Benchmark Blog

Second Quarter Thrive – April, 2023

Apr 12, 2023
Benchmark Blog

Welcome to 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!

Where Are We Going?

By Doug Beebe, Benchmark President

“Think about what you want today and you’ll spend your time.
Think about what you want in 5 years and you’ll invest your time.”

I first saw this quote many years ago, and I have hung onto it as a way to re-center myself to ensure Benchmark invests time and energy well so we can continue to grow and thrive as we extend our mission. It can be overwhelming to look at the challenges we face. On the other hand, Benchmark has often gone where others have not because we think long-term and act to support that focus.

We were created from the success of what is now the AWRC and the vision of a Board that wanted to keep growing the mission while ensuring jobs stayed in Fort Wayne and talented people had a place to grow. We have amazingly talented people working all over the company who promise to provide excellent leadership in the coming years and decades. One of our paths to the future is through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. While these words mean many different things to people, to me, they mean that Benchmark will continue to strive to hear all perspectives and give all voices a chance to be heard.

Our mission includes three key words: Potential, Inclusion, and Independence. While this was initially fashioned to support those we all serve, it also applies to everyone who works here. We make better decisions when all perspectives are heard, and we need to continue to focus on including everyone’s thoughts as we assess our future growth. It also means that everyone has great potential, as illustrated by the fact that many of our senior leaders started as direct care workers. The DSP, clinician, or manager we hire next week could go on to become a future CEO, and we owe everyone the opportunity for growth.

It has often been said that living things grow, and Benchmark is alive and well as we continue to grow and serve more people in traditional and novel ways. No matter the program, our success has always been measured one person at a time. Our future depends on continuing that approach as we move forward so that those we serve and those who support them continue their own growth. We truly have amazing teams doing wonderful work, and everything you do is important – thank you!

From the Front Lines


Cynthia Sipperly, I&T Evaluation Team, Colorado

What is the best part of your job?
I love working with other disciplines, such as Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and BCBAs. I am learning so much about other areas of development. I have also gained a lot of experience and knowledge about providing virtual services, and I really enjoy it. This allows more access to families that live in remote areas who need to get evaluations completed quickly so their children can begin receiving interventions as soon as possible.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
For me, the most challenging aspect is having to tell parents that their child has significant delays in development. As a member of the evaluation team, we are often the first people that share this information with families. We have experienced many different reactions and try to be kind and sensitive. At the end of the day, I know that Early Intervention is a wonderful program and the families will really benefit from it.

What is your favorite summertime activity that you are looking forward to returning to this season?
I love that I get to spend more time with my kids and not have to work around school and sports schedules. We enjoy all the typical summer festivities, such as fireworks, barbeques, and time around the pool or lake. We’re planning to get out on Horsetooth Lake for some boating and paddle boarding and I’m excited to find more places to hike. I look forward to having friends and family for a visit to show them around beautiful Fort Collins.

Mary Schroeder, Case Manager, South Dakota

What is the best part of your job?
I love being able to advocate for people to have meaningful lives. I get to work with some fantastic people and their families, along with some amazing co-workers. I love working from home, especially during the winter in South Dakota! I feel like I am able to advocate for people’s choices in their lives and help impact the services and supports they receive.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Overall, the most challenging part of work is keeping up with the ever-changing policies, providers, and government red tape to ensure that people have choices and receive the supports and services they choose.

What is your favorite summertime activity that you are looking forward to returning to this season?
I look most forward to summer for the warmth, sunshine, and being able to hang clothes on the line to dry, especially bed sheets. I love planting flowers in my garden too! I am pretty simple. I love not having to check the weather or road conditions to get anywhere. I also love being able to spend more time with my grandsons.

Nick Webster, IT Specialist, Indiana

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is simply helping people. It’s nice to be able to quickly fix someone’s issue and turn their entire day around for the better.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is staying on top of changes in technology. It seems like every week, Microsoft is changing where things are located after every update, and it can be frustrating at times to go somewhere that you used to go to access something, and it’s not there anymore.

What is your favorite summertime activity that you are looking forward to returning to this season?
There are so many summertime activities that I am looking forward to returning to that it’s hard to pick just one. I can’t wait to fix up my bicycle and ride through some local trails and parks. I also garden and love to grow various flowers and vegetables. I enjoy playing acoustic guitar outside on a nice day or strumming various songs around a campfire.

Erica Jones, Supported Living DSP, Missouri

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to assist the individuals and be a part of their everyday life.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is navigating times when consumers are promised something from another staff member and then they don’t go through with it.

What is your favorite summertime activity that you are looking forward to returning to this season?
I can’t wait to take all of the individuals I work with on a summer picnic!

Samantha Liguori, Speech Language Pathologist, Connecticut

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is knowing the impact that we can have on a child’s life. Being able to support a parent or caregiver and show them strategies to help their child develop to their fullest potential is what’s most satisfying. When you get to work so closely with a family for a long period of time, and the parent calls you with the excitement that their child has reached a milestone, that moment puts the biggest smile on your face.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is saying goodbye. When you connect with a family on the level that we do, you become invested and want nothing but the best for them. At the end of our time together, you can only hope, that you did your best with giving the parents the guidance to continue to grow with that child.

What is your favorite summertime activity that you are looking forward to returning to this season?
My favorite summertime activity is definitely traveling! Starting the summer with a quick getaway with my husband to recharge and then ending the summer with a family vacation. We get to relax on the beach after all of the excitement that builds in preparation for our trips. My oldest, Isabella (6), talks about it all year. Knowing that we are creating memories and family traditions is amazing!

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!


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Update

Meet Dr. Antoinette Thornton. Dr. Thornton is the Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. In this video, Dr. Thornton shares why she is passionate about DEI work and provides updates on the Committee’s next steps.

Connecticut is Growing to Help More Families

Benchmark’s Infant & Toddler program in Connecticut is celebrating a huge amount of growth this spring and restructuring its team to better serve children and parents in the state. Currently, the team serves over 900 children (an increase from 100 in 2019) and employs over 110 therapists (an increase from 15 in 2019).

Because of this growth, the program developed 9 team leader positions, which were all filled by existing staff, to provide support and direct supervision to staff within the program. In addition, a case assignment coordinator position has also been developed to support the team leaders with case assignments, transfers, and administrative projects.

Congratulations to our Connecticut Infant & Toddler department on their tremendous growth!


Spring is in the Air 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!


Benchmark Offers QPR (Suicide Prevention) Training to all Employees

This year, Benchmark began offering QPR training to all employees. Led by Megan Ryan, Benchmark director of Family Preservation Services, and QPR Training Facilitator, the training focuses on suicide prevention. Thrive sat down with Megan to learn more about QPR.

Thrive: What does QPR stand for, and how is it similar to CPR?
Megan: Question Persuade Refer. QPR can be referenced in the following way, it is emergency intervention for your mental health, just as CPR is emergency intervention for your medical health.

Thrive: Who can benefit from this training?
Megan: Everyone! Some professionals who have consistent, daily interaction with a large segment of the public are excellent candidates, such as school bus drivers, school personnel, librarians, church officials, law enforcement, caregivers, etc. QPR can be particularly beneficial for large group training with community members, youth/adolescents, and those that have consistent roles in the community. But any one of us might have interactions with someone who is contemplating suicide, so really, the more people we can train to recognize the signs and how to intervene, the more lives we can save.

Thrive: Why is it important for every-day-people to be trained in QPR?
Megan: QPR is intended to be an intervention to inspire hope for someone to keep them alive until a qualified referral can be made. Like CPR, you only need to provide QPR until someone more qualified is available to intervene. We all have a piece of the pie when it comes to suicide prevention, and skills learned in QPR are just one way we can help reduce suicide.

Thrive: What is involved in a typical training session?
Megan: A typical training session is 90 minutes. As a facilitator, I try to create a space that is free of judgment and safe for those who are present. The setting is not meant to be a place to self-disclose but rather a way to connect all attendees to the same training curriculum. It can be facilitated in person or virtually, and there are necessary criteria for everyone’s safety in each setting.

Thrive: How does someone sign up for the training?
Megan: A training session is being offered each month throughout 2023 and links to the sessions are released quarterly. To register for a training in this quarter, click on the link below associated with the date you would like to attend and fill out the registration information. Look for dates for third quarter soon. If you have a team that could benefit from a more intimate or timely session, I would be more than happy to set something up. Please reach out to me at [email protected].

April 20, 2023, 10:00 – 11:30 am EST, Register

May 25, 2023, 9:00 – 10:30 am EST, Register

June 29, 2023, 9:00 – 10:30 am EST, Register

HomePointe HealthCare Advocates with Families Making Big Impact

In mid-March, Amanda Musser, director of HomePointe HealthCare (HPHC), Benchmark’s home health program for children with complex medical needs, participated in Advocacy Day at the Indiana Statehouse, alongside Mackenzie, an HPHC client, and her mom, Merillee. During their visit, they spent significant time with Senator Faddy Qaddoura, along with meeting with other senators. Senator Qaddoura took a particular interest in how the nursing shortage crisis is affecting children receiving home health services.

On Monday, April 10, Musser received a call from Senator Qaddoura’s office, asking last minute, if someone from HPHC would be available to testify the next day at the House Public Health Committee meeting. “I hung up the phone and immediately called Merillee,” said Musser. “She quickly rearranged her schedule and booked a hotel. Once Merillee gathered all of Mackenzie’s supplies, which is no small feat they were heading to Indianapolis for the night.”

Musser and Merillee, both testified in support of two important bills — SB438 and SB474, which greatly reduce the regulatory burden for home health agencies and enable them to hire more nurses, faster. Both bills passed unanimously. Additionally, Merillee was asked to meet with several more Indiana senators who are interested in learning how they can help make life easier for families who have kids with complex medical needs.





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!


Debora Nugent, Team Leader
Elizabeth Staffieri, Team Leader
Melissa Robusto, Team Leader
Christine Mitchell, Team Leader
Rachel Butler, Developmental Specialist
Gianna Szabo, Team Leader
Lori Kratzer, Team Leader
Victoria Adamczyk, Developmental Specialist
Kathlyn Reynolds, Team Leader
Sheri Lauro, Team Leader
Amy Philosoph, Team Leader

Myron Proctor, Associate Licensed Clinical Staff
Alton Smith, CNA
Lillie Story, LPN
Barbara Glasco, CNA

Ina Young, Team Leader
James Bain, ESN Manager/Coordinator
Alexandria Luse, ESN Manager/Coordinator
Dominique Holden, Supported Living Manager

Jessica See, Supervisor

New Jersey
Anthony Silvestri, Talent Acquisition Specialist
Alexandra Barthold, Team Leader
Sean Stephens, Residential Manager

Peggy Battle, Team Leader
Francis Essilfie, Supported Living Supervisor
Abby Roebuck, Team Leader
Tara Keeling, Team Leader


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


Tara Baker – 5
Mary Ball – 5
Stewart Boruff – 5
Leslie Brenden – 5
Corri Brewer – 5
Brenda Buck – 5
Theresa Bukowski – 5
Fellicia Bunch-Russell – 5
Kathy Campbell – 5
Rickey Cary – 5
Donald Converset – 5
Joanna Cuevas – 5
Christine DeBlauw – 5
James Dieudonne – 5
Francis Essilfie – 5
Linda Gilbert – 5
Margaret Gramza – 5
Elsa Guillaume Pierre – 5
C W Halfacre – 5
Rosemary Heugle – 5
Christine Lucas – 5
Stacy Major – 5
Michael Mcvey – 5
Michael Minutilli – 5
Ramona Mott – 5
Catherine Nganga – 5
Cynthia Niezer – 5
Tiara Poindexter – 5
Daisha Richardson – 5
Ranease Rowe – 5
Linda Sarfo – 5
Amie Sarka – 5
Jennifer Shingler – 5
Nathan Smith – 5
Gbassay Tamba – 5
Emily Thomas – 5
Shatasha Thornton – 5
Ann Tienter – 5
Simone Walker – 5
Wanda Winbush – 5
Nicholas Zagaros – 5
Alisha Zephy – 5
Eleni Abera – 6
James Ailstock – 6
Ange Bosley – 6
Michelle Brown – 6
Rodney Butler – 6
Gabrielle Christie – 6
Omolara Cooper – 6
Ashley DeBlauw – 6
Russell Dukes – 6
Megan Farber – 6
Brennon Gaines – 6
Alemtshay Gebeyehu – 6
Rachelle Hamilton – 6
David Herrick – 6
April Hopson – 6
Desiree Hunt – 6
Linda Jones – 6
Michelle Kemerer – 6
Ricketta McCoy – 6
Darla Micheal – 6
Tulisa Moorman – 6
Tiana Poindexter – 6
Ronald Radford – 6
Marc Rumpf – 6
Debbie Strickland – 6
Lucas Strohmenger – 6
Peter Wakaba – 6
Carol Adams – 7
Bunmi Akinmade – 7
Jane Anderson – 7
Dashnique Beck – 7
Michael Bokatsch – 7
Beteselam Bonka – 7
John Briden – 7
Keyana Brooks – 7
Tyrus Brothers – 7
Loraine Burke – 7
Marmiko Carter De Ceita – 7
Elizabeth Castillo – 7
Nancy Clancy – 7
Jean Crowe – 7
Tacey Dunwoody – 7
Jenna Gobel – 7
Lisa Hanisch – 7
Stephanie Harvey – 7
Teresa Helland – 7
Kacey Hoftiezer – 7
Olivia Hughes – 7
Derrick Hunt – 7
Lawrence Jones – 7

Brittany Kamm – 7
Jeffrey Keck – 7
James Ledbetter – 7
Tamara Lehman – 7
Kelli Leitner – 7
Terry Lynett – 7
Mary Maina – 7
Melissa Martin-Schwarz – 7
Rhonda Moore – 7
Adrian Morris – 7
Christina Murray – 7
Susan Njenga – 7
Michelle Parke – 7
Annabelle Revolorio – 7
Yolanda Rias – 7
Sarah Robbins – 7
Erica Robinson – 7
Karri Saathoff – 7
Kimberlee Sanders – 7
Kristina Scherr – 7
Mary Schroeder – 7
Kathleen Staton – 7
Karen Sudbeck – 7
Sue Sutton – 7
Rosie Thomas – 7
Brenda Tomlin – 7
Laura Wendland – 7
Yolanda Williams – 7
Rachel Williams – 7
Rotimi Adeleye – 8
Yvonne Allen – 8
Princess Apollo – 8
Rebecca Bodey – 8
Tracy Carbajal – 8
Christine Carter – 8
Issiac Carter – 8
Jerri Delong – 8
Sandra Dennis – 8
Elizabeth Felton – 8
Brenda Frank – 8
Katherine Gaskin – 8
Nepomorrosa Gonzalez – 8
Mary Harrington – 8
Matte Innis – 8
Teratha Jones – 8
Jacqueline Mosley – 8
Abosede Opadiran – 8
Sharayah Ruble – 8
Byron Thomas – 8
Isabel Villanueva – 8
Tracey White – 8
Michele Bishop – 9
Juwanda Boughton – 9
Lucretia Campbell-Rogers – 9
Kelley Duvall – 9
Anna Marie Ensley – 9
Sean Farrelly – 9
Jeanette Hawks – 9
James Hilgemann – 9
Wayne Hill – 9
Sonny Hughes – 9
Amrit Jot Khalsa – 9
Mia Maxey – 9
Hannah Maxson – 9
Simon May – 9
Melanie McDowell – 9
Derrick McKinney – 9
Priscilla Palmer – 9
Lori Pettit – 9
Dedra Pickett – 9
Selina Popovich Evans – 9
Marinena Shirah – 9
Jennifer Sims – 9
Jarred Sisler – 9
Helen Turner – 9
Keith Wheat – 9
Gloria Winston – 9
Andrew Young – 9
Mary Behrends – 10
Andrew Bushong – 10
Gregory Cox – 10
Joni Crocker – 10
Michael Dean – 10
Willean Frazer Gray – 10
Jose Galaviz – 10
Deborah Hatcher – 10
Kenneth Herbert – 10
Ella Hooks – 10
Joseph Kageche – 10
Jennifer McLaurin – 10
Abebe Mulat – 10
Gwendolyn Oglesby – 10

Allen Pfotenhauer – 10
Kristina Phillips – 10
Marissa Portee – 10
Ashley Putt – 10
Michael Rector – 10
Davanda Talton – 10
Latesha Taylor – 10
Antoinette Thornton – 10
Tangrill Varner – 10
Irene Allen – 11
Nicko Benson – 11
James Cummings – 11
Bernadine Dominguez – 11
Carla Hanson – 11
Angela Jackson – 11
Maria Junk – 11
Davina Logan – 11
Darrell Masterson – 11
Jeffrey Rector – 11
Tai Rhodes – 11
Sedrick Totton – 11
Juanita Watson – 11
Masresha Adugna – 12
Danielle Austin – 12
Carey Baragiola – 12
Christopher Briggs – 12
Shelley Campbell – 12
Wayne Cripps – 12
Melinda Gray – 12
Nicole Headlee – 12
Patrick Kagarama – 12
Rachael Mitchell – 12
Rita Griesdorn – 13
Rebecca Jones – 13
Elvira Loya – 13
Sherry Royse – 13
Deborah Tartaglia – 13
Olivia Alvarado – 14
Amanda Beeks – 14
Kimberly Chestnut – 14
Patricia Ibarra – 14
Miriam Kimani – 14
Stephen Mndalila – 14
Teresa Ronquillo – 14
Cecilia Rubio-Miramontes – 14
Howard Smith – 14
Paula Spall – 14
Dawn Thompson – 14
Stephen Walker – 14
Mary Agba – 15
Stephanie Ayers – 15
Marebate Batoma – 15
Bree Cannon – 15
Kris Cooley – 15
Peggy Fowlkes – 15
Garnett Goodwin – 15
Lorraine Hall – 15
Barbara Handley – 15
Wanda Hart – 15
Cynthia House – 15
Harold Kirby – 15
Bernadette LaMaster – 15
Kimberly Muhlenkamp – 15
Nancy Waweru – 15
Misty Abbott – 16
Travis Boggs – 16
Holly Cotton – 16
Shelly Detcher – 16
Jose Gonzalez – 16
Lucy Murei – 16
Barbara Nakiganda – 16
Tomeka Smith – 16
Glenda Agostino – 17
Kathleen Bradshaw – 19
Melissa Holycross – 19
Carrie Moden – 19
Thiola Moyo – 19
Tiffany Smith – 19
Mai Bond – 20
Maureen Dow – 20
Carrie Perry – 20
Jeffrey Birnell – 21
Julia Kill – 21
Lindsay Moore – 21
Mark Flegge – 22
Ennette Gose – 22
Justin Weber – 22
Laura McFarland – 23
Linda Morrison – 23
Pamela Jenkins – 24
Lily Compton – 26
Lisa Rector – 26

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