Celebrating a Commitment to those We Serve: All Staff Day

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 14, 2016: On June 1st at the Syria Shrine Center in Cheswick, PA, as part of our first-ever All Staff Day, Family Services staff gathered to recognize and to celebrate our many supporters and co-workers who assist and enable us to provide services for children, families and individuals throughout our communities.

Speaker, humorist and author, Ron Culberson, kicked off the day of events, using his experience as a hospice social worker and leader to create insightful and practical messages to help staff become more successful in their jobs and personal lives, stressing the value that humor plays in relieving stress at home at in the work environment.  

At noon, staff moved to the Shrine Center Pavilion for lunch and to honor the following:

The Community Award recognizes an individual, business, organization, or agency for outstanding community partnership efforts on behalf of those we serve, agency staff and our Mission.

It is our pleasure to announce the selection of our 2015-16 Community Award honorees, given to the following individuals and organizations who have greatly improved the quality of life of the individuals we serve, acted in positive ways on their community's concerns and extended a hand of service and support to increase the shared values of our community.

Courtney Brennan - WPXI News
In her position as a reporter, Courtney has the opportunity to report on many stories throughout Western Pennsylvania, some uplifting, many not. This past winter, Courtney had the opportunity to report on our Snow Angels program, a volunteer program that works to keep our older adult population and individuals with disabilities safely in their homes by shoveling their walks of snow.

Courtney worked with our In Services of Seniors: Pittsburgh staff to create a compelling story for the news which captured the need for volunteers and portrayed the difference they make in the lives of those in need. As a direct result of her reporting, the Snow Angels gained an additional 63 volunteers which enabled Snow Angels staff to triple the number of individuals they were able to assist this past winter.   

Christian Layman Corps
For the past 26 years, volunteers of the Christian Layman Corps have been dedicated to support individuals in need in Southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. This support is in the form of prayers, food, clothing, furniture, books and compassion. For the past two years, our Homeless Veterans Outreach program has been a beneficiary of their generosity and spirit of giving.

Christian Layman Corps has worked in collaboration with our Outreach program to provide vouchers for our local veterans in a housing crisis. These vouchers are used to provide furniture, new beds, household items, clothing and even interview suits and delivery of items for our local homeless veterans while Family Services staff seek housing opportunities. Through this use of vouchers, the veterans begin to feel empowered again, take steps to again self-sustain, and are able to increase their morale and track their goals.   

Excela Health
Excela Health is the primary health system in Westmoreland County. In addition to medical care, they provide behavioral health inpatient services for both youth and young adults, maternity services to new parents and have a large network of healthcare providers in the county. Excela Health is also a generous sponsor of community events focused on health, wellness, families and communities. By encouraging healthy behaviors, lifestyle changes and community-building activities, they have helped us to carry out our mission to empower people to reach their full potential. 

Since 2006, Excela Health has been a partner to our ParentWISE program, supporting many activities and events hosted by ParentWISE and distributing program information to their pediatric practices. In the early days they supported Family Safety Days, providing prizes for safety raffles and participant bags for the event. They were major sponsors and served on the planning committee of two We Are Family Events in 2013 and 2014. They were a platinum sponsor of the 20th anniversary celebration of ParentWISE’ Bee Kind program, have been an ice cream flavor sponsor for the annual ParentWISE Ice Cream Blast, and have partnered with ParentWISE on many community events including Westmoreland County’s March for Parks and Drug Overdose Task Force.

Without the community leadership of Excela Health, ParentWISE could not leverage the support of other businesses and organizations to raise the funds needed to continue their expansive efforts at assisting parents in raising safe, healthy, kind children.

American Legion Post 868
The American Legion Post 868 is a community institution in Lower Burrell whose members live by the credo to “Get involved. Support local programs...and the entire community benefits!” Family Services has been the recipient of the Post’s generosity.

A key element along the path towards rehabilitation and recovery for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness is forming social bonds and establishing a supportive network of social connections within their community. Such experiences are essential to the cognitive and behavioral change that underpins the recovery process for any person. For the past two years, Post 868 has donated free of charge the use of their banquet room for the Drop-in Centers annual Christmas Party, including the use of their kitchen and all equipment. Like the Legion members themselves, Drop-in Center members consider each other brothers and sisters of a shared experience. The ability to gather together at a special time of year is vital to their continued growth and would not have been possible without the generosity and welcoming embrace of the members of American Legion Post 868.

Sponsored by the Recovery Committee, the Shooting Star Award aims to capture the brilliance of the “shooting star” in the night sky by recognizing those individuals who have taken an active role in their own recovery and in determining their goals and the direction of their treatment. 

Cassy W. - Transition-Age Category
Cassy became involved with the agency’s Partial Hospital program by attending when she was experiencing a difficult time with depression and anxiety. She attended each day with a positive attitude and the willingness to create the change needed for her recovery. She has been honest in the group room with her peers and open to learning coping skills and tools to manage her symptoms. She has also begun to play basketball—a game she loved in middle school—in the community with family and friends as part of her wellness plan.

Cassy has goals today to break past negative family patterns and create new ones that include success. As such, she is rebuilding a relationship with her parents today and they were able to support her to secure housing in the community. She has also has begun to attend the Maverick Drop-In Center and has set goals to become a certified peer specialist to support young women as she has been supported. She would also like to work toward a college degree in Business so that she can build her very own business in the community

Lynette S. - Adult Category
Lynette was referred to Family Services by a hospital social worker in the Spring of 2014 and spent time in the Partial Hospital program and in Respite. She began attending the Maverick Drop-In center in about the Fall of 2014.  She is now in PSR and she says that the Maverick has become a key component to her recovery because she feels useful helping there and supporting others.

Lynette is a role model in her recovery. She does what she needs to do to be well. She is very active in the Drop-in center, she helps clean, wrap the coins and offers peer-support to whomever needs it.  She always tries to be positive and checks in with others to see if they are feeling okay even when she is having a tough day. She has attended the NAMI and the Ray of Hope walks and has begun going to the WRCSP meetings in Butler. Recently, Lynette took a leadership role in preparing for Capitol Day in Harrisburg. She interviewed fifty people on changes that they would like brought to the legislature. She also collated these results into categories, making sure that those mentioned most gained precedence, and presented it to our legislators in Harrisburg.

The Thumbs Up! Award honors non-supervisory members of Family Services’ Direct Care Staff. The“Thumbs Up” Award is presented in memory of Randy Verbanic, a former resident of one of our CLA sites. It was the thumbs up sign that always meant something good to Randy. From mood to food, if you asked him a question you were sure to get a “thumbs up.”  So it is with respect and gratitude that we give the following staff a “Thumbs Up.”

Amber Hartman
Wonderly CLA—IDD Residential

Amber is a CLA program Worker at our Wonderly CLA. She is a very hard worker who always steps up when needed and is not afraid to advocate for the ladies in her care. She makes sure that they are all well cared for, whether it involves giving them their meds or playing a game with them. Amber also does doctor appointments and emergency room visits with the residents, family visits, scheduled outings, and is an “everything” type of person. She always has a smile on her face. The ladies at Wonderly like Amber, look forward to seeing her on her shifts, and always ask when she is coming in. They look forward to seeing her on her shifts. 

Amber is also a team player, making sure that the other staff on shift with her are okay and that all of her work is done before she leaves even if that means that she has to stay over a little to help. As a co-worker said of her, “I couldn’t ask for a better co-worker.”

Julie Herstek
Adult Diversion and Stabilization (DAS)

Julie has been with the agency for four years and has shown impressive growth in that time. She works attentively with the individuals on the unit and her co-workers. She appreciates the difficulties individuals experiencing a crisis face and uses her outgoing personality and skill set gained on the unit in helping those she cares for.

Julie adheres to the recovery model, taking time with each individual on the unit, understanding each individual’s needs and inspiring them to work hard toward their goals. Many of these individuals have expressed the high comfort level they feel with Julie, the feeling that they can open up to her, thereby making their recovery quicker and the transition much easier from the hospital or community to DAS, and from DAS back into the community.

Sandy Pitonyak
Craig CLA—IDD Residential

Sandy has moved to the front of the line when it came to the changes that have occurred at the Craig CLA. Sandy has made sure that the gentlemen at the home are the top priority, even when the home is short-staffed. Sandy has been an advocate for all of their health needs, especially recently when one required multiple hospitalizations/surgeries and medical appointments. Sandy worked closely with the individual’s PCP to ensure that his quality of life is supported by the staff at the Craig CLA. She also worked to make sure these health issues did not affect the other individuals and the activities that are important to them.

Sandy has made a good balance of keeping the management team informed and her peers educated on the changes, aware of concerns and course of treatment.  Sandy’s actions is what we hope from all staff in the IDD Department. Sandy does not wait to be told what to do.  She takes the necessary actions to ensure the health and safety of the individuals in her care. 

Jonathan Simmen
Adolescent 24 Short-term RTF

Jonathan is an MH Adolescent Program Worker in our Adolescent 24 hour Short-term Residential Treatment program. He is one of the kindest and most compassionate people to work in the program and a role model for teens who are struggling with personal issues while learning what is like to be a successful man.

Clients are often overheard saying how they want to learn to handle their emotions like Jonathan because he doesn’t let little things get to him and he doesn’t react to anger. They often seek him out for one-on-one conversations because he is such a good listener and is always willing to help. They are blessed to have such a good leader and example during their time in the program.

The Sanctuary Model is a treatment and organizational change model that takes into perspective the idea that a large percentage of the folks we provide services for, as well as our colleagues we work alongside, have experienced some type of trauma in their lifetime. It is a model of care that provides an atmosphere of open communication, respect, safety, sensitivity and accountability that benefits staff and facilitates recovery for those we serve.

Anna Barger
Child/Adolescent Partial Hospital Program
Emotional Intelligence

Scott Carvin
Psychosocial Rehabilitation Program

Julie Cawoski
ParentWISE Program

Leslie Petrosky
Jail Re-entry Program
Growth and Change

Katelyn Phillips
Program Support—Outpatient
Open Communication

Jeff Serventi
Transportation Program
Social Responsibility

Jill Morrison
Accounts Receivable Billing Specialist

Heather Parison
Program Support Staff

Thomas Seagriff
Supervisor—IDD Residential

Brad Scherf
Supportive Living Specialist

Heidi Torgent
Coordinator—IDD Residential

The Annual Employee Award was instituted as a means of recognizing an individual for year-long accomplishments in the agency. The employee selected, in addition to an ongoing outstanding work performance, should have made recognizable contributions to his/her community and the individual’s overall performance, in addition to being in good standing within his/her department, should exemplify the agency’s mission, vision, values and goals. It is with great pride that we honor the following staff member for his contributions to Family Services.

Thomas “TJ” Seagriff
IDD Residential

TJ has worked for Family Services for 20 years. During his time with the agency he has worked as a Program Worker, Lead Program Worker and now a as Supervisor of two group homes in the IDD Residential Department. TJ worked very hard this past year learning a new position while interacting with staff and residents. Though he has been a supervisor for just over a year, in the past year TJ encountered more situations than most staff with many more years of service.
The first concern that TJ handled was when one of his home’s residents broke his knee participating at day program. His care was very difficult and resulted in surgery, rehabilitation, therapy, and many medical needs. When the resident returned to his home, it became apparent to TJ that the resident needed more specialized care in an appropriate facility. This was a difficult time for the staff members as the individual has been a long-standing client and became part of the family. TJ was supportive of the staff during this transition. He has encouraged continued relationships with this individual, which is good for both the individual and staff. 
On another occasion, a non-verbal resident became very agitated and upset.  Through a process of elimination staff were able to determine that the resident was having trouble seeing. The doctor had a full schedule of appointments and surgeries through September. TJ advocated on behalf of the resident and persuaded the doctor to see him as soon as possible. He was able to move up his eye appointment from October to June and the doctor operated in July to remove a cataract. This made a world of difference to the resident who came out of surgery happy and healthy and able to see well again.

TJ also had to deal with the illness and passing of a beloved resident. The individual was elderly and wished to remain at home as long as he could. TJ made every effort to comply with the resident’s wishes.  He made sure that all his needs were met, provided him with a comfortable, loving environment, and supported staff during a difficult time.

TJ has also given back to his community and his country. He is a military veteran who served during Desert Storm. He received the Combat Infantry Badge, Army Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two (2) Bronze Stars, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Accommodation Medal, and two combat patches for 24th Infantry Division and 20th Airborne Engineer. Following his tour of duty, he spent six years in the Military reserves.