’m available for those I support.


Austin Meets Santa


Many of you may have seen the Today Show article that highlighted a mall Santa who shared his milk and cookies with a boy named Austin at Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Glenbrook Square Mall. Long before Austin met Santa, he met nurses from Benchmark’s HomePointe HealthCare program, when they began serving him in 2015. Austin graduated from the program in November of 2018. He has struggled with feeding dysfunction his entire life, has had several hospitalizations related to aspiration pneumonia, and has spent most of his life receiving complete nutrition and medications via his G-tube. After several failed swallow studies and multiple surgeries, Austin was finally cleared to begin oral feeding this past year. He is now taking most nutrition orally and receives only supplemental feedings via his G-tube.

To commemorate this growth milestone, Austin, his sister, and mother all went to visit Santa. After the siblings took pictures together, Austin’s mom asked Santa if he could share some milk and cookies with her son. Santa warmly shared in the moment, pouring formula “milk” through Austin’s G-tube as he munched on a gingerbread man. “This Santa deserves to be recognized for his willingness to tube feed my little guy so that he felt included in sharing cookies with Santa!” said Austin’s mother Beth, “People are learning and seeing that there are all different kinds of disabilities, and that kids can be treated normally.”


Celebrating 20 Years of a Job Well Done


Doug B. has been working at the Meijer grocery store in Fort Wayne, IN for over 20 years! In September 1997, when Doug was fresh out of high school, he worked with Benchmark’s employment services division to secure the job at Meijer. He began cleaning tables, emptying trash, and dishwashing at the store’s “Purple Cow” restaurant. He was very quiet and unsure of himself at first, but Doug quickly progressed nicely and moved up to a grill cook and began running a cash register and taking customer orders.

When the Purple Cow closed inside the Meijer store, he moved to the cart attendant position where he has been ever since, ensuring an organized and clean customer experience both inside the store and around the building. This can be a very tough job during the winter months in Indiana, but Doug always keeps a smile on his face and offers a helping hand to customers.

Doug has continued to be successful through supervisory transitions and his current staff managers speak very highly of him. He has also received numerous service awards from Meijer and had several customer letters written on his behalf commending his work ethic.

Congratulations to Doug on celebrating this legacy of simple service and a job well done!

Holiday Happenings!


Benchmark Senior Staff Participates in Mandt Training


The Benchmark senior leadership team recently completed Mandt training. Though not a requirement for these positions, the Mandt philosophy seems to shape our company and how we conduct our business. Building relationships with those we serve and treating them with dignity and respect is central to our mission, so it seemed fitting that senior leaders understand all that goes into Mandt. Below are some reflections on the training.

“For me, Mandt training drove home the point that safety and security are a key step in building a successful person centered program. It fits in with one of our main corporate principles: Services should be designed with the client (customer) choice in mind. Programs should be wrapped around people rather than forcing people into fixed programs.”
– Doug Beebe, President

“I had studied the Mandt principles when we initiated the training as a requirement, but actually participating in the class allowed me to experience some of the training our DSPs go through to prepare working with individuals. There is much to remember, and the only way to reinforce what was learned, is to have our supervisors at all levels model and practice the Mandt principles during home visits and staff meetings.”
– Karen Shollenberger, Vice President

“The class reinforced the importance of personal safety and the safety and dignity of individuals being served and co-workers.”
– Eric Weeks, Vice President of Human Resources

Ohio Nurse Elected VP of Nursing Association


Annette Powers-Kilburn, Benchmark nurse in Ohio, was recently nominated and elected as Vice President of the West Ohio Chapter of Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association.

Incorporated in 1992, the Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association (DDNA) is a non-profit nursing specialty organization that is committed to advocacy, education, and support for nurses who provide services to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Their mission is to continually develop expertise to assure the highest quality of life for the people throughout the lifespan.

Congratulations, Annette and thank you for representing Benchmark so well!

Movin’ On Up!


Below is a list of employees who were promoted in October, November, and December and the position to which they were promoted. Congratulations to all!


Amber Griffith, Residential Manager
Angela Cook, Team Leader
Demetriana Hill, Team Leader
Eunice Hutchins, Program Coordinator
Evelyn Gills, Team Leader
Gloria Beau, Supported Living Manager
Grace Lazum, RN
Hannah Lett, Residential Manager
Ildephonse Rupiya, Team Leader
Jaimee Melanson, Team Leader
KCourtney Burley, Supported Living Manager
Linus Macharia, Team Leader
Mandy McQueen, Supported Living Supervisor
Michelle Kemerer, Team Leader
Michelle Knight-Deaton , Senior Team Lead
Paula Spall, HR Director of Safety and Compliance
Renee Bridgewater, Clinical Manager
Rusty Hartzburg-Brown, RN
Stephanie Mulevu, Supported Living Manager

Laurie Propst, Day Program Activities Coordinator
Taniea Jefferson, Supported Living Supervisor

Qualin Redd, Supported Living Manager

Ben Vandyke, Residential Manager
Carolyn Hansen, Residential Manager

New Jersey
Jennifer Adamcik, Client Financial Specialist
Kiona Mayweather, Residential Manager
Rosemary Heugle, Team Leader

New Mexico
Consuelo Rojas, Job Coach

Amanda Quillen, Team Leader
Amy Harner, Team Leader
Brandon Riley, Supported Living Supervisor
Cynthia Luginbihl, Team Leader
Darla Micheal, Team Leader
Francis Essilfie, Team Leader
Joseph Murphy, Supported Living Supervisor
Joseph Murphy, Team Leader
Kelli Saine, Supported Living Supervisor
Lisa Follas, Team Leader
Portia Lewis, Team Leader
Robert Shelly, Supported Living Supervisor
Sarah Armentrout, Team Leader
Tameka Payne, Day Services Supervisor

South Dakota
Theresa Bukowski, Regional Director



Thrive honors employee hire anniversaries for January, February, and March, celebrating those who have worked at Benchmark for five years and longer.


Alberta Phillips – 5
Angela Jones – 5
April Clerkley – 5
Cesar Mendoza Aguilar – 5
Christina Briggs – 5
Cody Hitchcock – 5
Darryl Harmon – 5
David Herrmann Sedano – 5
Deaundra Lewis – 5
Dennis Stroup – 5
Doris Muhammad – 5
Douglas Beebe – 5
Heather Kelly – 5
Housseyni Oumarou Aouade – 5
Jackulynn Hightire – 5
Jamal Cooper – 5
Jason Crowder – 5
Jeremy Joyner – 5
Jerry Mote – 5
Lateachca Carswell – 5
Lisa Follas – 5
Noble Alexander – 5
Peter Bishop – 5
Rose Ochoa – 5
Sandra Lambert – 5
Sharon Richmond – 5
Shaunna Turner – 5
Stacie Fitzgerald – 5
Teresa Walker – 5
William Exner – 5
YuYu Freese – 5
Yvonne Kreigh – 5
Angela Resovsky – 6
Angie Melvin – 6
Casey Jackson – 6
Cawanna Wadley – 6
Claudia Springer – 6
Dajuan Quilling – 6
Dawn Stump – 6
Deuntae Scott – 6
Diana Navarro – 6
Edward Mowen – 6
Herbert Sheftal – 6
Hugo Ochoa-Marquez – 6
Jonathan Rushton – 6
Joseph Gootee – 6
Kathleen Manegre – 6
Keith Miller – 6
Laurie Heckman – 6
Melissa Shaw – 6
Michael Dow – 6
Modester Nnona – 6
Mohamed Koroma – 6
Nikki Cotterman – 6
Ragna Urberg – 6
Renee Bridgewater – 6
Ruth Chege – 6
Salinda Moore – 6
Shaun Jasper – 6
Shawna Roberts – 6

Tara Froelich – 6
Tondaleah Eversole – 6
Zora Artis – 6
Alicia Warren – 7
Belinda Christensen – 7
Calma Harris – 7
Dedria Handerson – 7
Demetrius Clark – 7
Elmira Wilson – 7
Erika Moore – 7
Eunice Hutchins – 7
Frances Cline – 7
Javon Martin – 7
Jeremy Wimbley – 7
Karen Evans – 7
Katherine Zmeskal – 7
Kimberly Leal – 7
Larry Mitchell – 7
Latasha Green – 7
Lori Blanco – 7
Matthew Govan – 7
Maurice McKenzie – 7
Orlando Wash – 7
Pamela Weston – 7
Ronald Baldwin – 7
Rosita Stewart – 7
Ruth Bates – 7
Sycilla Smith – 7
Tammy Carroll – 7
Travis Robertson – 7
Alocia Robertson – 8
Andrea Kinnard – 8
Angela Jeffrey – 8
Anthony Bryant – 8
Benjamin Harrison – 8
Debra Williams – 8
Dorothy Robbins – 8
Geidy Melara – 8
Judith Vaughn – 8
Julie Heiges – 8
Michael DeGasperis – 8
Rasheda Patterson – 8
Rhonda Etling – 8
Susan Brown – 8
Timothy Fitzgibbons – 8
Unique Fields – 8
Amy Miller – 9
Andrew Baden – 9
Casey Lolmaugh – 9
Douglas Houser – 9
Erin Gruber – 9
Jeffrey Cross – 9
Jennifer Bentle – 9
Laine Muston – 9
Megan Ham – 9
Stacy Christopher – 9
Steven Sechrest – 9
Ann Williams – 10
Brenda Willis – 10
Chad Biddle – 10

Eva Jacobson – 10
Harold Eagleson – 10
Kristy Stemen – 10
Lucy Phiri – 10
Martel Freeman – 10
Shirley Morgan – 10
Souleymane Adamou – 10
Theresa Prentice – 10
Xavier Ilboudo – 10
Beth Barger – 11
Donna Kuntz – 11
Jenine Jansma – 11
Jill Tatalovich – 11
Rhonda McAuley – 11
Rosalind Winston – 11
Shawn Fields – 11
Tonya Watts – 11
Isiah Harris – 12
Jennifer Smith – 12
Justin Tucker – 12
Kim Stephens – 12
Linda Henney – 12
Osman Babiker – 12
Theophilus Kungang – 12
Tyaan Winn – 12
Yared Belew – 12
Cindy Rousey – 13
Judith Ausdran – 13
Kathy Thorson – 13
Kimberly Larson – 13
Nathan Heimann – 13
Paige DeCook – 13
Barbara Grote – 14
George Sewell – 14
Glenn Heath – 14
Julius Kerkula – 14
Amy Pennycuff – 15
Ava Churchman – 15
Clara Chibweya – 15
Nancy Bobay – 15
Peter Kelly – 15
Sherri Morris – 15
Courtney Heiser – 16
Diane Robinson – 16
Jean Kambela – 16
Kelly Stahl – 16
Lubasi Kekelwa – 16
Melissa Bushong – 16
Timothy Cline – 16
Deborah Hanan – 17
June VanTilburg – 17
Sandra Phelps – 19
Gary Brabson – 20
Joyce Wright – 20
Michela Buss – 20
Sharon Dodge – 20
Paula Elward – 23
Todd Staszak – 23
Curlie Young – 29

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