Page 7 - Work Force November 2019
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Going above and beyond to provide quality care: Profiles of Direct Support Professionals
Editor’s Note: As reported in the October edition, the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) recently
honored a group of direct support professionals across the state
for their outstanding service and dedication to the individuals they
serve. In this and in upcoming to provide high-quality care to editions, we will feature profiles individuals.
of these outstanding workers who
go above and beyond every day
Hudson Valley DDSO Local member Paula Alvarez appreciated being named as a Direct Support Professional of the Year, but was quick to point out that successful work in OPWDD is the result of strong teamwork.
“There are people out there who do a great job,” she said. “I have a wonderful staff who are dedicated.”
Co-workers pointed out Alvarez’s patience and persistence when helping individuals build life skills and become self-sufficient.
They pointed out one woman residing in the group home where Alvarez works, who was primarily non-verbal and required a substantial amount of help. Alvarez patiently devoted time to helping that individual reach her full potential.
“We had an individual who came into our home who didn’t know how to dress herself. She really didn’t
speak too much,” Alvarez said. “It was rewarding to help her become more independent. If our individuals need assistance, we’re here, but we let them try to do things first.”
Alvarez has been with OPWDD for decades and remembers when individuals residing on what was then the campus of the Letchworth Developmental Center (now Hudson Valley DDSO) were transitioned
into the community, where to this day they reside in group homes in residential neighborhoods.
“They’ve all blossomed being out there in the community,” Alvarez said. “There is a lot of support for
us when we’re out in the community doing things with our individuals. It has made me feel blessed that people really care.”
Speaking about CSEA, Alvarez said she has not only appreciated our union being there for workers as it
relates to daily workplace issues, but she also values the benefits we have negotiated for our members.
Those benefits have been crucial for her family, as Alvarez suffered a major medical incident that left her in the hospital for two months and out of work for an extended period of time. Her husband also had serious health issues, so Alvarez is especially grateful for our health benefits.
“I was in the hospital for over two months,” Alvarez said. “Our health insurance saved my life. I’m grateful that our union also has our backs when it comes to preserving good health insurance, because it’s made such a difference for my husband and me. For workers coming here, that insurance is a real draw, especially for people with kids.”
Alvarez: ‘I’m grateful our union has our backs’
Lewis: ‘I always challenge people to find that PMA’
— Jessica Ladlee
 After decades of working for Hudson Valley DDSO, co-workers are continually impressed by how Alan Lewis shows up to work with plenty of energy and a smile on his face.
It’s due to what Lewis calls ‘PMA.’
“I always challenge people, when you wake up, find that PMA: Positive Mental Attitude,” Lewis said. “It allows me to give a piece of myself to these individuals who I feel are well deserving of it.”
Lewis makes it his mission to keep his individuals engaged in as many activities as possible. Many nights, Lewis and the individuals in his care walk around the track at the local high school as its sports team
The team has come to appreciate
their presence, and Lewis and his individuals were cheering them on from Orange County as they made it to state championships this year in Syracuse.
“We’ll have plenty of time later to rest, so let’s live,” Lewis said. “I try to get my individuals doing anything that involves outdoor recreation. We’ve been sailing on the Clearwater. We go to Yankees, Giants and Jets games. We’ve gone to plays in New York City.”
Lewis, who oversees a group home, said he feels having a positive attitude has a ripple effect on co-workers.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” he said. “If you get it right, other people in other houses want to see why things are working well for us.”
Having a strong union behind him allows Lewis to devote himself fully to his work, something Lewis has explained to younger workers.
“We can work knowing we have our union behind us,” he said. “[Our union is] there for protection and guidance. It pays for itself, really. What’s better than having a union negotiating on our behalf? Our union is watching out for us and that is important.”
— Jessica Ladlee
 November 2019
The Work Force 7

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