While many people her age are winding down their careers, Kathy Westerman is charging full steam ahead.
Kathy started working at Laura Baker Services Association seven years ago, at age 64, following a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. She began working part-time as a direct support professional on the recommendation of her cousin-in-law, who was working for LBSA at the time. A year later, Kathy started her current role as a qualified developmental disability professional – sometimes referred to as a “Q.” One reason Kathy has remained at LBSA as long as she has is the people. “I really like the people that work here,” says Kathy. “I love working for Kathy Davidson (Community Services Director). She supports our efforts to help clients, even if they are outside the box.”
Working as a Q in LBSA’s Community Support Services program means Kathy is responsible for developing behavior plans, collaborating with other members of a client’s care team, attending care meetings and providing direct support to 24 clients in six community homes. Kathy says the most satisfying aspect of her job is knowing what a client wants and helping make a plan that works. Kathy shared a recent example of getting it “right.” After finding an old Polaroid picture of his mother, Kathy’s client recalled fond memories of his mother’s cooking. This recollection led to his desire to add a cooking goal to his program plan. With Kathy’s assistance and support, the client created a goal to develop a recipe inspired by his mother. “He and staff made an ethnic meatloaf called a kibbeh. He really enjoyed that,” she says. According to Kathy, allowing clients to help develop goals that are important to them is a key aspect of what makes LBSA unique. “I think we are very client-focused and do a great job of honoring what their wants are, and that’s important.”
Kathy’s contagious energy and enthusiasm led to her recently being awarded the Spirit of Laura Baker Award. This award is given annually to an individual who best embodies the mission, vision and values of LBSA and the spirit of Laura Baker. Davidson describes Kathy as, “Always willing to consider what can be done to improve the lives of our clients. She focuses on each person as a unique individual and finds ways to shape our services to provide what is important to each person. Kathy doesn’t let a heavy workload or challenging conditions deter her from finding an approach that works and sharing it with others.” Davidson adds, “Her energy level and enthusiasm are amazing.”
After seven years at LBSA, Kathy shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to her regular duties as a Q, Kathy contributes to LBSA in numerous ways. She volunteers on various event planning committees and can be seen helping out at Dinner Theater, the annual golf tournament, Summer Fun Day, Community Thanksgiving Dinner and more. Kathy is always willing to lend a hand, even if it means washing dishes until the last person leaves (as was the case at this year’s Dinner Theater). Kathy is also a vocal advocate for her clients. She wants people to know, “Our clients are just regular people. They are not “those” people. They have ups and downs, and hopes and dreams, just like everyone else.”
As you can imagine, Kathy’s spare time moves at the same pace as her work life. She is active in her church, loves reading, walking, biking, camping and, most of all, spending time with her 14 grandkids aged 1–13. In the future, Kathy would like to travel more and is even considering another term in the Peace Corps. Nothing is set in stone – yet.
In the meantime, the grandkids will try and keep up with grandma.