Newsletter and Blog
45th Anniversary Newsletter
45TH anniversary issue
COMMUNITY LIVING & LEARNING, INC.
Volume 1 / Issue 1
A message from our Executive Director . . .
I have witnessed a lot of growth and change within Community Living & Learning since I started here in 1995. It has been one of the biggest blessings in my life to be a part of this organization over the years.
The best attribute of our agency has been the ability to not only exist but to continue getting better at serving individuals with intellectual disabilities. As an agency we are continually looking to improve our services from the ground up. We want to have the best Direct Support Professionals and Management Staff in order to be successful in supporting the individuals we serve. We want to make sure the individuals are being integrated into the community within great looking homes that meet their needs. Most of all we want to create an atmosphere at Community Living & Learning, Inc. that is supportive and welcoming for individuals, their family members, and our staff. As an agency we will continue to focus on helping individuals with disabilities have an everyday life. An everyday life is about having a valued role in the community, making contributions in that community, and having one’s rights fully respected. It truly takes a team effort from everyone in order to make an everyday life possible. Change does not come easy or without hard work and perseverance. In 1974, the first residential home was opened at 839 Grant Street in Indiana for Community Living & Learning, Inc. (then known as Indiana County Group Homes, Inc.) This home was the first community group home in Indiana County. In the 45 years since the opening of this home, the agency’s survival and growth is a testimony to every individual, every staff, and every volunteer who has ever been a part of Community Living & Learning, Inc. I want to thank every person since 1974 who has had a hand in making this agency a success. I am honored and thankful to serve as your Executive Director.
CEO’s Reflective Report:
In the 20th Anniversary Commemorative Report of 1994 the agency listed its long term goals. Here is a reflection of those goals and how they have been met or surpassed:
- Investigate possibilities to provide paid work experience in the community to individuals at the Therapeutic Activity Center. (Adult Training Facility) For a time the Adult Training Facility was able to offer paid work to individuals through a variety of programs including making road signs for Indiana County starting in 1997. There has been a shift at the Adult Training Facility based on the guidelines from CMS to incorporate more community inclusion for individuals. Individuals at the Adult Training Facility currently spend 25 percent of their time outside the ATF building doing community activities.
- Change agency and TAC’s names to reflect evolved changes. In 1995 the Therapeutic Activity Center was renamed the Adult Training Facility which is the name still in use today. In 1998 the name Indiana County Group Homes, Inc. was changed to our current name of Community Living & Learning, Inc.
- As agency expands services, request pay raise approvals for staff affected by increased workloads per Board of Directors Planning Committee request. Community Living & Learning, Inc. currently offers a very competitive wage and the best overall benefit package as compared to other agencies in the Indiana County area.
- Investigate alternative funding sources. Financial burdens of the agency are met by fiscal responsibility, making use of available grants, and careful management of assets. The Asset Acquisition Fund established in 1990 has continued to grow and help the agency meet some of its needs through the years.
- Own home for three current residents and in future man all of whom will need wheelchair accessibility. In 1997, Community Living & Learning, Inc. purchased its first home located at 1977 Hancock Road, Homer City, PA 15748. Since buying the first home in 1997, Community Living & Learning, Inc. has gone on to purchase another 3 homes including a wheelchair accessible home at 2223 Lazor Street Indiana, PA 15701. Community Living & Learning, Inc. is also doing a rent to own purchase with the home located at 9672 119 South.
- Pursue Section 16 vehicle grant for additional accessible vehicles. Community Living & Learning, Inc. currently has four wheelchair accessible vans. Two of the wheelchair accessible vans are used at the Adult Training Facility to ensure community integration occurs.
- Continue to increase clerical and fiscal manpower as budget allows. Community Living & Learning, Inc. has gone from two part-time fiscal technicians in 1994 to the present three full-time fiscal staff including the Chief Financial Officer. The agency has also added a full-time resource coordinator assistant to help with the growing need of assisting the individuals with their finances.
COMMUNITY LIVING AND LEARNING CORE VALUES
- Always do the right thing, even when no one is looking
- Create an environment where individuals can come forward with questions, concerns and or mistakes
- Be honest and be counted on to “stick” to the rules
- Make daily actions consistent with words
- Cast a shadow of integrity in everything you do
- Listen so you can understand the needs and expectations of customers
- Focus on customer/client success
- Manage both the internal and external customer
- Assume innocence – listen to, understand, and encourage different points of view
- Treat others fairly – coach in private praise in public
- Give and receive honest feedback
- Challenge the status quo – imagine what might be – recognize breakthroughs
- Anticipate and respond to unmet customer/client need
- Be open to bold ideas and continuous improvement
- Take ownership of results with a “can do” attitude and a sense of urgency
- Focus energy on what can be done rather than blaming others
- Be resourceful and innovative in overcoming obstacles and finding solution
- Maintain a confident and optimistic perspective
- Contribute to a positive, upbeat and purposeful environment
- Focus on “how” we can rather than “why” we can’t
- Value, respect and be open to the perspectives of others
- Develop open, trusting and respectful working relationships
- Assemble the people and resources required to achieve results
The reason we come to work. . .
Harry McCracken, 87 years young is a “staple” at CL&L as he visits regularly checking up on the office staff and sharing advice about the weather, his birthday or just chatting with the girls. Harry has a very good attitude about his life and his comments are wonderful reminders about how to live each day. Harry has been with us for 41 years. Harry likes to remind us his birthday is December 7th.
Barb Frye came to CL&L in 2010 and would like everyone to know that she loves living here, loves all the people and even loves sitting on the Board of Directors. Barb lives in Homer City and loves her staff and her housemate. Barb loves to “take walks and to talk on the phone” she also likes to text people on her notebook. Barb likes to visit with her friend Beth and her sister Virginia. Barb is a very pleasant and thoughtful individual. She always brightens a room when she enters and has a very keen sense of humor.
Shelly Carnahan came to CL&L in June, 2010, Shelly lives in a lovely small home on 7th Street in Indiana and is supported by 4 full time staff. She is active in Special Olympics track and field as well as having played Miracle League baseball. Shelly loves to get her nails done.
Ed McLean has been with CL&L for a number of years and in that time has enjoyed playing softball, swimming, basketball and the time to enjoy his favorite singer – Charlie Pride. Ed lives with Nathan and he agrees that he really likes his staff! They help him every day!
Eugene Anderson speaks softly about his staff but loves them because they are kind to him. He thinks they are all good cooks. Eugene keeps busy with Exceptional Adventure trips, playing baseball, going to church regularly and watching favorite TV shows.
Ricky Dishong likes to cook and back and often can be found bringing his treats to the office or to his friends at the ATF to share. He is very thankful that his staff take him to do fun things and they help him every day. Ricky has a new baby in his family and is proud to talk about him.
Dan Wadding, wants readers to know how much he appreciates his staff because they take him where he needs to go, they make him feel safe and they keep his home comfortable – he likes living at CL&L!
Dan’s housemate, Larry Stewart, feels the same about his home and loves having staff that he can talk to. He gets to enjoy cookouts, baseball and going to the YMCA regularly.
Nathan Wells has a great smile and shares it frequently along with his chuckles. He loves his trips and playing baseball. He loves his staff who do nice things for him.
Michael Parkin won a GOLD MEDAL in the long distance run at the Western Sectional Special Olympics on September 29, 2019. He advances to the State Competition at the beginning of November to be held in Philadelphia. In the 1500 meter run, he has one of the fastest times in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His Coach, Michelle says he has the potential to run in the International Olympics in 2020. Great work Michael!
Lives, both mine & theirs, have been
Impacted. I truly have learned more
from them than they have learned from me.
Read below for more from Connie Gniewek…
…I’m not sure when it actually happened, could have been when I was cautioned that one of our individuals was tactile defensive and could not be touched. Well, I could hold his hand, happened because I stopped and talked to him and touched him every time I passed. Or while I wheeled him out onto the porch and read the newspaper to him in the evening as he rocked contentedly back and forth. Maybe when instead of the annual gift card, I bought interactive snowmen ornaments for family members of our individual. I included a handwritten letter to ask them to remember their brother and how he loved Christmas and singing Frosty the snowman. But regardless of how it happened, I realized that working here has been more than a job. Lives, both mine and theirs, have been impacted and I truly have learned more from them than they have learned from me. Connie Gniewek
Christine Stewart…Spending time with the individuals, making sure they are happy and healthy has become the highlight of my days. Working at CLL has, without a doubt, added more purpose to my life.
Doug Bell …The guys I work with have become more like family to me. I look forward to working with them every day. They make life more fun and adventurous and they like to do some things that are outside my comfort zone.
Morgan Saul…Working for CLL has been fulfilling, it’s a relaxed environment due to the ease of communication with co-workers and the administrators. The guys are all good, Ricky is happy, Mickey has been a delight and David is smiling more.
Jenalee Kostella…I have worked at Community Living and Learning for 16 years. It is a continuous learning experience and every day is never the same as the last. The individuals and staff I have encountered have made me grow, not only as a Direct Support Professional but as a person as well. It is more than a job. It is very rewarding to be able to see a difference you can make in a person’s life and well-being. In my seven years at Community Living & Learning, it has been a very rewarding experience. I have greatly enjoyed working with the individuals. While there have been some challenges along the way, watching the individuals overcome those challenges has been a great joy to see. I have learned a lot about myself and them. This agency is a great advocate for the individuals. They truly want to see them succeed in their lives.
Brenda Detwiler…In my seven years with CLL it has been a very rewarding experience. I have greatly enjoyed working with the individuals. While there have been some challenges along the way, watching the individuals overcome them has been a great joy to see. I have learned a lot about myself and them. This agency is a great advocate for the individuals – they truly want to see them succeed in their lives.
As a DSP, the work we do can be very challenging and rewarding. We are like Star Trek: we help our clients to boldly go where they have never gone before; trying new things; seeking out new adventures. DSPs also teach the community by our actions and how we interact with our client – at church, in the park, eating out. All eyes are on us. ..Francis Wolanin, Senior DSP
What it’s like working as a DSP…Hello, my name is Deanna and I am a direct support professional (DSP). I’ve been working as a DSP for almost three months now at Community Living and Learning. It might be a little hard to believe, but I absolutely love my job. Is it stressful? Yes. Can it be frustrating at times? Absolutely, but at the end of the day it is all worth it and I will tell you why. Being a DSP is probably the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. You can relax in a cozy home environment providing companionship, cooking, housework, medication reminders, personal care, and help with the activities of daily living. Being a DSP isn’t like most careers. You don’t have to work in a busy and insensitive workplace or deal with a constant stream of people who don’t care who you are or how you feel. Instead, you are doing something that is greatly appreciated by everyone involved. When being a DSP you work with people that have intellectual disabilities, you get to be an important part of someone’s life. They depend on you for everyday things and they look forward to you coming work and communicating with them. You basically become a personal therapist, you are the “Go-to” when they need to vent, because they know YOU will understand. The people you work for don’t just consider you as a caregiver, they consider you a friend as well. Your job as a DSP is be make sure your clients are safe, healthy and most importantly happy. A big smile from your clients is the most heartwarming thing you will ever experience and makes everything you do for them worthwhile. Deanna Chero
Working in the health field as a Direct Support Professional can be very challenging at times, and yet the most rewarding. Sometimes the individual will yell and scream at you, even swear at you and your job is to try and calm them down. There will be apologies from that same person saying “sorry for yelling at you,” There will be smiles and a “thank you for listening.” Thank you for being there.” I have been lucky enough to watch as the same person playing baseball hits the ball and flies around the bases for a home run! DSPs work weekends, holidays and night time hours. They give a lot and don’t expect anything back. DSPs are not just caregivers – they are people who care! Carol Degnan
A view from our seats. . .
Darlene Stiles. . .Darlene is the Agency’s Administrative Assistant and has been with CL&L since March, 2003. In her 16 years she has been the bright face welcoming everyone through our doors. I think we would all agree that she owns the best attitude in the building – Darlene makes each one of us feel better, every day! “Every morning I wonder what the day will consist of from greeting applicants, answering calls, sorting mail, ordering supplies, keeping everything in order – it’s always busy and I like the work. Working with the staff and individuals is something I truly enjoy! I have loved watching the individuals and how excited they are at Miracle League Baseball when they hit a home run or when they are walking the red carpet at the Star Lit Prom at the KCAC. They are so excited to help at our Christmas Wrap Booth at Indiana’s Mall. When they come to the office to visit or work to shred papers, it’s always a joy!” I worked in manufacturing for 25 years and wondered how an administrative job would work out for me but I am very thankful for my job and the opportunity is a rewarding experience. When I’m not at CL & L, I enjoy working out at the YMCA, going to the beach, cooking, gardening and riding 50 cc scooters with my husband Wayne.
Isaac Lalim:…The ATF was once known as the Therapeutic Activity Center (TAC) and was established in 1984. It was originally begun as a program for our individuals to participate in pre-vocational programs which included our individuals participating in paid work. The TAC was eventually renamed and is now called the Adult Training Facility. What once was a program to offer paid work to our individuals and offer pre-vocational training has transformed over the last 35 years that it has been operating. The ATF is currently a program for our individuals offering them opportunities for Community Participation Supports based upon each individuals’ personal preferences and focuses around person centered thinking/planning. Per current PA ODP/DHS guidelines, each individual at the ATF is to participate and spend 25% or more of their time out in the community to increase an individual’s opportunity to build connections within his/her local community. All of the ATF individuals are currently meeting or exceeding their 25% CPS goals except for a few individuals that have an exception in place. There are exceptions to the 25% ruling such as current medical needs, injury, illness, behaviors, changes in mental health, as well as the individual declining the option to spend time in the community having been provided with opportunities to do so consistent with his or her preferences, choices and interests. Current CPS outings include volunteering at local food banks, volunteering at local churches, volunteering at local senior centers, volunteering at local animal shelters, bowling at Mohawk Lanes, going out to the movies, enjoying going out to lunch, going to parks and exploring what they have to offer, attending community events going on in downtown Indiana and much more. Our individuals enjoy participating in Community Participation Supports and have developed and sustained a range of valued social roles and relationships, built natural supports, increased independence and experienced meaningful community participation and inclusion.
Brad Jarvie… When I graduated from IUP in 1993 I had no idea what direction I was going. The only experience that I had in this field was assisting with the Adapted Aquatic program at IUP. I saw an ad in the Indiana Gazette for a Residential Program Worker with Indiana County Group Homes and the rest is History. I have dedicated the last 26 years of my life to Human Services and I have no regrets. Over the years, there have been many good times as well as many stressful times but in the midst of it all I know I was meant to be there. This field is like no other in the way that you have to want to be here and it shows if you don’t. I have such incredible respect for the DSP and Administration that choose to assist our most vulnerable population in maintaining dignity, respect, and independence throughout their life. Over my last 26 years this field has become incredibly challenging, and to further complicate things there is a severe shortage of DSPs. Residential Supervisors that hire, train, and continually fill the positions of DSP are greatly appreciated for their 24/7 dedication. The Individuals that I have worked with over the last 26 years have taught me many life lessons the most important being patience with difficult situations. The thing I most enjoy about this field is when I am able to assist an individual with an appointment or employment related issues. It helps ground me as to why we are here as an Agency and what our responsibilities truly are. I have always said this can be the most fulfilling, relaxing, and fun job ever, but you need to always be prepared to work hard when the time comes. Mr. Haggerty, myself, and others have worked together for many years from the ground up and I believe it is dedication like that where you find a strong organization. Happy 45th Anniversary Community Living and Learning, I’m honored to have been a part of it.
Hello, I am Heide Weston and I have been working with the agency for 32 years. I started as a young girl in my early twenties working in one of our group homes that was just opening in 1987. The agency was called, Indiana County Group Homes and my position was called a “live-in.” We were given an apartment to live in just a couple miles from the group home. In today’s time this was similar to a “sleep-over” position. The agency did not employ “awake night” staff positions back then. I worked in the group homes for almost 1.5 years and was planning to be married, so I applied to the Therapeutic Activity Center (TAC). There I was hired as a TAC aide. I worked in that position for 8 years and then became the TAC Supervisor for an additional 5 years. As a TAC aide and Supervisor I became vey involved with community volunteering at various nursing homes, Indiana County Courthouse and putting together various newsletters & bulletins for area churches and businesses. We also worked with the 911 Management system and made road signs for Indiana County. This brought paid work to the facility. While I was Supervisor, the TAC had changed its name to the Adult Training Facility. The agency also sponsored a contest to change its name. The decision was made to change the name to Community Living & Learning. From December of 2000 until the present, I took the position of Resource Coordinator acting as a Representative Payee helping individuals manage their money. Over these years I have seen our agency grow from about 6 group homes to the present twelve homes; we have always had some individuals living indpendently in their own apartments with limited staff hours which is our “Independent Living” Program. Through the years, we began a program called “Home-based” where we provided services to those individuals who lived with their families. This is now known as “In-Home and Community Supports.” Another program that began for those individuals who live in a family setting, but not necessarily with family members was called “Family Living.” It is now known as “Lifesharing.” The evolution of terms we have used over the years began with Clients, Consumers to Individuals. From Aides, Direct Care Staff to Direct Support Professionals and from Maximation Unit to Non-Ambulatory, the Vineyards, Whitehouse to today where we don’t name our homes, we simply use their addresses. Through all these years I have worked with many wonderful people who are still here and those who have since gone. No matter what title or term used throughout the years we are all still “people” who have a first and last name. No matter how many homes or programs we have in the agency, we should always strive to improve and treat everyone with the utmost respect. I can honestly tell you that if someone would have told me I would be here for 32 years, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I was a young, shy girl with no experience who was given a chance. This has been quite a journey and I am so thankful and blessed that I took it.
Nicole Moran is the newest addition to the Fiscal team here at CL&L supporting all individuals’ finances as the Assistant Resource Coordinator. In her words, “My first day of employment was 10/31/16. My first memory is of Jesse Oakes coming down the hall in a Halloween costume and I thought, OK, what am I getting myself into? He was the only one in a costume! I really enjoy working with all the individuals and helping them take care of their finances. Working in the CLL office has been a wonderful experience for me. I have learned a lot since my first day. I am so grateful for all of the office staff – they have been so nice to work with and supportive as I have made my way through the last 3 years. I am still learning things as I go as things change all the time. I love when the individuals come in to visit at the office, I like hearing what they made at work or what they are going to do for the day or their weekend plans. They truly touch my heart and make me smile. I am also grateful for the DSP staff and all that they do for the individuals in their homes, they become family to each other and share a special bond, it’s such a great thing to see. Thank you DSPs for all your great work!
Lisa Vilcek began with CL&L over ten years ago as a part-time fiscal assistant performing payroll duties. In Lisa’s own words, “As I experienced the loss of my husband, the agency offered me a full time position and I eventually accepted my current position as fiscal technician. My perception of individuals with intellectual disabilities has certianly evolved since the onset of my employment. Although I do not directly work with the individuals, I see the positive impact our agency makes on their daily lives. Considering the extreme vulnerability of the people we serve, I have developed a greater respect for those entrusted with their care. I have observed the struggles of supervisors overcoming staff shortages, adjusting schedules, filling shifts and resolving conflicts. However, I have contrarily witnessed the dedication, empathy and compassion of the administration and staff as they advocate for the individuals in our homes. I particularly enjoy Harry’s visits to the office as he shares stories of his family reunion, his love of music and his birthday celebrations. I adore Kathy’s excitement when filling a bag of shredded paper and Christmas at the ATF. Seeing our individuals experience the simple things in life, that we sometimes take for granted, has definitely impacted me over the past ten years. I am proud to be part of an organization dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
Carolyn Berezansky is known as our payroll answer person and in that capacity is a serious help to our direct support professionals. Her view of their work may surprise you but definitely comes from her heart. “September 8-14 was Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, so I decided to write about some of our Direct Support Professionals. What is a Direct Support Professional? Most would say that it is a person who works one on one with individuals with intellectual & physical disabilities assisting them to become integrated into his/her community. My definition, however, would be a selfless person who focuses all of their energy on helping one achieve their goals no matter how big or small they may be. One who accepts smiles and high fives as part of their reward for a job well done. One who watches an individual struggle through several obstacles in life while trying to think of a way to help them through. Whether it is with a smile, a word of encouragement, making a list, or doing whatever it takes to help this person succeed. While success may be measured by monetary values by some, it is measured by the smallest achievements for others. Some of our professionals started working because they simply needed a paycheck not realizing that they would form a strong, rewarding friendship with someone while doing a job that they enjoy. The hours are long and hard, sometimes frustrating and sometimes they are extremely rewarding and fun. My hope is that anyone who gives of themselves to become a Direct Support Professional truly knows what a valuable gift they possess to be able to impact someone’s life such as they do and that we and our individuals are truly thankful for all that they do.
Tom Citeroni…Chief Financial Officer: CL&L over the past 45 years has established financial stability in the community as they provide services for the intellectually disasbled community. Our funding continues to be allocated from Federal monies that are distributed to the agency through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While previously the funds were distributed through the counties, we now bill the Commonwealth for the services we provide to the individuals for our payments. Since the 20th Anniversary, the agency budget has increased four hundred eight percent from $1,341,172 to $5,428,149 in 2019. As in 1994 the wages and benefits are the largest part of the agency’s budget. The number of positions that the agency presently has fluctuates depending on staffing ratios for the individuals that we serve at our various locations. In 1994, the agency positions were 39 full time and 49 part time positions. 2019 saw us with 88 positions of which only two are part time. These numbers show how we have increased staffing to care for our individuals at the various locations. The financial stability of the agency has improved over the past 17 years. The whole agency has been working as a team to do our due diligence to use our resources that are provided to us in the most economical way. Presently we are paying a mortgage on our office and ATF building instead of renting the facility. The vehicles we purchase pay as little as 0% interest on the loans. We continue to keep the affordable health insurance benefits while not causing the agency a financial burden to provide those benefits for our staff and families. We, as an agency, are constantly looking for ways to save the agency funds while still providing the same or better services to the individuals we serve. The Commonwelath of Pennsylvania is always adding additional requirements for the agency but not increasing our funding. We hope to continue to provide the same or better services for the next forty five years.
Mila Simpson, Program Director of the Family Living Program has been with the Agency since 2000. “Homes with Heart” is a slogan often used to describe the Lifesharing thru Family Living Program. It is truly an accurate description of this residential program of Community Living and Learning. Currently there are 10 families who provide this service to 15 individuals. People with an intellectual disability have many choices of where to live including with their natural family, independently in their own home or apartment (with or without a roommate), in a community home or in Family Living. Family Living is a program where a person in the community may have an individual live with them in their home in an arrangement similar to foster care. The difference is that many of these relationships can last for years. This program that is highly promoted by ODP can meet the needs of people who need some supervision and also the support of a family. Many of our individuals become very close to their provider and the provider’s extended families. One of our matches has been in place for over 20 years. Sometimes individuals refer to their provider as “Mom” or “Dad”. Our participants enjoy going out in the community with their provider, including attending birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, going on vacation, going out to eat, going shopping, stopping at yard sales, visiting with grandchildren, etc. Plenty of activities take place in the home such as doing chores together, eating dinner, helping with laundry, watching movies, visiting with family, outdoor work and fun such as swimming, picnics, or hanging out in the yard. The lack of contact with their own biological family is one of the main reasons some people chose to live in a Lifesharing home. For more information about Lifesharing thru Family Living contact Mila Simpson, Renee Kutchman or Ryan Stumph at 724-349-1420.
Ryan Stumph…I have been working at Community Living and Learning for a little over two years with both the Lifesharing and In Home and Community Supports programs. The programs differ from each other in the way the families are compensated, but both require 24/7 involvement from each family member and individual. I came from a background of direct care with both a state institution and community home setting and had no idea that IH&CS was an option given to individuals who may be interested. I’m happy to work with our individuals and families in this program and have learned much in my short time here. Seeing the love and care that the people in our program give and receive reinforces my commitment to our individuals, their families, and this agency.
Renee Shimko…I was closing my daycare and a friend’s daughter worked here. They both told me this was a good job for me and they were right. I started at the 520 house with Rita as my Supervisor and I haven’t looked back! I worked at all the agency homes until I moved to the ATF. Along the way there were memorable individuals, staff and supervisors as well as everyone I’ve met through meetings, trainings and whatever was going on. The get togethers like Milton’s birthday, all the holidays and birthdays with other homes were a blast and seeing the individuals enjoying themselves was heart warming. Working at the Day Program (ATF) with the individuals and going places with them was great fun. They loved the time we spent working on crafts and learning. Now I am a Program Specialist with the Family Living Program. It’s been really good to support the individuals and families they live with. I (WE) make a difference and I plan on retiring from here.
Peggy Buterbaugh. . .Peggy began working for CL &L in February, 1993 when it was known as Indiana County Group Homes. She started as a Relief Worker before taking a full time position in the only female home at that time. “During my 7 years working in that home, I assisted the ladies in increasing their independent time. Two of the ladies eventually moved into their own apartments and two other ladies learned how to take the Transit bus to and from the mall. These were scary but rewarding times. I remember my co-worker and I sneaking a peak out of the house windows to ensure the first time they left the house on their own they were safe and going where they intended. They did it! They achieved independence and they were so happy with their accomplishment. I then moved to the ATF where I worked for the next 9 years. Our time there was spent assisting our individuals with daily living skills, cooking/baking, learning to read and write. We enjoyed playing games, reading stories, working on crafts, volunteer work and many other activities. We also started the weekly Café meals. Not only did the individuals learn new things but, I did as well. I’ve seen the many positive changes throughout the years from how we work and emotionally support our individuals. These were much needed changes and greatly improved the quality of the lives of our individuals. At this leg of my journey with CL & L, I have been a Residential Supervisor for 10 years. This is a stressful job but the reward is that precious smile our individuals give us when they are happy. That’s why I am here – for the people we support. After 26.5 years I am still learning each and every day. I want to thank Community Living & Learning for the 26.5 years of employment and all the wonderful benefits that come with this job. I am blessed to be employed by Community Living & Learning.”
Theresa Gryczuk …Began her career with CL&L in 1997. Bill Clinton was President, Princess Diana was killed in a car accident and Pokemon was released. She was a young girl fresh out of high school, still wet behind the ears unsure of her future. Theresa was offered a volunteer job working 5 hours weekly in the living skills class at Apollo Ridge. This was a position supporting a young lady with intellectual and developmental disabilities through Indiana County Group Homes home-based program. This particular program gave support to families caring for their loved ones in their homes to be supported at home and the community so the families could have free time. Two years later Theresa took a full time position in the “ladies house” where she stayed for many, many years. “The job with CL&L has been fun and rewarding through the years,” she says, “my parents supported me in this job and became involved by making food and decorations for most every party we planned.” Today, 22 years later Theresa holds a management position supervising 4 group homes. 12 individuals and 20+ staff, still with support from her parents who love to feed us at the office. Theresa stresses, “I owe all my success to my parents for always being supportive and being there with an open ear. I’ve worked with many people in these last 22 years who have become like family to me; I continue to live by my motto since coming to work in the office 7 years ago…NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM.”
Stacie Speicher…Stacie is the newest Superivsor to join the ranks here at CL&L. She has worked for the Agency for 5 years and in that time has always enjoyed working with the individuals, “Being a Direct Support Professional (DSP) was very rewarding for me. I enjoyed working with the individuals hands on and helping them with their daily needs or taking them where they needed to go and doing many fun activities with them. Now that I am one of the Supervisors, I see why it is so important to give the support they need and to be a part of their daily lives. I love to plan for agency wide activities like the Pirate game where so many of our folks get so excited to be a part of the PNC ballpark experience or the upcoming Halloween Party my staff and I are pulling together. I hope to do the same for each holiday season in the coming months. As for me, I am training to become a Med Trainer so that I can benefit the agency in a positive way helping however and wherever I am able to do so.
Rita Vicini…I arrived at the Community Living & Learning offices in August of 2001. I was greeted by a very friendly atmosphere and more friendly office staff and quickly knew I would like it here. What I learned in the first years allowed me to accept the invitation to become an Agency Supervisor. Although there was much to learn, I felt confident that those who were helping to shape my operational stance were doing a thorough job of giving me as much information as possible. So much time was dedicated to ensuring the best health for the individuals as well as the best medical care we could find to address their needs. Through the years, my duties would change as the pace dictated. I never shied away from a challenge nor the real reason we were all doing this work – to help vulnerable adults to live happy and fulfilling lives with as much freedom as possible. I found it very intriguing to explore methods and help our agency move in the directions we were being asked to go. Expanding and creating a new understanding of direct care support as well as taking a look at ourselves and making the necessary changes to move forward. Some of the changes required fresh eyes and ears to truly understand, but I saw us make it through without too much difficulty. What I am certain of is that the direct support professionals are tested almost every day and some of them roll with the flow, some find the work very rough but they all come back another day, ready to go. If I could hope for anything I may not see it would be to ensure that every DSP focuses on their own health, takes care of themselves and tries to balance this hard work with attention to their own lives and families as well as ensuring they enjoy regular time off, living healthy lifestyles, eating right, exercising and staying strong to continue the work of caring for others. We are no good to anyone when we are worn out or burnt out. Self-care is necessary to be successful. As one of the certified investigators charged with investigating various allegations, I have seen just how tough supporting adults with ID can be day after day. As an on-call supervisor I have assisted DSPs through problematic concerns and I often answer questions when you call the office. The focus of the work at CLL is and always will be the care of the individuals – first and foremost. When it is necessary to ensure excellent care and attention, we will pursue all avenues without hesitation. There are checks and balances in place to ensure we follow the rules and regulations and strive to always do what is right. Community Living and Learning makes it their business to support vulnerable adults; to staff our homes with qualified and respectful caregivers; to offer activity and fulfilling lives for the folks we have been asked to support. We rely on each other to get the job done and we are always moving – sometimes with the current and sometimes against it. As the Assistant Director, I am privy to matters I never had to think about before, but this definitely helps to paint a broader canvas for me to vision what is possible for CLL and it is a hopeful picture.
WHO WE ARE:
Board of Directors:
John Chakot, member
Barbara Frye, member
Sue Muprhy, President
Sue Palmisano, Vice President
Mary Seale, member
Roberrt Truscello, member
Andy Wallwork, Treasurer
Employee Anniversaries of 0-5 years:
Dare John Odubote
Anniversaries of 5 to 10 years
Violet Adams Cheryl Rebovich
Doug Bell Stacie Speicher
Carolyn Berezansky Donna Sturgeon
Beverly Blystone Chris Thomas
Jeff Clark Kim Turner
Brenda Detwiler Sherry Ziner
Anniversaries of 10 to 15 years
Anniversaries of 15 to 20 years
Anniversaires of 20-25 years
Anniversaries of 25 – 30 years
Anniversaries of 30 or more years
Life Sharing Providers 5 to 10 years
Life Sharing Providers 10 to 15 years
Life Sharing Providers 15 – 20 years
Life Sharing Providers 20 or more years
Violet Adams, member
Melanie Glance, member
Jenalee Kostella, member
Christine Kowchuck, member
Renee Kutchman, Chair
Alissa Mason, member
Scott Pantall, member
Stacie Speicher, Co-Chair
Donna Sturgeon, member
Kim Turner, member
Sherry Ziner, member
Nathaniel Haggerty, Executive Director
Rita Vicini, Assistant Director
Thomas Citeroni, Chief Financial Officer
Carolyn Berezansky, Fiscal Assistant
Peggy Buterbaugh, Supervisor
Theresa Gryczuk, Supervisor
Brad Jarvie, Program Director
Isaac Lalim, ATF Director
Nicole Moran, Assistant Resource Coordinator
Renee Kutchman, Supervisor
Mila Simpson, Program Director
Stacie Speicher, Supervisor
Darlene Stiles, Administrative Assistant
Ryan Stumph, Supervisor
Chris Thomas, Maintenance
Lisa Vilcek, Fiscal Technician
Heide Weston, Resource Coordinator
Your memories are everlasting…
Mark Andrie Thomas McCabe
Ken Belford Roberta Owens
Albert Bonatti Thomas Reed
Alicia Bowman Chad Robbins
Leslie Boyd Joe Sabatos
Amy Farbaugh Bruce Saltsgiver
Ramon Fisher Donna Scott
David Galentine Ruth Ann Shrokman
Randy Gunter Norman Smith
Dan Haggerty George Stephens
Hazel Hopkins Lester Stephenson
Wendell Huey Paul Stephenson
Scott Klingensmith James Stonebraker
Philip Lansberry Jimmy Stutzman
James Longnecker Betty Alice Taylor
Patrick McCabe Russell Wiggins
Timothy McCabe David Yount