Benchmark Blog

Second Quarter Thrive – April, 2021

Apr 01, 2021
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 My Portal App is Here!

By Doug Beebe, Benchmark President

Last March, our world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything about the way we deliver services changed. What was immediately clear to Benchmark’s management team was that we would need to regularly deliver critical information that would reach front line staff. Since 2/3 of our workforce does not have company email, this proved difficult, and we relied on managers to drive down message to our most essential staff. At the same time, we were working on the development of a Benchmark mobile app that would enable us to communicate with all employees. We’re pleased to announce that the app is up and running, has been downloaded by nearly 600 employees, and offers great features that we hope you will take advantage of.

So why download and utilize the app?

Work Made Easier
The Benchmark My Portal app serves as a one stop place for critical information and work functions – access to time entry, workplace injury forms, access to all company policies, important benefits information, and more.

Updates, Connection, and Engagement

“Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”
– Zig Ziglar

Ziglar hit the nail on the head. Interesting work is a no brainer for Benchmark employees. We do some of the most important and exciting work there is. Recognition and transparency are also critical, and the app provides a gateway to both. It’s an easy way to see who is celebrating a birthday or service anniversary and send them a kind message. The app also includes a recognition feature where employees can recognize their staff and/or colleagues for a job well done. All employees can share updates, photos, create fun polls, etc. to share on the news feed.

Additionally, the app allows supervisors to set up groups to communicate directly with their teams. And authorized staff can send out push notifications about critical information to ensure all employees who have downloaded the app are “in the know.”

If you haven’t taken the time to download the My Portal app, I highly encourage you to do so. Instructions on how to download and set it up can be found HERE.

If you have questions or need help navigating the app’s many features or simply have feedback, feel free to reach out to Benchmark’s communications director, Courtney Heiser, and she’ll be happy to help.

Inclusivity: All In!

Diversity Committee Establishes Mission and Vision

The Benchmark Diversity Committee recently developed a mission and vision statement, and outlined some primary goals. The Committee is committed to action and driving change and our mission helps guide the team as they look at diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives at Benchmark.

Mission of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at Benchmark
Benchmark Human Services believes in the potential of all people. Our mission is to foster a workplace culture that recognizes and honors the unique set of experiences and perspectives of our employees. We will strive for full inclusion at all levels of the organization. Benchmark is committed to maximizing both individual contributions and organizational effectiveness through the diversity of our workforce.

Our vision is to create a diverse and equitable workplace where employees of all backgrounds and experiences have a voice and participate in making decisions that help the company fulfill its mission to drive person-centered outcomes for individuals served.

We will work toward this vision in the following ways:

1. Recruit and hire a workforce reflective of the diversity that exists in the multitude of communities Benchmark serves; Provide opportunities for all to advance in the company; Diversify the leadership of Benchmark
2. Articulate our Diversity & Inclusion progress through proactive communications
3. Regulate and manage workplace equality and fairness

Next the team will begin to develop a strategic plan with specific goals, deadlines, and expected deliverables.

Meanwhile, the first two groups of employees from Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota are participating in training/workshops focused on diversity and inclusion. We reached out to a few participants to get feedback and here’s what they had to say:

“I believe I treat all people with kindness. BUT- I’m questioning if a “live and let live” thought process is empathetically thinking deeply enough. Thinking, “I don’t care what race, sex, ethnicity, religion or orientation a person is/chooses…” is not enough and does not account for learning about and understanding the systems under which marginalized people have and continue to suffer. The training has really made me think about how I think.”
– Ryan Knodel, Director, Ohio


“I have always thought I was pretty open minded before, but the diversity training as open my eyes to other people’s perspectives. Their truth is different from my truth. It has help me in my communication with people who I don’t see eye to eye with and now I almost always start a tough conversation with “in my experience” and go from there…”
– Sharon Sanchez-Lopez, HR Generalist, Santa Fe, New Mexico



National Disabilities Awareness Month

This past month, Benchmark celebrated National Disabilities Awareness Month on social media, introducing many of the individuals we serve to our followers. We asked staff to describe the people they work with using only one word. To see these responses, please visit Benchmark’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, and give us a follow while you’re there for more inspirational content!


COVID-19 Protocols Continue at Benchmark

As many states begin to lift mask mandates and lessen COVID-related restrictions, Benchmark intends to continue following CDC guidelines and err on the side of safety. That means we will maintain all current protocols including mask wearing, social distancing (when possible), diligent hand washing, etc.

Below is the percentage increase in total state population infection rates for the last two weeks in the states where Benchmark does business. With the exception of New Mexico, infections up, and in some places significantly.


+15% Indiana
+21% New Jersey
+2% Georgia
+11% Ohio
+3% Missouri
+31% Maryland

South Dakota +33%
Montana +24%
New Mexico -5%
Virginia +16%
Connecticut +62%
Florida +12%


We’re encouraged by the amount of staff and individuals served receiving the vaccination, and urge you to consider getting the vaccine, if it is available to you and you haven’t already taken that step. We’re still learning about the length of the vaccine’s efficacy, as well as infection and transmission of the virus for those vaccinated. If individuals served living in congregate settings are exposed to the virus, even if they have been vaccinated, we recommend quarantining and limiting exposure to others.

As always, our priority remains keeping those in our care, as well as our staff healthy and safe. Thank you for all you continue to do to make this possible!

Lori Graham Joins Benchmark as Director in Arkansas

In the January issue of Thrive, we detailed the two-year project Benchmark is doing in Arkansas. Lori Graham, LCSW, recently joined the Benchmark team to lead this project, as director of Project Focus.

Lori holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Prior to joining Project Focus, Lori served as Program Manager at the Child Study Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), which provides a wide range of behavioral health services to children. Lori has more than 13 years of experience working with adults who have behavioral health concerns and children that have co-morbid psychiatric needs and developmental disabilities. Her experience includes clinical and medical social work including as a social work supervisor for Clinical Services and Population Health for Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.

A Home for Bob

By: Becky Bodey, Assistant Director, Ohio

This is my friend Bob. Bob is a spunky 62 years old. At an early age, Bob moved from his family home into a series of foster placements and children’s homes. As an adult, he transitioned to Tiffin Developmental Center. Bob lived roughly 50 years in some sort of State run facility. In 2017, Bob was offered an Exit Waiver from the Ohio Department of Disabilities. His team helped him find a home in Lima, Ohio near his two sisters. Benchmark was fortunate to be chosen as Bob’s Residential and Day Service provider.

Bob and three other men rent a large ranch style house on Elm Street. The house was built to be a group home in the late 70s so it has a bit of a nursing home feel to it. Staff worried that it might feel institutional, and we wanted Bob and his housemates to experience something more than a “managed” care setting. Over time there has been a beautiful transformation of hearts and space, supported by the hard work and love of dozens of DSPs, Program Mangers, Team Leaders, and community members. This transformation took place because Bob and his housemates took the risk of trusting. We are so proud of Bob and the staff who support him. It’s been complex but wonderful journey – the house became a home.

A few months after moving into his new home, I was driving Bob home from an appointment and as we approached his house I said, “I have a friend who lives on this street!” Without missing a beat Bob said, “I live on this street, look there’s my home!” Sometimes, in the evening when all the meds are passed, showers are taken, and dishes are put away, Bob will ask one of his staff to tuck him into bed – such a tender thing that makes me think it’s never too late to tend to childhood needs. In August, Bob adopted a kitten who is as spunky as he is. Bob named him Pumpkin. Folklore says that following a loud burp coming from Bob’s bedroom, you can hear him saying, “Excuse me, Pumpkin.” What a joy it is to witness the little things in life and to celebrate our friend Bob.

Transitions in HR Benefits

HR Benefits Administrator, Linda McClish, has retired this month and former HR Safety & Compliance Director, Paula Spall has taken over the role.

Paula is excited for her new role, but says she will miss working with Linda. “It has been a pleasure to work with Linda for 11 years. When I started in HR we shared an office. She and I worked together when Benefits and worker’s compensation claims overlapped. I look forward to bringing a standard of excellent service to our employees in this new role and I hope to be a resource as our company moves forward with new and exciting benefit programs.”

Movin’ On Up!

Below is a list of employees who were promoted in January, February, and March and the position to which they were promoted. Congratulations to all!


Elyce Giacona, BCBA Team Coordinator
Sara Edwards, BCBA Team Coordinator

Ayesha Thomas, Licensed Clinical Staff
Baseema Butler, Certified Nurse Assistant
Devin Long, Regional Director
Juliet Ihedike, Licensed Clinical Staff
Lee Hutto, Licensed Clinical Staff
Lyndi Farnam, Crisis Zone Lead
Toneshia Webber, Licensed Clinical Staff

Alexus Aubuchon, Supported Living Supervisor
Carrie Brading, Insert Operator II
Esther Gichanga, Team Leader
James Bain, Team Leader
Judy Lattanzi, Team Leader
Lois Erwin, Team Leader
Lucy Maina, Team Leader
Pascaline Ruhaya, Program Coordinator
Sahr Nabieu, Team Leader
Shaunteea Reid, Residential Manager
Solomon Daniel, Team Leader

Sharon Richmond, RBT

New Jersey
Bobby Harris, Residential Manager
Chris Graves, Team Leader
Damon Hickman, Assistant Director
Jenieva Pino, Program Coordinator
Zhane Miles, Team Leader

Erica Ball, Team Leader
Kara Spurlock, Team Leader
Natasha Kramer, Team Leader
Stephanie Dennis, Team Leader


Thrive honors employee hire anniversaries for April, May, and June, celebrating those who have worked at Benchmark for five years and longer.


Adrian Morris – 5
Alexia Strader – 5
Angela Powell – 5
Annabelle Revolorio – 5
Anthony McDougald – 5
Beteselam Bonka – 5
Brenda Simpson – 5
Brenda Tomlin – 5
Brittany Kamm – 5
Brittnee Ash – 5
Bunmi Akinmade – 5
Cambry Hicks – 5
Carol Adams – 5
Christina Murray – 5
Dashnique Beck – 5
Debra ONeal – 5
Derrick Hunt – 5
Diamond Stevens – 5
Elizabeth Castillo – 5
Erica Robinson – 5
Esnart Chirwa – 5
Gregory Lassiter – 5
Hilary Boam – 5
Jacob Derkach – 5
James Ledbetter – 5
Jane Anderson – 5
Jean Crowe – 5
Jeffrey Keck – 5
Jenna Gobel – 5
Jennifer Adamcik – 5
John Briden – 5
Kacey Hoftiezer – 5
Karen Sudbeck – 5
Karri Saathoff – 5
Kathleen Staton – 5
Kelli Benner – 5
Kelli Leitner – 5
Keyana Brooks – 5
Kimberlee Sanders – 5
Kristina Scherr – 5
Laura Wendland – 5
Lawrence Jones – 5
Lillian Arisah – 5
Linh Lam – 5
Lisa Hanisch – 5
Lisa Lotz – 5
Loraine Burke – 5
Marmiko Carter De Ceita – 5
Mary Maina – 5
Mary Schroeder – 5
Melissa Martin-Schwarz – 5
Michael Bokatsch – 5
Michelle Parke – 5
Nadine Veliotis – 5
Nancy Clancy – 5
Natalie Anderson – 5
Olivia Hughes – 5
Olusola Akintoye – 5
Rachel Grant – 5
Rhonda Moore – 5
Robert Mungai – 5
Rosie Thomas – 5
Sarah Robbins – 5
Shaquana Causey – 5
Stephanie Harvey – 5
Sue Sutton – 5
Susan Njenga – 5
Suzanne Seeley – 5
Tacey Dunwoody – 5
Tamara Lehman – 5
Teresa Helland – 5
Terry Lynett – 5
Themba Motloung – 5
Tyrus Brothers – 5
Yolanda Rias – 5
Yolanda Williams – 5
Abosede Opadiran – 6
Adam Harves – 6
Brenda Frank – 6
Byron Thomas – 6
Christine Carter – 6
Denis Ngugi – 6
Elizabeth Felton – 6
Isabel Villanueva – 6
Issiac Carter – 6
Jacqueline Mosley – 6
Jerri Delong – 6
Katherine Gaskin – 6
Linda Phan – 6
LuAnna Heiber – 6
Mary Harrington – 6
Matte Innis – 6
Nepomorrosa Gonzalez – 6
Princess Apollo – 6
Rebecca Bodey – 6

Rotimi Adeleye – 6
Sandra Dennis – 6
Sharayah Ruble – 6
Stephanie Berning – 6
Tammy Sipocz – 6
Teratha Jones – 6
Tracey White – 6
Tracy Carbajal – 6
Yvonne Allen – 6
Amrit Jot Khalsa – 7
Andrew Starr – 7
Andrew Young – 7
Anna Marie Ensley – 7
Barrington Scott – 7
Busayo Olufunmiwa – 7
Colleen Esterline – 7
Dedra Pickett – 7
Derrick McKinney – 7
Donna Gregory – 7
Funke Adebiyi – 7
Gloria Winston – 7
Hannah Maxson – 7
Helen Turner – 7
James Hilgemann – 7
Jarred Sisler – 7
Jeanette Hawks – 7
Jennifer Sims – 7
Juwanda Boughton – 7
Keith Wheat – 7
Kelley Duvall – 7
Lora Robinson – 7
Lori Pettit – 7
Lucretia Campbell-Rogers – 7
Mamie Addison – 7
Mara Schwab – 7
Marinena Shirah – 7
Melanie McDowell – 7
Melinda Butts – 7
Mia Maxey – 7
Michele Bishop – 7
Priscilla Palmer – 7
Sean Farrelly – 7
Selina Popovich Evans – 7
Shydell Magana – 7
Simon May – 7
Sonny Hughes – 7
Veronicah Asuta Hernandez – 7
Wayne Hill – 7
Abebe Mulat – 8
Allen Pfotenhauer – 8
Andrew Bushong – 8
Aneisa Young – 8
Antoinette Thornton – 8
Ashley Putt – 8
Davanda Talton – 8
Deborah Hatcher – 8
Ella Hooks – 8
Gregory Cox – 8
Gwendolyn Oglesby – 8
Jaimee Melanson – 8
James Fricks – 8
Jane Bauer – 8
Jennifer McLaurin – 8
Joni Fulp – 8
Jose Galaviz – 8
Joseph Kageche – 8
Karen Jamison – 8
Kenneth Herbert – 8
Kira Witte – 8
Kristina Phillips – 8
Latesha Taylor – 8
Marissa Portee – 8
Mary Behrends – 8
Michael Dean – 8
Michael Rector – 8
Oluwagbenga Adekanmi – 8
Richard Rowe – 8
Shirl Bragg – 8
Tangrill Varner – 8
Willean Frazer Gray – 8
Angela Jackson – 9
Bernadine Dominguez – 9
Carla Hanson – 9
Carol Minnerick – 9
Cindi Liechty – 9
Darrell Masterson – 9
Davina Logan – 9
Irene Allen – 9
James Cummings – 9
Jeffrey Rector – 9
Jerjuana Chambers – 9
Juanita Watson – 9
Maria Junk – 9
Nicko Benson – 9
Nikki Groll – 9

Olatoye Itaniyi – 9
Sedrick Totton – 9
Sharon Whitham – 9
Tai Rhodes – 9
Terri Beard – 9
Velma Conwell – 9
Veronica Lawrence – 9
Carey Baragiola – 10
Christopher Briggs – 10
Constance Beck – 10
Danielle Austin – 10
Danny Large – 10
Lorian Schneider – 10
Masresha Adugna – 10
Melinda Gray – 10
Melody Richardson – 10
Nicole Headlee – 10
Patrick Kagarama – 10
Paula Kelly – 10
Rachael Mitchell – 10
Shelley Campbell – 10
Tarena McClure – 10
Teresa Bartnik – 10
Tori Kitchell – 10
Wayne Cripps – 10
Deborah Tartaglia – 11
Elvira Loya – 11
Jason Borkholder – 11
Rebecca Jones – 11
Rita Griesdorn – 11
Sherry Royse – 11
Amanda Beeks – 12
Cecilia Rubio-Miramontes – 12
Dawn Thompson – 12
Howard Smith – 12
Kimberly Chestnut – 12
Miriam Kimani – 12
Olivia Alvarado – 12
Patricia Ibarra – 12
Paula Spall – 12
Stephen Mndalila – 12
Stephen Walker – 12
Teresa Ronquillo – 12
Terry Gibson – 12
Barbara Handley – 13
Bernadette LaMaster – 13
Betty Hudgins – 13
Bree Cannon – 13
Cynthia House – 13
Dawn McVay – 13
Garnett Goodwin – 13
Harold Kirby – 13
Kay Davis – 13
Kimberly Muhlenkamp – 13
Kris Cooley – 13
Lorraine Hall – 13
Marebate Batoma – 13
Mary Agba – 13
Nancy Waweru – 13
Nola Lakamp – 13
Peggy Fowlkes – 13
Stephanie Ayers – 13
Terri Hendon – 13
Wanda Hart – 13
Barbara Nakiganda – 14
Holly Cotton – 14
Jose Gonzalez – 14
Lucy Murei – 14
Misty Abbott – 14
Sandra Foster – 14
Shelly Detcher – 14
Tomeka Smith – 14
Travis Boggs – 14
Glenda Agostino – 15
Carrie Moden – 17
Kathleen Bradshaw – 17
Melissa Holycross – 17
Thiola Moyo – 17
Tiffany Smith – 17
Carrie Perry – 18
Mai Bond – 18
Maureen Dow – 18
Jeffrey Birnell – 19
Julia Kill – 19
Lindsay Moore – 19
Ennette Gose – 20
Justin Weber – 20
Mark Flegge – 20
Laura McFarland – 21
Linda Morrison – 21
Pamela Jenkins – 22
Lily Compton – 24
Lisa Rector – 24
Randy Hoium – 25
William Swiss – 36

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