Gina Bari just had a whirlwind week. From November 2nd through the 4th, 2016, she attended the New York State Association of Day Service Providers‘ Annual Symposium in Saratoga Springs, where she was recognized as the Direct Support Professional of the Year. Then on Sunday, she attended the screening of her stop-motion animation film, which she made as part of an all-female group of animators.

This was my third year doing [an animation film],” Gina said in the model apartment at Betty Pendler New York League, where she has been a Community Support Professional for the past three years. “My friend recommended doing it because women in animation often don’t get hired.

Career Modifications Leading to New Rewards

Gina was an art major with a focus in animation in college and intended to go into that field upon graduating. However, an opportunity with another service provider changed her career path.

“I was doing arts and crafts with the residents, and I enjoyed being there with them,” Gina recalled. “People there were like, ‘You know can be paid to do every day and get benefits, right?’ I wish had known when I went to college about this, as I would have gone into social work.

Gina has worked in a variety of departments at AHRC NYC, first in Residential Services and Employment and Business Services before moving to a CSP position at Day Hab Without Walls and finally, the New York League.

A Creative Approach to Supports

I love being creative, and this job allows for that,” Gina said. “I don’t mind doing things they want to do even if it entails working at night, taking them home, going out on weekends, and pushing the envelope.” She especially prefers to have the people she supports to participate in “inclusive activities, such that they aren’t separated from everyone else.

Among the activities Gina has initiated are a community gardening endeavor in lower Manhattan, a Halloween house of horrors (she explained “A person I work with loves classic horror movies, so we wanted to do something a bit more adult with the room“), and rock climbing.

I saw an ad for adaptive climbing, and I immediately contacted my supervisor on a Sunday. We might have started going to the rock climbing place the next day even. We started doing adaptive climbing and then moved on to regular climbing. It was scary and fun. I had never done it before, either!” This type of initiative is what encouraged Gina’s supervisors to nominate her for the NYSADSP award.

From Gina’s first day at the New York League [Betty Pendler Day Services] she has embraced her role as a Community Support Professional. She is very popular with her co-workers as well as the people she supports,Eamon O’Tuama, Director, NYL Program C, said. “Gina has helped people get employment, go to the self-advocacy conference in Albany, volunteer at a horse riding facility, and even arranged a regular rock climbing group. She is always first to volunteer and goes above and beyond to make people’s lives better.”

Gina looks to continue her great work going forward and is reminded every day why she loves this job. “When I walk in the morning, I get hugs and people say ‘I love you, Gina!’ I’m just like, ‘Wow this’s a great start to do the day.’ When I see that they’re really happy, hear them talk about the things I take them to do, that inspires me.