Honors given for serving those with special needs
Women lauded with citations for work with special needs community
Two women were recognized Sept. 22 at Greenwell State Park in Hollywood with governor’s citations for their dedication to helping the Southern Maryland special needs community.
Bay Community Support Services direct support staff Carol Hebb, one of the awardees, said she was “in a position where I couldn’t do for myself” in the past.
She said she saw people “in worse situations [and was] inspired to get up and give.”
Hebb said her job allows her to work directly with the special needs community and help with day-to-day activities.
“I also assist with getting them out into the community,” she said, adding she’s been with Bay-CSS for almost 19 years.
Hebb’s client, Carrie Shoemaker, 43, was at the award ceremony with her mother, Grace Shoemaker of Leonardtown. While holding back tears, the mother said Hebb “has been a blessing … you can’t replace her.”
Hebb helped her daughter with “hospital stays and losing her father,” Grace Shoemaker said, adding that life wouldn’t be the same without Hebb’s 14 years of guidance.
Mitzi Bernard, BayCSS executive director, said the mission of BayCSS employees is to help those with special needs to have “meaningful lives.”
Bay-CSS day activities manager Kim Aubourg said she nominated Hebb for the citation because the effort she puts into helping is “all from the heart.”
“It’s only a handful of times that you see people who are genuinely in it for the right reasons,” Aubourg said, adding that she was happy and thankful to have Hebb on the team.
“You’re an inspiration for everyone … your kindness, your caring, all of that,” she said.
Cherish Shepherd, the manager of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Solomons, was also awarded a citation. She said before the ceremony that she was inspired to hire community members with special needs because her cousin has autism.
She said he struggled to find gainful employment because of his learning curve.
“Everyone has a learning curve,” she said. “We all learn differently” and hiring people with special needs gives them “a fair chance to earn a living.”
Shepherd was different from other employers “because of the way she talked” to a future employee who had special needs, Maurio Cole, BayCSS vocational manager for supportive employees, said.
“She spoke to him as though he was already working there, with no disabilities,” he said. Shepherd communicated with the future employee using what Cole called “the discovery process. She asked about his abilities, his skills, what he can and wants to do,” he said.
Bernard said the employee couldn’t attend the ceremony because he was working.
Cole said after Shepherd hired the employee, she became his advocate.
At one point, “he was having a meltdown, and … she took him under her wing” and instructed him on how to better handle his job tasks, he said.
“He needs that sternness, and that’s what she’s giving,” Cole said. Employers like Shep- herd “are people we need to advocate for our people … it shows that they want to be productive in society as well.”
Ike Puzon, Bay-CSS board president, said employers “who hire our people make all of the difference in the world … it is so important for our people to get out into the community.”
Citations were signed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) as part of commemorating the Maryland Department of Disability’s Direct Support Professional Week from Sept. 13 through Sept. 19.
Cherish Shepherd, left, manager of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Solomons, holds her governor’s citation Friday while Bay Community Support Services Executive Director Mitzi Bernard, center, and Bay-CSS direct support professional Carol Hebb look at Hebb’s citation. Shepherd and Hebb were recognized by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) as part of the state’s Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.