In September, we celebrated and recognized some of our frontline heroes during National Direct Support Professionals Week. We wanted to give the families of our residents an opportunity to email us with their stories or thoughts about people who support their loved one.
Here are some of our submissions:
My son, Adam, has lived at 14 Woodlands for more than five years now. This year, more than any, during the coronavirus, has been very challenging. But because of the dedication of the staff in helping my son understand how to live without my weekly visits I have seen him adjust as I never believed he would.
Thank you for an opportunity to say how much I appreciate the staff members who work with him every day and help him move through the days, weeks and months, moving from one activity to another. They know his routine that keeps him calm, the foods he likes to eat, the clothes he likes to wear, the place he sits at the table, and where he needs to be at what time. They watch out for him when he is pacing or out of sorts and talk to him when he can’t find what he is looking for. They have a presence that calms him and helps him feel at home. He needs his home and his room and he needs his staff to help him with his activities of daily living and to keep him safe. When something upsets him he knows he can count on his staff to help him figure out what is bothering him and when he needs his space he knows he can sing or spend time on his computer or look at his books and that his staff will stay with him and let him be himself. He knows he can have what he needs. When he knows it is time for snack or a meal he knows he can count on his staff to be there for him and when he wants to go for a walk he knows he can ask and his staff will take him.
Thank you to Akintunde who has been with Adam since the beginning of coming to Woods and taught him so many things about living with autism – especially learning how to calm himself down. Thank you for Alfred who has been his tutor at Workshop and has remained his faithful caregiver, and understanding what he needs to help him stay calm – especially Adam wanting and not having Workshop all these months. Thank you for David who is a faithful caregiver when Adam’s regular staff is not available – he is so patient – his calm spirit gives Adam a safe and happy evening whenever he is under his care. John recently joined the men at 14 Woodlands and I have observed Adam on my last visit accepting him and even if he called him “Louis” I thought John took us for a nice walk to see the horses. I am so grateful for the women caregivers at 14 Woodlands also – Kula, Hattie and Rebecca – they are so kind to my son and join him when he is singing and I appreciate how they enjoy my son and he doesn’t go without their attention. I don’t know what I would have done without knowing that each of them has been there especially through the pandemic – a time when I could not be there to check on him, to see if his socks with holes are thrown away, to make sure his pillowcase and sheets are clean, to check if his favorite foods are there for him.
Before Adam goes to sleep every night, he goes out to the living room and says, “Goodnight ladies; goodnight gentlemen.” And he will be 27 years old this month.💗
I hope this letter is sufficient to show my appreciation. I miss my weekly visits and I pray for safety for these precious staff members and their families that they stay well as they continue to care for my son. Thank you.
p.s. On a final note, I personally would not have gotten through this time without the help of Adam’s care coordinator, Stacey. I know she is not a frontline worker, but for me (and Adam) she has been a constant source of comfort. I think she has been there for Adam in ways that I cannot and that is a great comfort to me. My zoom calls with my son help us so much. I know she does that for all of her clients as they let her, but it doesn’t take away from how much I appreciate her. The timing of her leaving TWE and coming to Woodlands was a gift to the Auerbachs and I am grateful.
Over the 23 years my daughter has been living at Woods, she has had countless staff that have been dedicated to help her achieve more independence, improve life skills, and guide her difficult behaviors. These tasks undoubtable have been difficult, laborious and exhausting.
During the current COVID pandemic, the staff have risen to the occasion to care for the clients at Woods with dedication, commitment and admiration. During this time, Jennifer transitioned to a new residential unit which undoubtedly was not only difficult for her but all the staff that worked with her. The staff went the extra mile to get her through the roughest of days and nights. To each staff and administrator that helped every step of the way, I can not express my appreciation enough.
It truly takes a community to guide Jennifer through her life and I would especially like to thank Jennifer’s current one-to-one staff. She has a strong group of devoted women that work day and night with her. Not only is Jennifer lucky to have each of these women in her life, her parents, family and Woods are fortunate too!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Mallie, Famata K., Shay, Famata G., Marcella (Marcie), JT, Maryanne, Niji, D. Wells, GEE, Teisha, Allena, Shay, and Ebony.
Certainly, I have missed someone in this list and if so I apologize and thank you as well! Jennifer shares special tidbits from her day about each of her wonderful staff that I thought you may like to read.
Mallie, Jennifer appreciates you sharing your coffee and always being fair with her.
Famata K., you have held a special place in Jennifer’s heart for many, many years. Your kind and friendly nature bonds her to you. And of course she likes talking about Africa with you!
Shay & Famata G., Jennifer tells me how nice you are to take walks with her.
Maryanne, you have known Jennifer from the earliest of her days at Woods. You are family to her!
JT, Jennifer tells me how sharing you are (she is especially happy when you share your cornbread!).
Marcie, Jennifer tells me how nice you are to her and she especially likes talking with your little sister. Thank you for sharing your family with her.
Wells, Jennifer loves talking with you about your family too!
GEE, Jennifer cannot say enough wonderful things about you! She loves it when you are her staff and I understand you often stay late to have Jennifer. Thank you!
Teisha, Jennifer loves talking with your daughter and hearing about your family.
Allena, Jennifer can’t wait to get some clothes from you. You are very kind to Jennifer!
Shay, Jennifer always tells me how nice you are to her!
Ebony, Jennifer tells me you are very generous and you have surprised her with some special food treats!
Thank each of you for bringing your best to Jennifer every single day. Words can’t really capture my gratitude but know that I appreciate all you do for her.
Thank you so much for caring for our brother Joseph who resides at Maplewood. The family appreciates your kindness, patience and passion. A special thank you to Shadrach, the family values and respect your opinion, you are constantly going above and beyond to ensure the success of his progress. Your support and generosity is a blessing Joseph is incredibly fortunate to have you as his Direct Support Professional
The Gilstrop’s Family
I will never be able to thank all the support staff members at Birchwood enough. My son Joe moved into Birchwood the day the quarantine started and they have done a phenomenal job making him feel at home. I have not seen my son since New Year’s and they have kept him happy and healthy. Melissa and Kathy are always just a phone call away. Room doesn’t permit me to mention everyone by name but you have arranged a birthday party, gone to the store, played games, gone on walks, encouraged exercise been a friend and many other things. You all are very special members of the William’s family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Liz Williams
Thanks for asking for honors for our amazing Woods-family members. Here are a few entries from family members of David James in Brown Hall – Kathy, Brenda, and Glenn.
Shari and Toni in Brown Hall have been with our family member since he first arrived at Woods over 30 years ago! They continue to be a warm part of our extended family. Especially through the pandemic, we’re amazed at their patience and dedication with so many constraints and precautions. They’ve stood by us through good times and bad, and we could not feel more blessed!
Our family member has been cared for at Brown Hall for over 30 years. Shamiese stands out as the most skilled and responsive team leader that our family has worked with. We’re so glad for her care and support!
We’ve just about adopted Myrna at Brown Hall – she knows our family member as well as we do, and cares for him with the same attention we would, and probably with more patience! When we called our family member while he was recovering from Covid 19, our relief was immense when it was Myrna who answered the phone there–we knew he was in good hands and he would be just fine.
Paul and I want to express our sincere thanks and gratitude for the heroic work done by our daughter’s team at Heatherwood.
Kara’s building houses many medically fragile individuals and there was tremendous concern about keeping everyone safe during this pandemic.
Woods administration did an outstanding job of proactively making decisions which would directly affect the health and safety of all residents.
PPE was provided, isolation buildings were available if the virus did impact anyone on campus. I was amazed when we heard that staff had agreed to “lock down” in Heatherwood to insure that Covid risk was kept to a bare minimum. Kara’s primary staff, Olivia and Marie, were two of several who locked down from March until July. We kept in contact through FaceTime and their commitment to Kara and her well being kept us going during a very difficult and uncertain time. The entire Heatherwood staff from supervisors to nurses to direct care did a phenomenal job of keeping our loved ones safe and cared for. We consider them all heroes. We are deeply grateful for all they have done in an extremely difficult point in time.
God bless each and every one of you and God bless Woods.!!
Good afternoon, in honor of National Direct Support Professionals Week, I would like to honor several Direct Support Professionals working in the Brown Hall Unit.
The individuals are Elisha, Francis, Savion, and one other individual who I can not remember his name because he was not Ashanti regular staff. He worked with Ashanti during the recent two week shutdown at Brown-Hall. Perhaps Abdullah can provide the gentlemen’s name who worked with Ashanti during this past week’s shutdown. He deserves an honorable mention. However, for the sake of giving proper recognition to the Direct Support Professionals regularly assigned to Ashanti and who I feel made a significant impact on my emotional well-being as a mother who found herself helpless during the surge of the Covid-19 crisis and when Ashanti battled Covid-19.
I want to first begin with Savion. Savion has been assigned to Ashanti for almost a year. He has worked diligently learning all of Ashanti’s needs. Savion has served Ashanti in numerous environments such as: the Brown-Hall Unit, Woods Day Program. TWE, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, doctor’s appointments and general outings. Savion advocates very well for Ashanti ensuring that the nurse, shift leaders and incoming staff receive information regarding changes or needs Ashanti may have. During the time of Ashanti’s’ hospitalization, Savion was very helpful with assisting the nurses and myself with behavior management and ensuring that Ashanti’s needs were being met. The Nurses at Robert Wood Johnson-Somerset Neurology unit all said that Savion’s help created a better outcome for myself, Ashanti and the nurses unit. They called him a Gem!!
I totally agree. I believe Savion’s greatest gift as a Direct Support Professional is his character and his ability to remain peaceful, compassionate, nonjudgmental during the most challenging times. I believe this helps Ashanti well-being and it certainly helps me.
Elisha is a very proactive dedicated Direct Support Professional who also has an understanding of Ashanti’s needs and mine. I say mine because he has the ability to follow through with information to address any concerns I may have as a parent. He works well with Ashanti and ensures that Ashanti’s needs are communicated well with shift leaders, managers, nurses and other Direct Support Professionals. Elisha makes sure Ashanti stays connected with me via frequent telephone calls and facetiming. During Ashanti battle with Covid-19 Elisha provided comfort to me by making sure whenever he was assigned to Ashanti I was able to communicate with Ashanti. He relayed any concerns I had to the nurses and managers. I truly appreciate all of the hard work performed by Elisha during this difficult time. I believe Elisha’s greatest contribution as a Direct Support Professional is his ability to communicate with Ashant, his ability to communicate with me regarding Ashanti and his ability to keep other staff well informed about Ashanti before he leaves for the day. I truly appreciate that Elisha works so hard to meet the needs of Ashanti. I salute him.
Francis is another hard-working, committed, compassionate and respectful Direct Support Professional staff who I am always grateful whenever I see his approach in working with Ashanti. He communicates with Ashanti in a calm manner that helps redirect Ashanti when he is experiencing behavioral challenges. I believe Francis’ mannerism and positive attitude helps Ashanti relax and refocus in a positive way. Francis’ commitment to serving Ashanti and other clients was highlighted during Ashanti battle with Covid-19. Francis is a part of Ashanti regular staff and was part of the first group of Brown-Hall Direct Professionals who were quarantined with Ashanti. I was so happy to learn that he was a part of Ashanti care during that difficult time. He worked with Ashanti from the beginning of the Covid-19 illness to the end. Francis made me feel like I was there with Ashanti because he provided up to date information along with the nurses ensuring that I was able to see Ashanti and know exactly how he was doing. He along with Elisha provided me with the information I needed as a mother to sleep at night. It gave me great comfort knowing that Elisha and Francis were with Ashanti during his sickness. As a mother it warms my heart knowing that Wood’s Services employ great individuals who are truly committed to the work and even more committed to the clients and families. It is a pleasure to always support Wood’s Services and the individuals that make this organization so great!!!! The employees are as good as its leaders. Therefore, I salute the administration and management at Woods services.
Thank you all for your service
Marzeter Lynn Moore
I would like to commend the staff at 166, as well as all of the therapists who stepped up & went over and above during this trying time.
They put in those extra miles to insure the clients were provided with safe activities that kept them occupied & engaged.
I know this could not have been an easy task.
I appreciate all of you and thank you for your dedication and caring.
Stay safe and healthy!
I just want to thank staff especially one in particular her name is Mercey she does a wonderful job taking care of my daughter Michelle … she’s in the Redwood building
Since it’s Direct Support Professionals week I wanted to send a message saying that my family and I will be forever grateful for all the dedication, knowledge, initiative, problem solving, care, tolerance, skills, constant educating, intuition, consistent positive attitude, creativity, and joy that these talented people have given of themselves for 40+ years to my brother. They provide him with the best quality of life possible, and they do it with a smile. They are the most remarkable people I know. Thank you and please know that we do appreciate the thousands of sacrifices and efforts you put forward over the course of your careers. My brother has been saved hundreds of times over the years by them and he continues to thrive as best as his disabilities allow because of their integrity.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Ella and Nick
Thank you to all the wonderful staff at Woods. From the residential support staff to the medical staff to the special people who stepped in to care for residents, including Adam… who were diagnosed with Covid and had to be quarantined.
Finally, thank you to everyone at Woods for organizing family visits. We know it is not easy to make this safe, but it is so important for the residents and families to be able to touch base, especially when phone communication is not easy and online communication is not realistic.
It was very frightening for all of us, especially for Adam when he was diagnosed with Covid. It felt as though we were stepping into the great unknown. How would he manage? Fortunately, Woods gave him excellent care and he pulled through. We had excellent communication throughout.
Special thanks to Vicki for always being available to speak to us.
Larry, Howard, Nancy, Dina and Sam
Ella and Nick Shelton
How do you thank all the people who have made a difference in your loved one’s life???? Well, you just thank them all!!!
These times are “a changing” and I know our family members are in kind, loyal and compassionate hands.
It’s hard to single out just one person since I believe it “takes a village” to make a difference and the staff at Woods are committed and dedicated to making this happen.
I dedicate the song “To Sir With Love” to all the wonderful people who change lives everyday.
Thanks for making our world a better place!!!!! Debbie McGowan
Dear Woods services,
I want to thank all of the wonderful and caring professionals who directly support my son Jeremy … at 15 Woodlands.
I appreciate them all so much.
I especially want to mention Lisa who always shows her concern for Jeremy’s needs,communicates them and makes his room comfortable as I would if he were living at home for which I am grateful. And Jeremy is very happy around her!!!
She is wonderful!!!
Please see iRun for Val and staff on the 2020 virtual run for Woodside as well as the video that I have sent and posted online regarding all of the people that we are thankful for. Here is a picture of our most recent angel Aaron taking Val for a nature walk Aaron Saye Deon and Walter have really gone above and beyond during this pandemic to keep Val safe and happy.
As you know, I’m one of the more outspoken parents regarding my thoughts on Kate’s services and care. Well, since I visited Woods last Friday, I have been meaning to write to you about my wonderful experience. I had the pleasure of meeting two recreation therapists who were working with the animals at the time of our visit, Jen and Julie. After speaking with them, I knew what a fantastic job they are doing with the clients. It’s hard to express but the bottom line is that I realized that my daughter has so many more interesting activities available to her at Woods than she would have if living in our home, particularly during this pandemic. I’m sorry that I can’t better express what the visit meant to both myself and my husband, who was not there but heard the story secondhand. Please, if there is any way that we can support the recreation department directly, I would like to know about it.
While I’m relaying these thoughts, I would be remiss to not mention a few things…Kate’s clinician, Lora, who was available and checked in on her clients while out of work for weeks due to a personal family matter. She went above and beyond what’s expected. Another shout out has to go to Kate’s staff, who I have referred to as the A-team, particularly Laura, who is so great at her job and such a lovely person. Lastly, I must say that Miss Linda, who has known Kate since she started at Woods, is a great leader who I know always has my daughter under her watchful eye and has her best interests at heart.
Thank you, thank you.