More than 26,000 Hoosiers work as Direct Support Professionals in Indiana, providing much needed assistance to the elderly and people with disabilities. With such a large workforce, it says a lot when one person is singled out for excellence. Yet, that is happening to Donna Kite of Cardinal Services.
On May 3, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) will recognize Kite at their annual conference in San Antonio. She will be honored as the 2017 Direct Support Professional of the Year for the State of Indiana.
Kite was surprised and emotional when told that she was nominated by her supervisors at Cardinal, who describe her as having every quality you want in a DSP. She works closely with parents and has their total trust and confidence; she is focused on the people she serves; she strongly advocates for their best interests; and she is always there for them with compassion and a sense of humor.
Cardinal CEO, Randy Hall says the award recognizes the dedication Kite shows each day to supporting people with disabilities, and reflects the high quality of support provided by all Cardinal DSPs.
Kite lives in Royal Center and works in the Cass County branch of Cardinal Services. She has been working with the same young men since they were 8 weeks old, Brad and Brett who are now 31. The twins were born facing multiple disability issues, and their parents knew they needed assistance from the start. Through the years, Kite has been both teacher and caregiver, encouraging the men to reach their fullest potential. Working with Brad and a Cardinal Services job coach, she helped secure his employment at a local church. He has worked there for 8 years and even earned Employee of the Month honors. Yet, work would not have been possible had Kite not also taught Brad to ride the bus alone.
Brett has more severe disabilities, so Kite spends more time with him daily. Together, they go on walks and visits in the community where Kite assures that Brett, who is non-verbal, interacts with others. In fact, both men are well known in their small community where people don’t just greet them, but stop to visit.
Kite is credited with creating this strong network of connections, and confesses it hasn’t always been easy, especially for the more shy Brett. For instance, when Brad wanted to go into a local restaurant for a soda, Brett refused because of the crowd of people. Kite talk with the owner, who began bringing Brett’s drink outside and visiting with him during his daily walk. After a few weeks of this, Brett felt comfortable enough to go inside the restaurant.
Kite points to moments like this, when the men achieve goals and enjoy life, as to why she loves her job. Frankly, it’s a career she never envisioned and a profession she never even considered. Yet today she says she can’t imagine why someone would not want to do what she does.
Barbara Merrill, CEO of ANCOR said that they received hundreds of nominations highlighting DSPs from across the nation, “DSPs are the front line workers we reply on,” she said. “These awards are just one small measure of saying thank you to individuals like Donna Kite, who can be proud of the difference her work has made for the people she supports at Cardinal Services.”