Resource Center

ARRM Cares

An Opportunity to Recognize Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)

The ARRM Cares Award was established to recognize professionals from ARRM members who provide direct care and demonstrate a commitment to quality services. ARRM supports and encourages our members to acknowledge their employees’ dedication and service through this award process. All nominees are recognized by ARRM and their employers as the top our field has to offer, while six winners are selected each year who represent outstanding and extraordinary dedication, innovation and skill. Winners receive a $1,000 award and are celebrated in a special ceremony. The 2022 Nomination Process is now open. Nominations must be received by 5 pm on May 13, 2022.

Nominate Now

DSPs are nominated who represent the ideal skills and values below, which not only makes them valuable employees but also highly talented and successful in supporting people to reach their goals:

  • Professional Integrity: supporting persons served while maintaining high standards to benefit persons served, co-workers, and the organization
  • Networking Supports: advocating to connect persons served with natural support systems
  • Creative, Innovative, Person Centered Approaches to Services: personalizing services, demonstrating an ability to develop and implement new approaches and sharing successful results

Nominees must meet the criteria below to be considered. All nominations are printed for event attendees and may be shared publicly by ARRM. Please ensure that submissions are professionally written and do not include confidential information. Nominations are subject to editing by the selection committee for length, consistency, clarity, and grammar.

Employees eligible for nomination meet the following criteria:

  • An agency must be an ARRM Member to submit a nomination
  • Staff must do direct care for at least 75 percent of their total job
  • Each agency may nominate up to 2 percent of their staff who provide direct care to persons served (maximum number of nominations per organization is 8)
  • One nominee per form – no group nominations (i.e., please don't nominate an entire program site)
  • Two hundred (200) word limit for each of the submission categories – additional words will be edited prior to consideration
  • Submit a photo with the nomination

ARRM Cares Award logo


Rising Star Award Winner
0.5 Years of Service

Knowing one of the individuals loved to cook and eat baked goods, Kate assisted him in donning his chef’s hat and coat to whip up a batch of sugar free cookies for his new roommate to make him feel welcome. He was so excited. They made a big sign saying, “Dale and Kates, Cookies and Cakes” and started baking on a regular basis. Just to make it that much more special, Kate would make him her special coffee while they waited for the baked goods and would bring her laptop set up to a coffee shop background and music to give them the official ambiance. Kate had a way of making all the small things special during COVID. Kate made the best of COVID by making a big celebration out of the small things and a huge celebration out the big things. She would help someone get all dressed up in a suit and tie, go get takeout, and try recreating the feeling of dining out. Birthdays turned into a grand affair with Kate at our house, complete with streamers, balloons, and banners—the entire birthday party experience!

Kate was hired as a 1:1 working with a person with Down Syndrome in the later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Kate immediately found out what made the individual tick and went the extra mile to plan COVID safe adventures like arranging trips to a favorite local coffee shop with her best friend, the MN Zoo to see the Sea Otters, and walking at the nature center. Kate continued to brighten her days by playing her favorite Elvis music, dancing with her, making her favorite foods, patiently helping her eat, working on puzzles and games, and finding her old movies to watch. In December, the individual went on hospice. Kate was right there by her side, every day using her phone to play her Elvis, holding her hand, and comforting her. The nurses were amazed at how she could get Mary to eat almost her entire meal when they were not able to get her to eat anything at all. In the final days, she organized video calls with housemates and helped them say their goodbyes, and then printed out pictures of Mary for everyone to keep. Kate was a bright light during a dark time.

Kate knew that church was important to someone, but their church was not having traditional services. So, Kate found a church that was holding an outdoor service and would bring them to the church service every Sunday this spring. Kate also helped foster a connection between the person and the pastor. Before long, the individual was invited to participate and do the opening greetings. There was never an obstacle that Kate could not think around. If someone had the will, she would find a way! She has a unique way of making everyone feel valued and special.

Rising Star Award Winner
2 Years of Service

Andrea’s success lies in her ability to put persons served at the center of the service she’s providing. She spends the first few shifts getting to know them and letting them express how they’d like to receive services and what they want to accomplish. Andrea was asked to work with TB, who was receiving Employment Services. Before working with Andrea, TB hadn’t engaged in services for a year and was close to discharging. Andrea began by asking TB what his expectations of her were. Structured scheduling was the most important thing to TB, so Andrea let TB pick days and times for their shifts. Andrea also used feedback from TB to modify the searching process. This approach entailed identifying positions that interested TB and setting up shadow shifts. This helped TB know what to expect and gauge if the work environment was a fit. TB enjoyed this process so much that within two months, he had a job doing merchandising at a local grocery store that was a perfect fit. Andrea’s innovative traits were illuminated during COVID-19; she researched a variety of free apps to aid in remote employment searching and maintenance. Andrea thinks with, not for those she serves.

In situations where teams have been dissatisfied with the services provided, we have brought Andrea in to help turn things around and deliver on our promise of responding to the needs of those we support. She continues to propel her persons served to reach and maintain their goals of gainful employment in the community and independent living. A person served (DR) recently gave this feedback about Andrea, “She’s very good at listening, very resourceful and kind to me.” A parent of a person served stated, “Andrea possesses a kind demeanor and patience that never quits. I don’t know how she manages to work with BJ and never lose her cool or kind attitude. That is why BJ likes her so much. They don’t make many like Andrea.” Andrea collaborates well with her co-workers. Many supervisors rely on Andrea for training new staff. Andrea has established herself as a valuable professional, an asset to the organization.

Andrea’s approach to connecting persons served with quality natural supports begins with listening to their needs and wants and thereafter centering them in the search for networking opportunities. For instance, her person served, CH, receiving ILS services, expressed to his support team that he wanted to be more engaged in the community and form meaningful connections. Andrea helped CH identify some community activities and groups CH was interested in. CH wasn’t sure about how to get involved with them, so Andrea began by conducting online research and sharing findings with CH, who in turn selected the groups he wanted to visit. Andrea then accompanied him to each of the selected groups’ first meetings. As CH began building connections with his peers and engaging in conversations, Andrea began to gradually fade out. CH is now an active member of the American Autism Society as well as the Advocacy Group. He has formed meaningful connections and friendships within these groups, now attends alone and has even formed a friendship with another member that he regularly socializes with outside of the group and who he calls his “buddy.” He has expressed that he feels accepted and connected to his community more meaningfully.

Photo of Jenny Krahn

ARRM Cares Award Winner
3 Years of Service

The best example of how Jenny is creative in her approach to services is the way she guided one individual in expressing her negative emotions in a healthy way. Jenny works with an individual who struggles with anger, frustration and lashing out. Other caregivers have struggled to connect with this individual, but thanks to Jenny’s creativity she found that the individual loved scrapbooking and crafting and taught her to scrapbook her fears and frustrations. Now, the individual keeps an ongoing scrapbook that started as a log of her frustrations but has evolved into a record of all the progress she’s made in coping with and managing her mental illness. Jenny’s creativity and person centered approach allowed this individual who had struggled to not only manage her disability but find her voice, express herself and thrive in the process.

Jenny meets all the usual expectations of professional integrity (punctuality, excellence and consistency in her work, adhering closely to person-centered plan and showing deep compassion and empathy for the people she serves) and goes above and beyond by constantly seeking creative ways to be more effective, build more trust and provide better care and service to our people. She currently works with an individual who had previously struggled with high behaviors. Jenny knew that the individual’s therapist was utilizing dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) in their sessions and that the individual was responding well to that approach. Wanting to affirm and support the individual in her progress, Jenny read a DBT textbook and even took a class on DBT so that she had a better understanding of the therapeutic approach that was benefiting the individual she served. Now when the individual shares the ups and downs of her progress with Jenny, Jenny is capable of queuing, assisting and reminding her with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the techniques and thinking patterns that most support and benefit her.

Connecting persons served with natural supports is something that Jenny thrives at. She goes above and beyond by not only connecting individuals not only with meal planning and organizational resources, but also sharing resources that help them learn about their individual diet restrictions or preferences. She has connected clients with transportation resources, support resources and coping resources. The most encouraging way she has shown this though is by assisting an individual with hearing loss. Jenny herself has major hearing loss in both ears since birth, and was able to connect and support this individual with supports that assisted herself in navigating her life with hearing loss. This individual would often become frustrated with issues with hearing aids, struggles with listening and understanding other people and communicating effectively. Other DSPs would empathize of course, but Jenny was able to connect the individual to resources and teach her skills from her own experience that allowed the individual to thrive. Because of Jenny the individual that was frustrated and withheld due to her hearing loss is now thriving and experiencing life to the fullest.

Headshot of Sillah Salimatu

ARRM Cares Award Winner
21 Years of Service

Sallie has helped a person served in the home meet her goal of helping animals in shelters. This individual has been collecting used blankets and then donating them to local animal shelters. Sallie works with this person to gather the blankets and get them dropped off. Sallie was instrumental in ensuring the person received cancer treatment in a manner that aligned with her desires by advocating on the person’s behalf. As the person began losing hair due to treatment, Sallie worked together with another staff to get a wig. She walked through the difficult decision with the person to shave her head and style the new wig, encouraging and supporting her all the way to lift her confidence. Sallie takes on training new staff and encouraging best practice throughout the workday. She communicates with all team members without hesitation. Throughout the cancer treatments Sallie has been the main communication source in getting information from the family, doctors and other providers and ensures that this communication is transferred as needed. Sallie has also been great at breaching hard conversations with the person served who has cancer, family, and guardian and advocating for the care she thinks she needs.

Sallie is a lovely lady whose sense of family extends beyond her own biological family to encompass the ladies she supports. Her genuine care and resourcefulness allow her to support the ladies in extraordinary ways. She runs in to work at the drop of a hat when needed, because her work family matters. She makes sure the ladies feel a part of her life just as she is a part of theirs. A person Sallie supports had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Sallie showed incredible compassion by learning about the treatment plan, attending appointments, communicating with health care providers on how the individual was feeling, and explaining to the individual what the healthcare providers were communicating. She ensured the individual was the one in charge of decision-making throughout the treatment by encouraging her to choose what she wanted. With Sallie by her side, the individual felt comforted and supported while navigating the cancer treatment. Sallie works very hard to make the house a home. The ladies that live there take pride in this and do things much like a family would. She has created a warm, inviting environment that helps bolster the mental well-being of persons served.

Sallie regularly places extra calls with family members to keep up communication so family can assist in offering the best supports. Sallie has worked closely with the ladies at the home and has made strong relationships with the families by proving her devotion and consistency. Sallie has built these relationships based on trust and confidence. She is kind to the core. She works very hard to ensure the highest quality of care and service and the families and teams recognize this. We have family members that specifically ask for Sallie to be the one to assist in certain procedures or transitions due to her strong relationships. Sallie has not allowed the COVID pandemic to interrupt relationships with families and has worked to arrange special meetings with family members outside of the home and through phone calls. Sallie has worked hard to comfort and support the person served, including looking for a wig for the person undergoing cancer treatment. She has reached out to hospitals and worked with staff who have additional health care connections. Sallie’s dedication to the individual with cancer and the other ladies in the home as they all navigate this difficult time goes above and beyond expectations.

Drew Arenson Headshot

ARRM Cares Award Winner
7 Years of Service

Drew is a skilled advocate. While working with one of his clients, Drew learned about PWs need for services. PW had been working with a different provider, who was forced to suspend services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Drew’s current client facilitated a connection with PW, and Drew was able to work with PW, PW’s case manager, and the other provider, to figure out a way that MORA could serve PW. This enabled PW to continue receiving important services and gave the other provider some much needed flexibility to resume their services when able to safely do so. Shortly after beginning work with PW, Drew became aware of PW’s dream to move to a new apartment in a neighboring city. PW was on a waitlist at a new building and when his name came up, Drew was there to help with all steps of the process. Drew worked with PW to go through all his belongings and get rid of items he no longer wanted or needed. He worked alongside PW packing things up. And, after movers got all of PW’s things into the new place, Drew helped PW begin the process of unpacking and setting up his new digs.

Drew is a mentor to other DSPs by modeling excellence. This is reflected in his relationship skills, good work habits, organizational skills, and adhering to a high standard of professional conduct. Drew has worked as a Program Coordinator for the In-Home department at Mount Olivet Rolling Acres for 7 years. During that time, he has built positive and trusting relationships with his team. Staff look up to Drew as a mentor and come to him to brainstorm ideas. Client teams see him as playing an instrumental role in individuals’ lives and rely on his guidance, expertise, and skills. Drew has a naturally calm demeanor that is reassuring to clients and staff alike. When service modifications are needed, Drew stays positive and responsive, looking for creative ways to adjust services. Drew helped clients find new preferred activities at home, learn new games, spend time outdoors and access online opportunities to connect with peers. Drew always puts his best foot forward and the clients he works with are at the center of everything he does at MORA.

Drew is willing to connect to others who might need his support, sense of humor, and compassion, even those he no longer works with directly. Drew’s genuine kindness and attention is often in high demand. Over the years, Drew cared for clients who have transitioned from In-Home Services to group home living. Sometimes clients who moved needed comfort and reconnection. Drew has made space to Facetime with clients who miss him and need some friendly connection. Throughout the COVID pandemic, Drew worked to help his clients maintain friendships and familial relationships. He encouraged virtual communications. He helped plan several safe, socially distanced events, including a summer picnic and pumpkin party. Drew used his own network to secure a donation of pumpkins for the pumpkin party, so all clients who attended got a pumpkin to carve in addition to goodie bags and fun fall treats. Drew has gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic. When JW had an emergency with her cat, Drew was there to help her seek out a veterinarian and access that care. Despite this being outside the scope of services, Drew took charge and helped and made this experience less stressful for JW and her kitty.

Photo of Steve Halvorson

ARRM Cares Award Winner
3 Years of Service

Steven is always looking for new ways to help the people he supports. Steven takes the time to get to know the people he supports to find what motivates them, what they would like to do, and where they want to go. Steven has been working alongside Tyler for the past year. Steven and Tyler have been training to run a half marathon, in hopes building up to a full marathon this summer. Steven is helping Tyler learn the skills he will need to be successful. Steven and Tyler were able to find a gym membership that was covered under Tyler’s insurance, this allowed the two to start training during the colder months. Steven has put in a lot of time and research outside of work to help make Tyler successful. Steven has used this new knowledge to teach Tyler many important aspects of exercising, including the importance of taking care of your body with stretching and the benefits of pacing yourself during a marathon. Steven is able to explain things in a way Tyler understands, teaching Tyler the proper techniques so he is not going to hurt himself and allowing him to follow a dream.

Steven is a very dedicated DSP whose professional integrity runs deep. Steven is the guy that does the right thing even when no one is watching. Steven is always looking for ways to enrich the lives of the people he supports. Steven and Alex have been working together for two years. When it was time for Alex to make the move from his parent’s house into a new group home, Steven wanted to make the transition a smooth one for Alex. Alex doesn’t use words to communicate and can struggle communicating his wants and needs to others that don’t know him very well. This was a concern to Steven, so he not only helped Alex and his family move things into his new home but also helped train all of the new staff on how to best interact and communicate with Alex. Doing this not only eased the transition for Alex, but also provided comfort to Alex’s parents. The additional training gave Alex’s new staff a feeling of confidence and competence in developing their relationships and rapport with Alex. Because of Steven’s dedication and relationship, he was able to share his knowledge to make this big transition go smoothly.

Steven is always looking for ways to help the individuals he supports to be involved and comfortable in the community. Steven has been working alongside Billy for the past year. Steven encouraged Billy to find a community class that he is interested in. Billy found the classes he wanted to attend and they starting attend the classes together. One of the classes they explored was an adaptive yoga class. Starting out, Steven would attend the classes with Billy, sitting next to him to make sure Billy was able to do all of the correct moves. Gradually, Steven started sitting at the edge of the classroom. This gave Billy the space needed to form relationships with others in the classroom. With this independence he was given an opportunity to allow those in class to offer him support, but Steven was always nearby if Billy needed him. Now Steven is able to drop Billy off at the front door and Billy attends the class independently. Steven was able to help Billy build friendships in his class that allowed him to attend the class with little help from Steven.