Just like the individuals we serve, every DePaul Community Resources location has its own challenges and opportunities—and for the dedicated staff of our Amelia office, that means time, distance, and so much more.
Our Amelia office began, like all good DePaul stories, with a home. Specifically, the home of Peggy Ball, a longtime DePaul employee who began to offer local services to Amelia and the surrounding counties in 2007; by 2008, operations had expanded to a true office. While Peggy left DePaul in February of 2016, her work lives on—Amelia is one of our busiest offices, with a unique caseload of more than 30 sponsored residential homes for individuals with developmental disabilities. In each home, these individuals receive personalized attention and support to maximize both dignity and independence.
The Amelia office is also unique in that the majority of their cases involve biological relatives as care providers, including parents, grandparents, and cousins. These placements can be challenging—the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services prefers non-biological placements when possible, because it is often difficult for direct relatives to understand their new roles as service providers, bound by certain expectations and regulations.
“They can’t think like parents anymore,” said Marcie Mann, Amelia’s sponsored residential manager. “They have to think like care providers,” with all the differences that entails. Throughout the process, however, the Amelia case managers work diligently and patiently to ensure the highest quality of care.
Through hard work and dedicated outreach, the office has forged strong relationships not only in Amelia, but also in the surrounding counties—Hanover, Chesterfield, Henrico, Prince George, and more. Support from the local community services board also ensures this office’s reputation as the premiere provider of choice for residential support homes throughout the region.
With such a wide service area, the office faces difficulties in distance; even the closest sponsored homes are often more than 20 minutes away. Each challenge is met with the staff’s professionalism and zeal, always branching out—in two years, they’ve found and approved nine new homes in Hanover alone, creating training opportunities and events in the region to ease travel times. Expansion in technology has also helped to bridge the gap, with the office utilizing tools like Skype to build stronger connections with DePaul’s “central hub” in Roanoke and Lynchburg.
This spirit of Amelia’s staff members is best reflected in the attitudes and contributions of their residential providers—providers like Anthony and Amber Hancock. Amber’s aunt was a longtime care provider for DePaul, and Amber had no doubt when the time came, she would open her home to others in need of compassion and stability.
“If you look at what we do from an outside perspective, it seems like providers are giving up a lot,” said Amber. “But the struggle…it doesn’t matter. It’s so rewarding to look at the people we serve and see how genuinely happy they are. We need more families willing to do that work.”
“This job isn’t about how much work you do—it’s about helping someone else live a life they can be happy about,” Anthony added.
“In particular, our case manager, Jennifer Dickson, has been amazingly supportive,” says Amber. “We’ve never needed something that she didn’t respond to as quickly as possible. We love how she advocates for her individuals, and we’re glad to have her on our team.”
In addition to the accolades they receive from their sponsored care providers, the Amelia staff have countless other accomplishments. They’ve been at the vanguard of DePaul’s switch-over to electronic records, and are on track to become the first completely paperless service location. Even more impressive, throughout recent audits from Medicaid, the Department of Justice, and licensors, the Amelia staff have been consistently praised for the efficiency and quality of their work.
“Everyone who’s here really wants to be here,” said Marcie. “They want to make lives better.”
That sentiment—the core mission of service to others—connects DePaul throughout all our locations and offices. It’s tempting, sometimes, to gloss over the accomplishments of each office, case manager, and care provider, but in meeting the unique challenges they face and exploring the opportunities available to their region, DePaul is made infinitely stronger. Our diversity gives us perspective, and that perspective empowers us to do more than what is necessary—instead, we aim always to do what is best for the people we serve and the communities they live in.