Brittney Hernandez has been an invaluable addition to the Lonning Center team over the past few years, and we are thrilled to announce that she has been recognized by the Gateway Coalition as Community Living’s Direct Support Professional of the Year.

“This nomination is a great honor, and I feel a deep sense of pride knowing that my work’s quality and commitment to those we serve have been acknowledged by my peers,” said Brittney. Since joining the Lonning Center as a DSP in May 2021, Brittney has made a remarkable impact on everyone around her. She advocates passionately for the individuals she supports, demonstrating extraordinary patience and a commitment to promoting independence. Brittney’s willingness to go above and beyond to help others achieve their goals serves as an inspiration to her colleagues.  Brittney is known for her selflessness, and often asks, “How can I help?” — a phrase she genuinely means.

“My favorite part about being a DSP is seeing all the clients smile, hearing them laugh and just having a great time. It makes me happy to see them happy. I am very blessed to have such an impact on their lives and their families’ lives,” Brittney added.

One of Brittney’s favorite memories with participants from Lonning Center was volunteering at Crossed Heart BBQ. They helped package and deliver meals to first responders in the St. Charles area. “We were able to meet so many amazing people during our time with Smokey Scott, the founder of Crossed Heart BBQ. We visited fire stations, ambulance stations, and police stations. Seeing the clients smile, and laugh was amazing because they knew that all their hard work made so many people happy.”

Brittney also channels her creativity into center activities and projects. She recently taking the lead on the design of a sensory room for participants. “Brittney poured an enormous amount of thought, energy, and time into designing a sensory room that serves multiple purposes and genuinely benefits all. The space is beautiful and provides a safe environment for participants to access when they need a moment of calm or quiet to de-escalate or process,” commented Jenn, Director of SSA.

Brittney’s journey to Community Living began with a Facebook post that piqued her interest. “I did some research and the more I read, the more I wanted to work for Community Living, Brittney explained.” The organization’s mission and values resonated deeply with her, especially as a mother of twin boys, aged 7, who are on the autism spectrum. “When my kids were diagnosed, I felt so alone, knowing little about autism or disabilities. When I found Community Living, I knew this is where I was meant to be, and I LOVE every minute of it,” she added.

Outside of work, Brittney enjoys spending time with her family and friends. “I am a blessed mommy of three amazing boys—Brayden, 14, Gavin and Gabriel, both 7. My boyfriend has two amazing kids—Jolea, 12, and Carter, 9. We also have three dogs and two cats. We enjoy family time and love to be outside when it’s nice,” she shared.

On April 16th, Brittney was presented with the 2024 Gateway Coalition DSP Award for Community Living. The award ceremony, held at Ameristar, featured representatives from numerous agencies, each celebrating their award winners. We are honored to recognize Brittney as DSP of the year for her remarkable impact on participants and peers alike. Her passion and dedication to our mission shine through in everything she does at the Lonning Center. Community Living is immensely grateful to have Brittney as part of our team!

“When I found Community Living, I knew this is where I was meant to be,

and I love every minute of it.”