ANCOR in the News - 06.03.21

2021 Direct Support Professionals of the Year

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William Pate Named 2021 Direct Support Professional of the Year

Indiana professional joins 49 others being honored for inclusion, empowerment of people with intellectual & developmental disabilities


ALEXANDRIA, VA. – This morning, ANCOR announced that William Pate, a direct support professional (DSP) based in Indianapolis, Ind., has been named the 2021 National Direct Support Professional of the Year. Pate and his organization, Dungarvin—a national provider of long-term supports and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) based in Mendota Heights, Minn.—will be honored alongside 49 other DSPs in a virtual awards presentation to be held on Monday, June 14.

Pate, whose career has largely focused on human services, joined the staff of Dungarvin in September 2018. Initially hired as a DSP, he was quickly promoted to the role of house manager, giving him the opportunity not only to deliver direct support, but also to oversee several other direct support professionals who support people with I/DD in and around Indianapolis.

According to his nomination, Pate has excelled at seeing what the men he supports are capable of, particularly in instances when a prolonged lack of support has exacerbated intense behavioral challenges. For instance, his nomination letter chronicled the story of a young man who was 26 when he moved into the home where Pate worked as a DSP. When Pate first began supporting the man, he was isolated from his community, due in part to being seemingly unable to carry out basic activities of daily living or to interact in public without exhibiting unhealthy and sometimes dangerous behaviors.

However, Pate’s support has empowered the man to become more independent, to communicate more clearly and to develop healthier coping mechanisms that have led to fewer behavioral challenges. As a result, the man has been able to develop relationships with others and become part of his community.

Pate’s nomination also noted that his commitment to the community extends beyond his work as a DSP for Dungarvin. A father of four who has worked for most of his adult life helping people with disabilities, Pate “regularly volunteers with his church and the Feed the Need organization to help those less fortunate. He cooks meals and gathers items from his community such as clothing, winter coats, and other necessities […] to help others in need.” His nomination went on to describe how Pate also mentors young men in his community to develop job skills and that he coaches sports for at-risk youth in Indianapolis. “He is truly a role model for the next generation,” his nominators concluded.

“ANCOR presents the [Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards] annually precisely because of the important but often unrecognized work DSPs are doing to support people with disabilities to be included in the community,” said Heidi Mansir, president of ANCOR’s Board of Directors and executive director of Uplift, Inc., a community-based disability service provider in Gardiner, Maine. “But Will Pate truly demonstrates what excellence in the profession looks like. Hearing numerous stories of how he is making a positive difference in his community—whether while on the clock or not—reminds us why our DSPs demand far more recognition than they receive.”

Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer for ANCOR, added that “Selecting the recipients of this year’s DSP of the Year Awards was an especially difficult task, in part because of the incredibly challenging year community providers have faced. We received a record-shattering 350 nominations, many of which spoke to the great lengths DSPs went to ensure the people they support were protected against the worst effects of COVID-19. The high volume of high-quality nominations illustrates just how important it is for our network of providers to recognize the outstanding professionals who comprise the 2021 class of honorees.”

Since 2007, ANCOR’s annual Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards program has recognized outstanding individuals who deliver long-term supports and services to people with I/DD. The awards celebrate the important role DSPs play in ensuring people with I/DD are included in the community—a role they continue to play despite how continued underinvestment in Medicaid programs has led to a crisis in the workforce characterized by low pay, high turnover and high vacancy rates.

The 2021 DSP of the Year awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Monday, June 14 from 1- 2:30 pm EDT. The full list of honorees to be recognized is below. Members of the press interested in viewing the awards presentation should contact Sean Luechtefeld, ANCOR’s senior director for communications, at [email protected] or 571.207.9108.

National Direct Support Professional of the Year

William Pate, Dungarvin, Indianapolis, Ind.


Special Category Award Recipients

Community Connector: Emily Yadon, Mosaic, Coffeyville, Kan.

Innovation: Debra Tan, Northwest Center, Renton, Wash.

Leadership: Generosa Joyner, Aspire Living & Learning, New Haven, Conn.

Person-Centered Supports: Samantha McNeal, St. Louis Arc, St. Louis, Mo.

Relationships: Deb Elam, The MENTOR Network, Chippewa Falls, Wis.


State Direct Support Professional of the Year Award Recipients

Alabama: Alice Jones, BrightSpring Health Services, Birmingham

Alaska: Jessi Walton, BrightSpring Health Services, Fairbanks

Arizona: Karimu Ngabo, BrightSpring Health Services, Phoenix

California: Joseph Samuela, Dungarvin, Long Beach

Colorado: Connie Healey, Dungarvin, Colorado Springs

Connecticut: Rosa Hernandez, Oak Hill, Waterbury

Delaware: Jonelle Brown, Mosaic, Wilmington

District of Columbia: Michael Anderson, RCM of Washington, Washington, D.C.

Florida: Cassandre Joseph, Sunrise Community, Miami

Georgia: Tamara Carter, RHA Health Services, Augusta

Illinois: Terra Smith, Trinity Services, Lansing

Indiana: Arnold Dube, Dungarvin, awarded posthumously

Iowa: Michelle Vry, Mosaic, Runnels

Kansas: Mindy Nelson, Johnson County Developmental Supports, Wellsville

Kentucky: Tracy Tallon, Mosaic, Florence

Louisiana: Sharon Moses, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana, Harvey

Maine: Cindy Berube, John F. Murphy Homes, Auburn

Maryland: Tommy Sharrow, Aspire Living & Learning, Edgewood

Massachusetts: James Scott, New England Village, Whitman

Michigan: Earline Jackson, BrightSpring Health Services, Mt. Morris

Minnesota: Levi Cady, Dungarvin, Mora

Mississippi: Mary Milton, REM Mississippi, Jackson

Missouri: Natasha Archie, Emmaus Homes, St. Louis

Nebraska: Theresa Vaughn, Mosaic, Holdrege

Nevada: Patrice Russum, REM Nevada, Las Vegas

New Hampshire: Ann Stone-Doyon, Aspire Living & Learning, Hampton

New Jersey: Antonio Powell-Fields, Dungarvin, North Plainfield

New Mexico: Veronica Hopkins, Dungarvin, Albuquerque

New York: Knischo Shea, Cardinal McCloskey Community Services, Bronx

North Carolina: Dennis Rivera, Dungarvin, Raleigh

Ohio: Anna Meloy, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati

Oklahoma: Shana Morris, Dungarvin, Noble

Oregon: Bill Gass, Dungarvin, Milwaukie

Pennsylvania: Gene Blair, Jr., Whole Life Services, Sharon

Rhode Island: Ramota Akintimehin, Community Living of Rhode Island, Providence

South Carolina: Gladys McLeod, The MENTOR Network, Sumter

South Dakota: Meagan Erickson, Vista Care, Pierre

Tennessee: Kathy Bunch, Emory Valley Center, Oak Ridge

Texas: Elaine Phillipes, BrightSpring Health Services, San Angelo

Vermont: Lindsay Barup, Green Mountain Support Services, Hyde Park

Virginia: Tracy Jones, Hope House Foundation, Norfolk

Washington: Adam Sterritt, Puget Sound Regional Services, Federal Way

West Virginia: Tracy Longwell, The MENTOR Network, Moundsville

Wisconsin: Gabriel “Gabby” Maier, BrightSpring Health Services, Watertown



For more than 50 years, the American Network of Community Options and Resources ( has been a leading advocate for the critical role service providers play in enriching the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). As a national nonprofit trade association, ANCOR represents 1,600+ organizations employing more than a half-million professionals who together serve more than a million individuals with I/DD. Our mission is to advance the ability of our members to support people with I/DD to fully participate in their communities.