Four Team Members Recognized as Heroes of 2020 by The Arc of New Jersey

November 5th, 2020

The Arc of New Jersey recently recognized direct support professionals from across the state including four employees of The Arc of Essex County as Heroes of 2020, which replaced their annual awards dinner due to ongoing COVID restrictions.  The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live, learn, work, and socialize. Keeping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities safe while supporting them to live a meaningful life has been an enormous challenge. But for many including The Arc of Essex County’s Casey Dickson, Sharlene Griffin, Diana Nwabudo, and Marie Veix it is a challenge that they have met head on with dedication, creativity, perseverance and empathy.

Casey Dickson:
Casey Dickson joined The Arc of Essex County in 2015 and works in the Camp Hope and Life Management programs.  As one of the 2020 Camp Hope managers and the ESY special education teacher, Casey was tasked with reimagining how to successfully provide supports and programing in a way that would allow the campers to have fun while also following all safety and health guidelines.  Not only did she accomplish this, but she also worked with campers and families, old and new, to ensure successful transitions out of quarantine.  Her efforts and support were valued by the staff and the families and truly made a difference in the camper’s experience.

Diana Nwabudo and Sharlene Griffin:
Diana Nwabudo and Sharlene Griffin serve as the Manager and Assistant Manager at The Arc of Essex County’s Millburn group home. Both Diana and Sharlene go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the health, safety, and happiness of each resident.  Millburn is a home with medically compromised individuals.  Keeping the residents happy and healthy is top priority as evidenced by the care given by all team members, who follow Diana and Sharlene’s lead. Throughout the pandemic, Diana and Sharlene have made sure to keep a daily schedule of activities that incorporate each residents’ hobbies and interests which helps to provide a consistent structure to the day. 

For example, Diana and Sharlene assisted two of residents in getting a pet fish. This gave the ladies something to care for and added a fulfillment to the day while they were staying indoors.  A third resident was in the process of gaining citizenship when the pandemic hit.  Always on the ball, Diana was able to continue to navigate this process successfully, even during a pandemic. Both Diana and Sharlene are fierce advocates for the Millburn residents and their tenacity, creativity, and genuine love for the four women who call the house home has created a beautiful, safe, and fun environment for all during this challenging time. 

Marie Veix:
Marie Veix has worked for The Arc of Essex County for 20 years as a family worker supporting the Home Assistance Program (HAP) as well as a respite worker for the Community Based Supports (CBS) program.  In her role as a HAP and CBS worker Marie has been providing support to one particular family for more than eight years.  The family, which spans three generations (two of whom have intellectual and developmental disabilities), receives assistance from Marie with accessing services, such as doctors appointments and social service agency appointments, as well as acting as a translator when needed as mom only speaks Creole. 

Over the years, the family has developed a connection and a trust with Marie and have come to depend on her. They share their issues and concerns with her and turn to her for advice in difficult and stressful situations.  Marie remained in contact with the family from the onset of the COVID crisis.  Weekly phone calls were made to ensure the family was well and to help them navigate services virtually.  When more pressing issues arose, Marie was the family’s first phone call and their biggest advocate as they dealt with a mental health crisis.  With the issues behind them, the family is now settled and doing well and Marie continues to call and check in and serve as constant support in the family’s life.

To read more about our Heroes of 2020, visit The Arc of New Jersey website here.  The Arc of Essex County would like to commend all employees, especially these four team members, for their ongoing dedication and commitment to those we serve during this unprecedented time.