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DSP’s- The Unsung Heroes

Governor Tom Wolf announced that September 12-18, 2021 is Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week! This week is set aside to honor the hard work that DSP’s do every day to support individuals with disabilities.

In recognition of the great work that DSP’s do at The Arc of Cumberland & Perry Counties (CPARC), several staff were identified and nominated by supervisors:


Tonya Payne

Tonya Payne- DSP at Residential

Tonya Payne is a self-described country girl who likes to be outdoors. “I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty,” she chuckles. She also enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Tonya’s been a team member at CPARC for almost three years. Her journey began at a day program in Mechanicsburg. She then decided to transfer to a group home.

Tonya finds inspiration in the joy that every day brings to the individuals she supports.

“Being part of their lives and being there to help when they need it is the biggest thing for me,” Tonya says. “What might seem small…like completing a puzzle or drawing…can be a huge accomplishment for an individual.”

Residential Associate Director Laurie Foose says Tonya is “extremely helpful.”

Laurie adds, “Tonya thinks ahead, and takes initiative. It is evident she truly cares and has the importance of the care of the folks as the priority.”

Special occasions drive home the WHY for Tonya. You see, some individuals that CPARC supports are not in contact with family. Their housemates become family, and team members do too.

At Christmas or for birthdays the act of receiving and opening gifts is monumental. “It melts my heart to see their eyes light up,” Tonya says.

Kind supporters volunteer as secret Santa’s for individuals who CPARC supports. The gifts bring immeasurable happiness to each individual. “They are so excited to get up and come out to see the presents.”

You see, some still believe in Santa, Tonya adds. “They’ll cry with excitement at what ‘Santa’ brought them. For days after their faces light up as they talk about what Santa got them.”

Thank you, Tonya, for caring about the individuals you support every day.



Tori Manning- DSP at Community Fusion

Tori Manning is driven to give back. She feels that her work at CPARC is “how I do that.”

Tori Manning

And, like some on our team, the mission is personal.

“My boys inspired me to be in the field, do this work. And I fell in love with the people and my co-workers. I love my job!”

This mother of two lives a life full of purpose. Tori does this by connecting day program participants to new places and helping them meet new people. Like when she recently organized an outing to the Civil War Museum. “I love seeing their reactions. It was such a blast!”

“It’s an honor to work with the individuals, see their progress,” Tori says. “I wanted a career where I feel fulfilled. This does that.”

She chuckles, “I plan on being a lifer here.” And her work to earn a bachelor’s degree in Human Services will definitely help with that.

Tori’s gets inspired by her co-workers. “We’re all in this together. We do the best we can every day.”

Tori works at the Carlisle location of Community Fusion, a day program for people with intellectual disabilities. Program Director Laura Belanger says, “Tori is a diligent worker that takes great care of the folks.”

It was tough when COVID-19 lockdowns forced the day program to close. But, Tori saw it as an opportunity to step up to help in a new way. “I want to help out as much as I can as I’m able.”

In doing so, she learned more about the other programs at CPARC. “When I was working at a group home, I helped individuals tie dye shirts. I wasn’t exactly good at it, but they sure enjoyed it,” Tor says. “It was great to meet new people when I helped at CIT. I like meeting people who work in different programs at CPARC.”

When she’s not working, Tori love to explore unique sites in the area (like Centralia) with family. And Tori’s love of makeup lets her mix self-care with self-expression. “I spend way too much at Ulta,” she laughs.

Your adventurous spirit and passionate heart are invaluable gifts to the people you support, Tori. Thank you.



Laurie Sheriff- DSP at Center for Industrial Training

Caring and committed are verbs that team members like Laurie Sheriff embody every day.

Laurie Sheriff and her husband

“I get inspired when I see a trainee accomplish something. They can do a lot more than people think they can. And I like knowing that I make a difference in their life.”

Laurie’s worked at the Center for Industrial Training for 11 years. But, it was her experience as a van driver that led her to consider a career at CPARC. “I transported kids with autism to school, and was told not to interact with them.” This did not sit well.

So Laurie chose to pursue a job that better aligned with her beliefs and values. She found this at CPARC.

“The trainees are great, they love attention. Getting to know and interact with them is important to me,” she says. “I like to be there to help them do their jobs and teach new skills. And they are grateful for your help.”

She’ll tell you, though, that the trainees give her so much more. “Doing the work is important and fulfilling, but what I get back is so much more.”

Laurie’s built relationships with many trainees over the last decade. “Some trainees tell me they miss me when I’m out. I even write a contract for one saying when I’ll be back.”

Consistency and commitment are important to Laurie. She knows staff turnover can be difficult for people with disabilities. “Walking in and out of their lives isn’t an option,” Laurie says, firmly. “We’re some of the most stable people they might have.”

So it was hard not seeing them when CIT was shut down. And safety precautions have limited CIT’s capacity to serve all trainees. “Some have not returned yet and others have decided not to return,” she says, sadly.

Fortunately, she has a strong network of support in her co-workers. “They’re great and make a difference in the world. They love the trainees as much as I do.”

In her free time, Laurie loves to spend time with her husband, their three kids, and seven grandchildren. “It is family or work,” Laurie chuckles. “I’m a homebody. I like cookouts with my family, going to Midway, and listening to bands with my husband.”

Val Griffin- DSP at Residential

Val Griffin

Val Griffin comes to work every day ready to make a difference.

“I’ll pull 150% and help as much as I can,” she says.

About 20 years ago, Val began her journey at CPARC. “I wanted a flexible schedule for my kids,” she laughs, “and I’m still doing overnight shifts!”

Associate Director Stacy Mayberry says, “Val’s been very helpful and dedicated to the individuals. She works extra to help cover shifts. She leaves notes to thank other staff for things they do.”

Val’s thoughtfulness comes from her belief in a higher power. “Faith helps carry me through, it really made the good times,” she says. “My motto is that God does not call on us to do great things but small things with great love.”

Taking care of others has defined Val for years. “I’m a caretaker. I’ve taken care of pretty much everybody in my life.”

No that’s not to say that caretaking is all she does. You learn quickly that Val loves a great challenge. “I did a mud run with co-workers. I enjoy biking….even though I did have an accident this summer. It led to my hand being in cast. But I’m hoping to get it off soon.”



Cheryl Nash- DSP at Residential

Cheryl Nash loves sunshine and good times. “I love the ocean more than life,” she laughs.

She is also passionate about advocating for the rights and needs of people with intellectual disabilities.

Cheryl Nash

“It’s so vital to advocate. We need to keep pushing…pushing to help make their needs known. That might mean helping them speak for themselves, speaking for them if they’re unable, and encouraging them to be what they can be for as long can they can be.”

Cheryl advocates for the individuals she supports, and to ensure the world is a better place for her granddaughter who has special needs.

She’s advocated for people in different settings throughout her career. For 13 years, Cheryl worked with older adults in a nursing home.

“I believe that everyone needs someone.” And she carries that sense of purpose into her work at CPARC.

And, like so many of her team members, Cheryl lives for the smiles from the people she helps.

“It’s the smiles on their faces, how much they enjoy doing something,” she adds. “I like being a part of their world.”

Just like when she helped folks participate in a local Halloween parade. “That will stick with me forever! The individuals had the time of their life. They couldn’t believe they got to be a part of that. We talked about it for hours after, and we still talk about it when I see them.”

Program Specialist Kaity Loper is grateful for team members like Cheryl. “She is one of our quiet, unsung heroes. Cheryl comes in day in and day out with nothing but a positive attitude and respect for the individuals she supports.”


Rich Davis- DSP at Center for Industrial Training

“I have the perfect job,” says Rich Davis, a team member at CIT.

Rich Davis & some individuals he supports

He oversees trainees who volunteer as part of Community Participation Support (CPS), a job he’s had for three years. “They volunteer, I supervise. I’m amazed that they want to give back when they could be making money.”

Rich shares that the trainees help animals who are less fortunate, help patients at a hospital, and provide company and comfort at nursing homes. “I learn stuff from them. They show me stuff all the time. They’ll remember a dog’s name when I’ve forgotten it.”

It’s important to Rich to give back. For more than 20 years he did that helping kids at a United Methodist home. And now he’s finding ways to give back by connecting trainees with volunteer opportunities in the community.

“I’m not much of a desk guys,” he chuckles. “I like to be out and about, meeting people, talking to others.”

At the height of the COVID crisis, Rich continued to find ways to help. CPS Supervisor Heather Brinser explains, “When CIT was closed to our individuals, CPS was unable to meet volunteer obligations. Rich went above and beyond to fulfill those obligations on his own time.”

Because Rich helped at Canine Rescue, the laundry continued to get washed, dried, and folded. He also spent time socializing the dogs.

“Because of Rich, when CPS was able to resume, we were set to get our individuals right back to volunteering at Canine Rescue,” Heather adds.

Rich also stepped up to help individuals in group homes. He actually started his career at CPARC in a group home in the early 2000’s.

When he’s not working, Rich enjoys spending time with family and friends. He hikes, loves his cats, and watches the Washington football team.

Crystal Brinksy- DSP at Community Fusion/Life Time Adult Day Care

Crystal Brinksy looks forward to helping others every day. That’s what she likes most about being a team member at CPARC.

“I have a strong drive to help people. The individuals make my day. If I make them smile, I feel like I did my job. Their smiles are what drive me.”

You can find Crystal helping out at day programs like Community Fusion and Life Time Adult Day Care. “To give happiness doesn’t cost a thing,” Crystal says. “I love these guys. We have good times.”

She came to CPARC four years ago, after working in the medical field for over 20 years. Being a helper is her calling. “I want to help. It’s in my heart. This is what I’m supposed to do.”

Day program participants help her pull through the loss of her husband and son. “Knowing that I’m helping the individuals helps me get through my days. That I’m doing something good. Something they (my husband and son) would want me to do. And I want to do.”

Her drive to help is also rooted in her belief that she’s paying it forward. “I would want someone like me or other staff to be there to help me or someone I love.”

Right now, Crystal is stepping up to help staff at Community Fusion. She knows the time will come when Life Time reopens and she’ll have to leave crew. She says, “Never forgotten, always remembered.”

Life Time Director Jane Zarker says she’s eager to have Crystal back. “Life Time and Fusion truly appreciates your flexibility and dedication to the individuals we serve.”

Thank you for your kind heart, Crystal.