United Helpers Introduces Two New Honors at Summer Awards Ceremony
Each summer since 2021 United Helpers has honored exemplary direct care staff with the presentation of the Margaret R. Spies Award. This year’s summer awards ceremony included the addition of two new awards – one to honor behavioral health staff, and another to honor professional staff.
This year’s Margaret R. Spies Award winners included four veteran staff members. Honorees were Home Health Aide Janice Clough, of Potsdam, Certified Nursing Assistant Lindsay Weir, of DeKalb Junction, and med-certified direct support professionals Amanda Bisnett, of Nicholville and Becky Denner, of Ogdensburg.
Rehabilitation and Senior Care Vice President of Operations Timothy Parsons said this year’s recipients from his facility were among the best of the best.
Working in the Assisted Living Program, Ms. Clough creates bonds so strong with residents that when it’s their time to move to the skilled nursing wing of the building, they don’t want to leave her behind.
“There was one time when I was in a difficult meeting with a resident and her daughter, about how she would benefit from moving into the skilled nursing wing, never an easy situation,” Mr. Parsons recalled. “The daughter asked, and she was 100% serious if it was possible for Janice to come along too and continue caring for her mother. The resident perked right up and wanted Janice to come along too. They were disappointed, but understood Janice had to stay where she was.”
Citing one other example of Ms. Clough going above and beyond, Mr. Parsons remembered a resident who was having a particularly difficult time as the anniversary of her husband’s passing approached. Ms. Clough borrowed several pictures of the resident and her husband together, and at her own cost had a personalized blanket made for the resident. “How can you beat that?” Mr. Parsons said.
Rehabilitation and Senior Care’s second nominee actually came to United Helpers through a program called the RAMP program, which was designed to give recent high school graduates a variety of work experiences to help them pinpoint their interests and determine what career path they would like to take.
“Typically, people would move onto another work experience after four months, but luckily for us, Lindsay decided to stay,” Mr. Parsons said referring to Ms. Weir. “She worked for about a year as a dietary aide and task aide before she completed her CNA training, much to the disappointment of our food services manager, who was sad to see her leave her department. I think it’s safe to say though that Lindsay has found her strength in taking care of our residents.”
It’s the words of those very residents that speak volumes. For her speech on Ms. Weir, Director of Nursing Alysha Troiano collected thoughts from the residents. Reading quotes from residents, Mrs. Troiano said, “I love her smile as soon as she walks through the door. She always makes me feel good. She pays attention to the things I enjoy and does them without asking. She truly cares about her job.”
Honorees from Behavioral Health and Life Skills came from the Pleasant Valley and Irish Settlement Road IRAs.
Ms. Bisnett works primarily at the Pleasant Valley IRA in Norwood. “Amanda is the first person we look to with a new hire to help them feel comfortable and get to know everyone,” said Residential Manager Team Leader Lauren Peters.
Ms. Peters continued, “She is incredibly welcoming of anyone new, whether they’re a staff member or resident. She is a great support for everyone she works with. Her smile and positive attitude are contagious and she is a great asset to our team.”
Behavioral Health and Life Skills’ second honoree was someone whom Director of Residential Services Kim George said was one of the first people to offer her services when COVID hit an IRA for the first time. “There was so much unknown at that time, but Becky didn’t care. That just speaks volumes to the type of person she is.”
Whitney Atkins, who serves as Residential Manager at the Irish Settlement Road IRA, where Ms. Denner, who has worked in several IRAs, now works, said she was instrumental in the
successful opening of the new IRA in Heuvelton. “I started working with Becky in the fall of 2002 when the new IRA opened. She has been a great asset in opening the house and training its new staff.”
One fun thing that sets Ms. Denner apart is her positive attitude and fun holiday outfits. She can always liven the room with her positive attitude and holiday-themed outfits. She owns them for all the holidays and even has a different one for every day leading up to Christmas. Both the residents and staff always look forward to seeing what she’ll wear next.”
One of the fastest-growing service lines in the United Helpers organization is Behavioral Health Services, and for the first time this year, employees working for this portion of the company were eligible for internal recognition related to their professional achievements.
Receiving the company’s first two Behavioral Health Heart Awards were Sara Driscoll, a RN from Ogdensburg who works for the behavioral health clinics, ACT Team and Gateway Apartments, and Care Coordination Program Leader Audrey Plourde, of Massena.
Speaking first about Ms. Driscoll, Director of Behavioral Health Services David Nelson said, “She cares deeply about all her patients and providing quality care. She takes the initiative to get things done. She goes above and beyond the call of duty while showing attention to detail, conscientiousness in approach, and meeting the nursing needs of not one, not two, but three programs!”
When it came time to speak about Ms. Plourde, Mr. Nelson revealed the nickname his staff all have for her… “The Care Coordination Guru.”
“Audrey started 10 years ago as a CNA,” Mr. Nelson said. She was enrolled in the SUNY Canton Applied Psych program, did her internship with care coordination, and fell in love with the work.”
The rest as they say, is history.
“Audrey is one of those people who meets the need, whatever the need. Her dedication extends beyond her clients and programs to every person she comes into contact with,” he said, recalling several instances when people needed advice on something not even related to work. “Who do they ask? They ask Audrey,” he said.
The final award of the afternoon went to someone who works in both the care and non-care sides of the business.
Jodi Harper, a payroll specialist from Ogdensburg, became the first recipient of the United Helpers Exemplary Professional Service Award. However, in addition to working full-time in the payroll department, Ms. Harper also picks up hours as a DSP.
“Although she is not able to put in a lot of hours due to her already working full-time, she is able to pick up shifts on evenings and weekends, which is a big help (and most likely when coverage is needed). Residents always come first and they love to see her show up. Sometimes she even goes in just to visit,” said Chief Financial Officer Kelly Lowery.
Having someone who works on the care side, also in the office has been a big help for a variety of reasons, Mrs. Lowery said.
“Knowing both sides of the business has allowed her to suggest improvements and identify problems in processes,” she said.
Even more importantly though, than being a great worker, Mrs. Lowery, said Ms. Harper is just an all-around great person.
“She really is a friend to everyone, which has made her a great advocate for United Helpers.”