It’s staff like Jackie Armbruster who put the heart in Heart Work.
When she joined the team in 2018 as a Direct Support Pro, she quickly took advantage of opportunities to advance into a path of leadership with Advocates for Life Skills & Opportunity (ALSO).
She is now a Supported Living Manager, reinforcing a dynamic staff of Direct Support Pros (DSPs) and ensuring the best care for people with developmental and other disabilities in Oregon.
“We’re in charge of several different programs and our jobs are to make sure that those programs are running effectively, make sure that they’re staffed and that the people we support are living their best lives,” Jackie says.
Her managerial position brings something new every day: Daily operations and staffing, helping individuals attain health insurance, liaising with the county, and so much more.
ALSO’s supported living services frequently pair DSPs one-on-one with the people they support for a highly personal and focused form of care. The DSPs offer assistance on the person’s self-determined schedule, helping them set and reach goals and furthering their independence at home and in their community.
Jackie describes her job as having a 360-degree view of it all, allowing her to watch the real-life impacts of Heart Work in action.
“There are these different experiences that we get to have with the people we support — whether it’s taking them to a new place they’re experiencing for the first time or, recently with everything that’s been going on, taking them to see family that they haven’t seen in over a year,” says Jackie. “We get to be a part of that and see the joy and the happiness that it brings them. And all the other stuff just kind of falls away.”
The mission of supported living is to enable people to enjoy independence in its many forms, including in life’s essential activities — everything from getting dressed to picking out groceries to finding a job and getting to work.
Empowering people living with disabilities begins by equipping ALSO’s Direct Support Pros with skills in relationship-building, person-centered care and advocacy, emergency response, and more. That’s where Jackie comes in.
She is the glue that brings together a cohesive and dependable team. By engaging her staff in team-building activities, she develops a sense of interconnectedness that strengthens the overall level of care that ALSO Advocates can provide.
“When you build those relationships, you see that our advocates are taking care of things themselves,” she says, “because they don’t want to disappoint the person coming in next door.”
Her most rewarding Heart Work experience happened not long after entering her current role. After a year and a half of research, diligence, and teamwork, Jackie and her dedicated team of DSPs helped resolve a routine and lifelong health concern impacting a person supported by ALSO.
Relieving this hurdle for the person supported, and hearing the family’s gratitude, was a surefire sign that Heart Work is Jackie’s perfect fit.
What make the ALSO Advocates team so special? According to Jackie, it takes compassion, follow-through on goals, and a healthy dose of flexibility. After all, no two days will play out the same way.
Every experience can prepare you for a career with ALSO. For Jackie, being a parent to two children on the autism spectrum built her skills as much as her prior advocacy work with children and families in the Midwest.
But nothing prepares you for the job quite like doing it — especially since ALSO offers comprehensive on-the-job training.
Jackie’s advice for anyone new to the team: “Every person you support is going to be different … Ask questions and come in with an open mind and lots of patience. Everything you give to the people that you support, they’re going to give back to you. They’re going to touch your life in ways that you would never even expect.”
Does Heart Work sound like the right work for you? Picture yourself in a rewarding new job at ALSO (voted one of Oregon’s 100 best nonprofits to work for) and apply today.
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