On November 17, 2016, Luisa Sanders, Vocational Instructor with Employment Services, received recognition at the Direct Support Professionals Awards Ceremony held at the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of St. Charles County.
One Direct Support Professional from each representing agency received an Outstanding Service Award, and Luisa was the representative for Community Living. There were 8 award recipients in all.
For one night they were honored, but every day they are Super Heroes to so many.
Her client-first approach is what made Luisa eligible for this award. “What sets Luisa apart is the fact that she is simply and quietly amazingly effective – flying way under the radar,” Barb Griffith, President and CEO, said in her opening statement. “She is one of our golden people who can go unnoticed. Thankfully, we did notice and are really proud to support her for this award.”
Luisa admits she is an introvert. “I tend to keep feelings to myself,” Luisa said. “It was really cool to hear Barb say what she did in her opening. I personally don’t feel like I deserve this award. It’s such an honor to be nominated and it definitely gives me more motivation to continue to do what I do.”
Even her boyfriend, Derrion Colvin, thinks the award is such an honor for Luisa. “It’s pretty awesome to be here,” he said. “Luisa doesn’t think she’s capable of doing the things she does, but I tell her she is phenomenal at it. I’m so proud of her.”
During the night, she was surrounded by coworkers and Vishal, an individual she does follow along with at Mid Rivers 14 Cine. “It was really cool to have Vishal here,” Luisa said. “It’s because of people like him that I do this. It was also great to be surrounded by the people who have been beside me through this journey.”
For her, Selina Loughridge, Respite Center Manager, was a surprise to have sitting at her table. “I didn’t know she was going to be here,” Luisa said. “She really believed in me.”
Luisa started her career at Community Living in the Respite Center program and still fills-in when needed. Looking at Luisa, you may not realize just how strong she is. The Respite Center serves youth ages 6-21, and some of these youth have challenging behaviors. Luisa has never backed away from a difficult situation. “She looks for ways to engage with the kids and help them to excel and reach their full potential,” Selina said. “She’s an excellent role model. Her enthusiasm is contagious and she is a joy to work with.”
The direct care is Luisa’s favorite part of what she does at the Respite Center. As for Employment Services, which assists individuals with disabilities in identifying their skills and interests, matches them with employers, and provides job coaching and retention services for the life of the job, Luisa enjoys seeing the individuals gain their independence.
One individual Luisa coaches, who works at a nursing home, needed to work on being more independent. She told him she would be there if he needed her, but she was going to let him do as much of the job as he could without her help. “When he finished the job, we both looked at each other with huge smiles, because he just did it with no help from me,” Luisa said. “It was such an awesome moment.”
With each story Luisa tells you about the individuals she serves, there is passion. “I really have found the field I want to be in for the rest of my life,” Luisa said. “It’s so cool to be where you are supposed to be. I’m able to use the gifts that God has given me.”
The eight award recipients include: (from left to right) Luisa Sanders, of Community Living, Inc.; Cori Costello, of St. Louis Life; Michelle Buxton, of Emmaus Homes; Josh Yanzer, of LifeBridge Partnership; Carrie Snipes, of Community Choice, Inc.; Cherrice Hutson, of F.A.C.T.; D’Angelo Johnson, of Willow’s Way; and Pete Hanfgarn, of Easterseals Midwest.