Cherie standing outside at the Respite Care Home

Cherie built her career working with children as a librarian and then a support person in a local school district, but decided to take a risk and change career paths over the summer. She was looking for more meaningful work and said, “I felt that I could do more.” Her role at the school district wasn’t especially financially lucrative as it ended but being a mostly seasonal position, and she saw that Community Living had increased its starting wage to $18-21/hour for starting Direct Support Professionals. “Pay factored into my decision to switch to this particular company because I make more here than I did at the school district.”

Cherie was hired as a Direct Support Professional for the Respite Care Home and, although she’s only been with Community Living for a few months, she’s already getting to know all the home’s visitors. She likes meeting all the new guests and enjoys that having different people stay at the house means no two days are the same. “The dynamic of the house changes depending on who’s here,” she said. “It’s always different because we have people coming and going all the time.”

Cherie tries to make the Respite Care Home as inviting as possible so people look forward to returning for another stay. “They want to come back here because we make it a home away from home,” she said. Each of the bedrooms at the Respite Care Home is decorated to fit a welcoming theme and there are always holiday decorations outside and inside. The team recently put up their fall décor.

“The people we serve need us, but we also need them. It’s a two-way street.”

Even though the house is comfortable, of her favorite parts of her job is getting to take people out into the community. “We take it for granted that we can get in the car and drive and go where we want,” she said, recognizing that many people with developmental disabilities don’t always have that opportunity, especially during the pandemic. She recently took one of the Respite Care Home’s residents out for lunch and to get her hair cut. “She lit up and became a different person than she’s been when she’s stuck in the house.” While she likes going out for special meals and fun trips, Cherie sees the value in getting out and running everyday errands, too. The Respite Care Home had planned to grill out one evening. “We went out and got propane for the barbeque grill and I took one of the clients with me,” she said. “He got to hold the tank and was proud that he was able to do that. It’s empowering and it’s something we needed.”

Looking back, Cherie says she’s grateful for the opportunity and glad she took a chance in starting at Community Living because she believes in the value of the services. “No matter how much you have to offer, the clients are always going to have more to offer you,” she said. “The people we serve need us but we also need them. It’s a two-way street.” Her advice to anyone considering becoming a Direct Support Professional is to explore open positions and see if there’s a fit. “Whether you’re 25 or 55, take a look at what’s available because you could find something that could spark a lot of joy for you.”

When she isn’t working, Cherie enjoys spending time with her family at home on six acres. She’s married and has a son, daughter, and two Boxer Mastiffs named Buddy and Moose. She loves Cardinal baseball games and singing all kinds of music, although she says she mostly just sings in the shower these days.