Columbia dedicates week to professionals who support people with disabilities

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COLUMBIA - Direct support professionals assist individuals with disabilities every day, whether it be helping people do their jobs, go grocery shopping or manage their lives 24-hours a day, if needed.

The city of Columbia recognized that dedication on Tuesday at an event held by the Woodhaven organization, Boone County Family Resources and ACT, who all assist individuals with disabilities.

Columbia proclaimed September 13 through September 19 “Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.” First ward councilman Clyde Ruffin read the proclamation in front of dozens of direct support professionals, their clients and other attendees.

“Be assured that we work every day to the best of our ability to ensure that the city of Columbia really is the beloved community where everyone has an equal opportunity to live, to work, to learn and to play,” Ruffin said.

Heath Allfree, who lives in an Individualized Support Living home at ACT spoke about what direct support professionals mean to him. After his speech, his first-time as a public speaker, he said it was humbling to share his experience.

“I felt honored with all my heart and soul,” Allfree said. “This is an awesome thing for me to do because I’ve never done this before in my life and it’s just a great honor.”

Mary Bright, a support professional with Boone County Family Resources, said the experience of working with individuals with disabilities is rewarding.

“Whenever I’m asked what my job is, I’m always proud to respond that I work with individuals who have different abilities, individuals who have opened my eyes to the world and continue to show me that diversity and different ways of thinking are a good thing,” Bright said. “Yes, I teach skills, but I learn so much more from the individuals that I serve.”

Another local support professional, Angelene Dixon, echoed Bright’s words.

“When you put your heart into being a DSP, or caregiver, the reward comes when you have a positive impact on another person’s life,” Dixon said.

Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week is celebrated across the country with events, like the one in Columbia, aimed at recognizing the dedication of support professionals who assist individuals on a daily basis and help them lead more independent lives.

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors were on hand to conduct a ribbon cutting to celebrate the dedicated week.

Most of the support professionals who spoke Tuesday talked about the rewarding experience they receive thanks to their clients.

“I’m just fortunate and blessed to be in this position and do what I do,” Dixon said. “I think people ought to recognize that it’s not a job, but a blessing. Hopefully, if a time comes where if I need that kind of assistance, it’ll come.”