This award is named in honor of Paul Kahn, a long time PCA employer and advocate who died this past January. Having personal care assistants gave Paul the freedom to live on his own terms. It allowed him to pursue his art, writing, teaching and advocacy activities. Without PCAs Paul would have remained institutionalized and not have made his many contributions to the disability and independent living communities. This award, in his name, honors the PCAs who do this important work every day.
2015 Winners of the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service
The sixth annual Paul Kahn awards for PCA Service were presented on October 7 at the Grand Staircase in the State House. The award winners for this year were Kindalay Cummings-Akers of Springfield, Sabrina Dickieson of Clinton, Francis Gardner from Methuen, Patricia Holmes from Stoughton and Mustapha Zakari of Taunton.
Hosts for the event were Senator Patricia Jehlen and Representative Elizabeth Malia. Rep. Malia welcomed a crowd of approximately a hundred PCAs, consumers, family and friends. Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services was the keynote speaker. Secretary Sudders shared with the audience her personal story of working as a PCA shortly after graduating. She spoke about her firsthand experience with the role PCA work has in promoting consumer independence and community based care. Secretary Sudders closed by saying: “From my heart to your heart, believe me when I say I know the importance of the work you do every day.”
The event concluded with Rebecca Gutman, 1199SEIU Vice President asking PCAs, consumers and their families to reach out to their legislators with stories about the impact of the PCA program on their lives.
Kindalay Cummings-Akers - WESTERN MA
Kindalay’s interest in PCA work began with her daughter, Jovenia, who has cerebral palsy. By providing Jovenia’s care, Kindalay saw the importance of independent living and the critical role of caregivers. Kindalay now works for Kevin, an elderly man with advanced heart disease. Kindalay soon learned that Kevin’s partner, Ann, has dementia, but was not eligible for PCA services. Kindalay said, “It was not right for me to come into the house and care for him without caring for her.” To make it right, Kindalay provides assistance to Ann without pay. Kindalay, an active union leader in Springfield, said, “I was able to use union-sponsored training programs to increase my knowledge of dementia. I love what I do.”
Sabrina Dickieson - CENTRAL MA
About four years ago, Sabrina began working in the group home where her sister worked. Sabrina found that she loved caregiving, and began working as a PCA. One of Sabrina’s consumers has several severe health issues, including seizure disorder. Sabrina manages the 32 medications he needs. Crises have arisen several times, and Sabrina knew that an injection was needed. She quickly prepared and administered it, then called 911. She helped the EMTs when they arrived by providing them with health and medication information. Alicia Harmon, a surrogate, says that Sabrina pays great attention to detail. She shows initiative, and is a great team player who can handle stressful situations. Sabrina trains newly hired PCAs, and ensures that they understand what’s needed. For Sabrina, the best part of being a PCA is the appreciation she feels from consumers.
Francis Gardner - NORTHEASTERN MA
Francis says that none of his previous careers has ever given him the satisfaction that he gets from his work as a PCA. He has worked for Linda for 16 years. “I feel this work has given me purpose. I like that I have a talent for helping people, and at the end of each day I feel as if I have accomplished something.” Linda adds, “in order to keep me healthy and out of the hospital, Francis persuaded my doctors to train him to change my Foley catheter.” Francis has even trained his sons to do PCA work, so when Francis had to be hospitalized, he ensured continuity of care for Linda. Francis attends PCA rallies and has begun taking CNA classes.
Patricia Holmes - GREATER BOSTON
Heather, the consumer Patricia assists, was born with severe developmental disabilities and cannot see, speak, or walk. Her life expectancy was initially set at four years and later revised to 25 years. Heather is over 40 years old. Everyone who knows Heather attributes her happiness and well-being to the care Patricia provides. Patricia answered an ad 15 years ago and has never stopped assisting all of Heather’s ADLs and IADLs. On weekends, Patricia takes Heather to her own home to participate in parties and outings. Lindsey Wilson, Heather’s surrogate, said, “Pat sees her work as a commitment to another human being and always treats Heather as a human being.” Patricia says, “This is past the point of a job. You need to put all you have into it. If you can’t do that, this work is not for you.”
Mustapha Zakari - SOUTHEASTERN MA
Mustapha came to the U.S. from Ghana at the age of 27. “In Ghana I learned that all members of the community are part of your family,” he explains. That lesson led Mustapha to PCA work. For 20 years he has worked for Nathan, who has cerebral palsy. Because of his attitude and grin, Mustapha is widely known around Nathan’s apartment as “Smiley.” Tamami Kataoka, Nathan’s surrogate, said that when Nathan was hospitalized for three months, Mustapha visited him almost every day on his own time. Mustapha also brought Nathan’s mother for visits, as she could not travel on her own. Mustapha has doctors and nurses address Nathan directly, and interprets Nathan’s responses only when necessary
2014 Winners of the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service
PCA program’s 40th anniversary and Consumer “Pioneers” also honored
On October 14 the 5th annual Paul Kahn awards for PCA Service were presented in front of the Grand Staircase at the State House. An overflow crowd of consumers, PCAs, friends and family attended the hour long ceremony. The event was co-hosted by Senator James T. Welch and Representative Jeffrey Sanchez.
The Paul Kahn award winners this year were: Sherrie Booker, Southeastern MA, Hyacinth Edwards, Greater Boston, Jeremy Kawachi, Central MA, Irina Ukrainets, Western MA and Wendy Whelan, Northeastern MA. Profiles of the awardees are below this article.
Ann L. Hartstein, Secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, was the featured speaker. In her remarks, Secretary Hartstein congratulated the five award winners and noted they are representative of thousands of PCAs currently in the workforce. “You and the consumers you work for,” she said, “exemplify the Patrick Administration’s belief that people should have a choice about where they live and who provides the support they require.”
2014 marks the fortieth anniversary of the PCA program, a fact noted by Secretary Hartstein. To recognize the PCA program’s success and longevity, the event also honored consumer/employers who have been in the program for 30 years or more. Known as “PCA Pioneers”, approximately twelve of these consumers were on hand to receive certificates from the Council. Included in the Pioneer group were MRC Commissioner Charles Carr, former Council member Liz Casey and current Council members Kristen McCosh, Cindy Purcell, Paul Spooner and Joseph Tringali. Suzanne Bump, State Auditor, presented the certificates. The Auditor’s office appoints three of the Council’s members, including Pioneers Cindy Purcell and Paul Spooner.
Sherrie Booker- Southeastern MA
Sherrie is a native of New Bedford. She has worked as a PCA on and off for about 27 years and steadily for the past 9 years. Her consumer, Janice, is in her 70’s and has severe cerebral palsy. In training new PCAs, Sherrie emphasizes the importance of listening to Janice as she is the expert on her own needs. Sherrie is always on hand when new PCAs are hired, even if it is her day off, to see how they interact with Janice. Sherrie likes the friendships that you form and grow with while doing PCA work.
Hyacinth Edwards – Greater Boston
When He nominated Hyacinth in June, Robert Caruso, a consumer, wrote that she “demonstrated diligence, responsibility and an exceptional amount of experience.” Hyacinth met Robert (Bob) in a nursing home where she worked and became a PCA attending to his needs for 25 years. Sadly, Robert passed away in July. Hyacinth and Bob had a close relationship that included her family. She enjoyed watching sports and movies with Bob and often her son would visit and watch sporting events with him. Hyacinth’s children and grandchildren all grew up knowing Bob and she states that having that kind of relationship is the best part of PCA work.
Wendy Whelan – Northeastern MA
When asked why Wendy should receive an award, the consumer she works for, Conor Healy, said, “her work ethic is exemplary, she just gets it!” For Wendy’s part, when asked what it means to “get it” about PCA work, she said that a lot of people can do the job but that it’s not just about dressing and bathing and feeding but that her role allows Conor and his mother to have a normal mother-son relationship. She feels that she is a part of a care team. Wendy, a busy mother of three, is starting an RN program in a few weeks. She plans to continue with PCA work after she earns her degree.
Irina Ukrainets – Western MA
Born in Russia, Irina has worked as a PCA for almost twenty years. For Harriet, the consumer she has assisted for over three years, Irina’s work has included working extra hours without pay, providing homemade soup and persuading her husband to repair Harriet’s car for free. Irina substitutes for PCAs who call in sick and has recruited PCAS, including her sister. When Irina saw another consumer being mistreated, she promptly reported the situation. Irina was a finalist for the 2013 Paul Kahn Award.
Jeremy Kawachi – Central MA
David, the consumer who nominated Jeremy, cited dedication, reliability and flexibility as some of the outstanding qualities Jeremy has displayed during the eight years that he has worked for David. During severe snowstorms, Jeremy has slept over to insure he is available in the morning to assist David. Jeremy has developed the physical strength he says is necessary to move a person carefully. When David’s wife, due to surgery, could not turn David during the night, Jeremy adding evening shifts to his day shift. Jeremy is a member of the union and has advocated for better pay and benefits.
2014 PCA Pioneers
2013 Winners of the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service
Pictured are (l to r) Kilra Hylton, Barbara Constantino, Page King, Ron Fillmore and Rosalie Edes.
The fourth annual Paul Kahn Awards for PCA Service were presented at the State House on the afternoon of October 9. The awards, recognizing the work of five PCAs from different regions of the state, were moved from Nurse’s Hall to the Grand Staircase to accommodate the larger crowd attending this year. In addition to the awards, this year the event was expanded to include PCA Day, an opportunity for consumers, PCAs and other interested parties to speak to members of the legislature about the difference the PCA program has made in their lives.
The awards were hosted by Senator Michael Barrett and Representative James O’Day who both welcomed the audience with statements of strong support for the PCA program. Rosalie Edes, Assistant Secretary for Disability Policy and Programs at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, was the keynote speaker. Secretary Edes remarked on the programs growth and success over the past several decades. Liz Casey, a consumer and former member of the PCA Workforce Council, received a surprise award recognizing her many years of support and advocacy for PCAs.
The recipients of this year’s awards were Kilra Hylton of Dorchester, Angela Bost of Springfield, Page King of Rehoboth, Ron Fillmore of Marblehead and Barbara Constantino from Fiskdale. Rebecca Gutman, a Vice President with 1199SEIU, closed the program with a call to consumers and PCAs to participate in PCA Day. A number of legislators and their staff were in attendance. Jack Boesen, Director of the Council, said” I was gratified by the number of people who told me what a moving event the awards were.”
Kilra Hylton – Greater Boston
Kilra is proud of her ability to relate to her consumer employer, Florence Dunston. “She has been dedicated to me from day one”, said Florence. Kilra has also experienced frustration in her PCA work. She shared, “During one of the winter storms my employer needed to be rushed to the hospital and I got a $35 ticket for taking her. I was told I should have called an ambulance. Our jobs should be valued more than they are.” In addition to working as a PCA, Kilra has a diagnosis of lupus and as a result, she knows first hand the challenges of living with a disability. Kilra is also a strong advocate for expansion and funding for the Medicaid program and for ensuring continued funding of the PCA program.
Angela Bost – Western MA
Angela has worked as a PCA for 20 years. For the past 4 years, she has assisted Rosemary Burns who nominated Angela. When Rosemary was told she needed a wheel chair, Angela worked with her to strengthen her legs to the point where she can get around using a walker. Angela has also shown Rosemary how to use an iPhone and a computer. “Doing the work is really rewarding.” Angela said. “It’s a good feeling to help others. It’s a good feeling when you know that people appreciate your coming to their house and that it helps them to remain in their own home.”
Page King – Southeastern MA
Since 1995, Page, with some breaks to start and raise her own family, has assisted Cheryl and Timothy who are now in their forties and have developmental disabilities. Both individuals are prone to tantrums and when they have these issues, Russell Severs, their surrogate and adoptive father feels that the way Page intervenes and gets matters back under control is amazing. He states that “she does a much better job than I can do. Her method of dealing with tantrums is beautiful.” A Johnson & Wales graduate, Page previously worked in the food service industry, but she says that being a PCA is fulfilling and one of the best jobs she’s ever had. She states: “Being a PCA has taught me compassion and helped me to be a better mother.”
Barbara Constantino – Central MA
Barbara provides assistance to Priscilla, who is 96 and lives in Munson, over an hour and a half from her daughter, Jill. Jill nominated Barbara stating that “Barbara’s constant empathetic care has been as vital to my mother’s health and well-being as Barbara’s devoted attention to mothers more physical needs.” In addition to the care she provides, Barbara recruits and trains new PCAs for the family and has provided extraordinary care. When a tornado threatened Priscilla’s house, Barbara drove behind an emergency vehicle in order to reach Priscilla’s home. Barbara called Jill to assure her that things were okay and that she would stay with her mother and schedule other PCAs for as long as needed. Barbara even offered to take Priscilla back to her house, but Priscilla insisted on staying in her own home without electricity. So, they lived out of the cooler and used battery-operated lanterns for several days.
Ron B. Fillmore – Northeastern MA
Ron was the store manager of Pepperidge Farm in Wakefield for many years until he was laid off. Pat DeVito, the person who nominated Ron, worked in a state senator’s office. Pat knew Ron had taken care of other people on his days off and asked him if he would take care of her father, Lou. When Ron suspected that Lou was suffering from dementia and had began “wandering” around, he put Lou to bed one evening and went and sat in his car outside the house. After seeing Lou get up and wander, Ron went back in the house and stayed with Lou until he got sleepy. Ron repeated this for several days until Lou could be evaluated and housing decisions could be made. Regarding the transition from a store manager to a PCA, Ron said, its “not the income, it’s the outcome. Working with seniors and with persons with disabilities is more rewarding than working in the corporate world.”
2012 Winners of the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service
Caroline Craig – Southeastern MA
Caroline began performing PCA work when she was 17. For more than three decades Caroline has continued providing assistance as a PCA. RG, the employer who nominated Caroline, recounted a time when Caroline was at the hospital until 1 a.m., due to the illness of one of her children. Caroline still showed up to work bright and early that morning. RG is quadriplegic and in need of a high level of assistance. Caroline has sought out training for dealing with bed sores, catheterization, intravenous procedures and other areas. Caroline has trained four of her children to do PCA work and says that what she values most about her work is “helping someone achieve independence”.
Vicente de la Rosa – Northeastern MA
Vicente, who has been a PCA for eight years, was nominated by two of his employers, J.C. and J.S. Vicente was born in the Dominican Republic, where he worked in a hospital before emigrating to the U.S in 1999. Vicente attends medical appointments with each man and gives out medications. He has also trained other PCA’s for both of them. J.C. shared an occasion when he was hospitalized with severe pneumonia for two weeks. Vicente continued to visit him and provide care to him during his stay even though he would not be paid for those hours. Vicente is a member of the collective bargaining committee for 1199SEIU and also serves on the labor management committee.
Doris Forcier – Central MA
For over 14 years, Doris has been the primary PCA FOR Ms. F., who has MS and is paralyzed from the waist down. Doris not only schedules and attends all of Ms. F’s medical appointments; she also assists the surrogate with interviewing and training other PCAs. For these reasons, Olivia refers to Doris as her “majordomo”. Once, while on her way to a culinary school class, Doris received a call that Ms. F. had been taken to the emergency room. Doris immediately went there and stayed by Ms. F.’s side until her health improved. Doris didn’t get to finish culinary school but helps control Ms. F’s blood sugar by preparing her healthy lunches and dinners every day.
Wadson Michel – Greater Boston
Wadson has worked with R. for more than ten years. Wadson met R.’s mother at a conference on autism and agreed to work as R.’s PCA. He takes R. out on his boat and has taught him to help steer so that R. can be a captain of his own ship and feel a sense of control. They go roller skating together and truly relate to each other. When R. began having outbursts at his day program, Wadson took the extra time to go and observe R. Based on what he saw and his ability to communicate with R., Wadson resolved the issue. When told how fortunate R. is to have him, Wadson said the opposite is true: I am lucky to have R. in my life.
Laurie Swane – Western MA
Laurie has been the primary PCA to P.V. for the past four years. She attends doctor appointments with him and assists with hiring and training new PCAs. Laurie is a certified CNA who initially worked in a nursing home. Laurie decided that she wanted a position that would allow her to provide more individual care and assist people to stay in their own home. When P. was hospitalized for six weeks, Laurie visited him throughout his stay and assured him that she would continue to be his PCA when he returned home after rehab. It was so important for P. to know he would have continuity of care when he left the hospital and he was amazed that she would do so without receiving any pay during his stay.
2011 Winners of the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service
Luci Johnson - Lowell
Luci was nominated by the father/surrogate of David, a 44 year old male diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and Spastic Quadriplegia. Luci is one of several PCAs assisting David. She always makes certain the other PCAs are up to date on any health problems David may be having. Two years ago, David transitioned from living with his parents to living in his own apartment. Luci visited him on her own time, including during an ice storm, to calm any fears caused by the new environment. The management of David's building has chosen him as "resident of the year".
Johanna Montalvo - Worcester
Johanna Montalvo has been a PCA for 9 years. She met her consumer/employer and helped her for about a year prior to being paid through the PCA program. Johanna said she believes in providing care for those who need it, something she learned in her native Dominican Republic, where a high value is placed on caring for others. "The most important part of my job", Johanna said, "is that I feel useful and I like helping people." Johanna is a delegate in the PCA union and has joined others at the State House to advocate for full funding of the PCA program and fair wages and benefits for PCAs.
Terri Morris - Middleborough
A former registered nurse, Terri has spent the last 30 years committed to the PCA program. When asked what she likes best about being a PCA, Terri said: "I'm helping someone's life be independent." Tom, Terri's consumer/employer, describes her as being prompt, professional, and caring. "She takes her job seriously," explains Tom. Terri has taken a leadership role on behalf of PCAs in the Brockton area, and has run meetings there with local PCAs.
Patricia Peles - Springfield
Both parents of Brian, a 22 year old man with severe disabilities, nominated "Trish" as Patricia is known to them. Trish has provided care to Brian since he was 4 years old. When Brian was in a full body cast for 10 weeks after serious surgery, Trish devoted herself to Brian's care. Staff at the hospital remarked that maintaining cleanliness in that condition was extremely difficult, but that Brian was the cleanest person they had seen. Trish meets Brian's bus from his day program every afternoon and cares for him until his parents get home from work. "We are totally at ease,"Brian's father said, "knowing Brian is in great hands every day"
Noah Zizinga - Watertown
Noah was born in Uganda and came to the United States when he was in his mid thirties. For 14 years Noah worked as a PCA for Jimi Tierney, a long time manager at the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL). Jimi was totally dependent on Noah for his care and, over the years, Noah became regarded as a member of Jimi's family. About being a PCA, Noah said, "This work fulfilled me. "Noah has recruited others to work as PCAs. As Jimi's PCA, Noah was a presence at BCIL and when Jimi died earlier this year, BCIL hired Noah as a skills trainer. Due to his diligence and hard work, his hours at BCIL were recently increased.
2010 Winners of the Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service
Below are profiles of the five winners of this year's award. Each awardee is pictured with Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby and Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President of 1199 SEIU Health Care Workers East.
Amarilis DePina, Brockton, MA
Ms. DePina, who has been working as a PCA for five years, has worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant for more than twenty years. Amarilis was working at a rehabilitation facility when she met the Susan, woman for whom she now works as a PCA. In her nomination letter, Susan said "She has come in bad snow, ice, rain or wind storms. ...Even when her husband passed away unexpectedly ... she found coverage to take care of me..."
Eric Osgood, Bondsville, MA
Mr. Osgood was nominated by Judy Sherman, a service coordinator of the Dept. of Developmental Services. She came to know Eric through his work Community Options. Eric worked as a mentor with Scott, offering vocational supports in a school to work program. When Scott graduated, became employed and moved into his own apartment, Eric became his PCA and later his roommate. As Ms. Sherman said in her letter: "Eric opened up his world to Scott, introducing him to his son...and a new array of friends... "Over the past six years Eric has been an integral part of Scott's world, respectfully attending to his myriad emotional and physical needs. In so doing Eric has helped a young man to gain success, maturity and greater independence."
Maria C. Garcia, Lynn, MA
Ms. Garcia, who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was 12, has lived in Lynn since 1972. She has been a PCA for ten years and was nominated by Laura, the surrogate for Janet, the consumer Maria works for. In her letter Laura said, "Maria...does not think twice about giving up her weekend or working hours that are not...going to be paid...(Maria) is not only Janet's PCA but her friend. She takes Janet out shopping and to Friendly's for her birthday..."
Mary C. Ketter, East Boston, MA
Ms. Ketter says that: "PCA work is very hard but getting to know my employer on a personal level is very rewarding. I love this job." Linda, the employer who nominated Mary said : "(Mary) started working for me several years after she moved here from Kenya. Mary learned to perform my complicated care with an expertise... that I had never before witnessed... Mary also provides valuable insights regarding my medical problems to my health care providers. She coordinates my home health care program (and) trains new PCAs in the complex aspects of my daily care."
Rosa D. Amegah, Worcester, MA
Ms. Amegah's reputation is such that she was nominated by three separate individuals. A Worcester native, Rosa is an LPN she has worked as a PCA for thirty years. Regarding her PCA work, Rosa said: "It is not about the money. It is about the caring and being there for a person in need." One of the letters of nomination was from the wife of one of Rosa's consumer/employer and spoke of how Rosa assessed him from head to toe and informed her of his physical problems and needs. Rosa also provided assistance with program paperwork. Rosa serves as a delegate for the PCA union and, as such, is an important link in connecting hundreds of PCAs working in the Worcester area. "