Benchmark Blog

Fourth Quarter Thrive – October, 2021

Oct 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!

Thoughts on National Disability Employment Awareness Month

By Doug Beebe, Benchmark President

October has been designated by the US Department of Labor (DOL) as National Disability Awareness Month to “commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.” A major focus of Benchmark’s mission is to see the potential in all people and create an inclusive community with full participation for all. Employment services drove the creation of Benchmark and has been a central focus of our efforts for over 60 years.

Despite that work, and the work of hundreds of other organizations, the pathway to work is still extremely difficult for people with disabilities. According to the DOL, only 20.8% of people with disabilities currently participate in the workforce as compared to 68.7% of the non-disabled population. Benchmark and our partners at AWRC remain focused on providing more opportunities for employment through a variety of approaches.

AWRC provides direct employment for people with and without disabilities, and focuses on having a workforce that is comprised of 75% people with disabilities while paying competitive wages. This is achieved through employment of veterans with service acquired disabilities in the mail operations at three Air Force bases through Post Masters. Post Masters also runs a nationally competitive print and mail operation in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, IN that flawlessly produces over 60 million pieces every year for customers such as the State of Indiana and USDA. On the Benchmark side, Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) through our Employment Services program are provided to support individual placements and have resulted in thousands of successful placements over the years.

As we move forward, employment will remain a major focus, especially at a time so many jobs are going unfilled. Benchmark’s Employment Services team will continue to strive to develop meaningful opportunities while battling state systems that have created waiting lists of thousands of people who want to work but need some supports to be successful. AWRC will continue to focus on leveraging technology to create opportunities for significant jobs based on individual dreams and strengths. Employment is a key to full integration in much of society, and I am grateful to all of our staff who have dedicated themselves to that mission.

Stories From the Front Lines

We have the best team! Check out these incredible stories about staff going above and beyond to literally save the lives of the people they serve:

Fran is thrilled to be back home in Southern Indiana after two staff members saved her life last month! Program Coordinator, Misty Abbott (left) performed the Heimlich maneuver on Fran when she began choking due to a seizure while eating. DSP staff member Mary Crawford (right) assisted with the Heimlich and called 911. They were able to clear the blockage but Fran’s breathing had stopped. They performed CPR until medical assistance arrived. We are very thankful for their heroic efforts!

Last month, many parts of the east coast experienced damaging flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. One New Jersey town where Benchmark provides residential services was hit especially hard and was underwater with Search & Rescue boats circling the homes. With the waters rising fast at one of our homes, DSP Ted Tedwick enlisted the help of one of the boats and swam all three individuals living in that home to safety, while working hard to make sure they had their meds and some personal belongings instead of making sure his own property was safe (his car was fully submerged under water as well). He then got the individuals to a nearby group home for showers, warm clothes, and some food. Unfortunately, the area had 5 deaths due to the flooding and people not being able to evacuate/electrical issues from the water. However, Ted’s his quick actions averted any tragedy for the people he cares for. Thank you everyone who helped out to make sure they were taken care of!

Diversity Committee Updates

As part of Benchmark’s initiatives to work toward an inclusive and equitable workplace, many employees have been participating in diversity and inclusion training. Two groups completed their training this summer and four additional groups are currently participating. This is just the beginning of our journey. Stay tuned for more opportunities and information. Thanks to Marmiko DeCeita, a member of Benchmark’s Diversity Committee, for sharing her thoughts on the training.

“Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to attend and host the first round (2nd Cohort) of Diversity and Inclusion training. It was an amazing experience and I’m excited for the rest of my colleagues to attend. My biggest takeaways were that we all have biases that impact how we operate and our decision making. You have to be open to identifying, understanding, and unpacking said biases. There’s no way to circumvent this step. Go through it. Get over the shock and awe. And then get to work!

Allyship is golden! And it’s a lifelong process. It cannot be performative. You have purposefully be inclusive. And if you’re really paying attention, you get opportunities every day to deconstruct your previous programming and biases.

I believe that we all showed up wanting to learn and just be better for, and to, one another. I think this training opened the conversation and set us off on that path.”

– Marmiko DeCeita, Program Manager, AWRC/Post Masters

Additional action items:
• All company policies are being reviewed to ensure inclusive language
• A company guide to inclusive language is being developed.
• October’s monthly DSP training focuses on racial trauma.
• A sub-committee of the Diversity Committee is working on a 3-year strategic plan with other goals and initiatives.

If you have any questions for the Diversity Committee or about it’s initiatives please feel free to email us at [email protected].

End of Summer Fun on Social Media

You know, you don’t have to wait until Thrive comes out to see some great photos of the individuals we serve from all over the country! Follow us on social media, just search Benchmark Human Services on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Also, if you would like to share any photos you’ve taken of or with the individuals in your area on social media, please send them to Simon May!


A Note on COVID-19 and Flu Vaccines

By Kim Galaviz RN, BSN, MPM, Benchmark Chief Nursing Officer

We’ve been fully immersed in a COVID world for over 19 months. The fatigue is real. While masking and social distancing has become the norm for many of us, we all long for a return to normalcy. One way we can continue to move in that direction is to get vaccinated. While vaccinated individuals can contract and transmit the COVID-19 virus, the data shows that vaccinations lessen the severity of infection and reduce the number of deaths. Keeping people safe — both individuals served and staff — has been Benchmark’s number one priority throughout the pandemic and will continue to be. If you are able, and have not yet been fully vaccinated, I urge you to do so. In addition to COVID, we’re entering cold and flu season, which poses additional risk. I highly encourage you to get your flu vaccine as well. Vaccinations are our best defense against COVID and the flu and the most effective way to help ensure your health and safety and that of those you serve.

Champion for Change

“When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.” — Jaeda Dewalt

Misty Piker embodies resilience in many ways. When Misty was a college student studying law enforcement, she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (TM), a rare neurological condition that causes inflammation of the spinal cord. While she was able to use crutches for a while, eventually she needed to rely on a wheelchair for mobility. Though not the plan Misty had for her life, she decided to use her experience to become an activist and an advocate for change.

Several years after becoming paralyzed Misty moved from her hometown of Bedford, Indiana to South Bend, where she discovered adaptive sports and joined a wheelchair basketball league, which she now manages. Misty also took a particular interest in accessibility issues and championed this issue while volunteering for then South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s re-election campaign.

Misty eventually wanted to get back to work and joined forces with Benchmark’s Employment Services program to find a job. Misty worked with Employment Consultant, Jennifer Walker and found a job with the South Bend Parks Department. She works as the office assistant at Howard Park and is loving her job. What’s more, she gets to aid the Parks Department in their quest to ensure accessibility throughout their parks system – something that Misty remains very passionate about. Her supervisor, Danica Kulemeka, said Misty brings much value to their team. “Misty has a very positive attitude and is very willing to help others. She has raised our awareness of the needs of people with disabilities and is committed to the mission of Venues Parks & Arts and goes above and beyond anything that she is asked to do.”

“Misty is incredibly determined,” said Walker. “Instead of letting the unexpected changes in her life slow her down, she rose to the occasion and has used her experience to help champion change for others.”

DSP Appreciation Week Contest Winners

September 12 – 18 was Direct Support Professional Appreciation Week. Benchmark ran a contest on the My Portal App asking, “What makes you a great DSP?” Of those DSPs who responded to the post, 21 names were randomly drawn. 20 employees won $100 and our grand prize winner was Lori Salazar from St. Marys, Ohio, who won $1,000. Congratulations to all and please continue to check the app for more contests and prizes!


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!


Alexzandria Williams, CNA
Dimetrice Jackson, CNA
Eboni Calhoun, Behavior Specialist
Inez Corbett, ISC
Kristy Holloway, CNA
Maggie Taylor, House Manager
McKenzie Hobbs, Licensed Clinical Staff
Micheline Eugene, CNA
Vanesha Brown, Licensed Clinical Staff

Amanda Musser, Regional Director
Austin Williams, QDDP
Charlotte Ellis, Team Leader
Charone Logan, Team Leader
Dana Bozeman, RN
Elisa Della Ventura, Clinical Manager
Eugena Flannery, Employment Consultant
Jazmyne Fultz, Residential Manager
Jillian Lewis, CNA
Keith Miller, Team Leader
Lindy Brown, Team Leader
Marie Ellis, Team Leader
Michelle Kemerer, Program Coordinator
Samantha Douglas, Supported Living Supervisor
Sandra Wright, Supported Living Manager
Stephanie Minich, QDDP
Susan Durham, Team Leader
Tanisha Brown, Residential Manager
Tara Day, RN
Taylor Mora, Team Leader
Terri Hendon, RN

Amanda Michel, Clinical Specialist
April Silverman, I&T Team Coordinator
Christine Mitchell, I&T Team Coordinator
Gianna Szabo, I&T Team Coordinator

Jacqueline Hightower, HR Office Coordinator

Josiah Chisale, Supported Living Manager

New Jersey
Elbert Minus, Team Leader
Johanne Jean-Baptiste, LPN
Kameisha Johnson, Team Leader
Shandrel Riddle-Thelwell, Supported Living Supervisor
Tiana Summey, Team Leader

New Mexico
Amrit Jot Khalsa, Program Coordinator
Rebecca Trujillo, Team Leader
Reyna Pena, Program Coordinator

Balinda Fonner, Program Manager
Christina Murray, Program Manager
Enisha Carter, Team Leader
Ronnise Showes, Supported Living Supervisor

Jibria Waller, Director


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


Amanda Cashen – 5
Amy Bean – 5
Amy Reed – 5
Amy Williamson – 5
Brian Hegg – 5
Brianna Frankman – 5
Burie Carmichael – 5
Caryn Rice – 5
Cassandra Krebs – 5
Chelsea Gerbers – 5
Colleen Allison – 5
Daniel Becher – 5
Douglas Ferree – 5
Jacqueline Ellis – 5
Ja’Kyra Cole – 5
Jamikah Kelsaw – 5
Jasmine Dubose – 5
Jennifer Kenyon – 5
Jermika Jackson – 5
Jernita Morris – 5
Kassanesh Belay – 5
Kayanne Dunn – 5
Kelli Burrous – 5
Kenna Bauer – 5
Kit Johnson – 5
Kneosha Parker – 5
Laura Sanchez – 5
Leigh Watson – 5
Linda Danielson – 5
Marc Daniels – 5
Mary Gardeman – 5
Michael Shinkle – 5
Myasia Young – 5
Nicholas Webster – 5
Nicole Henderson – 5
Octavia Middleton – 5
Odumamwen Egharevba – 5
Oluwayemisi Fawumi – 5
Patricia Berry – 5
Patricia Johnson – 5
Patricia Lien – 5
Rachel Collins – 5
Robert Burke – 5
Samuel Nkopuruk – 5
Sana Kendrix – 5
Sara Scholten – 5
Sarah Rose – 5
Shanice Sharpe – 5
Stephen Coe – 5
Steven Janson – 5
Susan Brown – 5
Susan Sofferin – 5
Ursalina Davis – 5
Vanecia Harris – 5
Wendy Machado – 5
William Fouts – 5
Allen Ward – 6
Amy Gant – 6
Angela Kirchner – 6
Ashley Woods – 6
Austin Thomas – 6
Brandon McKinney – 6
Brian Graham – 6
Danny Boatner – 6
Erica Daniels – 6
Jacob Strole – 6
Jordan Bruner – 6
Kristy Holloway – 6
Lakeesha Burnett – 6
Latonya Sanchez – 6
Leales Rapp – 6
Lee Carr – 6
Lisa Crawford – 6
Luis Capestany – 6
Marie Hunt – 6
Mark Vella – 6
Michelle Truesdale – 6
Monique McRae – 6
Nadia Pronik – 6
Olajumoke Oladapo – 6
Ousmane Diallo – 6
Quentin Horton – 6
Rebecca Smith – 6
Rita Klosterman – 6
Sarah Meagher – 6
Stacey Curry – 6
Stacy Vann – 6
Susan Cook – 6
Tamara Morris – 6

Amanda Miranda – 7
Audrey Cooper – 7
Benedicto Luque-Camargo – 7
Breanna Saylor – 7
Brittany Ingram – 7
Calandera Smith – 7
Daniele Quintavalle – 7
Delores Saxton – 7
Deloris Moore – 7
Ebere Uko – 7
Elizabeth Fasbinder – 7
Georgetta Mason-Brown – 7
Gwendolyn Suggs – 7
Jennifer Patterson – 7
Jessica Wesley – 7
Jill Mayo – 7
Jolene Pettigrew – 7
Joseph Gallagher – 7
Judith King – 7
Kehinde Adeoba – 7
Lisa Goodson – 7
Nichelle Powell – 7
Oluwakemi Adedoyin – 7
Pamella Munson – 7
Patricia Williams – 7
Penny Leas – 7
Rachael Chege – 7
Robin Kinney – 7
Samantha Brown – 7
Sol Laboy – 7
Albert Jaramillo – 8
Anette Houghton – 8
Beth Mills – 8
Coty Stinson – 8
Cynthia Lewis – 8
Dale Toth – 8
Damon Dear – 8
Daniel Linger – 8
Ethan Oakes – 8
Grace Lazum – 8
Helene Ettang – 8
James Paul – 8
Jessica See – 8
Jose Morales – 8
Joshua Campbell – 8
Kathy Newland – 8
Kimberly Galaviz – 8
Mario Baker – 8
Michael McKinney – 8
Ruth Perez – 8
Terry Phillips – 8
Thomas Spaur – 8
Thomas Stark – 8
Amber Moppin – 9
Benjamin Schroeder – 9
Cherrie Hawes – 9
Christopher Murei – 9
Debora Baskerville – 9
Diane Smith – 9
Elizabeth Shinolt – 9
Isaac Harris – 9
Jeffrey Nicholson – 9
Jennifer Gilbert – 9
Jessie Rush – 9
Kathy Cesar – 9
Katie Noel – 9
Latoya Jackson – 9
Milagros Diaz – 9
Samuel Ofosu – 9
Shannon McAllister – 9
Sharron Jones – 9
Stephen Agyeman – 9
Stephen Gyasi-Mensah – 9
Suliman Khalil – 9
Tori Fuhrmann – 9
Adrienne Norman – 10
Brenda Kromah – 10
Camille Solga – 10
Carolyn Cuffer – 10
Chantal Cardriche – 10
Debra Sorg – 10
Dericka Jones – 10
Devin Long – 10
Edward Agyemang – 10
Jeffery Gootee – 10
Latosha Hansley – 10
Leo Carvalho – 10
Lois Miller – 10
Margarita Espinosa – 10

Robert Mtika – 10
Suzanne Weiss – 10
Tamera Blount – 10
Wendy Harris – 10
Abdul Barrie – 11
Amanda Richardson – 11
Amie Mansaray – 11
Angelia Glosser – 11
Bessie Sanders – 11
Craig Schmitt – 11
Crystal Toney – 11
Dawn McPheron – 11
Deborah Hatfield – 11
Desiree Taylor – 11
Donald Pozil – 11
Dorothy Wesley – 11
George Lopez – 11
Jana Bunch – 11
Jennie McAllister – 11
Judy Lattanzi – 11
Laura Wadsworth – 11
Linda Griffy – 11
Lisa Hicks – 11
Marie Romulus – 11
Marla Manifold – 11
Marti Spaulding – 11
Melissa Taylor – 11
Michelle Whalen – 11
Mikeion Ewing – 11
Nakia Robertson – 11
Nicole Price – 11
Pamela Ford – 11
Patricia Everage – 11
Paul Hicks – 11
Rebecca Holladay – 11
Selam Ayele – 11
Sharon Goerler – 11
Susan Durham – 11
Theodore Hamilton – 11
Valerie Showalter – 11
Vicky Carr – 11
Antonia Gatewood – 12
Harold Graham – 12
Keith Thompson – 12
Marcella Brown – 12
Sharon Ward – 12
Abimbola Olugbenga – 13
Andre Ottley – 13
Andrew Bostic – 13
Barbara Parks – 13
Brandon McGill – 13
Charone Logan – 13
Jackie Stuck – 13
Jasman Lyles – 13
Tyra Poindexter – 13
Esther Gichanga – 14
Frank Rousey – 14
Joshua Slone – 14
Lois Dada – 14
Michael Burdine – 14
Ryan Knodel – 14
Christine Henderson – 15
Linda Thomas-Carlisle – 15
Lucille Sweet – 15
Mamon Trotter – 15
Mariann Tindall – 15
Mary Crawford – 15
Melissa Dykes – 15
Natujwa Kivaria – 15
Deborah Ungemach – 16
Eric Weeks – 17
Josiah Chisale – 17
Karen Lewis – 17
Kimberly Bolen – 18
Shannon OConnell – 18
Charity Shumba – 19
Jennifer Bauer – 19
George Haldar – 20
Julie Kent – 20
Lucy Maina – 20
Nancy Grone – 20
Shari Bail – 20
Sandra Ffrench – 21
William Kartholl – 23
Ada Wilkinson – 24
Carol Telley – 26
Carl Lampton – 27
David Ross – 29
David Howe – 35

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