If Elizabeth Huber had one of those novelty sweatshirts with all her kids’ names on it, she would have run out of space long ago. But when she starts talking about “Brian, and Laura, Bobby and William, Jennifer, Jessica, Laura, and Ron” she sounds like a proud parent.
“I love my job,” she exclaims. “I take care of the individuals – feeding, bathing, changing, making beds, laundry, playing, engaging – whatever they need.”
In addition to the love she gets from the individuals, Elizabeth says she also feels the support of their real families. They often go out of their way to help her or engage her in conversation about how their children or siblings are doing.
She has worked as a Direct Support Professional for 15 years. She began at the home in Mapaville, but in October 2005, when the Drury Home opened in De Soto, she moved there with several residents.
“I’m originally from De Soto. I had seen an ad in the Leader paper. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I walked in the door that first day,” Elizabeth says. “I worked in a nursing home since I was 16, but right from the beginning I knew Pony Bird was totally different.”
Over the years the individuals who live at the Drury Home have made it their own with room decorations that match their individual personalities. There are trains, fire trucks, Disney, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, safari, and Bob Marley adorning the walls.
“It does feel like a home,” she says. “I don’t call it work. When we go on an outing and it’s time to go back, I say, ‘we are going home’.”
Elizabeth is also proud of an employee of the month designation she received that ended up in the newspaper and on a billboard.
“It’s the little things. One of the individuals who usually doesn’t communicate verbally is growing to become talkative. Once you get that smile on their face or a giggle, that does it for you,” Elizabeth said. “We make each other laugh. Laughter is good medicine.”
With the coronavirus pandemic keeping everyone in for the past year, the opportunity to get out again has produced a lot of smiles. The recent summer camp experience included fishing, swimming, s’mores, and zip-lining.
“I had to go first on the zipline, so that I could be at the next stop when one of the individuals came down. That look on his face was priceless,” Elizabeth said.
Getting to return to public outings is an important part of the role for direct support professionals and the individuals, because it helps them to be part of the community.
“Sometimes when we are out with the individuals, people stare, but we always try to engage them. I say, ‘If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask.’ They are just like you and me, with different personalities, wants, and needs.”
She has served as a preceptor welcoming new coworkers and helping them get to know the individuals and their personalities. Just as she had good role models when she started at Pony Bird, she tries to set a good example.
“I always have to be busy. I feel like I’m still learning too. When a new individual joins us, I always say, ‘I hope you stay a long time.’”
That’s the plan Elizabeth says she has for herself.
“I found the right place for me. I’ll be here until I retire sometime in the next 60 years.”