With a warm spirit and smile that lights up a room, Kim Boden is the type of employee and caregiver everyone wants to work with. She is a direct support professional (DSP) at Life Unlimited, and in exciting news, she was just named the 2020 Missouri DSP of the Year by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), a national leader in disability service organizations.
“I am ecstatic to have the honor to represent Life Unlimited and the entire state of Missouri,” Kim said.
Dedicated to Service
Kim is a stand-out, selfless worker who goes above and beyond to provide a positive, safe, and fun environment for the individuals she serves who have disabilities. She hasn’t always worked in this field though. In the past, she says she would work for jobs—mostly customer service—for a couple years and then would move on.
“I was not challenged or satisfied with the work I was doing, but I realized I had a grasp on providing high-quality service to people,” Kim said.
In August 2011, she knew it was time for change. She decided to enter the field of direct care as a DSP for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). At the time she had very little exposure to I/DD community and had never considered how this population is at particular risk for exploitation or abuse.
“It was at that moment I realized in my heart it is what I was meant to do with my life, and all my experiences were preparing me for being a DSP,” Kim said.
Excited to finally find a career that challenges and fulfills her, Kim says she enjoys the life-changing relationships and connections she has been able to build with individuals over the years.
“I cannot see myself doing anything else besides making my friends lives better through advocacy,” Kim said. “I get as much satisfaction out of the experience as the individuals we serve do.”
Caring During a Crisis
As one of Life Unlimited’s more than 300 direct care providers, Kim is working on the front lines during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Life Unlimited has made many process and care protocol changes to keep employees and the individuals we serve safe and healthy, including allowing only essential employees into residential homes, closing Day Programs, and otherwise limiting risk of exposure to the virus.
“The thing I miss the most is getting to go out and enrich my friends’ lives by engaging in the community, as well as showing the community what high-quality services look like,” Kim said. “I really miss those outings and the friendship supports.”
In addition to new guidelines and safety precautions, Kim and her DSP colleagues are also struggling with having the appropriate materials to do the job safely while the nation faces shortages on of PPE and medical equipment. The needs for adults who have disabilities have been largely overlooked during this pandemic. As a result, Life Unlimited has utilized grassroots methods to solve problems and relied on community members for support, including asking for donations for PPE and other necessary materials.
Life Unlimited also established a fundraiser during the pandemic, with money raised going directly to DSPs who are working around the clock. To donate, visit http://lu2.novagiantdemo.com/DSPsupport.
“I know through the strong leadership provided through Life Unlimited, we will return to normal and have community events with all of our individuals,” Kim said. “Until then, DSPs will always be there to support and protect them.”
Amazing DSPs like Kim are the unsung heroes protecting the health and safety of others while potentially risking their own. Their commitment to care is the primary reason Life Unlimited has had no positive cases of COVID-19 within the organization.
An Exemplary DSP
Kim’s contributions to Life Unlimited and the individuals we serve are immeasurable, which makes her the ideal representative and recipient of ANCOR’s Missouri DSP of the Year Award.
“Kim epitomizes leadership through her honesty, integrity, communication skills, accountability, and an overall drive of passion,” Training Specialist Tena O’Hara, who initially nominated Kim for the award, said. “She is committed to inspiring others and empowering them to reach their full potential.”
Since 2007, ANCOR’s annual DSP of the Year awards recognize outstanding professionals who deliver long-term supports and
services to people with I/DD. The awards celebrate the important role DSPs play in ensuring individuals with I/DD are included and empowered in the community and raise awareness about the direct support workforce crisis. Inadequate investments in this essential workforce have led to turnover rates in excess of 50 percent and vacancy rates that average 18 to 20 percent nationally.
“Kim’s commitment to ensuring the inclusion of people supported by Life Unlimited enriches not only the lives of those individuals, but the broader Kansas City community at large,” ANCOR Chief Executive Officer Barbara Merrill said. “Without committed direct support professionals like Kim, people with I/DD would have severely limited opportunities to be part of the community.”
“As someone who started his career providing direct support, I have a deep admiration for people who can overcome their own personal obstacles to show others in the community all that is possible when people have the support they need,” President of the ANCOR Board of Directors Robert Budd said. “Our DSPs rarely receive the recognition they deserve, and so I’m proud of our national association for acknowledging the critical work of Kim Boden and all of our phenomenal awardees.”
The 2020 DSP of the Year awards were originally scheduled to be held this spring in Miami but have been moved online due to coronavirus social distancing restrictions and guidelines. While Kim will unfortunately miss a trip to Florida, now we can all join her in celebrating during the virtual ceremony on Wednesday, May 6. Register here to watch.
Congratulations again to Kim on this momentous and well-deserved honor.