Benchmark Blog

First Quarter Thrive – January, 2020

Jan 10, 2020
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!

Benchmark Celebrates 60 Years!

By: Doug Beebe, President/CEO

On January 6, 2020, our company turned 60. What began in 1960 as Anthony Wayne Rehabilitation Center (AWRC), a small not-for-profit in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has grown into a thriving organization that spawned a for-profit LLC, Benchmark Human Services, and the not-for-profit AWS Foundation. Though Benchmark has evolved, what remains is compassionate employees, dedicated to helping people reach their full potential. Last year, Benchmark and the not-for-profit AWRC served over 21,000 individuals in some capacity. The work our employees do has a lasting impact on the lives of people in communities throughout the United States.

As we look ahead to the next 60 years and beyond, we are excited to continue carrying out our mission to help people live as independently as possible, be included in their community, and reach their maximum potential.

Throughout 2020, we’ll be celebrating 60 years in a variety of ways including on social media. I encourage you to follow Benchmark on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and look for the hashtag #Benchmark60 to see moments from our history, learn more about our front line workforce, and celebrate our enduring legacy.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us achieve this significant milestone – and especially to those who have entrusted us with their care or their loved ones’ care throughout the many years. We are honored to serve you.

From the Front Lines


Katie Russell, DSP, Connersville, IN


What is the best part of your job?
There’s a lot of perks to helping people live their lives, but making them smile when they’ve had a rough day is one of my favorites. Just making a difference and making them happy is so fulfilling.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Sometimes when you can’t get through to somebody it can be very challenging. You need to be creative about how you can turn their bad day around for them. That is also a positive thing because when you finally figure it out, you get to brighten their day.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?
To stay positive and optimistic no matter what life throws me.


Keisha Gaston, DSP, St. Louis, MO


What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is when I come into the house and the individuals’ faces light up. One of the consumer’s waves and the other one says “Hi Treece!” Lol, even though my name is Keisha. I love it!

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is sometimes getting individuals to wherever they need to go in the community.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?
My 2020 resolution is to keep doing everything I’m doing now. I’m not making any promises I know I may not be able to keep. Most importantly though, I want to be the best mom I can be to my 3-year-old son.


Latosha Celebrates Success and Looks to the Future

By: Patrice Buchanan, Program Coordinator, St. Louis, Missouri


Latosha has been with been Benchmark’s residential program for two years. In April 2019, Latosha secured employment with Lafayette Industries where she continues to work on the assembly line and enjoys her job. While working at Lafayette Industries, Latosha has gained some new skills. Having stable employment for eight months is a huge deal for her.

Since working at Lafayette, Latosha has been extremely happy and feels more accomplished and independent. She looks forward to going to work every day. Earning a paycheck and purchasing items that she wants makes her happy and motivates her to continue working.

Recently, the entire Benchmark St. Louis team celebrated a milestone with Latosha – she has not been hospitalized for an entire year. We are very proud of her and her efforts. Latosha has plans of returning to school to further her education and to receive a degree in the nursing field. She is excited about what the future holds for her. Latosha’s goal is to be as independent as possible and to one day be married with a family and pursuing her nursing career.


What Was Up This Winter?


Check out more fun photos on Benchmark’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages!


Skip the Doctor, Get Better, and Save Time & Money.


It’s cold and flu season and that means a lot of trips to the doctor. If you’ve seen a doctor in the last 15 years or so, you understand the time commitment involved. Between long waiting times, followed by a trip to the pharmacy to wait on prescriptions, the hours add up. Did you know that Benchmark now offers MD Live to all full-time employees who registered on the Employee Navigator system during open enrollment? This includes those not on the company’s health insurance plan. MD Live is a free benefit that lets you skip the trip to the doctor by offering 24/7 medical consultation with a physician via phone or video conference.

The program is so simple to use. First, activate your account.

Two ways to activate your account:

Once you activate your account:

Be sure to use “Colonial Life” as your group – not your place of employment. You’ll need to provide the primary insured’s last name and date of birth. Please allow up to 10 business days after the conclusion of your enrollment period to be recognized in the MDLIVE system.

Next, download the MD Live app on your phone, or visit their website, to request a consult with a doctor. Within a reasonable time frame (average wait time is 15-60 minutes), a physician will call you back, talk through your symptoms with you, and offer their input, including calling in prescriptions to your preferred pharmacy while you’re still on the call!

Benchmark Vice President Elaine Armstrong, used the program a few weeks ago when she was suffering a nagging throat and respiratory infection. “The entire process was so easy,” she said. “In less than two hours, I had talked to a doctor and had prescriptions waiting for me at my pharmacy – and I never even had to leave work.”

If you’re experiencing routine medical conditions such as allergies, ear problems, respiratory problems, sore throat, urinary problems (UTI), and more, consider taking advantage of this free benefit. Consult with a physician any time and get expert medical advice and prescriptions without the hassle of going to the doctor’s office or urgent care facility, or the expense of a co-pay.

Brianna Receives Prestigious Employment Award in South Dakota


Brianna is still beaming from the awesome recognition she recently received. Case Manager, Leslie Sackmann, serves Brianna through Benchmark’s case management program in South Dakota, where Brianna received the Mayor’s award for NDEAM (National Disability Employment Awareness Month) in Watertown, SD.

“Brianna received the Employee of the Year award, and her employer, Trav’s Outfitter, received the Employer of the Year,” explained Sackmann. “The employee award is given to an individual with a disability in recognition of outstanding achievement in competitive employment by overcoming a disability as well as providing inspiration for other individuals with disabilities.”

Brianna started doing a job trial at Trav’s Outfitters, a retail store that carries work boots, outerwear, work clothing, outdoor clothing, and more. Brianna’s attention to details and ability to memorize numbers landed her a job at Trav’s tagging merchandise as it came in. Brianna started out working 15 hours a week and quickly moved to full-time employment. She celebrated her 1 year anniversary with Trav’s in August. Brianna has overcome a lot of struggles to get to where she is today. She went from needing constant supervision while working to working full time on her own. Brianna’s determination to succeed is an inspiration.

Congratulations Brianna on your outstanding achievements!

St. Louis SPOE Grows As They Look Ahead 5 Years


St. Louis Area First Steps has had an exciting year of growth. In the fall of 2018, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released the RFP for Missouri First Steps System Point of Entry for all 10 regions in the state of Missouri. Each RFP and contract period is for a 5-year term. Benchmark has held the contract for MO SPOE for 10 years (or two full contract periods) so far! Benchmark staff worked on the RFP, submitted it and on July 1, 2019 we were awarded the contract for the next 5 years for the St. Louis Area once again.

The new contract addressed the tremendous amount of growth that the entire state of Missouri has experienced in the number of children and families being served each year. Missouri has seen a steady incline of new families over the past 10 years, while the number of SPOE staff has remained the same. Caseloads climbed and, as a result, we requested an increase in staff to address the bursting caseloads and to address the anticipated growth moving forward.

On December 1 of each year, DESE takes a snapshot of the number of children in the Missouri First Steps program across the entire state. In 2009 (when Benchmark was first awarded the MO SPOE contract), the child count in the state of Missouri was 4,200. On December 1, 2018, the child count was 6,980.

This past summer we were fortunate to add two management positions to our team in the form of Team Coordinators for our Early Intervention Teams. We promoted Service Coordinators Cassie Clubb and Paula Kelly to these positions. These positions have already proved to be a huge asset to our team! In addition, we were lucky to also get to hire 10 new Service Coordinators and had those all filled by mid-October.

Peace of Mind When Traveling: Benchmark and OneAmerica Offer Free Travel Assistance Insurance


Emergencies happen, but help is now only a phone call or email away. On-Call International® offers a suite of services to help you in your time of need – from small inconveniences like losing your luggage to life-threatening situations – all delivered with a caring, human touch. Learn more here.



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!


Heather Macbeth, Director of COMP/NOW Waiver Services
Jamila McDonald, CNA
Leshan Dix, Registered Behavior Technician
Penny Bennett, Intensive Support Team Lead
Savannah Campbell-Gadsden, ABS Behavior Therapist
Shatasha Thornton, Registered Behavior Technician

Carlyn Caples, Team Leader
Christopher Vachet, Team Leader
David Howe, Focus Area Manager
Deja Brown, Team Leader
Jada Singh, Activities Coordinator
Jean Comparet, Special Project Coordinator
Jennifer Bauer, Assistant Director
Jessica Nihiser, Team Leader
Kacianne Sealy, Senior Team Leader
Kaitlyn Zimmerman, Supported Living Supervisor
Mara Schwab, Industrial Operations Team Lead
Mary McKelvey, Assistant Director
Misty Abbott, Program Coordinator
Monique Nzumpaste, Team Leader
Nadine Sims, Packaging Equipment Technician
Paige DeCook, Program Coordinator
Suzy Morris, Supported Living Supervisor
Tanya Doran, Team Leader
Tatianna White, Client Financial Specialist
Tyrae’ Williams, HR Generalist

Nicole Cocce, Clinical Specialist

Christian Valenzuela, Lead Service Coordinator

Anthony Curtis, Program Coordinator
Cassie Clubb, Team Coordinator
Julius Karanja, Supported Living Manager
Patrice Buchanan, Program Coordinator
Paula Kelly, Team Coordinator

New Jersey
Alisha Zephy, Residential Manager
Janelle Archer, Residential Manager
Janesha Paige, Team Leader
Karen Bischoff, Director of Nursing
Michelle Freeman, Team Leader
Shanice Reado, Team Leader
Shanice Sharpe, Team Leader
Taniqua Lorick, Residential Manager

Amy Harner, Team Leader
Britney Williams, Team Leader
Caleb Nichelson, Team Leader
Carrie Wakefield, Team Leader
Joyce Myers, Team Leader
Kayla Creech, Supported Living Supervisor
Rachael Mitchell, Supported Living Supervisor
Ryan Race, Team Leader



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


Adriana Garcia – 5
Ami Clancy – 5
Amos Kimani – 5
Andrew Harris – 5
Barbara Lane – 5
Brian Hanson – 5
Christina Reese – 5
Christine Sellers – 5
Claudia Jackson – 5
Deandra Burnett – 5
Dymond Davis – 5
Elizabeth DeMarquez – 5
Elizabeth Hohman – 5
Elizabeth Malone – 5
Emily Luce – 5
Heather Macbeth – 5
Henry Woodfork – 5
Irene Omboga – 5
Jamie Hornak – 5
Jennifer Swihart – 5
John Miller – 5
Karen Bischoff – 5
Kelly Foster – 5
Kevin Lord – 5
Lacesha Jeffers – 5
Linda Powers – 5
Malesha Greene – 5
Maureen Zink – 5
Megan Shurtleff – 5
Mirian Brown – 5
Nijeema Bailey – 5
Pamela Parker – 5
Rachael Nelson – 5
Rebecca Mays – 5
Shaleia Holland – 5
Shanice Reado – 5
Sharon Wilkins – 5
Steven Bright – 5
Suzanne Caudill – 5
Tatiana Johnson – 5
Tedwick Theodore – 5
Tonjua Pearson – 5
Vanessa Coleman – 5
Ztasha Kirkland – 5
Alberta Phillips – 6
Angela Jones – 6
April Clerkley – 6
Cesar Mendoza Aguilar – 6
Christina Briggs – 6
Darryl Harmon – 6
David Herrmann Sedano – 6
Deaundra Lewis – 6
Dennis Stroup – 6
Douglas Beebe – 6
Heather Kelly – 6
Jackulynn Hightire – 6
Jamal Cooper – 6
Jason Crowder – 6
Jeremy Joyner – 6
Jerry Mote – 6
Lateachca Carswell – 6
Lisa Follas – 6
Noble Alexander – 6
Peter Bishop – 6
Rose Ochoa – 6
Sandra Lambert – 6
Shaunna Turner – 6
Stacie Fitzgerald – 6

Teresa Walker – 6
William Exner – 6
Yvonne Kreigh – 6
Angela Resovsky – 7
Angie Melvin – 7
Casey Jackson – 7
Cawanna Wadley – 7
Claudia Springer – 7
Dajuan Quilling – 7
Dawn Stump – 7
Edward Mowen – 7
Herbert Sheftal – 7
Hugo Ochoa-Marquez – 7
Jonathan Rushton – 7
Joseph Gootee – 7
Kathleen Manegre – 7
Keith Miller – 7
Laurie Heckman – 7
Melissa Shaw – 7
Michael Dow – 7
Modester Nnona – 7
Mohamed Koroma – 7
Nikki Cotterman – 7
Ragna Urberg – 7
Renee Bridgewater – 7
Ruth Chege – 7
Salinda Moore – 7
Shaun Jasper – 7
Shawna Roberts – 7
Tara Froelich – 7
Tondaleah Eversole – 7
Zora Artis – 7
Alicia Warren – 8
Belinda Christensen – 8
Calma Harris – 8
Dedria Handerson – 8
Demetrius Clark – 8
Elmira Wilson – 8
Erika Moore – 8
Eunice Hutchins – 8
Frances Cline – 8
Javon Martin – 8
Jeremy Wimbley – 8
Karen Evans – 8
Katherine Zmeskal – 8
Kimberly Leal – 8
Larry Mitchell – 8
Latasha Green – 8
Lori Blanco – 8
Maurice McKenzie – 8
Orlando Wash – 8
Pamela Weston – 8
Rosita Stewart – 8
Ruth Bates – 8
Sycilla Smith – 8
Tammy Carroll – 8
Travis Robertson – 8
Alocia Robertson – 9
Andrea Kinnard – 9
Anthony Bryant – 9
Benjamin Harrison – 9
Debra Williams – 9
Dorothy Robbins – 9
Geidy Melara – 9
Judith Vaughn – 9
Julie Heiges – 9
Rasheda Patterson – 9

Susan Brown – 9
Timothy Fitzgibbons – 9
Amy Miller – 10
Andrew Baden – 10
Casey Lolmaugh – 10
Douglas Houser – 10
Jeff Cross – 10
Jennifer Bentle – 10
Laine Muston – 10
Stacy Christopher – 10
Steven Sechrest – 10
Ann Williams – 11
Chad Biddle – 11
Eva Jacobson – 11
Harold Eagleson – 11
Kristy Stemen – 11
Lucy Phiri – 11
Martel Freeman – 11
Shirley Morgan – 11
Souleymane Adamou – 11
Theresa Prentice – 11
Beth Barger – 12
Donna Kuntz – 12
Jenine Jansma – 12
Jill Tatalovich – 12
Rhonda McAuley – 12
Rosalind Winston – 12
Shawn Fields – 12
Isiah Harris – 13
Jennifer Smith – 13
Justin Tucker – 13
Kim Stephens – 13
Linda Henney – 13
Theophilus Kungang – 13
Tyaan Winn – 13
Yared Belew – 13
Cindy Rousey – 14
Judith Ausdran – 14
Kathy Thorson – 14
Kimberly Larson – 14
Nathan Heimann – 14
Paige DeCook – 14
Barbara Grote – 15
George Sewell – 15
Glenn Heath – 15
Julius Kerkula – 15
Amy Pennycuff – 16
Ava Churchman – 16
Clara Chibweya – 16
Nancy Bobay – 16
Peter Kelly – 16
Sherri Morris – 16
Courtney Heiser – 17
Diane Robinson – 17
Jean Kambela – 17
Kelly Stahl – 17
Lubasi Kekelwa – 17
Melissa Bushong – 17
Timothy Cline – 17
Deborah Hanan – 18
June VanTilburg – 18
Gary Brabson – 21
Joyce Wright – 21
Sharon Dodge – 21
Paula Elward – 24
Todd Staszak – 24
Curlie Young – 30

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