September 11th through 17th is National Direct Support Professionals Week. Anderson Center for Autism, who employ more than 500 DSPs, plan their annual staff dinner to coincide with DSP week. Held on September 8th at the Grandview in Poughkeepsie, it was also the setting to debut a new award, the Direct Support Professional Heart Award, donated by iHeart Radio.
Neil Pollack, CEO of Anderson Center for Autism said, “This new award will be presented to a full time Direct Support Professional who optimizes the quality of life of the people we serve and also creates or maintains a caring and supporting work environment for his/her peers. What is unique about this award is that our staff has nominated their peers and selected the winner!”
Chuck Benfer from iHeart Radio presented the 2016 Direct Support Professional Heart Award to Anderson Staffer, Colleen Lewis, who works within Anderson Center for Autism’s Education Center. Benfer commented: “Colleen improves the quality of life for all of the students whom she works with. Colleen takes the time to get to know each individual so she can have a better understanding of their needs, goals…and very importantly, their likes and dislikes. She is always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Colleen helps with the after school chorus program, as well as the chorus during school hours. She shows compassion and empathy to all of her students, as well as encouraging them to reach their maximum potentials in every area… What is even more special about Colleen, is that she does this all with a smile on her face and warmth in her heart without ever expecting anything in return.” Along with the award, Lewis received gifts equal to almost $1,000.
The evening’s program included highlighting two other outstanding staff members who were nominated by their peers: Andrew Overton, a Day Hab instructor at Anderson’s West Road LifeLong Learning Center in Hyde Park, NY and Kurt Ritters, a shift supervisor at Anderson’s East Meadowbrook IRA in Rhinebeck, NY. Other awards were given for longevity of service at Anderson Center for Autism.