Benchmark Blog

Fourth Quarter Thrive – October, 2020

Oct 15, 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!

A Note from CEO, Doug Beebe

As we move into fall, our world remains a very challenging place. The disruption caused by the coronavirus continues to alter our work and personal lives, and the struggle to keep to safe routines remains a challenge. The efforts you have made to keep our services as safe as possible have been largely successful, but we are still seeing growth in the numbers of individuals served and staff who are testing positive for COVID-19.

The next few months will be important in many ways. There is a presidential election coming that could influence many parts of people’s lives. The flu season is starting up, and in many of our states, COVID-19 cases are increasing. The holiday season is approaching and no one knows what that will look like. Taken together, these forces can cause a great deal of stress and worry.

The individuals we serve have also been under pressure and their routines have been changed in significant ways. However, the work we do gives all of us a great opportunity. We are in a unique position to bring joy to others on a daily basis. A quote I like is from a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Many of us chose this work because we like helping others, and this is a time that those we support, our co-workers, and others we meet can all benefit from a friendly smile or a kind gesture.

Supporting each other during trying times is one of the most positive things we can do. That can be in simple ways or more profound ways, but the act of support in and of itself is what is important. Yes, we need to wear masks, wash our hands, follow disinfecting routines, and all of the additional precautions that are part of our daily lives. But don’t let those precautions steal your joy, and remember that giving joy often begets joy.

Thanks for all you do and stay safe!

#NationalDSPWeek Recap!

Benchmark truly appreciates the incredible commitment of our front line staff. As a special acknowledgement of this year’s National DSP Week, we asked staff from across the country to describe themselves using just one word and featured their responses on the company’s social media pages. Here are some of our favorite snapshots. Please visit the Benchmark Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages to read their interviews. Congratulations to you all, and Thank You!


Diversity Committee Selects Consultant to Aid with Cultural Diversity Training

“Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity.” – Robert Alan

In the last issue of Thrive we introduced you to the newly formed Diversity Committee. In each issue of the newsletter the Committee will provide updates, as Benchmark is committed to ensuring it continues to examine issues of diversity and equity throughout the organization.

The Committee recently interviewed three potential external consultants and selected Alonzo Kelly to administer some training and workshops to Benchmark staff in the coming year focused on diversity. Stay tuned for more information about how to participate in these workshops. Here’s a little about Alonzo.

A dynamic Executive Coach, Professor, 3x Best Selling Author, and Radio Host, Alonzo Kelly has gained international and global attention as a premier consultant and strategist. Alonzo is recognized as one the nation’s leading experts on leadership development, strategic thinking, planning, and acting which results in individual and organizational goal achievement.

Alonzo holds a bachelor’s in Accounting, three master’s degrees (Public Administration, Human Resource & Labor Relations, Business Administration), and is nearing completion of a PhD in Multidisciplinary Human Services. He is also currently in the process of obtaining his Doctorate in Business Administration. He currently serves on the State Board of Directors for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), National Board of Directors for SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted), and the Fire and Police Commission for the City of Howard.

Find more at

Meet the Benchmark Veterans – Part II

In the July issue of Thrive we introduced you to five of Benchmark’s longest-term employees. As we continue to celebrate our 60th year of providing services, we recognize the following three Benchmark “veterans” who have helped the company grow for the last several decades.

Anne Titus, Vice President
Original Position: Summer staff for the Aboite Children’s Group Home in Fort Wayne, IN
Years with Benchmark: 28

What’s kept you around for so long? I love the mission of Benchmark. I love seeing people happy in their homes and especially their journey to leave institutional living. I appreciate the time I have with the peeps we serve. When I am feeling overwhelmed, that’s what reenergizes me. I work with an amazing group of people who work so hard to make life better for the people we serve.

How have things changed for people with disabilities? The move into community options for a larger group of people has been the biggest shift. This in turn, has changed our services quite a bit and has stretched us as an organization and employees.

Animal with which you identify: I would like to say a sloth because that sounds super relaxing and chill but I took an online quiz and got Butterfly or Cougar. The cougar is probably more me.

Carl Lampton, Compliance Officer
Original Position: Adult Daily Living Instructor at the Covington Road Group Home in Fort Wayne, IN
Years with Benchmark: 26

What has kept you around? I like all of the unique experiences, and the opportunity to work with a variety of interesting people. I also like knowing that the work we do is important, and has a positive impact on our communities.

How have things changed for people with disabilities? Almost all of the adults we served when I first started had spent a big portion of their early lives living in institutions. The younger generations are much more likely to have lived with their families prior to our services.

Animal with which you identify: A squirrel. I’m not sure what a spirit animal is, but I think the squirrels in my backyard are funny and entertaining to watch.

Karen Lichtsinn, Client Financial Specialist
Original Position: Overnight staff at Aboite Group Home in Fort Wayne, IN; served as Manager of the home until 2015
Years with Benchmark: 26

What has kept you around for so long? My weakness were the kids, for sure. You become their family, because some don’t have visits. They see a constant flow of people coming and going from their lives, I thought they needed a constant person to count on.

How have things changed for people with disabilities? I was raised with 3 people with disabilities, so the change has been like night and day. Clients are everywhere I go in public. Having kids, I loved when their non-disabled friends from school would stop and say hello and talk to them. They go everywhere. We even took kids out of their wheelchairs and put them in go-carts with us.

Animal with which you identify: Probably a dog. They love unconditionally and are loyal.

Benchmark Launches Family Preservation Program in Indiana

Last spring, Benchmark was awarded a contract through Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) to provide Family Preservation Services in Fort Wayne, South Bend, Indianapolis, Indiana, and communities and counties in between. Under the direction of Megan Ryan, the program launched in July and aims to keep children out of foster care and to maintain the family unit in a safe and healthy manner. Benchmark case managers and clinicians work with at-risk children and families to provide support and resources that enable families to remain intact. The program is currently serving 10 families.

“I am honored to be part of a program that breaks down barriers for families that would typically drive them apart such as substance use, mental health, abuse, neglect, and poverty. Our team’s dedication to family preservation is contagious and I cannot wait to see the continued success. I am proud to represent Benchmark in the communities we serve and really show the State what we are capable of accomplishing.” Megan Ryan, LMHC, Family Preservation Clinical Program Director.

A New Life Awaits Robert and Ashlee

Earlier this month, Benchmark transitioned two gentlemen from an institution where they spent the past 15 years of their lives, to their new home in a New Jersey community. Robert and Ashlee both resided in a facility where adverse behavior modification techniques included shock treatment. Benchmark is thrilled to partner with the state of Delaware, where the men are originally from, to serve them in the Swedesboro, New Jersey market, where Benchmark already has a qualified team assembled and well equipped to meet their needs.

After only a few weeks in their home, the men are already beginning to form relationships and trust with their caregivers. Robert has commented many times on the absolute comfort of his new bed and had a great birthday party with his parents! Ashlee loves doing puzzles and has done several 1,000 piece puzzles that he is super proud of.

“When the guys arrived at their new home it was a joy watching their excitement as they entered for the first time,” said New Jersey Director, Chris Diehl. “Through the picture story and puzzle we provided before their move, they knew this was their home. Our team is so excited to provide services and ensure that they have the happiest life possible.”

Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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.

Lisa Rector, Director of Employment Services had this to say, “The benefits to our communities of having people with disabilities who live there, also work there cannot be stressed enough. People who work have more money to buy goods and services, contribute to the tax base, and maintain a positive influence on their community. This is why this isn’t just something that “feels good” to do. Society benefits from having all citizens represented in our workforce.”

As or programs have expanded into multiple states we’d like to celebrate one of the first job placements made in our home location, Doug B. who is celebrating 23 years of employment at Meijer since his original placement in 1997, as well as two success stories out of our Maryland program, Brian F. who was recently promoted to line cook at his job with McDaniel College and Brian M. who started his job as a greeter at a pick-your-own pumpkin patch this season, taking tickets for the hayride!

Fort Wayne, IN Day Services Collaborated with Camp Red Cedar for “Mini Camps”

Michelle Kemerer, Activity Coordinator with Benchmark Day Services, came to Camp Red Cedar Director, Carrie Perry with an exciting idea to help get individuals in our Fort Wayne, IN group homes out into the community this season. Together they came up with a “mini camp” experience that allowed them to break up their routine and have something to look forward to throughout the week. This has also been a release for staff during this stressful COVID-19 pandemic and has been an opportunity for participants to get excited about being able to create lasting memories.

“This has been an amazing experience for us and the individuals!” said Kemerer. “We have seen so much growth within a short amount of time. Individuals with extensive behavior needs have also been able to come out and enjoy activities because of the small group sizes.” Shelly Detcher, Assistant Director of Camp Red Cedar, stated “We are happy to host the mini camps. We have been able to collaborate and offer a safe and supportive environment to enjoy activities such as fishing, painting, arts and crafts, boat rides, hayrides, hands on time with the horses, scavenger hunts, and drumming.”

BuckUp Program Sees its Strongest Year

Thanks to the generosity of employees, the BuckUp program had its best year since its inception in 2001.

In fiscal year 2020, employees donated a cumulative $29,122 to fund unfunded or underfunded items, activities, outings, etc. for individuals served. AWS Foundation continued its incredibly generous match of 2:1, so the committee was able to award $87,368 in funds to cover everything from therapeutic and adaptive equipment for toddlers in early intervention programs, to socially distanced tours of aquariums and museums, to essential items like mattresses, linens, and cookware for those we serve.

Thank you to all who donated. If you’re a Benchmark employee and would like to contribute to the BuckUp fund, just visit the Intranet and fill out the form. All you have to do is donate $1 or more, if desired, per paycheck. Payroll will automatically deduct this every two weeks, so once you fill out the form, the process is automated. All funds raised go directly to individuals served.

As the season begins its transition to cooler weather, dark and foggy mornings will happen more frequently for a couple of months.

Here are some Quick Tips to stay safe:
• Use your low headlight beams.
• Follow the right-side line of the road to guide you, not the tail-lights of the car in front of you.
• Leave extra distance between you and the car in front of you.
• Reduce your normal driving speed and don’t use cruise control.
• Avoid sudden stops, begin braking early and gradually.

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!


Catherine Piterski, Team Coordinator
Laura Bunda, Team Coordinator
Samantha Wray, Team Coordinator
Stephanie Velleca, Team Coordinator

Paola Hatton Negron, Lead Implementation Coach
Barbara Carrasquillo, Clinical Specialist
Maria Delgado, Provider Coach

Toccara Hudson, Licensed Clinical Staff
Ashley Lundquist, Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)
Latosha Hansley, RBT
Jamila McDonald, CNA
Cicerly Clemons, RBT
Jacqueline Rainey, RBT
Katherine Hadley, RBT
Brittany Braxton, LPN
Ashley Burkett, House Manager, LPN

Tessa Thennis, Team Leader
Heather Wenzel, Team Leader

New Jersey
Sheena Lawrence, Residential Manager
Emmanuel Fillie, Team Leader
Jasmine Ortega, Team Leader

Lavonia Coleman, Supported Living Manager
Sarah Walker, Residential Manager
Stella Waithaka, Registered Nurse
Jennifer Rya, Industrial Ops Team Lead
Heidi Schulenberg, Registered Nurse
Cheryl Bilbrey, Team Leader
Tracee Smith, Senior Team Leader
Shandareen Sanders, Residential Manager
C W Halfacre, Supported Living Manager
Wendy Tozier, Team Leader
Courtni Phillips, Team Leader
Ernest Alleyabu, Team Leader
Stacy Major, Client Financial Specialist
Laura Sutton, Clinical Care Manager
Hope Tyra, Supported Living Manager

Dawn McPheron, Team Leader
Kamille Elshoff, Team Leader
Rebekah Musselman, Team Leader
Julie Sturgill, Team Leader
Kristian Williams, Team Leader
Brittany Ewing, Team Leader
Rachael Mitchell, Program Manager


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


Adam Sovine – 5
Allen Ward – 5
Amy Gant – 5
Angela Kirchner – 5
Ashley Woods – 5
Austin Thomas – 5
Brandon McKinney – 5
Brian Graham – 5
Cortez Cooper – 5
Danny Boatner – 5
Emily Hawkins – 5
Erica Daniels – 5
Jacob Strole – 5
Jessica Kollaros – 5
Jessica Moss – 5
Jordan Bruner – 5
Kristy Holloway – 5
Lakeesha Burnett – 5
Latonya Sanchez – 5
Lauren Keilman – 5
Leales Rapp – 5
Lee Carr – 5
Lisa Crawford – 5
Luis Capestany – 5
Marie Hunt – 5
Mark Vella – 5
Michelle Truesdale – 5
Monique McRae – 5
Nadia Pronik – 5
Olajumoke Oladapo – 5
Ousmane Diallo – 5
Quentin Horton – 5
Rebecca Smith – 5
Rita Klosterman – 5
Ruth Oxley – 5
Sarah Meagher – 5
Stacey Curry – 5
Stacy Vann – 5
Susan Cook – 5
Tamara Morris – 5
Wanda Hall – 5
Amanda Miranda – 6
Angela Rojo – 6
Anne Kahindi – 6
Audrey Cooper – 6
Benedicto Luque-Camargo – 6
Breanna Saylor – 6
Brian Everett – 6
Brittany Ingram – 6
Calandera Smith – 6
Cynthia Chestnut – 6
Daniele Quintavalle – 6
Debra Bradley – 6
Delores Saxton – 6
Deloris Moore – 6
Ebere Uko – 6
Elizabeth Fasbinder – 6
Georgetta Mason-Brown – 6
Gwendolyn Suggs – 6
Janelle Archer – 6
Jennifer Patterson – 6
Jessica Wesley – 6
Jill Mayo – 6
John Murray – 6
Jolene Pettigrew – 6
Joseph Gallagher – 6
Judith King – 6
Kehinde Adeoba – 6
Kenneth Walker – 6
Leah Allen – 6
Lisa Goodson – 6
Mary Herycyk – 6
Nichelle Powell – 6
Oluwakemi Adedoyin – 6
Pamella Munson – 6
Patricia Williams – 6
Penny Leas – 6
Rachael Chege – 6
Robin Kinney – 6
Samantha Brown – 6
Sol Laboy – 6
Albert Jaramillo – 7
Anette Houghton – 7
Beth Mills – 7
Coty Stinson – 7

Cynthia Lewis – 7
Dale Toth – 7
Damon Dear – 7
Daniel Linger – 7
Ethan Oakes – 7
Grace Lazum – 7
Helene Ettang – 7
James Paul – 7
Jasmine Thomas – 7
Jessica See – 7
Jose Morales – 7
Joshua Campbell – 7
Kathy Newland – 7
Kimberly Galaviz – 7
Mario Baker – 7
Matthew Aremu – 7
Megan Walters – 7
Michael McKinney – 7
Ruth Perez – 7
Terry Phillips – 7
Thomas Spaur – 7
Thomas Stark – 7
Amber Moppin – 8
Benjamin Schroeder – 8
Cherrie Hawes – 8
Christopher Murei – 8
Daniel Dick – 8
Debora Baskerville – 8
Diane Smith – 8
Elizabeth Shinolt – 8
Isaac Harris – 8
Jeffrey Nicholson – 8
Jennifer Gilbert – 8
Jessie Rush – 8
Kathy Cesar – 8
Katie Noel – 8
Latoya Jackson – 8
Milagros Diaz – 8
Olamide Ogunmolawa – 8
Samuel Ofosu – 8
Shannon McAllister – 8
Sharron Jones – 8
Stephen Agyeman – 8
Stephen Gyasi-Mensah – 8
Suliman Khalil – 8
Tori Fuhrmann – 8
Adrienne Norman – 9
Brenda Kromah – 9
Camille Solga – 9
Carolyn Cuffer – 9
Chantal Cardriche – 9
Debra Sorg – 9
Dericka Jones – 9
Devin Long – 9
Edward Agyemang – 9
Jeffery Gootee – 9
Kanetha Miles – 9
Latosha Hansley – 9
Leo Carvalho – 9
Linda Pops – 9
Lois Miller – 9
Makarious Kibe – 9
Margarita Espinosa – 9
Robert Mtika – 9
Suzanne Weiss – 9
Tamera Blount – 9
Wendy Harris – 9
Abdul Barrie – 10
Amanda Richardson – 10
Amie Mansaray – 10
Andrew Beeks – 10
Angelia Glosser – 10
Bessie Sanders – 10
Craig Schmitt – 10
Crystal Toney – 10
Darlene Spicer – 10
Dawn McPheron – 10
Deborah Hatfield – 10
Desiree Taylor – 10
Donald Pozil – 10
Donna Livingston – 10
Dorothy Wesley – 10
George Lopez – 10
Hachile Shandomo – 10

Jana Bunch – 10
Jennie McAllister – 10
Jennifer Falk – 10
Judy Lattanzi – 10
Laura Wadsworth – 10
Linda Griffy – 10
Lisa Hicks – 10
Lucy Hatfield – 10
Marie Romulus – 10
Marla Manifold – 10
Marti Spaulding – 10
Mary Ali – 10
Melissa Taylor – 10
Michelle West – 10
Mikeion Ewing – 10
Nakia Robertson – 10
Nicole Price – 10
Pamela Ford – 10
Patricia Everage – 10
Paul Hicks – 10
Rebecca Holladay – 10
Robert Bayne – 10
Selam Ayele – 10
Sharon Goerler – 10
Susan Durham – 10
Tammy Welch – 10
Teresa Steffee – 10
Theodore Hamilton – 10
Valerie Showalter – 10
Vicky Carr – 10
Antonia Gatewood – 11
Harold Graham – 11
Keith Thompson – 11
Magdalena Henriquez – 11
Marcella Brown – 11
Sharon Ward – 11
Teresa Sims – 11
Abimbola Olugbenga – 12
Andre Ottley – 12
Andrew Bostic – 12
Barbara Parks – 12
Brandon McGill – 12
Charone Logan – 12
Jackie Stuck – 12
Jasman Lyles – 12
Tyra Poindexter – 12
Cynthia Bratton – 13
Esther Gichanga – 13
Frank Rousey – 13
Jennifer Heimann – 13
Joshua Slone – 13
Lois Dada – 13
Michael Burdine – 13
Ryan Knodel – 13
Christine Henderson – 14
Emily Pace – 14
Linda Thomas-Carlisle – 14
Lucille Sweet – 14
Mamon Trotter – 14
Mariann Tindall – 14
Mary Crawford – 14
Melissa Dykes – 14
Natujwa Kivaria – 14
Deborah Ungemach – 15
Eric Weeks – 16
Josiah Chisale – 16
Karen Lewis – 16
Hellen Chimbuka – 17
Kimberly Bolen – 17
Shannon OConnell – 17
Charity Shumba – 18
Jennifer Bauer – 18
George Haldar – 19
Julie Kent – 19
Lucy Maina – 19
Nancy Grone – 19
Shari Bail – 19
Sandra Ffrench – 20
William Kartholl – 22
Ada Wilkinson – 23
Carol Telley – 25
Carl Lampton – 26
David Ross – 28
David Howe – 34

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