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JACKIE'S JOURNEY

Jackie Perrotta is a Catholic Charities Disabilities Services (CCDS) Direct Support Professional at an Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA) in Niskayuna, where she works with five ladies. Here she shares her story and experience as a Catholic Charities Disabilities Services DSP.

How did you get involved with Catholic Charities Disabilities Services? I first got involved when my daughter Amanda was receiving services from the agency. I don’t know what we would have done without Catholic Charities Disabilities Services and the help of Denise LaBier, Amanda’s Service Coordinator.

When Amanda passed away in 2008, I didn’t want to work or do anything. Eventually I decided it was time to get back out there and Denise suggested I should look into CCDS. In 2010, I came to work for the agency and I have been working at Riverview house ever since.

What surprised you about working as a DSP with the agency? I think what surprised me is that we get to do all kinds of things. We go on outings, attend concerts and we even went on a trip to Disney World in Florida for five days. I think the ladies attitudes too, they’re so thankful and grateful. We listen to their happy things, their sad thoughts and they’re so appreciative of everything.

What are some of the best things as well as the most challenging things you have experienced since starting? The best things would be the people I’ve met – unbelievable. And the job itself, it doesn’t feel like a job. I get to spend a lot of time with one of the ladies who is home during the day. I would have to say that the worst thing was when Linda passed away shortly after I started; that was difficult.

What do you wish other people knew about working as a Direct Support Professional? I wish they knew how rewarding it is. I have found a job where I am happy and I can give back every single day. Also, how involved the families can be. There are picnics, parties and visits, at any time family members can come. It is great that they encourage the families to feel welcome at the house.

What would you tell someone that was thinking about working as a Direct Support Professional here? I think they should come and see it, see if it’s a good fit and what the flow of the house is like. I would also say to be patient, sincere, and caring. And to remember that this is (the ladies’) house, their home; and there must be respect for the ladies. If the TVs’ on and you want the channel switched, ask them first.

What would someone be surprised to know about you? Hmm, I don’t know, that’s hard. (laughing) - That I love watching re-runs of The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie.

What do you do when you’re not working here? I help my husband at our bakery in Troy. But I do a lot with the Amanda’s Journey Foundation, which we started after Amanda passed away to help others battling mitochondrial disease. The principles and practices of the foundation were actually formed from the wishes and instructions Amanda left in her journals (which have since been published as a book; Amazing Amanda, My Journey Through Mito). We have fundraisers like the annual Mito Walk, in Schenectady, to raise money to help people: with the (mitochondrial) disease as well as their caregivers. We work with Albany Med.’s genetic team and have provided service dogs and wheel chairs, paid mortgages, gas bills, in addition to covering medical expenses.

To find out more about Amanda’s Journey, visit the website at:
www.amandasjourney.org.

We are most fortunate that Jackie chose us for not only the supports and services for her daughter Amanda, but for her place to work!

 

- Sarah Flora, Community Relations and Marketing Coordinator and Betts Montenaro, Executive Administrative Assistant