AFSCME member is Illinois’ 2022 DSP of the Year
Veronica Lea has been a direct support professional (DSP) for 30 years. She works at Trinity Services, Inc., helping senior women with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Lea works hard at her job, and she works hard on behalf of her fellow union members. She serves as secretary-treasurer for AFSCME Local 2690 and has lobbied members of the Illinois General Assembly to secure better wages for frontline workers at community disability agencies in Illinois.
This year, Trinity nominated Lea for the annual American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) award for Illinois DSP of the Year. ANCOR selected her from a pool of hundreds of nominees. Lea traveled to Miami to receive the award this spring.
“Veronica regularly goes beyond the call of duty to best support the individuals in their home,” Trinity said in a statement. “Veronica’s attention to detail and diligence in reporting has helped prevent serious medical issues,” ANCOR said in its program for the awards event. “Thanks to Veronica’s attentive, tailored supports, people are living fuller, healthier, and more independent lives.”
“The recognition feels good, but I just love what I do,” Lea said. “I’m passionate about my job because I’m taking care of people’s loved ones. I want to treat them with love, kindness and respect. Like I would someone of my own family.”
DSPs in Illinois are working demanding amounts of overtime because agencies can’t hire and retain dedicated staff at the low wages they offer. COVID has exacerbated that problem, sometimes requiring staff to live in the group homes with the residents for weeks at a time because the individuals need 24-hour care.
Lea and her fellow union members have been advocating for higher wages—and winning them—for years.
“When we’re unified all together,” Lea said, “we’re powerful. We’ve educated legislators, we’re making noise, and they’re hearing us. It takes time, but we’re getting there.”
The passion that Lea has for her work and her clients is palpable. “They know if you care. They can see it,” Lea said. “You have to have compassion, commitment and a caring heart. When you have those three qualities, you go beyond the call of duty because it’s the human thing to do.”