ANCOR in the News - 04.16.20

Eligio Velasquez Named 2020 Direct Support Professional of the Year

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Eligio Velasquez Named 2020 Direct Support Professional of the Year

New Mexico professional joins 54 others being honored for inclusion, empowerment of people with intellectual & developmental disabilities

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – This morning, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) announced that Eligio Velasquez, direct support professional (DSP) for Albuquerque, New Mexico-based ARCA, has been named the 2020 Direct Support Professional of the Year. Velasquez will be honored alongside 54 other DSPs in a virtual awards presentation to be held on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 6.

Velasquez, who has spent all 26 of his years in the profession with ARCA, manages a group home where three men with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) live. These men are able to live in the community, rather than being institutionalized, thanks to the support of Velasquez and his colleagues at ARCA.

According to his nomination, Velasquez has excelled in tailoring the services he delivers to the unique needs of the people he supports. When he observed Bob, one of the men he supports, conversing with someone at a community function using American Sign Language (ASL), for example, Velasquez realized that Bob was far from “nonverbal” as once suspected. Velasquez quickly began researching programs for people with hearing disabilities, secured an ASL interpreter to attend the individual’s medical appointments, and coordinated with staff to identify new avenues for the individual to communicate.

“Eligio’s dedication to person-centered supports was life-changing for Bob, who finally had the ability to express his long-time dreams,” Velasquez’s nomination letter stated. “Eligio was instrumental in creating an environment for Bob to communicate and be understood.” The nomination letter also noted that Velasquez’s own struggle with dyslexia has been instrumental in his drive to deliver person-centered supports that help people with diverse abilities find their voices.

“ANCOR and our Diamond Partner, Relias, co-present the DSP of the Year awards program each year precisely because of people like Eligio. His commitment to ensuring the inclusion of people supported by ARCA enriches not only the lives of those individuals, but the broader Albuquerque community at large. Without committed direct support professionals like Eligio and all of this year’s outstanding award recipients, people with I/DD would have severely limited opportunities to be part of the community,” said ANCOR chief executive officer Barbara Merril.

ANCOR is far from the first to acknowledge Velasquez’s significant contributions to the field of direct support. His nomination letter further articulated his leadership among his peers at ARCA. “Eligio Velasquez is a leader in this demanding field,” the letter continued. “He is innovative and mindful in creating meaningful opportunities for people he supports, trusted and admired by their families and respected among his peers. When he started his career as a DSP 26 years ago, Eligio believed his dyslexia would limit his abilities; today, he is a teacher, mentor and trusted advisor who recognizes the potential in every person and believes everything is possible.”

Robert Budd, president of the ANCOR Board of Directors and chief executive officer for Family Residences & Essential Enterprises, Inc., in Old Bethpage, New York, added, “As someone who started his career providing direct support, I have a deep admiration for people who can overcome their own personal obstacles to show others in the community all that is possible when people have the support they need. Our DSPs rarely receive the recognition they deserve, and so I’m proud of our national association for acknowledging the critical work of Mr. Velasquez and all of our phenomenal awardees.”

Since 2007, ANCOR’s annual DSP of the Year awards recognize outstanding professionals who deliver long-term supports and services to people with I/DD. The awards celebrate the important role DSPs play in ensuring individuals with I/DD are included and empowered in the community, and raise awareness about a direct support workforce in crisis. Inadequate investments in this essential workforce have led to turnover rates in excess of 50 percent and vacancy rates that average 18 to 20 percent nationally.

The 2020 DSP of the Year awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, May 6. 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 Director of Communications, at [email protected] or 850.714.3131.


National Direct Support Professional of the Year

Eligio Velasquez, ARCA, Albuquerque, N.M.


Special Category Award Recipients

International DSP of the Year: Jennifer Houle, BrightSpring Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario,


Innovation: Kayann Stewart, Mosaic, Manchester, Conn.

Leadership: Jesse Means, Mobius, Inc., Demariscotta, Maine; and Charlin Quiñones Viera, BrightSpring

Florida, Ocala, Fla.

NADSP Tenets: Kevin Kickert, Dungarvin, Columbus, Ohio; and Surmsuk Koonvisal, Sunrise

Community, Miami, Fla.

Person-Centered Supports: Danielle Ruggerio, Mosaic, Wilmington, Del.

Relationships: Markeita Meeks, Sunrise Community of Maryland, Inc., Fort Washington, Md.; and

Brittany Rush, Delta Community Supports, Inc., Levittown, Pa.


State Direct Support Professional of the Year Award Recipients

Alabama: Telease Davis, Resources for Independence, Tuscaloosa

Alaska: Gena Coleman, Hope Community Resources, Inc., Willow

Arizona: Hannah Mungai, Mosaic, Phoenix

California: Rebecca Santos, BrightSpring California, San Diego

Colorado: Lisa Buhring, Mosaic, Colorado Springs

Connecticut: Sander Lopez, Mosaic, Oakdale

Delaware: Michelle Westbrook, Mosaic, Wilmington

District of Columbia: Jason McGaughey, RCM of Washington

Florida: Judy Saffold, BrightSpring Florida, Clearwater

Georgia: Carla Garrison Greene, RHA Health Services, LLC, Augusta

Idaho: Joshua Grade, Consumer Direct Care Network, Boise

Illinois: Jacquelyn Anderson, Trinity Services, New Lenox

Indiana: Sandee Alexander, Dungarvin, South Bend

Iowa: Trang Conrad, Exceptional Persons, Inc., Waterloo

Kansas: Jessa Molina, Johnson County Developmental Supports, Lenexa

Kentucky: Cheryl Bauman, Tri-Generations Louisville

Louisiana: Daytona Irvin, BrightSpring Louisiana, Lafayette

Maine: Katie Pulk, John F. Murphy Homes, Auburn

Maryland: Marie Bonnet, SEEC, Silver Spring

Massachusetts: Julian Cadavid, WCI (Work, Community, Independence), Waltham

Michigan: John Cunningham, BrightSpring Michigan, Milan

Minnesota: Molly Halls, Laura Baker Services Association, Northfield

Mississippi: Lakisha Stewart, REM Mississippi, Hattiesburg

Missouri: Kim Boden, Life Unlimited, Kansas City

Nebraska: Tim Flesner, BrightSpring Nebraska, Lincoln

Nevada: Shane Gifford, Chrysalis, Reno

New Jersey: Christanie Maxelix, Dungarvin, Piscataway

New Mexico: Chase Painter, ARCA, Albuquerque

New York: Andrew McNamara, Heritage Christian Services, Rochester

North Carolina: Vincent Whitaker, Dungarvin, Garner

North Dakota: Sammie Haider, REM North Dakota, Minot

Ohio: Orma Houston, Dungarvin, Kettering

Oklahoma: Donna Koscher, Dungarvin, Oklahoma City

Oregon: Sherrie Threadgill, Dungarvin, Portland

Pennsylvania: Natalie Place, Penn-Mar Human Services, Red Lion

South Carolina: Harriett Brown, Willowglen Academy South Carolina, Kingstree

South Dakota: Donnette Anderson, Vista Care, Pierre

Tennessee: Pam Weaver, Core Services of Northeast Tennessee, Johnson City

Texas: Luisa Gallegos, BrightSpring Texas, San Angelo

Utah: Kasey Gericke, Chrysalis, Cedar City

Vermont: Judy Ververs, Champlain Community Services, Colchester

Virginia: Marquita Moore, BrightSpring Virginia, Richmond

Washington: Jodi Tofstad, BrightSpring Washington, Puyallup

West Virginia: Carmen Dowler, BrightSpring West Virginia, Parkersburg

Wisconsin: Brianna Helms, Innovative Services, Stevens Point

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For 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.


About Relias

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