It's been a difficult year for everyone, and so a local organization is making sure that it recognizes and celebrates the hard work of its employees, even if that recognition might look different than it has in years past.
This week marks Developmental Service Professional (DSP) appreciation week, and where Community Living Fort Frances and District (CLFFD) usually throws a barbecue and party for its workers, this year must be different, but that shouldn't take away from the recognition.
“We got in on it for the first year, and we've been trying to do something every year, and this year it's a little more challenging,” said CLFFD's Kim LePine.
“But we're going to have small groups in different areas, have some treats in recognition. All the supervisors have written a little note, what we appreciate about our DSPs and it's going to be posted in each of the work areas for each of the supervisors, with pictures, just recognizing that it has been a challenge this year and the staff still have to come, they're no different from anybody else.”
In order to keep to COVID related safety precautions, the
LePine noted that the organization's DSPs have continued to do excellent work throughout the pandemic, and explained that most of the time the general public doesn't even notice when someone is out in the community with a support worker, which CLFFD CEO Alanna Barr said is exactly the point, even as it lowers the visibility of the DSP, which can impact the way the community understands their importance.
“If the community doesn't really notice a support worker out with an individual, that means they're just having an ordinary day like everybody else,” Barr explained.
“So it's both a plus and a minus in some respects because when you're just fitting into the community, that's a positive, but people might not recognize that this is somebody working to provide someone support in order for them to do whatever it is they want to do in the community.”
With a role that operates at its best when it goes unnoticed, it's difficult to sometimes parse out what a DSP actually does, but both LePine and Barr are blunt about the value they have to the people who rely on them.
“You name it, they do it,” LePine said.
“They provide the supports necessary for somebody to live as independently as possible in the community, whatever that takes,” Barr added.
Added into the mix of an already demanding role are the new restrictions that have arisen due to the pandemic, which LePine said their DSPs are handling with aplomb.
“The staff are doing a lot of training on masks and hand washing and all those things on a regular basis right now,” she said.
“So it's the whole gamut. Some people understand and they just need help understanding some things and why we're doing things and some people we have to support and keep that distance because they can't wear a mask or can't remove the mask on their own so they can't wear them. Right now it's a lot of safety.”
Even as the safety remains top of mind, both LePine and Barr said that not much else has changed in response to the pandemic apart from things becoming a bit more restrictive, which in turn pushed DSP's to become more creative.
“We're staying in more, finding creative things to do at home,” LePine said.
“Faith [Moen] did a number of art projects that were all sort of virtual,” Barr added.
“We did an online Bingo activity and had prizes for people to participate. So we've done things to allow people to have some excitement or something to look forward to all along.”
“Pretty much everyone has, or has access to, a computer so there have been lots of links to go on and participate in or do, those kinds of things,” LePine continued.
“Even the families have been really supportive as well, and finding ways that they can safely visit and not put people at risk, lots of phone calls, ZOOM, and just taking a lawn chair and you sit six feet apart outside. Things like that, but still promoting safety.”
Recognition of Community Living's DSPs will take place spread out across the week in order to ensure the safety of all involved and adhere to social distancing and indoor restrictions, and while existing employees are being celebrated, CLFFD is always on the lookout for more dedicated souls.
“We have excellent staff in general doing great work all the time,” Barr said.
“And we're still looking for more,” LePine added.
“Exactly,” Barr agreed.
“We're looking for 24 staff who want to make a difference in the world. Who want to make a difference every day.”
For more information on Community Living Fort Frances and District visit their website at https://www.communitylivingfortfrances.com.