Catrina Cleveland – Florida Direct Support Professional of the Year

At a ResCare group home in Dunedin, Florida, clients grow their own vegetables like peppers and tomatoes and herbs like spearmint. One of the clients, who is blind, can identify all the herbs by smell; he collects the mint for his tea.

The small raised-bed garden and the plants in pots – which bring joy and well-being to the clients – would not have been possible without Catrina’s compassion for the people she supports, as well as her dedication to take the initiative to build the garden.

The garden keeps the clients more involved in their meals. The blind client gathers basil for pasta sauce, for example. Clients take on shared responsibility for watering and maintaining the garden. Most of all, the garden provides a sense of purpose and satisfaction, as clients participate in the upkeep and ownership of their home. All of this is thanks to Catrina’s efforts. One client was so happy when he could take tomatoes from the garden with him on a visit to his brother and sister-in-law’s home.

Catrina’s nurturing does not stop with the garden plants. Within the home, she promotes family interactions with opportunities for clients and their families to come together. Cookouts, birthday parties, pizza parties and ice cream socials with clients’ families fill the group home with goodwill. Catrina can most often be found front and center, cooking, smiling and enjoying the fellowship shared by the families. She’s an experienced (15 years) direct support professional (DSP) and has been with ResCare for four years.

During Hurricane Irma, Catrina made room in the home for displaced clients from other homes. She built activity schedules, developed activity stations and set up the sleeping arrangements. The displaced clients enjoyed the experience so much they didn’t want to leave after the storm!

The garden also survived the storm; since it was a raised bed the staff and clients brought it inside for safekeeping!