For Immediate Release
March 27, 2018


Honoring work in support of community living for people with disabilities On April 17, 2018, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) will recognize Brenda Smith of Marcfirst in Normal as the 2018 Direct Support Professional of the Year for Illinois. “We at Marcfirst are proud of Brenda. The award shows the dedication she has to support people with disabilities and reflects the quality of services provided by Marcfirst,” said Laura Furlong, CEO of Marcfirst.

Advocates at Marcfirst appreciate all the Brenda has done for them including supporting people with their wellness journey.

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) – also referred to as caregivers, personal care assistants, direct care or homecare aides – provide a rich mosaic of daily support services for the many Americans with disabilities. DSPs are integral in supporting people with disabilities to participate in their communities and lead full and independent lives. Since 2007, ANCOR has honored exceptional Direct Support Professionals with the Direct Support Professional Recognition Award for exemplary work in furthering community inclusion and full participation for the many Americans living with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities.

“The work that DSPs makes a difference, not just to the people with disabilities they support, but also to the full community they participate in socially and economically,” said Angela King, president of ANCOR. “DSPs like Brenda Smith deserve recognition for the difficult but meaningful work they do every day.”

“When it comes to supporting people with disabilities in the choices they make and being included in society, DSPs are the front line workers we rely on,” said Barbara Merrill, CEO of ANCOR. “These awards are just one small measure of saying thank you to individuals like Brenda Smith.”

“This year, hundreds of organizations sent ANCOR nominations highlighting DSPs from across the nation,” continued Merrill. “While all the DSPs nominated do important work every day, Brenda Smith particularly stood out. Her work at Marcfirst makes a difference for the people she supports and she can be proud of what she does every day.”

ANCOR’s Direct Support Professional Recognition Award is given to those who personify the values of ANCOR’s National Advocacy Campaign, which works to ensure a well-trained and sustainable direct support workforce. Nominees are judged on the work they’ve done to build social networks, substantive community participation and advocating for the people they serve.

About Marcfirst. Marcfirst was established by families in 1955 to address the need for education for people with developmental disabilities and has continued to provide services for a lifetime of supports. In the last 60+ years, Marcfirst has been at the forefront of supporting individuals as they reach their full potential through integration into our Bloomington-Normal community. Marcfirst’s mission is to connect families and people with developmental disabilities to their community through a lifetime of meaningful supports. Marcfirst envisions a community that encourages and accepts all people.

Marcfirst provides a number of programs to support individuals through all stages of life. SPICE Pediatric Therapy meets the needs of children with developmental disabilities or delays from birth to 14-years. The High School Transition Program creates a bridge between school life and future adult services. Marcfirst’s Supported Employment Program creates opportunities for successful community employment. The Residential and Day Programs offer a supportive environment, providing the skills needed to gain more independence and enhance quality of life. Marcfirst is proud to serve over 800 children and adults with developmental disabilities in McLean County to reach their potential.

About ANCOR. The American Network of Community Options and Resources is a national trade association representing more than 1,400 private providers of community living and employment supports and services to over a million individuals with disabilities with a workforce that’s half a million strong. ANCOR advocates for the crucial role private providers play in enhancing and supporting the lives of people with disabilities and their families.

Through its National Advocacy Campaign, ANCOR seeks to obtain the resources to recruit, train and retain a sustainable direct support workforce. ANCOR provides organization, professional, leadership development and networking opportunities and services and is continually working toward partnerships and collaborations that support our mission, which is to advance the ability of our members in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to fully participate in their communities.