When Rose Cyert started at Home and Community Options six years ago, she had just closed her business and was looking for something new and interesting. Her husband found an ad for a full-time Program Assistant position at the agency, and although she was hesitant to apply, encouragement from her family gave her the confidence to do so.
That didn’t calm her nerves, however.
“The more I thought about it, the more I was afraid and almost cancelled the interview,” she said, smiling. Rose kept the interview, and she knew before it was over that she would love working at Home and Community Options.
Having previously worked in office administration and bookkeeping positions, the role of Program Assistant was very new. Learning her new position was at times challenging. She wasn’t familiar with the work she was doing, and most of her coworkers at the program hadn’t been working with the agency very long themselves. “I was trained in by mostly part-time people,” she shared, “and most of them had not yet been there four months.” Part of the challenges that Rose experienced were also due to the necessary trial and error that comes with the position. “If you aren’t making mistakes,” she said, “then you aren’t reaching out and trying things.”
HCO’s extensive educational classes, which paralleled her on-site training, helped lay the groundwork for Rose to build strong relationships with the individuals she supported and make her a more well-rounded staff. She learned how to think critically about supporting others safely while still putting their values at the forefront. “It can be very difficult, especially with some of your non-verbal clients; there is not a lot of sharing going on so you almost have to have a history of them. I constantly was thinking: What would they like? What would they want?” she said. “They listen to the radio, they talk to people. They know a lot about what is going on, and I think our responsibility is to draw that out from them –what their hopes and dreams are and what they want to do.”
Once Rose became comfortable in her position, it didn’t take long for the house she worked at to become the go-to for celebrations. After the first one, “we became the ‘party house’,” she said, laughing. “It was my first time planning a party, so I invited all of Division II to come for an Oktoberfest party!” It ended up being the perfect fall day, and almost everyone attended. Rose remembers how surprised she was when most people showed up around the same time – she had to set up chairs along all of the walls down the hall and into the next room! She didn’t even get the chance to count how many people were there, but the event was a huge success. From then on, she was happy to plan the upcoming gatherings for her division, which at Home and Community Options requires little more than music, food, and almost always a theme.
Rose attributes both her patience and calmness to working with Home and Community Options. In addition to the relationships that she has built, Rose has also learned a great deal during her time here. The monthly meetings she attended to openly discuss struggles that her and her fellow Program Assistants were dealing with was like a lifeline. “It was a reminder that you aren’t the only one,” Rose recalled. They were able to get advice and brainstorm solutions from their experiences to help each other. Rose joked that it can often be easiest to do the job when you are “flying by the seat of your pants,” because things rarely go as planned.
Since October of 2016, Rose has been working in the main office at Home and Community Options. Her position at the agency is closer now to what she had been doing in previous jobs over the years, but the times where Rose gets to interact with the people that HCO supports are still her favorite part of her new role. One individual makes a daily stop by Rose’s desk to put stickers on her calendar, which always leaves them with a smile on their faces. Rose had received a paper Christmas tree in the mail over the winter, and on one visit, Rose invited her to put an ornament sticker on the tree when she visited each day. After the tree was filled, Rose’s calendar seemed like the next best thing and a new tradition was born. Her duties have changed, but visits by the people HCO supports are often the thing Rose looks forward to most.
Despite having been with the agency for only a fraction of her life, Rose says her time here has been more rewarding than at any other job. “I think it has even been the most fun job I have ever had,” she commented, letting out a laugh. “I have always had fun jobs, but working with these individuals has made me feel so special. You go home and sometimes you were frustrated the whole way home and just wanted to cry because something went poorly, and then the next day you come in and it’s all different. They greet you after a weekend like they haven’t seen you in forever. It has definitely been the most rewarding job ever.”
When asked if any of the individuals have touched her life, Rose responded, “All of them. Everybody here.” The people and relationships have truly made Rose’s time with Home and Community Options some of her best years.