Anna Meloy Named Ohio Direct Support Professional of the Year
Like many of her childhood acquaintances in Cincinnati, Anna Meloy, employment support specialist, Disabilities Services, attended vacation bible school. She vividly recalls meeting a young girl with developmental disabilities there. While all the other kids made fun of the girl, Meloy befriended her. She quickly realized her niche talent of connecting with those with disabilities and knew that she could make a purposeful career out of it. Meloy started her professional journey at Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services. What she enjoyed most was helping individuals with disabilities figure out how to have a meaningful life and transition into a profession. When a role opened at Cincinnati Children’s in Disabilities Services that focused on helping employees with disabilities maintain their competitive jobs, she knew it was the perfect fit. For five years, Meloy has worked at the medical center, assisting employees who have a disability with accommodations and adaptations so they can perform to their full potential in their roles. Meloy’s role is essential in assisting those who came to be employed at Cincinnati Children’s through their participation in Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is an internationally recognized job-skills training program for individuals ages 18 to 21, with significant disabilities. Founded at Cincinnati Children’s nearly 24 years ago, the program partners with schools like the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, Disabilities Services, agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation, and a diverse team of employers throughout the United States and abroad to help students with special needs transition from high school to meaningful employment.
Ready For Anything
Throughout her years at the medical center, Meloy and her co-worker Meredith Kincaide, employment support specialist, Disabilities Services, were always busy. They had a set calendar of annual events to prepare and adjust for their 60 employees, such as annual safety training, choosing benefits and evaluations. During COVID-19, their world was turned upside down in ways they had never faced. Things were changing hourly. With 50 of their employees on leave, Meloy's and Kincaide’s creative and innovative abilities were put to the test. Meloy worked around the clock to assist her employees with constant updates related to masking, distancing, bus schedules, vaccination and much more. While some of these changes seemed minor, it was life-changing to a person with a disability, as they are used to following a certain routine. Whether the challenge was finding a new department for an employee to work in or explaining each stage of the vaccination process and going with employees to their appointments, Meloy and Kincaide supported them through it all.
Point Of Pride
The work Meloy is most proud of is her adaptation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Better Together training. Meloy is used to adjusting training for her employees, but she wanted to make this training unique as it has a key focus area of Cultural Competence. It was necessary for the employees’ Disabilities Services supports to have the experience of interacting and connecting with others throughout the medical center. With the support of Disabilities Services; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Learning and Development, Meloy split training into two sessions. It started with the educational components of defining what diversity is and what inclusion looks like at Cincinnati Children’s. Employees were then invited to attend discussion sessions with a split class of employees with disabilities and employees without disabilities. “The feedback from these sessions made me proud of the work we did. I knew that they had been impacted,” said Meloy. “I received so many notes from employees sharing how meaningful the conversations were and the value they got out of it.”
This year the American Network of Community Options and Resources honored 50 professionals as the 2021 Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Year. Out of 350 nominees, Meloy was named the Ohio DSP of the year. This prestigious award is given annually to one outstanding individual who supports people with intellectual, developmental and other significant disabilities so they can live and thrive in the community. While Meloy was floored to hear she had been named the Ohio DSP, Erin Riehle, director, Disabilities Services, was not surprised at all. “I would have been surprised if she didn’t get it. She is the most deserving person in Ohio, hands-down. I cannot imagine anyone doing more than Anna to help people with developmental disabilities stay employed,” said Riehle. Meloy says that seeing the enthusiasm, confidence and growth in her employees motivates her to go the extra mile. “Knowing that I am showing the medical center and the community the value that a person with a disability brings to an organization is why I am so motivated in my work. I hope one day to say that every department at Cincinnati Children’s employees a person with a disability.”