GREENVILLE — On the second floor of the historic Palace, beyond the aroma of roasted coffee beans and the hum of conversation from the Coffee Pot, is the CA Group Inc. office with two employees, Rhianon Harris and Jill Petrie.
Harris and Petrie are part of a much larger, unique team that provides services to people with disabilities in the county. The two were on hand to talk about Direct Support Providers or DSP.
A DSP assists differently-abled individuals with daily living activities. At CA Group Inc. services are provided to more than 170 disabled individuals across not only Darke but Mercer, Auglaize, and surrounding counties. Their focus is to assist individuals with improving their lives, whether it is providing day services, recreational or employment services.
For Harris, a Direct Support Provider (also referred to as a community coach) the work is a labor of love. Every day, she picks up five to eight clients in one of the CA Group Inc. vans and transports them to Beauty Supply Group (BSG). It is her job to understand her clients’ strengths and weaknesses to assist them as they work towards employment.
As each client is unique, “It’s more learning about them to better help them,” says Harris. She shared a typical day for her clients after they arrive at BSG. How they first put away their packed lunches before clock-in followed by reporting to the second floor where they retrieve a gladiator, a wearable scan gun. It is the gladiator that helps them identify what items need to be transferred from one tote to another for a specific build.
“It is pretty rewarding work,” said Harris, who embodies the energy, patience, and kindness necessary for this line of work. She is responsible for those five to eight individuals Monday to Friday, starting at 9 a.m. for a five-hour workday.
Originally working in children’s services, Harris came across the DSP position with CA Group Inc. and the rest is, as they say, history. Not to mention closer to home with two children of her own. Her previous work was in Preble County, and she noted prior experience working with disabled individuals, but as a DSP, she’d the opportunity to work one-on-one.
Harris repeats “rewarding” several times during conversation as she focuses on her clients’ confidence, empowering them in their progress. She explained how exciting it was for a client, once confident in their ability, and how “They are focused, they are set and they are ready.”
According to Harris, BSG is interested in hiring two of her clients, thanks to their hard work, consistency, and meeting quotas. This hire is the ultimate goal for the community coach, to have a client fully employed with follow-along services or referrals to other support organizations available, if necessary.
“I love my job,” said Harris, expressing gratitude for the relationships she’s developed with each client. Relationships an imperative so she can help them succeed and understand what they want for their lives.
As Harris’ supervisor, Petrie emphasized, it is a big job with many responsibilities. It is more than just a client’s employment as a DSP. The job includes helping the client learn about attendance, healthy eating, and meal prep, sick leave, a multitude of daily living skills that are part of having a job. A DSP has responsibilities for that and more, and it generally falls well beyond the typical nine to five job.
“That relationship is really important,” continued Petrie, along with a friendship with the client.
“They know I am there if they need to message me or give me a call on anything,” added Harris.
It is being there, or what Beth Butler, CEO, refers to as the boots on the ground to help individuals with disabilities. A DSP is imperative to help clients prepare for and achieve employment and engagement in their communities. The week of Sept. 8 is Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week. CA Group Inc. will be acknowledging the hard work and tireless commitment by DSP staff with several events including cookouts and a carry-in.
“Everybody works really hard. Sometimes it is hard to make sure that everybody gets appreciated,” said Petrie. “They do everything, and they have the relationship with the people. Everybody works super hard.”
“And their supervisors!” added Harris.
Reach reporter Bethany J. Royer-DeLong at 937/548-3330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more news, features, and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.