Benchmark Blog

Second Quarter Thrive – April, 2024

Apr 11, 2024
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 Larissa Whitaker!

Empathy: The Ability to Understand and Share the Feelings of Another

By Doug Beebe, Benchmark CEO

This issue of Thrive focuses on a couple of areas that may appear unrelated, but they tie directly to the most important pieces of our business. The “I Am Aware” campaign and its emphasis on trauma-informed care and the introduction of the Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, both require empathy for the people we serve and the people who serve them. Throughout our work, we strive to ensure people have the resources to be successful and empathetic, and one of those resources is the Mandt system.

Mandt is an interventional technique we use in many of our programs across the country. At its core, it emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships. Within the modules, we learn about the traumas many of the people we serve have experienced and how many of the behavioral issues we try to manage are based in those traumas. Often, those traumas are rooted in poor or abusive relationships or the loss of a caregiver.

Likewise, our ERGs are focused on employees, who through the DEIA survey, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the relationships they experience within Benchmark and their programs. As a leader, when I see clear evidence that we have created systems that disenfranchise people and make them feel like they are not included, I need to try to correct that. As such, the DEIA Committee worked to support the creation of ERGs, which are voluntary employee-led groups. These groups are meant to support inclusion in the workplace and make those work relationships healthy, so all employees can grow and feel appreciated.

To be appreciated for who you are is central to good relationships. As we go down these paths, I ask all of you to be empathetic, take the time to truly understand one another, and work to include everyone, just as you want to be included.

We have three important assets: people, reputation, and finances. The most important of these is people and we will develop practices that reflect that fact. – Benchmark Corporate Principles


From the Front Lines

Hear from Benchmark employees across the country.

Amanda Bongiorno, Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)
Connecticut Early Intervention

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is building relationships with the families I serve and helping them maximize learning opportunities for their little ones throughout their own daily routines.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
It is challenging to voice concerns or share difficult information about a child with their family. I am often the first person to do so and this requires me to gauge when families are ready to hear and learn about their child’s challenges.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
I would visit Ireland to explore the landscapes. I’ve always wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher.

Breanna Coker, LBSW, Intensive Care Coordinator
Alabama Intensive Support Coordination

What is the best part of your job?
I love interacting with the individuals and their families. I enjoy building rapport and cultivating my relationships with families. It’s always exciting to see when our goals are accomplished and see the positive impact, I can have on their lives.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is the lack of resources in the rural parts of the state. My hope is that one day, this will not be a barrier, and every county will have more resources readily available.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to visit England, especially London. I would love to visit historical landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the many other historical monuments that London has to offer.

Caylee Davis, Therapeutic Mentor
Georgia Community Action Treatment Program

What is the best part of your job?
The best part is spending time out in the field with the children and the families and being able to be a support to them through the good and hard times. Using my personal and professional skills to help families reach their goals is my passion.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is when a case closes, and we begin the discharge process and I feel as though the family could still use the support of our team. Parting ways with the children and families suddenly can be difficult.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
If I could visit any place in the entire world, it would be Chile because the pictures that I have seen are unbelievably beautiful.


Solar Eclipse Photos

Several Benchmark employees and individuals served were in the path of totality during Monday’s solar eclipse event. What an experience!

Photo collage of several individuals standing outside, wearing solar eclipse safety glasses, and looking at the sky.

Are You Aware?

By now, we hope you have heard about Benchmark’s 2024 campaign “I Am Aware,” aimed at raising awareness and helping to eliminate incidents of abuse, neglect, and exploitation against the individuals we serve. In April, the campaign focuses on trauma – both trauma suffered by those we serve and secondary trauma that many of our employees experience due to hearing firsthand accounts of trauma experiences or witnessing acts of aggression toward another person.

As Doug Beebe mentions in his article above, many of the people we serve have experienced traumatic events or ongoing trauma. According to the Traumatic Stress Institute, people with disabilities are four times more likely to be victims of crime or abuse than non-disabled populations. As we work directly with those in our care, it’s important to know their trauma history since it can impact the way they relate to others and move through the world. Having a foundation of understanding leads to better care and reduces the risk of re-traumatizing individuals.

To learn more about how trauma affects vulnerable populations, join us for a webinar with Dr. Karyn Harvey. Dr. Harvey, an industry expert on trauma, will explore the sources of trauma for people with intellectual disabilities and the biological and psychological effects of that trauma.  Learn the critical ingredients needed for post-traumatic healing. Positive psychology approaches and tools for support will also be introduced along with several case studies. Details and registration link follow. This session will be recorded for those working with individuals at the time and who are unable to attend the live session.

Dr. Karyn Harvey Presents Trauma-Informed Supports for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Webinar hosted on Monday, April 29 from 1 pm to 3 pm EST. Click here to register.


New Employee Resource Groups 

By Joshua Robinson, Chair of Q.U.E.E.R. and Member of EmpowerAbility


Our Employee Resource Group, EmpowerAbility, strives to discover and draw out each person’s potential in a way that truly sees the whole of them. We aim to create an inclusive and accessible environment where employees with disabilities feel empowered, respected, and supported.

There are two ways to dehumanize someone. The first, of course, is to tear them down and make them seem less than; the other is to put them onto a pedestal and make them seem greater than (often followed by the other once they fall off). It’s easy to be supportive when a person is being strong and inspirational; is the same true when they aren’t or can’t?

To properly support someone with a disability, we cannot lose sight of either the person or their disability; they get to be human, too.  When we do that, we Empower. Ability.

Meet our officers: our chair, Lucas Strohmenger; our co-chair, Jenn Rolfs-Knepper; and our secretary, Cawanna Wadley. Together they will lead this ERG to improve access, education, and participation for all Benchmark employees. Anyone who wishes to join need only enter the nearest bathroom and face the mirror. Then stand on one foot (if possible), put both hands on your head and say “EmpowerAbility” three times fast.

Nah, just kidding – you can find the application link on the Diversity and Inclusion tab of Benchmark’s Intranet under “ERG” or reach out to any of the officers.

Queer Unity for Employee Education and Resources (Q.U.E.E.R.)

We are excited to announce Q.U.E.E.R. (Queer Unity for Employee Education and Resources), the new Employee Resource Group (ERG). Through education and activism, Q.U.E.E.R. works alongside allies to increase understanding of and acceptance for the LGBTQIA+ community. By asserting our humanity, we will make ourselves known throughout Benchmark as a company, the states we serve, and anywhere we gain influence as we move forward. Click here to view the full mission statement.

As our name suggests, this ERG is focused on unity. However, there’s a problem; unity with uniformity is easy. It makes sense then that some may try to erase, downplay, or define the limits of differing identities to achieve it. Unity with diversity is difficult; we need to see the differences, accept those differences, and then seek out the commonality. Many challenges will follow – and it will require a ton of work. But if we can manage it, a stronger unity will result.

Allow me to introduce our officers: my name is Joshua Robinson and I am the chair, Justin Amos is our co-chair, and Adele Allen is our secretary. Each of us is committed to making this ERG have the biggest impact possible, and we are moving quickly; we’re already registered to represent Benchmark at Fort Wayne Pride and we are looking to expand into other cities across the country. Anyone who wishes to join can find the application on the Diversity and Inclusion page on Benchmark’s Intranet or reach out to any of the officers to learn more.


Meet the DEIA Committee

Meet DEIA Committee Member, Juanita Watson. Juanita is the Supported Living Director in New Mexico. In this video, she shares her passion for this work and the power it has to strengthen relationships.


Disabilities Awareness Month 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 FacebookInstagram, 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 Courtney Heiser and Larissa Whitaker!

Photo of Michael from South Dakota. It says, "Mike loves attending all of the concerts in town!" Photo of Betty Jo from Indiana. It says, "Betty Jo loves to get dressed up and have fun!" Photo of Geoffrey from Montana. It says, "Geoffrey likes to go out to eat!" Photo of Kaleb from Ohio. It says, "Kaleb loves cheering on OSU!" Photo of Mindy from Indiana. It says, "Mindy loves to color, sing, and sit outside!" Photo of Leon from Maryland. It says, "Leon enjoys watching the world news to keep up to date!" Photo of Kalen from Montana. It says, "Kalen loves to collect hot wheels!" Photo of Laura from Indiana. It says, "Laura loves to paint, dance, and have fun!" Photo of Dakota from Missouri. It says, "Dakota went to his first professional wrestling show! It was a dream come true to see his favorite wrestlers!"

New Business 

Benchmark is growing and we are excited to announce these new or expanded programs.

In Arkansas, we are expanding our Active Consulting work. We are working with PASSE organizations, including Total Care and CareSource, to increase the number of individuals served. In this program, we provide wraparound supports for individuals with complex needs and their providers, so they can maintain or improve their placements.

In Delaware, we have opened two specialized, enhanced supports group homes for individuals with complex behavioral needs. This is part of a pilot program with the state of Delaware. Our work has led to organic growth within Delaware’s existing Medicaid waiver, and we plan to open another group home in the state.

In Georgia, Gracewood transitional crisis homes are ready to open. Operating under AWRC, these four-bed homes will provide short-term placements for individuals with complex medical and behavioral support needs.

In Indiana, mobile crisis response is serving an additional county. Operating under AWRC, our mobile crisis response team began providing services to DeKalb, LaGrange, and Steuben counties in January 2023. In January 2024, we added Noble County and more counties will be added later this year.

In New Hampshire, we are making progress on our specialized residential program. The team has been working on purchasing homes, recruiting staff, building relationships with community partners, and meeting with referrals. Through this program, we will bring 40 New Hampshire residents back home from out-of-state placements so they can return to the communities and support networks in their home state.


What Lean Six Sigma belt level are you? 


Make your work more efficient and impactful by learning and using Lean Six Sigma (LSS) tools! Benchmark is committed to using Lean Six Sigma’s team-focused approach to eliminating waste and error and streamlining processes.

Is there a process in your day-to-day work that could be more efficient? Tell us about it: Click here.

Want to know more about LSS? Take the Lean Six Sigma White Belt course on the HUB, and contact Ben Harrison if you would like to receive further LSS training.



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!


Amanda Kearson, Developmental Therapy Specialist
Shelly Saltis, Developmental Therapy Specialist
Sari Rosenberg. Developmental Specialist

Allen Garfield, Registered Behavior Technician

Audrey Simmons, Licensed Clinical Staff
Ashley Morris, BCBA Supervisor
James Caswell, Licensed Clinical Staff
Damaiya Powell, CNA

Nicole Infante Forsythe, Clinical Manager
Halie Campbell, Supported Living Manager
Amber Bruns, Supported Living Supervisor
Deja Brown, Residential Manager
Phillip Boyd, Team Leader
Erika Legg, Activities Coordinator

Indiana (continued)
Douglas Rhoads, Lead Employment Consultant
Makale Shoaf, Team Leader
Jasper Hensley, Team Leader
Heather Graham, Supported Living Supervisor
Amanda Hensley, Team Leader
Shawntae Taylor, Director of HR Safety and Compliance
Imani Hines, Team Leader

Juanequa’ Hardieway, Lead Service Coordinator

New Jersey
Rose Gibbons, House Manager
Amber Johnson, Assistant Director
Elizabeth Razo-Ramos, Team Leader
Bundy Sanon, Team Leader

Shannah Schnur, Day Services Supervisor


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


Andrew Brown – 5
Andrew Kilpatrick – 5
Anthony Holmes – 5
Belinda Kachmann – 5
Beverly Marcus – 5
Brittney Woodward – 5
Candace Hall – 5
Charnita Walker – 5
Courtni Phillips – 5
Cynthia Stevens – 5
Elizabeth Fleszewski – 5
Elizabeth Hayes – 5
Ellisha Willis – 5
Jazmyne Fultz – 5
Jibria Waller – 5
Karina Alonso-Ferrari – 5
Keisha Gaston – 5
Kylee Hoot – 5
Latrece Wilcher – 5
Lea Rowe – 5
Lindsey Meyer – 5
Marie Jourdain – 5
Mary Brown – 5
McKenna Behny – 5
Megan Ryan – 5
Melissa Truesdell – 5
Miranda Breedlove – 5
Monique Nzumpatse – 5
Nancy Nicholson – 5
Ndubuisi Ijioma – 5
Nwabueze Okebata – 5
Rachel Keehn – 5
Rhonda Quarells – 5
Robin Simpson – 5
Rose Murigi – 5
Stephanie Foster – 5
Stephanie Perry – 5
Tabitha Hughes – 5
Tracy Ellis Small – 5
Virginia Mbugguss – 5
Weston Brubaker – 5
Yolanda Freeman – 5
Alisha Zephy – 6
Ann Tienter – 6
Brenda Buck – 6
C W Halfacre – 6
Catherine Nganga – 6
Christine DeBlauw – 6
Corri Brewer – 6
Cynthia Niezer – 6
Donald Converset – 6
Elsa Guillaume Pierre – 6
Emily Thomas – 6
Fellicia Bunch-Russell – 6
Francis Essilfie – 6
James Dieudonne – 6
Jennifer Shingler – 6
Joanna Cuevas – 6
Kathy Campbell – 6
Leslie Brenden – 6
Linda Gilbert – 6
Linda Sarfo – 6
Margaret Gramza – 6
Mary Ball – 6
Michael Mcvey – 6
Michael Minutilli – 6
Nicholas Zagaros – 6
Ramona Mott – 6
Ranease Rowe – 6
Rosemary Heugle – 6
Shatasha Thornton – 6
Stacy Major – 6
Stewart Boruff – 6
Tara Baker – 6
Theresa Bukowski – 6
Tiara Poindexter – 6
Wanda Winbush – 6
Alemtshay Gebeyehu – 7
Ange Bosley – 7
April Hopson – 7
Ashley DeBlauw – 7
Brennon Gaines – 7
Darla Micheal – 7
David Herrick – 7
Debbie Strickland – 7
Eleni Abera – 7
Gabrielle Christie – 7
James Ailstock – 7
Linda Jones – 7
Lucas Strohmenger – 7
Marc Rumpf – 7
Megan Chipman – 7
Michelle Kemerer – 7
Peter Wakaba – 7
Rachelle Hamilton – 7
Ricketta McCoy – 7
Rodney Butler – 7

Ronald Radford – 7
Tulisa Moorman – 7
Waidia Riddle – 7
Annabelle Revolorio – 8
Beteselam Bonka – 8
Brenda Tomlin – 8
Brittany Kamm – 8
Bunmi Akinmade – 8
Christina Morris – 8
Dashnique Beck – 8
Derrick Hunt – 8
Elizabeth Castillo – 8
Erica Robinson – 8
Jane Anderson – 8
Jean Crowe – 8
Jeffrey Keck – 8
Jenna Gobel – 8
John Briden – 8
Kacey Hoftiezer – 8
Karen Sudbeck – 8
Karri Saathoff – 8
Kathleen Staton – 8
Kelli Leitner – 8
Keyana Brooks – 8
Kimberlee Sanders – 8
Kristina Scherr – 8
Lawrence Jones – 8
Lisa Hanisch – 8
Marmiko DeCeita – 8
Mary Maina – 8
Mary Schroeder – 8
Melissa Martin-Schwarz – 8
Michael Bokatsch – 8
Michelle Parke – 8
Nancy Clancy – 8
Rachel Williams – 8
Rhonda Moore – 8
Rosie Thomas – 8
Stephanie Harvey – 8
Sue Sutton – 8
Susan Njenga – 8
Tacey Dunwoody – 8
Tamara Lehman – 8
Teresa Helland – 8
Terry Lynett – 8
Tyrus Brothers – 8
Yolanda Rias – 8
Abosede Opadiran – 9
Brenda Frank – 9
Byron Thomas – 9
Christine Carter – 9
Isabel Villanueva – 9
Issiac Carter – 9
Jerri Delong – 9
Mary Harrington – 9
Matte Innis – 9
Princess Apollo – 9
Rebecca Bodey – 9
Rotimi Adeleye – 9
Sandra Hampton – 9
Sharayah Ruble – 9
Tracey White – 9
Tracy Carbajal – 9
Yvonne Allen – 9
Amrit Jot-Khalsa – 10
Andrew Young – 10
Anna Marie Ensley – 10
Dedra Pickett – 10
Derrick McKinney – 10
Gloria Winston – 10
Hannah Maxson – 10
Helen Turner – 10
James Hilgemann – 10
Jeanette Hawks – 10
Jennifer Sims – 10
Juwanda Boughton – 10
Keith Wheat – 10
Kelley Duvall – 10
Lori Pettit – 10
Lucretia Campbell-Rogers – 10
Mamie Addison – 10
Mara Schwab – 10
Marinena Shirah – 10
Mia Maxey – 10
Priscilla Palmer – 10
Sean Farrelly – 10
Selina Popovich Evans – 10
Sonny Hughes – 10
Wayne Hill – 10
Abebe Mulat – 11
Allen Pfotenhauer – 11
Andrew Bushong – 11
Antoinette Thornton – 11
Davanda Talton – 11
Deborah Hatcher – 11
Ella Hooks – 11

Gregory Cox – 11
Gwendolyn Oglesby – 11
Jennifer McLaurin – 11
Joni Crocker – 11
Jose Galaviz – 11
Joseph Kageche – 11
Kristina Phillips – 11
Latesha Taylor – 11
Marissa Portee – 11
Mary Behrends – 11
Michael Dean – 11
Michael Rector – 11
Tangrill Varner – 11
Willean Frazer Gray – 11
Angela Jackson – 12
Bernadine Dominguez – 12
Darrell Masterson – 12
Davina Logan – 12
Irene Allen – 12
Jeffrey Rector – 12
Juanita Watson – 12
Maria Junk – 12
Nicko Benson – 12
Sedrick Totton – 12
Tai Rhodes – 12
Carey Baragiola – 13
Christopher Briggs – 13
Danielle Austin – 13
Masresha Adugna – 13
Nicole Headlee – 13
Patrick Kagarama – 13
Rachael Mitchell – 13
Shelley Campbell – 13
Wayne Cripps – 13
Deborah Tartaglia – 14
Elvira Loya – 14
Rebecca Jones – 14
Rita Griesdorn – 14
Sherry Royse – 14
Amanda Beeks – 15
Cecilia Rubio-Miramontes – 15
Howard Smith – 15
Kimberly Chestnut – 15
Miriam Kimani – 15
Olivia Alvarado – 15
Patricia Ibarra – 15
Paula Spall – 15
Stephen Mndalila – 15
Stephen Walker – 15
Teresa Ronquillo – 15
Barbara Handley – 16
Bernadette LaMaster – 16
Bree Cannon – 16
Cynthia House – 16
Garnett Goodwin – 16
Harold Kirby – 16
Kimberly Muhlenkamp – 16
Kris Cooley – 16
Lorraine Hall – 16
Marebate Batoma – 16
Mary Agba – 16
Peggy Fowlkes – 16
Wanda Hart – 16
Barbara Nakiganda – 17
Holly Cotton – 17
Jose Gonzalez – 17
Lucy Murei – 17
Misty Abbott – 17
Shelly Detcher – 17
Tomeka Smith – 17
Travis Boggs – 17
Glenda Agostino – 18
Carrie Moden – 20
Kathleen Bradshaw – 20
Melissa Holycross – 20
Thiola Moyo – 20
Tiffany Smith – 20
Carrie Perry – 21
Mai Bond – 21
Maureen Dow – 21
Jeffrey Birnell – 22
Julia Kill – 22
Lindsay Moore – 22
Ennette Gose – 23
Mark Flegge – 23
Linda Morrison – 24
Pamela Jenkins – 25
Lily Compton – 27
Lisa Rector – 27
Randy Hoium – 28

© Benchmark Human Services   |   Privacy Policy