Look for the roots of Mary Jo Finch’s interest in working with people who have disabilities and you’ll find a neighbor.
When Finch lived in Akron, Ohio, two men with developmental disabilities shared a home across the street from her family. They were both quite friendly and neighborly and frequently dropped by to visit her and her family.
One of them in particular spent considerable time at Finch’s home. “He kind of became part of the family,” she said. “We would take him with us when we went for ice cream and out to eat.”
Finch and her family moved to Fort Wayne about a dozen years ago because of her former husband’s work. When she looked for work in the area, she remembered how much she enjoyed spending time with her neighbors in Akron.
She landed a job as a direct support professional with another disability services agency in Fort Wayne. It was a big change from the jobs she had worked in Akron, as a hairstylist and later a support associate in a surgical cardiovascular intensive care unit.
One of the consumers she worked with then took part in some programs at Easterseals Arc; in fact, that consumer was in the Adult Day Center in the same room where Finch now works. Through transporting that consumer, Finch got a close look at Easterseals Arc. She liked what she saw.
“The staff was so nice. Everybody seemed so friendly,” she said.
Finch has worked at Easterseals Arc for almost 10 years. The work has changed some over that decade. For example, DSPs now administer medication and tube feedings, which they did not do when she started. For her, that’s all a part of learning more about how to care for the people she helps.
In the time she’s worked for Easterseals Arc, she’s grown to appreciate more than the staff’s friendliness. She said she likes the support from supervisors and the organization’s openness to new ideas, suggestions and advice from DSPs.
Building roots at Easterseals Arc has come naturally. One important advantage: The dependability of the schedule in the Adult Day Center works well in her life. “Being in ADC, I work Monday through Friday, 8 to 3:30. There are no evenings, no weekends and no holidays we work,” she said.
Although pay isn’t what attracts people to this line of work, it helps that the pay at Easterseals Arc is better than at many similar organizations in the area.
“There are a lot of jobs where you could make more money. If you have a DSP who’s been here a while, they’re here because they enjoy the job,” she said.
That love DSPs feel from and for the individuals they support is the real reward in the work. The same kind of affection she felt for her neighbors in Akron isn’t something she can tally in a household budget, but it reinforces her devotion to her job.
“When I go away on vacation and come back, my clients are so happy to see me,” she said.