Debra Richard earns The Arc of Illinois’ Direct Service Professional Award
Debra Richard, a residential supervisor at Centerstone, was recently honored with The Arc of Illinois’ Direct Services Professional Award for her outstanding, dedicated, direct care service and support to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Nominations were open in early 2020, and Debra was selected as one of 10 finalists in early April. The winner was to be announced during The Arc of Illinois’ Annual Convention in late April. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the convention was postponed and moved to a virtual format in June.
“Words cannot convey what it means to be nominated and to win the award,” Richard said.
Richard was nominated for the award by Amanda McClellan, Centerstone residential manager, and Angie Robison, Centerstone residential coordinator.
“Debbie cares for the residents daily in a way that changes their lives,” McClellan said. “She goes beyond in her care of our residents. Many of our clients do not have family, and she is their family.”
McClellan listed some of the ways in which Richard “goes beyond in her care for the residents.”
Richard’s kind heart is also felt by her co-workers.
- She knows all of their favorite foods and prepares those items often.
- She plants a garden with the residents annually and works with them to care for the plants.
- She gives them items from her own lunch box. She packs extra items that she knows they like.
- She teaches them new skills each day.
- In November, a resident passed away. Debbie spent time making a flower arrangement for his gravestone with his favorite plants. She also arranged to have his headstone donated quickly. She collected, downloaded, and arranged hundreds of photos for a photo collage to honor him.
- One of our residents is diabetic, and over time, Debbie has educated her on carb counting and controlling her diet, minimizing her insulin needs.
- She knows one of the residents likes stuffed animals that talk, so she has purchased some for her when she is “having a tough day” or needs an increase in medical care.
“One of her co-workers’ husband was diagnosed with cancer, so she went to their home and mowed their lawn,” McClellan said. “When he passed, Debbie sat at the funeral home with her co-worker and helped with their young child.”
Richard has been a Direct Services Professional (DSP) for 16 years. She has worked with the developmentally disabled population for 26 years.
“I started in 1986 as an activity director at a nursing home, where I stayed for 10 years,” Richard said. “Then I started another job with a wholesale flower company but continued to communicate a lot with the residents of the nursing home. I would make up fresh flower arrangements for the residents and deliver them. They liked that.”
Richard missed working with those with developmental disabilities more and more, so in 2004, she began working for Centerstone.
“I love to cook and to see that others enjoy it. That makes me happy,” Richard said. “I love learning what they like to eat, and I love seeing that smile on their faces.”
This work is not about winning an award,” she said. “This job is about having a heart and caring for the residents. The residents are like my family. All they want is someone to love them, hug them, or just tell them they did a good job.”
Richard was officially awarded the Direct Support Professional Award during The Arc of Illinois’ 70th Annual Convention on Friday, June 12.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure at this time, almost all appointments at Centerstone are being conducted via telephone or telehealth (video). For more information, call 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) or visit centerstone.org/covid19/.
Centerstone is a not-for-profit health care organization dedicated to delivering care that changes people’s lives. We provide mental health and substance use treatment, education and support to communities in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee and additionally offer individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities life skills development, employment and housing services. Nationally, we have specialized programs for service members, veterans and their loved ones, and develop employee assistance programs for businesses of all sizes. Our research institute improves behavioral healthcare through research and technology, and our foundation secures philanthropic resources to support our work. For more information, visit www.centerstone.org.
About The Arc of Illinois
Arc of Illinois, a social services organization, helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For more information, visit www.thearcofil.org.