Barry King

Barry, Chris & Terrell

Barry King began his journey at WORKTEC 20 years ago as a participant in the supported employment program. Barry made great strides and eventually began working part-time in a supervisory direct care position at a group home for adult males with developmental disabilities.  After attending classes and passing rigorous testing, Barry became a Certified Peer Specialist; enabling him to assist others in realizing their potential.  

Barry serves as a role model for what participants can achieve if they pursue both recovery and an active life in the community. With his unique perspective, Barry is able to help people integrate into a life of work and success. He assists people in making good choices about where to work, how to spend their hard-earned money, and where to live. By encouraging people to achieve, he has become a person others look up to. Barry attends as many as 40 hours of training throughout the year to keep informed about new trends in direct support. He sees work as a way for people to be valued as employees, not looked at as an individual with a disability. Barry has said, “I am the evidence,” proof that through hard work, and the willingness to embrace the curves life may throw, one can build character and succeed. 

Over the last two years, Barry has suffered both a devastating motorcycle accident, and a heart attack. The accident could have left him paralyzed. After a long recovery period, he was able to get back to work at WORKTEC. He took the heart attack as a lesson, and quit smoking. By continuing to thrive through it all, he has become an inspiration to both participants and coworkers at WORKTEC. His motto, “you can’t keep a good man down,” has served him well, and will continue to benefit the people he supports. 

“I started my career with BHDD in 1997. I worked part time in a residential program for persons with Behavioral Health issues. My job was rewarding because I got to have fun working with others like myself. I took them on recreational activities such as concerts, museums, etc. After one year I decided to work full time and moved to a group home with three males with developmental disabilities. I learned that they got better by taking recreational trips in the community and participating in activities. What these individuals needed was involvement with the community. I was helping peers to enjoy the satisfaction of being included in their own recovery by making choices. I made another move to WORKETEC. Working with others helps me too. It’s like I tell my peers, “You guys make my job easy because we are able to do what we like to do.” That is, work and have the means to participate in the community. I let it be known that work is a part of becoming a contributing member of society. The next step is to help others. I have taken people on trips, to AA meetings, to the beach, etc. This is what makes my job fun and entertaining, to help people with a disability to recover and look at possibilities they may not have thought of before. I recommend the field of direct support for anyone who has a desire to help others succeed. The amount of energy you put towards improving the lives of others will come back to you tenfold if this is what you choose to do with your life.” Barry King

Bertha Johnson

Bertha & Friends

Every other weekend, Bertha Johnson starts her 40 hour live-in shift at Community Opportunity Center. Bertha enters Plymouth Opportunity House, and the 15 men and women who live there light up, as if a celebrity has just entered their home. The men carry in her luggage, and the women are eager to chat about the weekend plans. Bertha is greeted with hugs and smiles before she can take off her coat. 

Although weekends at Plymouth Opportunity House are action packed with concerts in the park, bowling, church, and shopping, Bertha always has time to give each individual her undivided attention. For 14 years, Bertha has displayed an extraordinary ability to make the people around her feel supported and happy. 

While being enormously patient and graceful, Bertha is able to step into any situation and get the job done. Her coworkers often look to Bertha for her support as she is often heard giving pep talks and advice. Her combination of experience, training, dedication and compassion has made her a role model and she brings out the best in everyone. 

“Back in 1996 when I applied to work at COC I was asked to write a paragraph expressing my thoughts on how residential options and supports should be designed with/for people with developmental disabilities and wrote: I think residential supports should be designed for people with disabilities with patience, love and care. They should be treated as equals and not discriminated against because of their condition. They should have love and support from the employees. I guess I have never wavered from what I wrote all those years ago, and believe if someone wants to be a direct care worker they must enjoy people, want to teach them to be more independent and offer much love, support and choice. I have always believed that you must do what is best for your folks even if it means driving to five different churches on Sunday mornings so everyone can be where they want to worship. It is about wanting to make people happy, cooking meals they enjoy, taking them places they want to go and ensuring they are happy. I always wanted to be a nurse and this is the closest thing I could find where I could take care of people. We are a family and I miss everyone when I am not here.”  Bertha Johnson

Dytra Hales

Dytra & Ron

For over nine years Dytra Hales has been a person-centered, respectful and dedicated Direct Support Professional at Individual Support Systems. For the past seven years, Dytra has been supporting Ron, a 52 year-old man with developmental and physical disabilities. 

The consistency and stability provided by Dytra’s support provides Ron with a life that is fulfilling and productive. Dytra appreciates Ron’s individuality and has a unique understanding of the balance he requires between privacy and the importance of supporting him through difficult times. With Dytra’s encouragement to express his opinions, Ron gained control of the choices he makes creating a positive environment. Empowering Ron with these skills also taught him to address conflicts with others instead of feeling resentment leading to more positive behaviors and choices. Dytra also teaches Ron to independently complete his household chores increasing his confidence. 

By accompanying Ron on a variety of community activities, he has become a regular at several local coffee shops, enjoys the zoo, the YMCA, and also shops for his own clothes and groceries. As a result, Ron has been able to maintain employment at a restaurant rolling silverware twice a week which has been very rewarding. Dytra also encourages him to maintain contact with his friends and family. She continues to respect Ron in all aspects of his life. 

Dytra completed the Registered Apprenticeship Program for Direct Support Professionals, is a registered Journey Worker and finished 40 lessons in the College of Direct Support. In June 2010, she won five awards for excellence in Direct Support presented by the Kansas Mobilizing for Workforce Change group. 

Dytra has been a positive role model for her co-workers and conducts herself with professionalism. She treats all people with dignity and respect. Her ability to model valued behaviors to her co-workers has gone a long way to Ron’s supporters. In Ron’s own words; “She makes me feel good inside. I can do things for myself. We can be open with each other. She is a very sweet person and I have come a long way working with her. She treats me like family.” 

“Many people who have developmental disabilities do not have many family members or friends that are a part of their lives on a daily basis. Therefore, they depend on Direct Support Professionals to be a constant in their lives… Ron and I have become close over the years and he often tells me that he looks at me as if I were his ‘second mom’ even though I am much younger than him. It is comments like those that reassure me what I am doing as a DSP is extremely important.  I am a firm believer that in order to be considered a ‘successful’ DSP you not only have to be an open-minded person, but also have a big heart. I would say to anyone who is looking for a career as a DSP to grasp at the opportunity to change someone’s life.” Dytra Hales

Tookey & Sharon

At Frontier Community Services, Supamas “Tookey” Wongkumheang is an employee the agency wishes they could clone 100 times over.  Tookey puts her whole heart into her job and her dedication never wavers. 

Tookey has been selected as employee of the month twice, and if she was put in all the homes that request her, she’d be working 168 hours per week. Tookey’s warm smile and positive attitude lifts the sprits of those she supports, even on their worst days. Tookey advocates for the people she supports, immediately notifying her superiors when she observes a need in someone’s home. She never hesitates to ask for additional instruction regarding someone’s personal care. 

Consumers at Frontier Community Services describe Tookey as a blessing, and say they could not imagine their life without her. Tookey goes above and beyond her duties, coming in at a moment’s notice for an emergency on her day off, helping with personal care, shopping, running errands, taking people to appointments, preparing meals and helping with house work. The warm nature of the care she provides is unmatched and has brought an immeasurable amount of joy into the lives of those served. 

“In our community there are a lot of senior people with disabilities and they need daily assistance. Personal care assistance at home is one of the careers in which you can help disabled people and help your community. I work with Frontier Community Services and helping people in their homes. I love and enjoy my job. I cannot think of any other occupation where I could be more satisfied. Elderly people have a lot of experience and I always enjoy hearing their stories and sometimes I learn a lot about the people I take care of.  I want to see my community and the people who live here healthier and able to see more of the area they live in. This is possible with the help of caregivers. Without caregivers a lot more people would not be able to live in their homes that they have shared with their families and friends. This means a lot to the people I help, and it means a lot to me.” Tookey

Wilton Robinson

Wilton & Ryan

Wilton Robinson has been employed at the AHRC Nassau for almost two years. As a Job Coach in the Supported Employment program, he remains dedicated to ensuring quality outcomes for the individual he supports. 

Wilton provides one-to-one support for an individual named Ryan at a community worksite location. Ryan has been working for an AMF Bowling Center as a part time maintenance worker. After only a few months of employment Ryan became part of the team at AMF, and began independently seeking new tasks. Although Ryan struggles with social aspects of his work place duties, under the guidance of Wilton, he is able to interact in a fun environment with coworkers his age. This has greatly increased his self esteem. Wilton has helped to instill a sense of responsibility in Ryan that has taught him the benefits of being a hard working and dedicated employee. 

Wilton’s “can do” attitude serves as a role model for his peers as well as the individual he supports. Wilton is receptive to learning. He regularly attends trainings and workshops and also shadows other Supported Employment staff. He accepts additional responsibility and assignments with a smile, often volunteering to provide extra assistance in other departments. It is no surprise his peers nominated him for “Employee of the Quarter.”

Wilton is a caring and compassionate DSP who shows initiative and selflessness when working with the people he supports. His passion and sincerity are an inspiration to many. 

“Working with people with disabilities is different from the other jobs I’ve had in the past. You learn about other individuals and can see that they are just like you and me. You can talk with them and have conversations to learn more about them as a person. The more time you spend with a person like Ryan who I assist at his job, the more you learn about them as a person and you learn how to help him better. It is important to have a job that makes you happy, it is a blessing to work here at AHRC and help people each day. I would recommend a job as a direct support professional to anyone that has a heart and the patience to help others.” Wilton Robinson

Nick McMellen

Nick working with Michael & Marjorie on mural installation

With a desire to help others realize their creative strengths, Nick McMellen has been a successful Fine and Visual Arts teacher at Short Center South for the past five years. 

A big part of Nick’s success is his ability to tailor his teaching methods to each person’s unique learning style. For visual learners, he provides several demonstrations. For those who use wheelchairs, he built special easels enabling all to participate independently. Nick creates a supportive and safe environment where students have the freedom to express themselves with printmaking, drawing and painting. Some have even been able to learn basic linoleum block and wood cutting techniques. Nick also developed an archival photography class in order to put a digital archive of student artwork in place. With that work, he created a beautiful hard-back book featuring 5 artists from the organization.  Nick’s drive is fueled by his commitment to student growth, self-esteem and independence. 

Nick’s dedication to his students goes beyond the walls of his classroom. He goes out of his way to advocate for students’ personal needs. Nick has worked with several care homes and social workers to help students receive a better living environment. He also works on fundraisers to support Short Center South. Two years ago, Nick was appointed “Safety Officer.” This title allows Nick to carry out his mission to reduce clutter and increase safety, ensuring each classroom is accessible for all students. 

Nick’s gentleness and approachability engenders trust in his students. He sees each person as a unique individual with his or her own talents and opinions. A true leader and role model, Nick is a DSP who will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of people with developmental disabilities. 

“In February, 2006 I was offered a job as a Direct Support Professional for adults with developmental disabilities not knowing what was in store for me. What I discovered has changed my life forever because for the first time I finally found employment that makes me happy. Not many people can say that. I have found unconditional support and lasting friendships among my colleagues and my students. The students I serve are the most challenging, courageous, determined, joyful, lovable, thoughtful human beings that I have ever had the privilege of knowing or teaching. I became a DSP while earning my credential to teach Art and Social Science. Education has been a big part of my life and I never stop learning. I try to encourage my students to do the same, regardless of who they are or where they come from. Education is often regarded as a noble profession because it takes incredible amounts of patience and most people don’t see the rewards right away. I think, rather, education should be regarded as a labor of love because it provides us with an opportunity to connect with others, especially those who need us the most.” Nick McMellen

Samuel Hundeyin

Samuel & Nicholas

Samuel Hundeyin came to the United States from Nigeria. In 1999, he became a Residential Counselor at Melmark, Inc.  After a mere three months of employment he earned a promotion to Lead Staff.  Samuel’s fierce desire to foster positive outcomes for peopled served inspired him to enroll in the Masters of Human Services Program at the Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. By accepting a position as a Behavior Specialist, he continues to work directly with individuals, helping to uncover their strengths while increasing their independence. 

For several years, Samuel has volunteered in the Peer Mentor Program where he is able to guide new DSPs with his immense knowledge and natural ability to connect with the people he supports. Samuel’s prevalent leadership qualities, self-determination and craving for success not only results in an exemplary level of direct support, but also creates an excellent mentor for his peers. Samuel always has a positive attitude regardless of what his day brings. His demeanor is felt among the clients he is supporting, and results in favorable outcomes for all. Samuel’s genuine care for people served shines through in every task he completes. 

Samuel is the first to volunteer when a student is having a difficult day, step in for another staff if they need a break, or stay after work to complete data and transfer of supervision to the next DSP starting their shift. His flexibility is indicative of his commitment to the people he supports.  Samuel’s unique passion for what he does at Melmark goes a long way in creating success for individuals with developmental disabilities. His dedication and hard work create a lasting impact on the lives of many.

“Working as a direct caregiver in the field of human services is highly rewarding. As a direct caregiver, one is given the opportunity to care and help those who are in need of assistance in performing activities of daily living and remaining safe. A direct caregiver is given the responsibility of playing multiple roles of: advocate, playmate, teacher, sibling, clinician, and more importantly, parent. It is a thing of joy to help those individuals who are constantly in need for help. Being a direct caregiver to individuals with developmental disabilities is not by only priceless, but a higher call to duty. The bond and trusting relationships developed as direct caregivers with the individuals we serve is everlasting. No other career could provide such opportunities. Commit to having a career as a direct caregiver. It is a decision you will not regret.” Samuel Hundeyin


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.