Recipients of the 2012 Kudos For Community Caregivers Awards

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LifeCircle Alliances is pleased to announce the recipients of the Kudos For Community Caregivers Awards for 2012. Winners were
honoredat their third Annual Breakfast on September 24th, 2012 at the Mason Inn on the campus of George Mason University. This Event recognizes outstanding volunteer caregivers, businesses and organizations in the Fairfax community who have provided dedicated care, day in and day out, for older adults and adults with disabilities and this year they selected four caregiveres and two corporate caregivers.

The Honorable Kate Hanley served as the Mistress of Ceremonies and the Keynote Speaker was Commissioner James A. Rothrock of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services who shared his vision of the newly established Department which combines all aging and disability services. Congressman Gerald Connolly, during his remarks, said that he submitted a statement to the House of Representatives recognizing the recipients of the awards and applauding the fundraising efforts of LifeCircle Alliances.

Kudos for Community Caregivers Award Winners

Stephanie Mensh
Nominated by Paul Berger
Stephanie Mensh has been my caregiver since I had my stroke 25 years ago, when I was 36 (she was 32).  Over the years, she has volunteered for many local activities supporting stroke and TBI survivors and family.  She has provided support and advice to other caregivers by hosting a support group as well as providing one-on-one support by phone, email, and in person.  She advocates for services for caregivers and persons with disabilities as a volunteer for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in Virginia, and as an appointee to the Fairfax County Human Services Council.  She has written numerous articles on caregiving and caregiver support.  She has served as the President of the Northern Virginia Brain Injury Association as well as an appointee to the Fairfax Area Disabilities Services Board.  Stephanie is proof that each caregiver can have a positive impact on their own family, on other caregivers and families, and in their community by sharing their feelings, insights, and problem-solving suggestions.

Liza Ruiz
Nominated by staff of Lincolnia Adult Day Health Care Center
Positive, spunky, compassionate, hopeful, and determined are just some of the adjectives that describe Mrs. Liza Ruiz.  The primary caregiver for an adult child with a brain injury and a husband diagnosed with dementia, you might assume Mrs. Ruiz is a middle aged woman sandwiched between two generations, but this remarkable woman is 88 years young!  Mrs. Ruiz, the mother of two daughters, has been caring almost daily for her 65 year old daughter, Cynthia, who was brain injured at birth.  This she did while working full-time for the federal government.  Mrs. Ruiz was instrumental in helping to establish the Northern Virginia Training Center which opened in 1973.  Cynthia was one of the first residents to move in and Mrs. Ruiz was there every step of the way in helping her to acclimate to her new environment.  She is very involved in the Parents Association at the training center and is currently working with other parents to petition the governor to keep the training center open.  Mrs. Ruiz is a strong advocate for her husband who was diagnosed with dementia in 2007.  She is very attentive to all of his needs.  She is a great friend to the Lincolnia Adult Day Health Care Center where her husband attends two days a week.  She is always willing to help at the Center when called upon and attends all of our special events.  We have been acquainted with Mrs. Ruiz since 2008 when her husband began attending Lincolnia and we have never known her to be anything but energetic, gracious, and kind.

Maureen Renault
Nominated by Patricia Vida, Center Nurse Coordinator
Herndon Harbor Adult Day Health Care Center
Maureen Renault is a wonderful, dedicated and tireless caregiver who has taken on the daunting task of caring for her mother and managing her needs at home in the community.  Maureen’s mother has been attending our program for almost three years.   During this time Maureen has been actively involved in her Mom’s care at the center while providing for her mother’s care at home.  In addition to this, Maureen is very involved in many initiatives to promote quality care for seniors in the county.  An example of just a few of these ongoing commitments include:  She is a representative for the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging; she leads a monthly caregiver support group in the Fairfax/Herndon area; she continues to be very involved in promoting Adult Day Health Care services to groups and businesses in the community and she often meets with new and existing members of her caregiver support group outside of scheduled meetings to offer her support and guidance to them on a one-on-one basis.

Steven Nehl
Nominated by Nancy Commisso
Easter Seals Director Senior+ Program

For Mr. Steven Nehl, caregiving has clearly become a double-time job to take care of his son with autism, and his 61-year-old wife, Joanne.  Joanne joined Senior+ two years ago as part of her recovery from two brain aneurysms.   Since the time of her illness in 2008, Joanne is no longer able to work.  Steve is only able to maintain short-term positions because of the tremendous requirements of his time at home.  Their son, Michael, diagnosed with autism needs help with his own day-to-day activities and lives at home at the age of 26.  Taking care of the home full time, working outside the home to support his family as well as providing care to two family members brings with it innumerable stresses.  Steve’s quiet voice and patient, steady demeanor belie the physical and emotional stresses that can surely take its toll on anyone’s ability to remain happy and function well at home and at work.  Steve must coordinate a complex mix of appointments with service providers for both his wife and his son.  Senior+ currently serves some 160 seniors and their families in Fairfax County.  Many of these families include outstanding caregivers. But among them, we have chosen a true hero, Steve Nehl, who has an extraordinary commitment, perseverance, loyalty, love and willingness to care for his family so unselfishly.


Kudos Corporate Caregiver Award Winners

Cecilia Ortega-Shew
Nominated by Inova Health System
For almost two decades Cecilia has given selflessly to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.  She started her career in New York City after graduating from Columbia University.  Cecilia could have selected any patient population to work with but she had always felt her passion was to ensure that underinsured and uninsured people got the best medical and mental health care possible.  She decided early on to work with a disenfranchised population that not many were willing to work with at that time.  She chose to provide care to people who were dying from AIDS.  During this time many patients were all alone and had long been abandoned by family and friends.  She quickly learned that often patients just needed to know someone cared about them during their final time.  Cecilia was always there to show them she cared and they were not alone.  She moved to Northern Virginia and began working at Children’s Hospital where she often had to prepare families for the death of their children.  Most people will never know what it feels like to lose children so young from such a horrible disease but Cecilia knew.  She was there many a day to prepare parents for what to expect with a diagnosis of HIV and to console them when their children could no longer fight the fight against AIDS.  She worked tirelessly to do everything in her power to give the children on her caseload the best care possible.  Cecilia then began working at the Inova Juniper Program where she has been for the past eleven years.  In this role she has worked as a mental health clinician and as a clinical manager for the program.  She has helped many pregnant women to have healthy babies that are born free of HIV, she has counseled many people on the difficulties of living with HIV and in her current role developed young staff to become not only excellent clinical providers but to also have a passion for serving those who would go without care if they didn’t have someone like Cecilia in their lives.  She gives unconditionally to all those around her.  Cecilia has given so much to so many and the field of HIV is a better place because of her work and dedication.

Natascha Dixon Edelin
Nominated by INTEGRITYOne Partners

Natascha Dixon Edelin is passionate and dedicated to helping women and children in need.  After moving to Fairfax County, Natascha searched for a way to assist and honor battered women for their strength, courage and commitment.  She first teamed with the co-founders of the Duffy House in 2011 to organize the “Duffy House Day of Pampering” for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse which provided, at no charge, a much needed day of respite for approximately 50 women and 80 children.  The event provided the women with much needed spiritual counseling, meditation, emotional support, and “pampering” services (e.g., cosmetic makeovers, manicures, pedicures, massages) as well as clothing and lunch provided by local restaurants Natascha partnered with.  The children were treated to therapeutic horseback riding, interactive games, clothing, and toys.  Natascha worked tirelessly to secure monetary and in-kind donations in an effort to offer these services to the women and children at no cost.  Natascha continues to team with the Duffy House to bring a little joy into the lives of this special community.  A “Thank You” note received by the Duffy House from one of the attendees captured the true impact of these events.  It read, “Thank you for making my Mother’s Day really special.  People like you make people like us feel whole and accepted in spite of what we went through.”  Natascha has become a tremendous asset to, and champion of battered and sexually abused women and children.

The Kudos for Community Caregiver Awards Breakfast was sponsored, in part, by:

Platinum Sponsor
Coordinated Services Management, Inc.

Voices of Neighbors Sponsor
INOVA Health System

Kudos Award Sponsor

Breakfast Sponsors
HCA Reston Hospital Center

Coffee Table Sponsor
MVLE, Inc.

Friend Sponsors
Brain Injury Services
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield
Easter Seals Greater Washington-Baltimore, Inc.
Fairfax Long Term Care Coordinating Council
GMU Kellar Institute for Human disabilities
Graceful Care
Jeanne Galloway Ball, PLC
Michael Toobin Law Offices
Needham, Mitnick & Pollack, PLC
The Mason Inn Hotel & Conference Center

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