After months of separation due to COVID, families reunited with loved ones during a lively Sept. 16 drive-by parade at Divine Providence Village (DPV) in Springfield.
Amid horn blasts and waves, some 30 cars decorated with signs and balloons wound through the campus of DPV, a licensed intermediate care facility (ICF) for individuals with intellectual disabilities and a beneficiary of the annual Catholic Charities Appeal.
Operated by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), DPV is part of the larger Communities of Don Guanella and Divine Providence (DGDP), which provide a continuum of services through community and campus-based living arrangements, life sharing through family living, in-home assistance, respite care and day programs.
DPV residents and staff lined the campus to greet families, whose in-person visits were suspended to mitigate coronavirus risk among the often medically fragile DPV population.
Except for a previous drive-by parade in June, DPV residents “haven’t really seen their families,” said DPV administrator Jean Calvarese-Donovan.
(Watch a video of the Sept. 16 drive-by parade at Divine Providence Village.)
Despite “occasional outdoor visits, phone calls and video chatting … there’s nothing like seeing somebody face to face, even if it is at a social distance,” she added.
“Some of the residents used to go home every other weekend, and then this whole pandemic just put a stop to it,” said Rosemarie Benson, a DPV direct support professional.
“So today means a lot.”
The gathering also celebrated the work of Benson as her colleagues as part of National Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition Week.
The annual observance, proclaimed by the U.S. Senate since 2008, highlights the contributions of DSPs, a vital cohort of workers in critically short supply across the nation.
DSPs closely assist persons with disabilities with a host of daily living and personal care tasks, including meals, medications, activities and appointments.
Francis Swiacki, executive director of CSS’s developmental programs division, described DSPs as “the instrument of (DGDP’s) mission.”
“They’ve been absolutely fantastic, day in and day out of this COVID crisis,” said Swiacki. “In my 36 years at CSS, I don’t think I’ve seen anything this powerful, in terms of their commitment to coming to work every day, risking themselves and even their families” to serve DGDP residents.
The residents themselves have been deeply grateful for such dedication, and for the chance to see loved ones while thanking their DSP team. They were joined in their efforts by therapy dog Boogs, on hand (or paws) for the event with owner and DPV health care coordinator Mimi Meeder.
“It’s not just a job here; it’s a mission and a love for what you do,” said Calvarese-Donovan, who worked with nearby Sproul Lanes and township police to coordinate parade logistics.
Resident Louise Kubicek, who had been hospitalized with COVID, attributed her recovery in part to the strength she drew her relationships at DPV.
“I love my friends,” she said.
Snapping her fingers to the parade’s upbeat music, she added, “And I’m a good dancer.”
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