Paul Kahn Award for PCA Service - 2017

2017 Paul Kahn Award Ceremony for Personal Care Attendant Service

This award is named in honor of Paul Kahn, a long time PCA employer and advocate who died in 2010. Having personal care assistants’ gave Paul the freedom to live on his own terms and pursue his art, writing, teaching and advocacy activities. Without PCAs, Paul would have remained institutionalized and not able to make his many contributions within the disability and independent living communities. An award ceremony is held annually at the State House to recognize five PCAs from regions across Massachusetts and to honor all of the PCAs who do this important work every day.

The 8th annual event was held on October 25th, 2017 with Jesse Caplan, Chair of the Personal Care Attendant Quality Home Care Workforce Council and Senator Patricia Jehlen welcoming awardees and invited guests including PCAs, PCA consumers, family members and friends. Jesse Caplan handed out the awards and read personal profiles of each awardee (below) highlighting their individual accomplishments and dedication to the PCA profession.

Following the ceremony, all PCAs attending the event were presented with a flower and given a certificate of recognition from the 1199 SEIU PCA Union. The event concluded with Rebecca Gutman, 1199SEIU Vice President sharing remarks and leading a State House PCA education day for PCAs, PCA consumers, and families to visit legislators and share personal stories about the importance of the PCA program on their lives.

Below please read the profiles of this year’s awardees.

"Picture of 2017 Paul Kahn Awardees

Caption: Front row (l to r): Rebecca Gutman, 1199SEIU, Awardee Teresa Cramphorn, Awardee Milka Exantus, Awardee Caitlin Bukolsky. Back row (l to r): Lisa Sirois, Exec. Dir., PCA Workforce Council, Awardee Erika Olson, Awardee Joanne Ventura, Janet Rico, Council Member and Jesse Caplan, Chair of the PCA Workforce Council.

The annual Paul Kahn awards for PCA Service were presented on October 25, 2017 at the Grand Staircase in the State House. Jesse Caplan, Chair of the Personal Care Attendant Quality Home Care Workforce Council and Senator Patricia Jehlen were hosts of the event and welcomed awardees and other invited guests including PCAs, consumers, family members and friends. Jesse Caplan introduced each awardee during the presentation of awards.

During the ceremony, the Council and members of the planning committee, presented flowers to all the PCAs who attended to recognize the hard work and dedication they show every day providing hands-on assistance and support for the independence of elders and people with disabilities.

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.

Read the profiles on each awardee.

Erika Olson—CENTRAL MA

Erika has been Paul’s PCA for the last eight years, and now, while he is under hospice care. “Erika has demonstrated the kind of commitment we hope all people will aspire to,” stated Paul. “She is always willing to take on added responsibilities.” Paul feels he can always count on her. To Erika, her relationship with Paul feels more like that of a family member. They agree that they have a partnership based on mutual trust. Erika grew up in Leverett (near Springfield), Mass., and has always been interested in assisting people. Although she works as a full-time medical assistant, she still provides 10 hours a week to Paul’s care. She is a team-oriented person and works to motivate the PCAs she trains and manages and who also work for Paul. Erika started a new position this month as a care coordinator with a chronic care management company. She will assist people leaving hospitals, nursing facilities, and rehabilitation centers so they can live at home and in their community.

Erika’s long-term goal is to obtain an advanced degree in Health Management.

Teresa Cramphorn—NORTHEASTERN MA

Teresa first met Kevin Rowe, her first and only PCA client, when he was 7 years old. Teresa started out as his physical therapist, but has worked for him as a PCA since 2007. Teresa is also a supervisor at Coastal Connections, where she manages 14 staff and also works with Kevin through a dual contract with the Mass. Department of Developmental Services (DDS). Teresa loves “hands-on stuff” most of all. The most challenging part of being a PCA for Kevin, she stated, is dealing with his behavioral outbursts. She wants to keep him safe, which is more difficult during his outbursts. She wants to feel she has made a difference, not only for Kevin, but also for his family. “I’m not just a PCA for the child. The whole family is involved,” Teresa said. “It’s very rewarding work.”

Teresa received a B.S. degree in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University in 1988.


Milka believes she is destined to do PCA work. She feels that it is in her heart to care for people and needs to know she can make a difference. Before coming from Haiti to Boston to be near her family, she was a certified nursing assistant and a homecare worker for 17 years. Milka’s current employer is her mother, Marie. Someone had seen Milka taking care of her mother and suggested that her mother apply for the PCA program. Milka also helps other people in her parents’ building and considers all of them as her parents. Every time she feels like quitting because the work is difficult or she does not have enough money, people tell her she has a gift, which pulls her back in. The most difficult part of the job for Milka is that it may take a while for people to become comfortable with receiving assistance. Milka likes to approach this work from the perspective of a friend and to help the whole family system.

“People don’t want to be taken care of,” Milka said, “they want companionship and support.”


When Joanne learned about PCA work seven years ago from friends working in the field, she thought it sounded interesting and decided to become a PCA. The most satisfying thing about her job is providing services directly to her consumer, and there is nothing about PCA work that is unsatisfying to her. Joanne assisted her uncle, Arthur Sousa, in leaving a nursing-home facility after a six-month stay to move into his own apartment. As well as providing much of his direct care, Joanne manages all of her uncle’s medical appointments, banking, prescriptions, shopping, and laundry, and also trains his other PCAs.

Arthur says Joanne is one of the most responsible and dependable people he knows. He is basically home-bound and credits Joanne’s help for the “big improvement in his quality of life.”

Caitlin Bukolsky—WESTERN MA

Caitlin began working as a PCA when she was a 19-year-old single mom with no special training or professional experience. Caitlin said that she stayed with the job for seven years because she grew to love the relationship with her consumer and the appreciation that her efforts bring. After working for Kent, Caitlin said she now understands that being a PCA is more than a job—“it’s a match.” She and Kent have a bond based on how much they “grew to care about each other” and developed “a real friendship”. She noted that when she is with Kent in the community, she “becomes his second voice when he needs one.” Caitlin described her appreciation for the difficulty people in a wheelchair have in navigating the community and how some people do not treat these individuals with respect.

Caitlin is currently enrolled in a program at Bristol Community College to earn the prerequisites for the RN Bridge Program that she plans to begin next fall.


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