MME staff appreciated for hard work
RONAN – Between warm hugs and continuous words of thanks, the employees at Mission Mountain Enterprises had a little ice cream on Thursday afternoon in the park to celebrate Direct Support Professional Recognition Week.
MME Director Whitney Cantlon stood in front of the crowd of employees and friends for a moment to say “thank you” to the Direct Support Professionals with the nonprofit corporation providing community-based services to individuals with intellectual disabilities. “Today is about recognizing the staff and giving back to them,” she said.
MME has close to 140 staff working in several capacities, including the organization’s four group homes, two activity centers, two thrift stores and other offsite services. MME was established in Lake County in 1975 at the end of a wave of institutionalization. “People born with disabilities in the past were placed in institutions and that was terrible for everyone,” she said. “MME allows people to live their lives within the community with support.”
Vickie Rogers has worked for MME for the past 23 years in several different positions starting with the group home and then the thrift shop and now management. She said helping people live their lives has been a rewarding career. “Every day that I come to work is different,” she said. “We do so many different things to help people.”
Diane Harrison has been working with MME for the last four years and in the service industry for 34 years. During the event, it was announced that she was going to retire in 28 days. “Being in the service of people isn’t my job, it’s my breath,” she said. “It gives me purpose and value.”
She said it has been “an honor” to watch people utilizing the services at the organization and make connections within the community. She said working at the organization has taught her to let go of limiting ideas of what people should and shouldn’t be able to do.
“People will surprise you if you let them,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful journey.”
David McCullough, a person utilizing the services at MME, stood next to Harrison and thanked her for all that she has done. He talked about the time he celebrated his birthday and Harrison went with him to a community dinner where he received a World War II jacket from an officer as a gift. She also took him to several parades where he wore military attire to celebrate. McCullough said Harrison was “a great friend.”
Cantlon said MME does have its share of struggles. MME is a government-funded program on a fixed budget and unable to pay employees much more than minimum wage to start, although there are opportunities to grow. She said lower wages make it difficult for many people to stay long term. She said MME had a 51% turnover rate last year.
“We have reduced the rate in the last few years, but it’s still high,” she said. “As a result, we are understaffed. The staff we do have work incredibly hard, some work full-time and then some. We want the community to be aware of that and recognize what they do. They work incredibly hard, and we appreciate that.”