L. to R.: Mirelle Dewan of Brentwood, NY, one of Life’s WORC Direct Support Professionals who works in one of the organization’s Suffolk-based group homes. And the exterior of the Life’s WORC building in Garden City, NY.

Life’s WORC, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism, is celebrating Direct Support Professional  Appreciation Week, which runs Sept. 12-18.

The organization is providing gift cards to show its appreciation to its team members that assist individuals with disabilities in their day-to-day needs, from getting dressed to finding a job and using mass transportation, with the goal of teaching these individuals skills so that they can live as independently as possible. 

“Our direct support staff is the heart of Life’s WORC,” Life’s WORC CEO Janet Koch tweeted. “In honor of DSP Appreciation Week, I would like to recognize  their hard work and dedication, and let our DSPs know that we VALUE and appreciate you, not just this week, but very day.” 

The 50-year-old nonprofit was founded by Victoria Schneps Yunis, owner of Schneps Media, the parent company of Long Island Press. The agency has 45 group homes and a dozen nonresidential programs across Long Island, Queens, and Manhattan that provide support for more than 2,200 individuals. 

DSP week comes as there is a crisis-level shortage of such workers, which prompted Life’s WORC to participate in the Care Not Cuts rally in West Capital Park in Albany, NY on Tuesday.

It is estimated that there are more than 500,000 DSPs statewide, but the demand exceeds the supply in a field where the  turnover rate is at 45%. In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living agency reported that each year, a minimum of 574,200 new DSPs would have to be recruited to sustain the needed levels of service. 

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