Staff member Beulah shares why Progress is important to her, and more.
Progress is a member of the statewide membership association TNCO (Tennessee Community Organizations). The mission of TNCO (www.TNCO.org) is "to promote the growth and development of service provider agencies and to advance the quality of support for individuals with disabilities." TNCO is currently lobbying legislators to raise the wage of Direct Support Professionals to $15 an hour, and Progress along with agencies across the state are arranging meetings with legislators to discuss Senate Bill 114 and House Bill 130.
To learn more about the work of Direct Support Professionals, watch the video below featuring Progress DSPs and persons supported.
When Monisha talks about Billy and Robert, it’s clear she knows just about everything about them. She knows their idiosyncrasies, their strengths and their quirks. She knows who will usually offer a traffic report in the morning, and she knows who’s keeping tabs on the latest sports teams. She knows their histories and families, their work history, but most importantly she knows them.
“They’re like my brothers,” she explained one evening. What started out as a typical companion/roommate setup grew into a beautiful friendship, full of nurture and support from all parties. “They give me so much joy and have helped me through difficult times, in the same way I try to help them.”
Companions are the lifeblood of what Progress does. The people supported through Progress rely on companions to help them live as independently as possible. Companions cook meals, provide transportation to appointments, manage household maintenance, ensure the safety of each resident, and complete many other countless tasks on a daily basis. What is arguably most inspirational however, is the support system companions provide through life’s ups and downs. Companions are there every single day. On good days households may be bursting with laughter, and on other days, companions may be consoling their residents through difficult experiences or helping them navigate challenging behaviors. What is often unexpected though, is the ability for companions to feel that same familial support returned to them from the people they’re caring for.
Monisha was the first to acknowledge that she and the guys have had a rough year. Their house has had its share of difficult times recently. Earlier in the year Monisha’s sister passed away, Billy’s sister passed away unexpectedly, then Monisha’s mother became sick, and her son was diagnosed with a disability.
One day Billy caught Monisha crying, and told her everything would be alright. “They’ll come in and tell jokes,” Monisha explained with a smile.
“Laughing is better than crying.” Billy chimed in.
“When my son was diagnosed with a disability, at first I cried because I didn’t know how to handle it. These guys were a huge support for me, though.” Monisha’s son and husband live close by, and they visit the house regularly. Billy and Robert have an especially close relationship with Monisha’s son. “Robert is like a big brother and makes sure my son’s homework gets done. Billy likes to teach my son about the bible, as he’s attending a Christian academy. They’ll watch tv together.” The support Monisha received from Billy and Robert was a surprise that she never expected from the people she was responsible for caring for.
“I look at it as a big family.” Billy added.
“I take pride in what I do. A lot of people see it as a job. It is my life.” Monisha added that caring for her autistic brother while growing up played a big factor in her desire to help others today.
Like many companion homes, theirs operates like a well-oiled machine, with everyone playing a part in the day-to-day household responsibilities. Monisha explained that both of the guys assist with lots of things. Billy dusts, Robert does laundry. When Monisha takes the garbage out, Billy has often changed the bag before she’s back inside. Over the last year the guys have become even more independent & take extra pride in their home.
“We are like a family. We cook together and eat together. I cook for them, and do for them like I do at home. My husband cooks for them too, he loves them. If I’ve been out of town for a few days, I’m so happy to be back and I’ll say, ‘Honeys I’m home!’ and hug them.”
Billy and Robert agreed that Monisha is a “good lady, a good cook, a good mother, and a great person to talk to.”
“We’ve been through it all, but these guys keep me strong.”
The friendship that Monisha, Billy and Robert share is a powerful example of the types of relationships that can develop between companions and individuals. The bonds that form are often able to elevate all parties during life’s challenges. Monisha, Billy and Robert serve as an example of the fact that meaningful connections sometimes grow in unexpected places, and that support is never a one-way street.
Lily Wojcik, PR/Events Manager Progress
It takes a special kind of person to work with people with intellectual disabilities, and Progress employs some of the best in the business. One of these employees is Ron Houston, who has been the Day Program Manager at Progress for nine years. Ron is hard working, down to earth, and is quick to laugh at any joke thrown his way. He manages a variety of aspects of the day program, and overall ensures that staff and clients are successfully participating in community activities throughout the day. He considers the many clients of Progress his friends, and when asked what he likes most about his job, he explains that it’s “being able to interact with the clients and meeting their needs” that brings him the most joy in a day.
Staff have admired his tenacity and devotion to the clients for many years, as he is often the first to be recommended for awards nominations or employee accolades. One staff member shared the following:
“Ron is one of those managers that rarely misses a day of work, even when he sick. He arrives very early every morning to get extra work done so he can focus on each individual and their needs once they arrive to the day program. He is always client focused when it comes to the individual’s needs. He works hard to ensure that the staff he hires will be compatible with the individual’s needs and personality. He is constantly juggling many roles here at Progress and does each with professional attitude. If you ever walk into the day program it is clear to see that the individuals and all the staff, pretty much everyone just “loves” Ron. He gives those who need attention his time and listens when there are any concerns. He is an outstanding manager and truly has a heart for the work that he does.”
Progress is incredibly grateful for Ron and all that he does. For more information about Progress or the programs and services provided, please contact us at 615-399-3000 or visit www.Progress-Inc.org
Two Progress nominees were selected as winners at the annual TNCO Awards Ceremony, held on August 19th at the Nashville Airport Marriott. Sally Mills, Director of Fiscal Services was chosen as TNCO’s Lifetime Achievement winner, and Christy Jackson, SmART! Supplies volunteer was selected as Volunteer of the Year.
Tennessee Community Organizations (TNCO) is a professional trade organization for Home and Community Based Services Providers. Member agencies provide supported employment, residential services, day services, respite services, personal assistance, professional services, specialized medical equipment, etc. for Tennesseans with intellectual, developmental and age-related disabilities.
Sally Mills has contributed immeasurable efforts to Progress and the disability community over the course of her career as Director of Fiscal Services for 20 years. Sally knows the finances of Progress inside and out; but she also knows the client’s passions, the staff’s families, and the best way to plant the flowers around the memorial patio on campus. She is the epitome of someone who “gets their hands dirty,” both literally and figuratively, and over the years has devoted her life to the betterment of those around her.
Volunteer Christy Jackson has been integral to the first year of SmART! Supplies, and her efforts have benefited both customers as well as the clients who participate in job training and employment at SmART!. Christy organizes the sales floor, arranges displays of new items, sorts and processes the thousands of donations that arrive on a weekly basis, and assists staff with pricing, tagging, and customer service. She is truly a renaissance woman.
Progress congratulates both women on their achievements, and is thankful for all that they do to support people with intellectual disabilities and seniors.
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