TOPEKA (FOX 43 AM LIVE) – Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week is underway, and TARC is joining in recognizing support staff for people with disabilities.

Shelby Fry, Director of Day & Work Services, said the non-profit’s employee engagement committee has found ways to highlight the week-long celebration.

“It’s really just our way of making sure that, not only everybody in the agency, but everybody that gets services knows that this is a week that we’re celebrating people that really do make our mission in motion… they’re the ones that make it happen for us everyday,” Fry said.

DSP Recognition week is aimed at highlighting efforts of the direct support workforce. DSPs are part of the broader workforce of Direct Care Workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

DSPs may serve as job development staff to assist in finding and/or customizing jobs for people with disabilities or as job coaches who provide direct employee assistance on the job. They also provide other services, such as help with activities of daily living.

According to top labor officials, shortages in recent years have spurred federal, state and local action to bring more attention to this profession and mount an effective response to attract more people to become DSPs and support them through appropriate compensation and opportunities for advancement. 

Toni Shugart, Dual Program Coach at TARC, spoke about the impact DSP week has had over the past few days.

“I get a spotlight for the week… and I also still get to help my people supported every single day… so, I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing,” Shugart said.

TARC is also preparing for its annual fundraising event, Winter Wonderland, a two-mile drive-thru holiday light display taking place later this year.

The event helps raise money for the service organization, which provides service, support and advocacy to 2,500 children, families and adults with developmental, intellectual and related disabilities and delays in the Greater Topeka area.

Mandi Wells, Development Director for TARC, spoke about ongoing preparations for the event.

“We’ve started re-wrapping displays… we were pulling all the lights off and putting the tape on… so, we’ll continue that through Thursday,” Wells said. “Once, we get those re-wrapped, we start set-up middle of October, so it’ll be here before we know it!”

Wells said they’re adding two new light displays this year.

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